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‘If we are not careful, we will be become dangerously fragmented’: The best comments from Hub Forum this week

Commentary

When news broke on Saturday morning about the deadly surprise attack carried about by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians the world’s attention was entirely focused on the Middle East and, at The Hub, it was no different.

We featured a new essay or podcast about the war in Gaza every day this week and Hub Forum, our new web forum for Hub members, was buzzing all week with discussion about it.

The goal of Hub Forum is to bring the impressive knowledge and experience of The Hub community into one place and with that in mind, here are some of the most interesting comments this week.

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David Frum: ‘Hamas started the war. Let Israel finish it’

Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023

“I suggest that pundits, aside from condemning Hamas and this “aktion” as a further example of why Hamas in most places is viewed as a terrorist organization, bite their tongues for a while to see once the dust settles, what Israeli does and whether Egypt, as it has in the past, brokers a ceasefire to stop the senseless destruction and loss of innocents’ lives on both sides, and to give negotiators an opportunity to get active.”

— Jon Snipper

Janice Gross Stein on the surprise attack on Israel and the best historical analogy to the crisis

Monday, Oct. 9, 2023

“At the moment both sides in this conflict refuse to listen, to dialogue and be present to the needs and suffering of everyone. Ideology once again stands in the way, blinding both sides to peace… It was encouraging to hear a young man say that although is grandmother was killed in yesterday’s fighting, he was open to dialogue so that peace could be found. Maybe the younger generation is the hope for the way forward.”

— A. Chezzi

Shocking pro-Hamas, anti-Israel rallies lay bare the limits of Canadian pluralism

Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023

“With Canada’s growing diversity, the natural tensions between freedom and acceptance of a values-based consensus will become more challenging. This is where the role of teaching in our schools becomes more seminal than ever.”

— Thomas d’Aquino

“Sean’s point was pluralism requires principles and limits. If we are not careful, we will be become dangerously fragmented as a society. Marches in support of anything that does not cross into hate speech (from a legal perspective) should be permitted. Although unsavory, ugly, or even despicable, it is not much of a cost. Counterprotests, counter speech, and social costs for participating should also be fair game and send an important counter signal. We need to see ourselves peacefully but unambiguously not accepting these abhorrent views. The social media monetization of outrage is making this a much bigger challenge.”

— Rob Tyrrell

“Your article strikes at the heart of the most challenging aspect of Freedom of Expression, as defined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canadian Gov’t DOES have the ability and duty to limit hate speech. You can’t just do or say anything and be permitted, nay protected, as if this is a ‘right’. It is not. What Canadians often forget is that although we are a melting-pot of cultures, there is a fundament that Canada is built upon; a culture and set of values, and becoming a Canadian means adopting those values while honouring and preserving the culture of one’s heritage.”

— Peter Byrne

“There is no equivalence between a recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people and the slaughter of innocent people by the nihilistic Hamas.”

— Steve J. Chipman

Pro-Hamas demonstrations may be despicable, but they are still legal—And that’s a good thing

Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023

“Obviously these demonstrators don’t qualify and if they aren’t Canadian citizens, they should not be allowed to become so. Would that a person with the writer’s kind of control and thoughtfulness were in charge of the Israeli response, now clearly eroding with its attacks on civilian centres and closing the Egyptian escape hatch, whatever high moral ground in the court of public opinion Israel had regained after so much has been lost. However, signs saying “Death to Jews” seem to me to qualify as hate speech and those carrying them should be prosecuted and if they are immigrants, deported if the law so permits. Our country should not become a duplicate of the battle grounds in the Middle East.”

— Jon Snipper

“The right to free speech is very important and dare not to be suppressed or canceled just because someone else doesn’t like what you are expressing.”

— Austin Brown

‘Israel is going to endure’: Bret Stephens on anti-Semitism and Israel’s war against Hamas

Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023

“This is a beautiful dialogue, and I agree whole heartedly. I have spent time in Israel as recently as February, with a group of Orthodox Jewish women. There is no question that we are family, sisters , regardless of political leaning. It never hurts to pray to something larger than ourselves.”

— Joan Tucker

“Israeli officials keep saying they know not all Gazans are pro Hamas but they are doing nothing to show that they mean what they say. This whole situation has been covered with generations of layering of misinformation and propaganda. Neither the present Israeli government, nor Hamas will find the solution. What is needed is a wholesale change on both sides.”

A. Chezzi

Why are normally outspoken universities suddenly hesitant to condemn violence against Israel?

Friday, Oct. 13, 2023

“Universities have a lot of diverse and demanding customers/students to keep happy. Commenting on a heinous event related to a complex, multi-party, eight-decade conflict could be considered “tricky”, especially if sympathies are predominantly with one of the two primary sides. HOWEVER, when it comes to wholesale, carefully planned, and inexcusable atrocity, it is the act alone that must be condemned in absolute terms, free of all context. This includes universities.”

Rob Tyrrell

“Whether universities commenting on such situations could do so from a position of neutrality is a matter of debate but given how nuanced this particular case is I believe no public comment is the wise choice. Classroom discussions—backed by comprehensive historical research from parties on both sides—would be valuable and perhaps a synopsis of these debates and their conclusions might be a useful addition to the discourse.”

Gordon Divitt

Howard Anglin: What did you think they meant by ‘decolonization’ anyway?

Commentary

Just as Parliament’s recent reminder of the complexities of the Eastern Front and the existence of “literal Nazis” gave Canadians reason to reconsider our casual use of that term in day-to-day debate, perhaps the live-streaming of a 21st century pogrom will make our leaders and our media think twice before blithely tossing around words like “racist” and “hate” to describe merely disapproved beliefs.

As Orwell once said of the word “fascism,” these words have become so devalued by over-use in our political phony-wars that they often seem to have no meaning except to signify “something not desirable.”

Shielded from most of the world’s problems, we have become too comfortable describing minor offences in terms that have truly vile referents in the world beyond our shores. An obvious example this week is the term “decolonization,” which has been eagerly adopted by Canadian governments, universities, elementary schools, libraries, bookstores, and even coffee shops. Most people who implement these policies probably think of “decolonization” as something benign like the inclusion of more representative works and stories from underrepresented—and in Canada especially Indigenous—voices. If that is all it means, and if “representation” doesn’t become an excuse for sacrificing intellectual rigour and aesthetic quality (and it shouldn’t and needn’t), then it is a good thing.

Within this broad majority, however, I would distinguish between those who are earnestly working to bind our society together and tend sensitively to old wounds, and those who go further, embracing the symbols of the revolutionary counter-culture while turning a blind eye to its real-world implications. Among the latter are the sort of people who wear Che Guevara t-shirts to show that they are the “good guys,” not because he took sadistic pleasure in shooting reactionary peasants and boasted that “Hatred is the central element of our struggle! Hatred … so violent that it propels a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him [a] violent and cold- blooded killing machine.” They don’t mean that Che, of course, if they’ve even bothered to learn who he was.

Beyond this majority, there is a smaller group for whom the idea of “decolonization” has a harder edge. They welcome it as a chance to turn the tables on our country’s historically-dominant European majority, not by supplementing our traditional symbols with new ones but by disparaging them as shameful and displacing them. These are the people who saw the burning of churches two summers ago and took pains to explain why the (often Indigenous) congregations had it coming. They are motivated by a retributive impulse that is often indistinguishable from revenge (or in the case of the white progressives who make up much of this class, masochistic self-flagellation). Unfortunately, this group is the movement’s avant-garde. Their energy and ideas drive and direct the policies in practice, while the well-meaning are carried along because they don’t have the words or courage to distinguish their good intentions from this destructive agenda.

But as we learned this week, there is buried within this last group a hardcore faction that would go even further. When they talk about decolonization, they mean it literally, with all its blood-soaked consequences. Symbolic change won’t cut it for them; they want action. They are the ones who read Frantz Fanon’s Damnés de la terre (and Sartre’s revolting introduction) not with the detached pose of most Western progressives but with lurid visions of incarnadine vengeance. They read things like “Violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect” and they don’t just believe it intellectually, they howl for it viscerally, palpably, urgently.

Twitter has exposed them as cheerleaders of rape and infanticide, of “literal racism,” and “literal hate.” Sure, they were tweeting from the safety of their faculty lounges with the security of tenure and they might not be so sanguine about murder when it isn’t mediated through a small screen, but this much was clear: they saw the same images that sickened and revolted normal people and their first reaction was to justify and celebrate them. They rushed into the digital public square to explain that the shooting of young people attending a “peace” concert was an act of “anticolonial resistance,” they denied that settlers were “civilians” (and so off-limits for targeted killing), and they wondered, rhetorically, what everyone thought the words “[p]ostcolonial, anticolonial, and decolonial” meant? It’s a question their colleagues should be thinking hard about today, especially those with “settler” in their bios.

It was a revelatory moment. Perhaps these armchair Amins and tenured Tourés have spent so long insisting that “words are violence” that they can no longer tell the difference between a micro-aggression and a massacre. Perhaps they have spent so much time in a world of relative truths that they can’t bring themselves to accept the objective reality of evil when it bares its fangs. And perhaps we collectively bear some of the blame for this. Our schools, businesses, and governments have ignored or indulged them for so long that they may have believed, with good reason, that there would be no consequences for airing their zealotry this time too. But now that we’ve seen it, we should not forget it. We need to make sure they play no further role in shaping Canadian social policy. They have done far, far too much damage already.