Saturday, April 23, 2011

Heads they win, tails you lose

Well at least we now know what this election it about. Michael Ignatieff wants to become Prime Minister.

He’s willing to do it the traditional way – by winning more seats than the Conservatives – but as that’s not going to happen, plan B is to lose and still become Prime Minister.

He made this clear just this past week in an interview on the CBC, but presumably, this was the plan all along: Hold the Tories to a minority. Defeat them in the first vote in the House of Commons. Cut a deal with the NDP and the Bloc. Then form a Liberal government.

But what deal will they cut?

At this point in the campaign, the Liberals hope to win 90 seats. But with their campaign going from bad to worse, 70 seems more likely. The Liberals hope to hold the Conservatives to about 150 seats – 5 short of a majority. But clearly it’s going to be a nail-biter. And a Liberal government scratched together in these circumstances would be the weakest, least stable government in Canadian history.

We could have another election in no time – and that might be the best we can hope for.

As the price for their support, Iggy’s partners would be able to demand anything they want. On the social policy front, we’d end up with the NDP platform – which would be fine for a while, until the country goes broke.

But what about the Bloc? The PQ is posed to win the upcoming Quebec election, and they intend to introduce another referendum. So what will the Bloc ask of Iggy? Perhaps they’ll demand that the federal government stay out of the referendum – offer no defence of Canada whatsoever.

I believe Iggy would say no – surely he’s that much of a Canadian. But then the Bloc would pull the plug on the Liberal government and we’d be into another federal election and a separation battle with Quebec at the same time. In other words, heads the Bloc wins, tails Canada loses.

On the other hand, would a Conservative majority be so bad? The Conservatives have provided competent government, and as Stephen Harper never tires of pointing out, our economy isn’t perfect, but it is the envy of the world.

And the last Conservative budget – the one voted down by the Liberals – was in fact a Liberal budget, containing no threat to social programs. On the contrary, it was full of small expenditures for every needy group in the country. Paul Martin might have written that budget.

I know this makes no difference to dyed-in-the-wool Liberals. Political affiliation is a tribal thing. For many, being a Liberal, Conservative or NDPer is part of their identity. It’s not primarily about policy at all.

I understand this perfectly, as I used to belong the NDP tribe. Unfortunately, I became a political refugee because of the NDP’s hostility toward Israel and its supporters (including me). On the other hand, now that I’m without a political tribe, I think I can see better.

I often do vote Liberal. In the past, I’ve campaigned for the Liberal candidate in my riding. This time around, though, I’m voting for stable government and for Canada. I’m voting Conservative.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to bash Israel in your child’s school, a York University graduate seminar

Recently, I learned of a session offered by York University’s Faculty of Education on “The Politics of Israel/Palestine in the Classroom.” The panel consisted of three notorious Israel-bashers set to discuss: “How do we bring political debate into the classroom?”

Clearly, the real subject was How to teach Israel-bashing to kids – a subject York U apparently thought was worthwhile offering as part of its annual conference for Graduate Students in Education.

Jason Kunin, the high school teacher on the panel, first gained notoriety in 2007 when he introduced an anti-Israel boycott motion at his teacher’s union local. He also proposed putting together an “education package” for teaching anti-Israeli propaganda in schools. Kunin’s motion was overwhelmingly defeated.

The second panelist, Elle Flanders, teaches at York University and makes obscure anti-Israel films. But she is best known as a spokesperson for Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid. This is the group that marches in the annual gay pride parade calling for the eradication of the only state in the Middle East where it’s legal to be gay.

The third panelist, Bh Yael also makes anti-Israel films and teaches at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He and Jason Kunin have both been members of “Not In Our Name.”

In 2007, Not in Our Name attended the Cairo Conference, where members of the Israel-hating left met in Egypt to talk strategy with terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Jamaat al-Islamiya. At the time Jamaat al-Islamiya was best known for murdering 71 tourists. It has since become an official branch of al-Qaeda.

Attendees at the Cairo conference decided that terrorists should continue blowing people up while the western far left groups should confine themselves to propaganda and to promoting a boycott of Israel and Israelis.

Did I mention that all the panelists at the How to bash Israel session support a boycott Israel?

Another session at York’s education conference featured a presentation by PhD Candidate Nayrouz Abu-Hatoum on the “Politics of the Visual.” Nayrouz describes the subject of her PhD studies as: the “Israeli-built apartheid wall in Palestinian lands, where I intend to explore creation of new spaces of belonging and resistance to state power.”

Her presentation at the conference was on the same subject, which of course has nothing to do with education. Apparently, her slide show was just meant as a short anti-Israel rant to help break up the day.

But here’s the thing, I’m reporting missed news – this education conference at York happened a year ago. The media covers big hate festivals such as the annual anti-Israel apartheid week, but how many other outrageous anti-Israel events do we never hear about? Plenty. Because at some universities political activism masquerades as academic inquiry every day of the week.

We saw this recently in the Jenny Peto scandal at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (part of the University of Toronto). For her master’s thesis, Peto wrote a dissertation devoid of research or other academic content. Instead, she attacked Jews as racists. (See Werner Cohn’s excellent series of postings on the scandal here.)

When people objected to the University of Toronto granting an MA for this rant, the university responded that it was an issue of free speech. This was pure deflection. No university can really believe that, in order to avoid trampling a student’s free speech, it must grant an MA for any old crap the student feels like writing. Really, the university was saying: Bug off – it’s none of your business.

Similarly, in 2009, York University held a conference on a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a solution which amounts to replacing Israel with an Arab majority state. One of the conference organizers was Ali Abunimah, best known as a founder of Electronic Intifada, a website that glamorizes terrorism. Many of the other presenters at the conference were also anti-Israel activists, not academics at all.

Gary Goodyear, Minister for Science and Technology, suggested that government funding for the conference should be re-considered. The president of the Canadian University Teachers Association responded with outrage. How dare the government consider withdrawing its funding for a university event!

Clearly, our universities regard themselves as independent Duchies, not subject to any oversight. Canadians can’t afford to indulge them in this delusion. Especially, since at some universities, the propagation of hatred seems to be part of their day-to-day business.

During the Cold War, it was the Soviet Union that handed out advanced degrees in exchange for students developing propaganda. Perhaps most famously, Mahmoud Abbas, current president of the Palestinian Authority, got his PhD for a thesis concocting a tale of collaboration between the Nazis and the Zionists, with a bit of Holocaust denial tossed in.

Who could have imagined that Western universities would take on this role? That a York student would be concocting a PhD thesis on the “apartheid wall”? That an OISE student would defame Jews as racist – and get a Masters degree for it?

Most universities are still places where learning takes place. But in some departments at some universities, ideologically motivated professors have attained a dominant position. Instead of pursuing knowledge, they’re spreading propaganda – and we’re paying them to do it.

It’s past time for the government to put its foot down and stop this practice.

This piece was originally published at Harry's Place in Britain.