Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The slow death of Canadian democracy

Before what happened in Montebello , I thought that Canada was a country where the police actually care about public security, and did not engage in deceit and brutality in order to suppress and subvert political opposition and democratic debate. The sight of police posing as protesters, however, and then visibly making mischief unrelated to any political cause, gave me serious misgivings.

Seeing images like this from the G20 in Toronto only deepens my worries:

It's gotten so bad that even the even-handed Steve Paikin, TVO's scion of neutrality, has become uncharacteristically vocal about it.

We have a wonderful history of peaceful democratic protest in this city. But democracy took a major step backwards this weekend. And many will have to answer for that.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

4 undisputed facts about the Gaza situation

Unless you've been completely out of contact with any form of news media in the past twelve days, you've probably heard a great deal about an Israeli commando raid on a Turkish aid flotilla bound for the Gaza strip that left 9 civilians dead.

Since the raid occured, two competing narratives have emerged, one supporting the point of view of the aid workers who were trying to bring humanitarian supplies into Gaza, and one supporting the Israeli government position.

Regardless of the arguments and evidence presented by the protagonists for either side, there are (at least) 4 facts that remain undisputed by any party.

1. A civilian ship was raided by Israeli commandos. An Israeli craft was not raided by a civilian ship

2. The raid was conducted at night, from a helicopter.

3. The raid took place in international waters

4. The siege of Gaza was a response to the victory of Hamas in Palestinian legislative elections.

One may draw different conclusions from these facts, but I have yet to see any source, representing any point of view, that disputes that they are facts.

My conclusions are as follows:

The first is important because it is mostly forgotten by spokespeople of various zionist organizations who want to blame the activists for being raided. "They had pipes and knives!" they say, "clearly this was a premeditated attack on Israel." Clearly, if Israel's enemies have been reduced to attacking its soldiers with pipes and kitchen knives, the threats to the country are greatly overstated.

#2 is important because it the timing of events was completely under Israeli control. If they had wanted to intercept the ship in broad daylight and tow it to another destination, they could have - they have done this with previous flotillas that have tried to run the Gaza blockade. If we make the charitable assumption that Israeli planners did not mean for violence to occur, the fact that its plans may have gone awry cannot be blamed on anyone but them.

#3 is not of relevance to what occured during the raid, but tells us something about the international reaction. This was an act of piracy. The Turkish reaction is, therefore, justifiable - Turks were killed on the high seas by a foreign power while not themselves violating any international statute. The American lack of reaction is equally unjustifable, given that an American citizen was also killed.

#4 needs to be pointed out because the justification for the siege - and therefore the excuse for the humanitarian crisis that the Israeli government has created - is often made out to be Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli cities. The Hamas campaign of firing homemade rockets into Israel, however, really only picked up in response to the siege. At the time that the siege was implemented, the rationale was to weaken a democratically-elected Palestinian government by punishing the population from which it drew its greatest support.

The claim, therefore, that the siege is necessary to keep weapons out of Gaza is, therefore, a post facto justification, dredged up to justify a policy that failed in its original goals.

The hasbara machine, however, has a conveniently short memory.

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