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Duncan Dee: We must not remain indifferent to the suffering of our Jewish neighbours

Commentary

Violence and discrimination against Jews is not a new phenomenon. There are, sadly, too many examples to point to, but today marks a particularly noteworthy anniversary: Kristallnacht, or the Night of the Broken Glass, as the date came to be known, commemorates November 9-10, 1938, when a series of pogroms, violence, and vandalism targeting Jewish people, businesses, and places of worship broke out in Germany and German-occupied areas. This, as we know, was a pale foreshadowing of the suffering to come.

Now, 85 years later, Jewish people find themselves once again under attack and solemnly adding another date to the calendar that will ever after be marked by grief.

On the morning of October 7, North Americans woke up to the news that Hamas terrorists had attacked Israel. Over the next few hours and days, the totality of the carnage and barbarity became increasingly clear.

Over 1,400 Israelis and people of over a dozen nationalities, including at least six Canadians, murdered in cold blood. Babies, children, women, men, and seniors, including Holocaust survivors, butchered in their own homes or while attending a music festival in the most cruel and sadistic ways imaginable. Children murdered in front of their parents. Parents murdered in front of their children. Babies beheaded. Entire families burned alive in their “safe” rooms. Women and girls brutally raped before being murdered or dragged screaming into vehicles to be taken as captives to Gaza. It is estimated that approximately 240 Israelis and people of other nationalities, including at least three Canadians, are still being held captive and used as human shields in Gaza.

The extent of the savagery became clear not only because of extensive investigations by the Israeli authorities but also because the terrorists themselves, in a 21st-century twist to their medieval barbarism, actually took trophy videos of their actions. Wearing body cameras, carrying their own phones, or, in many cases, using the phones of their victims, the terrorists proudly filmed and even live-streamed their cruelty for their bloodthirsty families, friends, and communities to see.

While the Nazis went to great lengths to hide their atrocities and destroy the evidence of their crimes, Hamas sought to create video monuments to their barbarism. Much like a family takes a home movie of a child’s school graduation, the terrorists filmed their atrocities and posed with their victims for posterity.

The world has just witnessed the first video-recorded and live-streamed pogrom.

But despite the video evidence and the multitude of eyewitness accounts from both survivors and heroic first responders, many around the world, including here in Canada, still refuse to believe the extent of the atrocities or, worse, have found logic-bending ways to justify them. Anyone who has ever wondered how Holocaust denial can even be possible can now watch it happen in real-time.

Israeli authorities have been forced to screen for journalists a 45-minute-long compilation of unedited footage and audio recordings taken by the terrorists themselves in an attempt to combat revisionism and prevent it from taking hold. The written accounts of the screenings are horrifying—and for exactly that reason we should read and grapple with what they tell us.

The compilation not only confirms the worst of the atrocities reported but provides video and audio evidence of inconceivable cruelty. Imagine placing the onus on the victims to prove the crime that was committed.

Even though the actual battles are taking place thousands of miles away, North American cities and streets have not been spared the impact of these events.

No sooner had news of the attacks been reported that thousands took to the streets in a shocking display of support for Hamas’ terrorism. Calls of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, seeking the destruction of the State of Israel from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, were made both at pro-Palestine street protests and by many individuals online. Prominent union leaders publicly expressed their support for the “resistance”, as did many campus groups, with one Ontario university’s union local posting “Palestine is rising, long live the resistance” as they retweeted a video of Hamas terrorists using a bulldozer to break into Israeli territory. An academic from an Ivy League university proclaimed “Settlers are not civilians. This is not hard.” In Toronto, Montreal, and New York, signs featuring images of Hamas terrorists paragliding were proudly waved. At some protests, even ISIS and Taliban flags were flown.

Israel had just suffered the worst terrorist attacks in its history and yet thousands took to the streets and social media in celebration.

But, sadly, there was still more depravity to come.

In displays reminiscent of Nazi Germany, protesters targeted a Jewish community centre and school while others surrounded Cafe Landwer in Toronto, covering some of its windows with Palestinian flags, yelling at patrons, and calling for a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. With the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht upon us, the significance of these displays cannot be ignored.

If these overt displays of antisemitism can be called “un-Canadian,” then the response was beautifully Canadian. As soon as videos calling for the boycott of Cafe Landwer began to circulate, ordinary Torontonians, of all backgrounds, started posting photos of themselves enjoying a meal at the cafe. Businesses, including other restaurants, began placing large orders. While boycotts are designed to harm and intimidate businesses, buycotts can help sustain them.

Given all of this, then, is it any wonder that many of our Jewish neighbors and friends have been feeling unsafe and targeted? What does it say that in the aftermath of the largest single-day loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust, people could be seen celebrating on campuses, on the streets, and online, and calling for Jewish-owned businesses to be boycotted?

One Jewish friend remarked “Don’t think that Jews aren’t making a mental list. We now know which neighbours would hide us, and which would send us to the cattle cars.”

In the face of these atrocities and rising antisemitism, Canadians cannot remain indifferent. The Jewish community cannot, should not, and must not fight this battle alone. “Never again” must not become a simple slogan that gives way to “once again”. For those words to have real meaning, all Canadians of goodwill must come together to loudly call out antisemitism everywhere, all the time. Starting now.

Ginny Roth: The Israel-Hamas war is uniting conservatives even as it fractures the Left

Commentary

As news broke that Hamas terrorists had attacked Israel, and as it became clear Israel would have to fight back, pro-Israel advocates awaited Canadian reactions with trepidation. It shouldn’t be shocking, perhaps, that Zionists would be concerned about the response from progressive Canada, including its chief political representatives in the Liberal and New Democratic parties.

But it may surprise some—especially those who oversimplify and caricature the Canadian Right—to know that pro-Israel advocates harboured some concern about how conservatives, and their political representatives in the Conservative Party, would react. It shouldn’t be hard to understand why. For at least a decade, longer in the United States, the three-legged stool that made up a coherent, durable right-of-centre voting coalition—fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and foreign policy hawks—has been kicked over.

Intra-conservative ideological debates have split in two, pitting inward-looking populists against globalist elites, and leaving advocates for assertive foreign policy—like a strong stance in favour of Israel—concerned that when the going got tough, the populist conservatives would be indifferent, or worse, opposed. 

One only has to look at the fractured response of American Republicans to the war in Ukraine to see this dynamic realized. Broad-based support for Ukraine amongst various conservative commentators, political leadership, and the party’s base has been shaky even from the outset of the initial invasion, and as the conflict persists there are growing calls, incoherent though they may be, from some corners of the American Right for the withdrawal of all aid whatsoever. Would this aversion to foreign engagement of any kind carry over to the West’s response to the Israel-Hamas war?

On this matter, though, concern turned out to be short-lived, at least here at home. Canadian conservatives have, by and large, responded in solidarity with Israel, supporting its right to self-defence, condemning Hamas terrorists, calling for Israeli hostages to be returned home, and fighting back against disturbing antisemitism. While a decade of domestic economic and cultural turmoil drove conservatives apart, pitting social conservatives against fiscal conservatives and blue-collar populists against corporate institutionalists, high-stakes geopolitical turmoil—and all its moral consequences—has brought the conservative coalition together, even as it has driven progressives apart.

Only a few years ago, as Donald Trump was governing the U.S. and the U.K. was exiting the European Union, young Canadian conservatives were questioning everything about the recipe for ideological coherence and political success we were raised on. As free trade and new technology hollowed out domestic manufacturing, the pro-globalization, anti-labour posture of our intellectual forebearers felt unfit for the times. As inflation rose because of bad monetary policy and civil liberties were abused during the global pandemic, the faith and trust in institutions that were so core to our traditions rang hollow.

Canadian conservatives knew the answers didn’t lie with the big-spending, high-regulation economic policy or virtue-signaling, equity-protecting social programs of the Liberals or the NDP, but we struggled to articulate a coherent and compelling alternative. Through three leadership campaigns, Conservatives split along various ideological lines, struggling to articulate a coherent, relevant vision in between. Ultimately, Pierre Poilievre developed a compelling synthesis: a FreeCon attack on big spending and a NatCon attack on the Left’s woke culture war, drawing libertarians, fiscal conservatives, and social conservatives into his coalition and crushing his leadership race competitors.

Poilievre’s command of the Conservative party, and the irrelevance of the right-wing PPC, speak to the power of his synthesizing political program. It’s not at all clear that the synthesis was inevitable, especially given the inability of American conservatives to agree to leadership in the House of Representatives, let alone to choose a unifying Republican party nominee, so his big tent ought to be applauded.

But during and since Poilievre’s big win, a certain kind of critic has remained. They are often men and almost always of a certain age. These concerned boomer elites are easy to mock and dismiss. And on domestic economic matters, the mocking is often warranted. These critics own homes (probably outright), live in urban centres, and are unlikely to have school-aged kids, so their discomfort with a political style that appeals to people in different, less fortunate circumstances isn’t exactly worth indulging. But recent events have created space for these critics in the conservative coalition, and have made the three-legged stool of Reagan fusionism, which so many young conservatives were willing to kick over in search of something new, suddenly seem relevant again.

Part of what made North America’s fusionist project of the 1980s so powerful as “both an ideological synthesis and a political coalition” was that at the time, foreign policy could not be ignored. Communism had wreaked havoc across the globe and the United States was putting the finishing touches on its decades-long struggle for supremacy over Soviet Russia. The foreign policy hawks in Reagan’s political coalition weren’t just comparative politics PhDs, they were regular Americans intent on the idea that a strong United States wasn’t just valuable in its own right but served as a bulwark against global chaos and as a signpost for civilization.

But just as the elite boomers have sounded out of touch these past number of years, such existential, principled foreign policy thinking might recently have sounded dramatic and irrelevant in the context of tough domestic economic times and relative global peace. Indeed, Donald Trump’s foreign policy was characterized by a kind of casual realpolitik, his American First mandate, to fix things at home. But Hamas’ attack on Israel a month ago, and the subsequent political fallout in countries all over the world, makes virtuous foreign policy seem pressing again, even as Canadians continue to struggle with the cost of living.

Despite the reasonable apprehension of pro-Israel advocates, and the unreasonable ramblings of others, support for Israel in the Middle East and Jews at home has united Canada’s Right—from social conservatives to fiscal conservatives, from young populists to our own aging boomer elite. Meanwhile, the Right’s fusion has been the Left’s fault line, as the government’s ostensible support for Israel is pitting what few Liberal centrists remain in the party against its much bigger progressive flank, breaking apart what very recently seemed like quite a durable voting coalition. Just as Reagan-era foreign policy united single-issue conservative voters, whether they were obsessed with debt-to-GDP-ratios or limits on abortion, in service of a bigger picture, today’s civilizational rupture seems to bring with it the potential to do the same.

As I’ve observed many of the same people I mocked for misunderstanding the challenges of our cost of living crisis stand solidly with Israel against terrorism and nihilism—even as their peers in academia have failed to do so—I am reminded that it took the existential threat of communism to set the stage for Regan-era fusionism. Similarly, it may take an equally terrifying global fight to join the elder centrists with the young conservatives like me who were impetuous enough to, only very recently, naively dismiss them.