Archive for August 2015

The changing face of Toronto

August 31, 2015

A walk in the west end and how Toronto has changed. Roxton Rd…at the corner of Harbord, Max Brown‘s dad had a schneider shop—Yiddish for tailor. Maxie like many smart Ashkenazi jews fulfilled his father’s dream by becoming a lawyer. We knew him as the trainor who took over from Bob Abate at Lizzies(Central Tech in 1953).20 years later we found Max and thanked him.
Up Roxton toward College St where Frankie Busseri lived—he of the 4 Lads fame, a grad of St.Mike’s choir school in 1950 and still singing. At the corner of Dundas and Shaw, maybe at the site of this flower shop Mr. Freisner’s store. The owner came out one day in the 40s and handed Carmen Bush some free groceries, “Thank you for taking my boy on your ball team. Carmen told me that “That was the thanks I got from men like Mr Freisner.I didn’t care if the kid was Jewfish, he needed a place to play ball. Long live the memory of our hero Carmen.

Hey, some thought Columbus Boy’s Club  121 Bellwoods was only for Catholics! A narrow group of Micks went to Cardinal McGuigan trying to get Carmen fired for taking non RCs on his sports’ teams. Jimmy McGuigan was too shrewd; he knew CB was “the man”.
Walking along Dundas and we come to 962 where that creep James Earl Ray who shot my hero Martin Luther King Jr. took a room in April of 1968. It was a boarding house and he checked in under the name Ramon Sneyd.

Just south of Dundas on Shaw is the Slovak Catholic church,the Byzantine Catholic Slovak Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God at 257 Shaw Street. Just look at it and you knew it used to be a synagogue (known as “the Shaw Street synagogue) left behind in the 60s as the Jews headed north( all the way to Eglinton!) on another exodus from the downtown.
Up Shaw near Queen this picture. a hymn to inclusivity. People would have gagged in 1954 when we walked these streets to play ball at Fred Hamilton and C.G. Fraser on Manning Ave near Dundas. The Presbyterian morality police would never have tolerated this…nor baseball on Sunday!


O tempora, o mores said Cicero.”O, the times o, the customs.”

The changing face of my Toronto.

As for Shaw street,,,named after Aeneas Shaw, a Scotsman pal of Simcoe’s who came to toronto in 1793 to developthe new site. Aeneas…who names their kid Aeneas? Only those who had a classical background as in Virgil’s Aeneid


Gideon Levy holds up the mirror

August 30, 2015


They go to work like good citizens, never asking about the morality of their actions.Many are able, in the words of Robert Jay Litton, the noted American psychiatrist,to “double”, separate the twin axes of their lives. So did all the oppressors in history. They were kind to their children and then went out and di the dirty work of empire, never connecting the two.THe IDF is full of such brainwashed robots who daily humiliate another people they hardly consider human.

Gideon Levy,the Haaretz columnist  persists in holding up a mirror  to his alienated society

From his column today:

What do Israeli border inspectors tell their children when they come home from work? That for seven hours they interrogated a renowned U.S.-Palestinian author, one who had come to visit her family and set up playgrounds for children in the West Bank? Did they tell them that, after interrogating her, they expelled her solely because of her Palestinian origin? Did they say that they also expelled an elderly U.S.-Palestinian man, a native of Jerusalem, who hadn’t visited his homeland for 21 years, only because he landed at Ben-Gurion Airport?
What did the Binyamin Brigade commander Col. Yisrael Shomer tell his children the day he shot to death the teen Mohammad Kosba, whom he shot in the back as the boy fled? Did he say that because the boy threw a stone at his car, he deserved to die? That daddy killed a child because he can? That it’s OK to kill children, as long as they’re Palestinian? Did he tell them that Mohammad was the third son killed by Israel Defense Forces soldiers in his family?
Perhaps these questions are not being asked yet. Their day will come.

Jeremiah in Anata

August 28, 2015

Comes a welcome announcement from another “Jew of Conscience” Jeff Halper, the driving force behind the Israel Committee against House Demolitions.The ICAHD team has been working overtime to save Israel from itself.The message arrived today.
Between July 19th – August 3rd, ICAHD hosted its 13th annual rebuilding camp, constructing its 188th and 189th homes, one in the West Bank town of Anata to which we return every summer and the other a large tent-structure suitable for housing a family in the Jordan Valley. Rebuilding is a  key part of ICAHD’s resistance to Israeli occupation, and especially to Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes (about 46,000 on the Occupied Territory since 1967). We rebuild demolished homes as political acts of resistance, which means 189 joint actions of Israeli, Palestinian and international activists.

This year we built a home for the Fhedat family of Anata. The Fhedat family are really two families, that of the husband and wife and the husband’s widowed sister-in-law; there are 11 children altogether. An impoverished Bedouin family, the Fhedats were forced to demolish their own home by the Israeli authorities or face a violent demolition by the IDF and a stiff fine of $15-20,000.
Now Anata which is situated in the shadow of the separation wall is about 4kms northeast of Jerusalem and most believe it is the home of one of the great prophets of the Hebrew bible, Jeremiah of Anatoth. The latter railed against the royal temple ideology of the corrupt leaders who believed they had a stranglehold on the Holy One. Jeremiah read Hebrew history beyond the power politics of kings like Zedekiah. With typical hubris the last few kings of Judah while claiming divine sanction had for gotten the covenant, that Jews had once been sojourners in Egypt and slaves of Pharaoh. In like manner the modern state of Israel has forsaken biblical Judaism and substituted a nationalist Zionism which has marginalized the original inhabitants of Palestine.Jeremiah reminded his contemporaries that there will only be hope for you “if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan and the widow or shed blood in this place (7:5,6).The same goes for modern day Israel.

In Anata today we see the bible come alive. ICAHD rather than oppressing the widow of the Fhedat family is raising her up. Jeremiah 587 years before Jesus, spoke for God,“Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD 31:28.
ICAHD in the biblical Anatoth has chosen to build up and to plant. Since 1967, Israel contravening international law has engaged in collective punishment. It has of destroyed ing about 46,000 homes in the Occupied Territories.


Jeremiah through ICAHD lives today in Anata.

Israel only destroys “structures”, never homes

August 25, 2015

By 2050- earlier, probably- all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared.  Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron- they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. 

George Orwell in 1984

One phrase that you should always pay attention to in official Israeli state reports—or constant propaganda— is the bastardized use of language. The only democracy in the Middle East which has no respect for human rights or international law never bombs (as in Gaza) or destroys homes. No, homes are only “structures” as in barns or pens where animals and/or farm machinery are kept.This is Orwellian Newspeak. No, civilized Israel would never destroy “homes” where people who have lived on the land for centuries actually live. Why this would actually put innocent children out on the street.


The constant state use of collective punishment, bulldozing homes of Palestinians (excuse me Arabs, Israel never dignifies the original occupants of the area as “Palestinians”) is against international law. What your son was arrested? .Now we are going to blow up your house.

This week 31 human rights, and development organizations called on world leaders to take urgent action to halt ongoing demolitions and hold the government of Israel accountable for the wanton destruction of Palestinian property and of projects funded by international aid in the occupied West Bank.So far in the past week 132 people including 82 children were made homeless.according to ICAHD (House Demolitions) 46, 294 homes have been demolished since 1967.

Can you imagine the feeling as you watch your home bulldozed for nothing you have done? A home is a sanctuary, a special place .It is never just a “structure” as Israeli propaganda says.

Dr. Meron Benvenisti, the noted political scientist and demographer and one of the great “Jews of Conscience” in Israel describes the meaning of occupation today,the total disregard and contempt Israel has for international law and the United Nations.
It would be hard to overstate the symbolic value of a house to an individual for whom the culture of wandering and of becoming rooted to the land is so deeply engrained in tradition, for an individual whose national mythos is based on the tragedy of being uprooted from a stolen homeland. The arrival of a firstborn son and the building of a home are the central events in such an individual’s life because they symbolize continuity in time and physical space.
We Jews celebrate our strength but at its core lies a counsel of despair.For Jewish identity is linked, willingly or not, to Palestinian suffering and this suffering is demolition of the individual’s home comes the destruction of the world.

Bulldozing more homes in the crazy country

August 24, 2015


Adam Keller is just another reason to believe that the prophetic is still alive in Israel. A 60 year old longtime “Jew of Conscience”, the native born Israeli has been jailed several times for protesting the shameless abuse of Palestinian rights. The contrarian gene has been passed on to his son Uri Yacobi who served seven months in prison for refusing to serve the army of occupation.

Keller’s parents who fought in the ‘48 war quickly became disillusioned with the narrow vision of Ben-Gurion and the betrayal of socialist principles for a pure nationalist version of Zionism.


Keller continues to fight the good justice fight and is a regular blogger from Tel Aviv. He recently wrote a piece called Crazy Country.

On returning from the Netherlands he received a call from a good Palestinian friend Haj Sami Sadeq, head of the small village of Aqaba in the Jordan Valley – who asked him to call him. An old story hardly ever reported in America or Canada had taken place.

“They came suddenly, without any warning. Hundreds of soldiers, with two huge bulldozers. They destroyed seven structures and also toppled the electricity poles. I spoke with Asher Tzur of the Civil Administration, the man who is persecuting us for many years already. I told him, ‘I have a letter from Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he confirmed that we had the right to build power lines, to have light in our homes and air conditioning in the hot summer. He told me, ‘Your entire village is illegal, we will yet wipe it off the map. The Americans give you money to build, but to us the Americans give money to buy bulldozers.

Keller reported that this collective punishment proceeds apace in the West Bank. B’Tselem,the Israeli human rights group reported that “18 Aug 2015: This morning, 17 homes were destroyed, as well as 7 structures for livestock, in the village of Fasayil in the Jordan Valley, leaving 48 people homeless, 31 of them minors. Most of the families whose homes were destroyed have already lost their homes in previous demolitions. Evicted inhabitants were exposed to temperatures which reached 40 degrees Celsius.”

And so it goes, relentlessly under the radar in America and Canada but duly reported to a bored and blasé Israeli populace which has gotten quite used to the ugly face of occupation.

A journey to solidarity

August 22, 2015


A journey in New York bolded  below. It brought back my own experiences of antisemitism—and I wasn’t even Jewish! I just happened to be the only goy on an almost totally Jewish ball team. “Jewboy and kike rang in my ears as I raced down Shaw Street in west Toronto chased by ignorant bigots the same age as myself—12.

Such random hatred changes people. At first you cannot articulate it because you are young and confused. As you advance in experience and wisdom and remain open, you are able to name the virus.Then you begin to counteract it as best you can wherever you find yourself. Your DNA now includes an important building block called antiracism. It is a gift and possibly a burden. It is a summons within history to a divine call from beyond. And there are no exceptions to this. Even though you might be middle class, your commitment is not upward mobility but downward solidarity. This was the great gift of the Palestinian Jewish rabbi Yeshua ben Miriam, Jesus of Nazareth. Your love transcends  both your tribe and your  biology.

This is the tragedy of the Nazi holocaust. Narrow minded Jews tried to hoard  it instead of universalizing it. The lesson always is: never again to anybody—Afro-Canadian, immigrant, homosexual, Palestinian.
It brought me to tears several times, evoking memories of anti Semitic attacks when I was a boy on the Upper West Side in Manhattan during and toward the end of World War II. The two blocks coming home from P.S. 93 on 93rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue to 94th Street at Columbus Avenue was a daily adventure and challenge. Most days I would get home safely from school, but many times I’d get home bloodied, bruised and my clothing torn with the epithets, “Jewboy, Kike, Christ killer” ringing in my ears.

My father wrote a letter to the newspaper “P.M.” or its successor paper, “ The New York Star” about these repeated attacks against Jewish children, his own in particular. The letter, a single column wide, perhaps eight inches long, spoke about the irony of such anti-Semitic attacks while our servicemen were fighting and dying in the war against fascism that was brewed and nurtured in anti-Semitism. The letter was placed, all by itself on a black background, taking up a whole page of the newspaper. I haven’t seen that letter or the newspaper for about 70 years. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to find my father’s letter through the internet. I’m not skilled at such research.

One incident during those days took place at the 8th Avenue Subway station at 96th Street and Central Park West. I must have been twelve years old. I was taking classes at a Synagogue on West 97th Street to prepare for my Bar Mitzvah. With that, the Hebrew School had recruited me to solicit coins for the United Jewish Appeal. UJA was helping European refugees to settle in Palestine and was probably working toward the establishment of the State of Israel. They equipped me with a “pushka,”(a collection can), a quick rap for rush hour subway travelers, and assigned me to the 96th Street Independent Line station.

During a lull in the ingress and egress of passengers two boys approached me. One stood in front and one in the back. They invited me to go with them across Central Park West to the park. Their attitude and the point of something sharp in my back told me I’d better do as they said. Once behind the wall in the park they took the puskka, cut it open and took the money. They answered my objections by doing the expected. The two boys beat the crap out of me, threw the empty coin can at me and left, running.

I identified the two boys. They went to P.S. 93. My brother, a crossing monitor, got their names. The two were arrested. My mother and I went to the police station with the rabbi to identify them. During the interview with the police the vengeance of the rabbi had no limits. He wanted to “throw the book” at them. It seemed he’d not be satisfied with anything less than capital punishment for my two anti Semite, thieving schoolmates. It became an argument. I joined in against the rabbi’s rage of vengeance. As the words got angrier, I picked up the pushka and threw it at the rabbi. I made it clear that the boys were not going to jail, and not going to reform school. the boys told us they would never do anything like they did to me to anyone else again.

The upshot was that I had two formerly anti Semite friends and defenders at P.S. 93. I don’t think I was ever attacked again in that neighborhood for being a Jew – and I did not get to do the Bar Mitzvah ceremony for which I was preparing.

A few years later, in 1949, I heard those same epithets, “Jewboy, Kike” etc. hurled at me by schoolmates from Peekskill High School. Our family had moved from Manhattan. I was on the line with a thousand others, it was a defense line around a crowd of 25,000 people attending a Paul Robeson concert. The event came to be called the “Peekskill Riot.”

Since then, though the years I’ve been an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement, the Peace Movement, community organizations for justice against police abuse, and the labor movement. Right now I’m Vice President and Chair of the Executive Board in my Union, Plumbers and Fitters Local 393, a Delegate to the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and activist in US Labor Against the War. If I had more time and energy I’d do more than sign petitions and give a little money to the movement for justice for Palestinians and currently for signing the peace accord with Iran.

Distinguished author humiliated at Israeli border

August 19, 2015


Susan Abulhawa is a American writer whose first novel, Mornings in Jenin, was translated into 30 languages and was an international best seller. a helluva read. Now her new book, The Blue Between Sky and Water, is coming out soon.It has already been sold for translation into 19 languages,


On July 29 this American citizen born in Jerusalem was stopped at the Allenby Bridge crossing into Israel from Jordan. She was on her way to visit parents “in the only democracy in the Middle East,”

You can guess what happened if you know anything about Israel.

American passport in tow this feisty proud 45 year old American citizen was subjected to a 7 hour humiliation at the hands of security officials.

Why are you here? On and on and on.

As well as visiting friends this distinguished author was on her way to build 2 more playgrounds for kids in Palestine.

After the 7 hour humiliation fest Abulhawa lost it“ You wish you had the same roots as I do,” she shouted. “You should be the one to leave, not me! I’m a daughter of this land.”

Later on on Facebook she let it all hang out…wouldn’t you?

“Denied entry to my homeland by a bunch of fucking Zionist colonizers who didn’t think I was sufficiently differential. Livid,”

Asking for help from the US consulate in Jordan was a lost cause. She was refused entry and the staff would not accept her complaint.

A typical day for a Palestinian arriving in Israel

The week before another Jerusalem native Dr. George Khoury landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Khoury is a professor of languages with a doctorate in theology from Berkeley got he same shoddy treatment. Traveling with a priest friend from Italy the 70 year old Khoury was denied entry.

The sensitive security apparatchik told him,”This is our Israel. This is for Jews. No Palestinian should come to Israel”.

imagine a Canadian official treating a person like this.

Gone the next day.

But this is Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.
And this is America, the great enabler of the longest modern occupation in history.

The story of a baseball

August 16, 2015



Yes indeed, it is Sam Jethroe, much beloved former Toronto Maple Leaf outfielder 1955, 56 and 57. We saw Sam on his downward trajectory from the bigs.He led the NL in stolen bases in 1950 and 51 and was the oldest “rookie of the year” ever (age 33).

Sam because of Jim Crow probably shaved a few years off his age to even get a look. He was the first black ball player to play in Boston whose  redneck owner  waited till 1960 for the Sox to sign their first black player, Pumpsie Green.

The guy even in his late 30s could fly—the skinniest legs of any ball player i ever saw and the man with the shortest lead off.His speed was blinding.

The ball has an interesting story.

My former student at Mimico High, Jerry Farrell is a  ball nut and when Sam fell on hard times (he ended up a barber in Erie,Pa,) Jerry heard the story, drove to Erie  and gave Sam $500.00.Sam gave him the autographed ball and Jerry gave it to me. Now I use it to play catch with my grandkids.

Sammy Ferris, a great hitter from our city championship teams of ’61 and ’62 was horrified that I use the ball to play catch with Doug and John my grandsons.I told him to me it’s just a ball. My memories are deeper than an object like this. I think Sam would smile watching the joy I get just tossing his ball to these young Blue Jay fans.

Samuel Jethroe (Jet)

Position: Centerfielder
Bats: Both, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 1″, Weight: 178 lb.

Born: January 23, 1917 in Lowndes County, MS
High School: Lincoln HS (East St. Louis, IL)
Signed as a Free Agent with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. (All Transactions)
Debut: April 18, 1950 (Age 33.085, 8,238th in MLB history) vs. NYG 4 AB, 2 H, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB
Rookie Status: Exceeded rookie limits during 1950 season [*]
Teams : Braves/Pirates 1950-1954

Last Game: April 15, 1954 (Age 37.082) vs. BRO 1 AB, 0 H, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB
Died: June 16, 2001 in Erie, PA (Aged 84.144)
Buried: Erie Cemetery, Erie, PA

NDP: Stop obeying the Israel lobby

August 13, 2015


You gotta love gutsy Judy Haiven an Associate Professor in the Management Department at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, NS. She is also a vocal member of Independent Jewish Voices,

She asks in wonderment:

What has happened to us? What happened to our generation of Jewish-Canadian boomers, aged 50 and up?How else can we explain the fact that so many Jews of our generation refuse to speak about or even acknowledge the atrocities committed by the IDF? In our silence, we Jews have allowed Israel to be seen as a neutral country—not as the only settler-colonial state left in the world, not as a place rife with human rights abuses aimed at 20% of its citizens who are Arabs, not as a country that violently enforces an illegal occupation over millions of Palestinians. We who read newspapers, the Internet, and have relatives in Israel won’t say a word.

Now she’s mad, justifiably so with the NDP.

It’s one thing for the NDP to say they don’t want to raise the red flag of Palestinian human rights during the election. After all, foreign affairs is not exactly one of the bread and butter issues politicians speak about on the hustings.


But as a Nova Scotian, it shocked me that the NDP demanded the resignation of their Nova Scotia candidate Morgan Wheeldon, after the Conservative Party smeared him for daring to criticize Israel’s brutalilty against the Palestinians.
In August 2014, when Israel killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, including over 500 children, in its 51 day war on Gaza, Wheeldon (like thousands of other Canadians) called Israel’s actions against the Palestinians a war crime. Wheeldon also suggested that Israel has a long history of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians, which is entirely accurate.
Independent Jewish Voices – Canada believes Wheeldon was speaking truth to power. The Conservatives and the Israel lobby want to stop any criticism of Israel and its illegal and violent military occupation over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. They want to deflect attention from Israeli-Canadian policing and trade agreements that implicate Canadians in this illegal occupation. So why is the NDP dancing to their tune?

If the NDP is allowed to betray Palestinians and rights activists, and then get elected, we wonder about their commitment to striking down the Anti-Terrorism Act (formerly called Bill C-51), and their determination to uphold international human rights.

Meet Mr.Gopstein

August 12, 2015


Meet Mr Benzi Gopstein, age 46,the leader of Lehava – a group infamous for its virulent campaigns against relationships between Arab men and Jewish women now y urges the same government to expel Christian places of worship from the Holy Land. I mean, why not.
They need to take them out. We don’t have a place for churches here…. It’s Jewish law. This is what God told us.”
Oh really, Benzi where was that?
Anothert crazed fundamnetalist settler from Kiryat Arba outside Hebron in the West Bank where israel spends a fortune protecting 500 illegal settlers living among 140,000 Palestinians. It was in Hebron where the ultimate Jewish terrorist Dr.Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 settlers in the Ibrahim mosque in February 1994.

Israel suddenly got religion after some settlers torched a Palestinian house resulting in the death of an 18 month old infant Ali Dawabshe.They arrested Meir Ettinger, 23 – grandson of the late Meir Kahane, the racist rabbi whose Kach party was banned because of its racist beliefs. Young Mr Ettinger like Mr.Gopstein was arrested days after lamenting how Israel was being “desecrated” by churches in a blog post. Now he’s free to go.No proof.
The blog condemned “the state of Israel’s great sin of allowing idolatry – churches and monasteries abounding in the Land of Israel with the sound of their ringing bells mixing with the pleasant sound of the Torah and prayer”.
Recall what was chalked on the burned house: Long live the messiah.
The West Bank is riddled by bad religion like this, an Excedrin headache for the many Israelis who are disguisted with these gentlemen.
Mr Gopstein was chillingly dismissive of the reasons behind the crackdown – saying he would shed no tears for one-year-old Ali Dawabshe, the Palestinian child whose death in last Friday’s arson attack triggered a wave of condemnation from Israeli politicians.