Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Killing the King

January 27, 2016

Many in Israel and the Jewish diaspora are reading a new book Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel by Dan’s been 20 year since the assassination of the Israeli PM, Yitzhak Rabin.


The villain in the book is convicted assassin, Yigal Amir, who was a student of law at Bar-Ilan university near Tel aviv, a school with religious Zionist roots.

Though not strictly Orthodox in orientation, it attracts mainly conservative Jews to its campus. It has had a hard time living down its relationship to Amir, the fanatical true believer who is serving a life sentence for his ugly handiwork.

During the last war crime in Gaza (2014) Hanoch Sheinman, a philosophy professor at the law school sent an e-mail to his second year law students expressing sympathy for all victims in Gaza. On the surface a minimal act of concern. But not so fast,herr professor. The law school dean, Shachar Lifshits upbraided Sheinman whom he said “contravened the values of the university and the law faculty … This constitutes the inappropriate use of the power given to a lecturer to exploit the platform given to him as a law teacher … that … seriously offended the students and their families.”

Another take was that of Stanford prof Steven J. Zipperstein, who teaches Jewish Culture and History:
“There is no reason to doubt that Lifshits is telling the truth when he says that Sheinman’s e-mail offended. And that’s the problem. That he then goes on to say that the sentiments expressed in it conflict with the values of his university, an institution inspired by religious convictions, chills one’s bones. And this from an institution, indeed a law school, that ought to be keenly attuned to what an inability to empathize with basic human rights can result in. Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, was a law student in November 1995 at the time he murdered the prime minister.”

Zipperstein notes that, “Never before in an Israeli military conflict has the mere expression of empathy for Arab civilian dead and wounded been seen, beyond the political fringe, as akin to betrayal … Sheinman’s dean has asked him to apologize. But it’s Lifshits who ought to offer an apology …”

No comment need be made here other than witnessing the erosion of humanitarian impulses, the failure to see the Other as a human being

Davey Keon, the humble warrior

January 24, 2016

So the Toronto Maple Leafs brought back Davie Keon to honour him with a statue along with Turk Broda and Timmy Horton..Dave was the only one still living so he got a huge round of applause from Toronto fans who remember him as a class act who was treated shabbily by the former Leaf management of Harold Ballard. I watched the pre-game interview with him  and he was as understated as he always was, appreciative of the honour but still a little bit embarrassed

It brought me back to a cold winter night in 1957 at the old Gardens, the home that Smythe built. In those days the players on the Toronto junior teams, St.Mike’s and Marlies all had passes to the NHL games and this night I was standing in the Blues with David. He had his pass from the Leafs and I had borrowed one from either Jack McMaster or Bobby Savage who both played for the majors. Davey was then captain of the junior B team,the Buzzers.
As we watched the warm up, Keon nudged me and he pointed out number 15 on the Leafs, a clever centre named Billy “Hinky”  Harris.

“See that guy, Ted” ?

“I am going to have his job one day.’”

This was a simple matter of fact statement. Dave was never a self-promoter. He was raised very well by his parents and always exhibited a lot of humility. Yet he had much confidence in his own ability.

At this time Dave was just coming into his own as great skater and thanks to Fr.Dave Bauer’s tutelage. a fantastic two way player, in other words a great checker. And that was Billy Harris’s weakness as an NHL player. Billy was a lovely man but he was simply not the two way player Dave was, either offensively or defensively. Davey scored almost 400 NHL goals and Billy had 125. If you wanted to play in a tough 6 team league, you needed to be good defensively. David was superb.
Sure enough in little more than 2 years Dave had taken Billy Harris’s job and went on to a stellar career.
Keon returns each year from Florida to play in a golf tournament of old St.Mike’s guys and it’s old home week with friends he feels comfortable with. And he always asks for my brother Don.

Prostitutes in US congress

December 18, 2015

It is a commonly accepted truth with Israel watchers in the USA that Congress, in Pat Buchanan’s words is “Israel occupied territory”, that nobody who challenges Israel’s barbaric behaviour against the Palestinians will  be around the US legislature long. There are many examples too numerous to mention here but my favourite one is Cynthia McKinney from Alabama who was not rah rah for Israel as a Democratic congresswoman. In 1992 when  she was a candidate for the US Congress, she received a fax from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) ready to fundraise for her…they did not even know her and the but this is how ugly things are in the US, lobbies can buy you up. The shocking fact is there are less than 10,000 Jews in Alabama. This despicable lobby however wants you to be a zombie for Israel.

“The fax was a pledge stating that as a candidate I would commit my tenure, should I win, to the military superiority of Israel, to Jerusalem as the capital city, to continued aid at the level requested by Israel. There were around five to seven points on this piece of paper and I didn’t sign it.”

Can you believe the chutzpah of this organization? Needless to say they got rid of Cynthia McKinney.

Recently AIPAC paid for 53 reps to go and see the Disneyland version of Israel offered by the state. You can bet they never walked through a checkpoint or ate hummus in Nablus.

Well they are still at it. Now they give out free trips to ‘the only democracy in the Middle east” and buy off the sheep who will be the amen corner for Israel. Well, I guess that’s just politics. And the cannabalizing of consciences.

The Free Palestine Movement pulled the rug from under these sad people.they offered them a free trip to Palestine! Brilliant. They sent a personalized invitation to exactly the same members of Congress to come to Palestine on the organization’s dime.

Guess how many accepted?

You guessed, zero, none.

Great representatives of the people.

All Saints Day November 1

October 31, 2015

For the secular saints in Israel

Gideon Levy  Amira Hass  Yitzhak Laor

Fire in their hearts


Heroes are people who do ordinary things—
care for the poor, speak the truth, reject evil, love God—
to an extraordinary degree.
These men and women are so possessed
by an internal vision of divine goodness
that they give us a glimpse of the face of God
in the center of the human.
They give us a taste of the possibilities of the greatness
in ourselves.


Throughout history these heroes—
lay and religious, male and female, Christian and non-Christian—
have stretched the very soul of humanity.

These are figures
gleaming in their holy causes
who have lived in circumstances similar to ours
and have shown us how to live
with character, with courage, with passion
for the right, the true, the holy.


They hold a fire in their hearts
bright enough to light the way for many.
They stand on gilded stilts
above the rest of their generation
and become a sign for all generations.
They are proof of possibility from ages past
and a symbol of hope
for ages yet to come.

Their lives provoke and prod
a critical measure of our own
until it becomes clear that sanctity


is simply a matter of living for the reign of God
with conscience, with voice, and with authenticity

—from A Fire in Their Hearts: 2016 Joan Chittister Calendar. For more information, click here.

Walmart caves in to antisemites

October 28, 2015

I laughed when I saw my grandson Dougie’s new haircut.
“What’s up, Dougie?”
“ Easy, Grampa, I am going out on halloween like Josh Donaldson. The latter is our local ball team’s third baseman (Blue Jays) who sports a wild haircut. Naturally given wide exposure to young ball fans, it catches on.

Now my question is what is wrong with Doug’s parents when they obviously do not love him sufficiently to hike him over to Walmart and suit him up in today’s latest craze best described buy the geniuses at Walmart and Amazon.

There comes a time when your child wants to save the world the only way he knows how, by dressing as his favorite army man! Have your child step into their Jewish heritage by putting on this Boy’s Israeli Soldier Costume.”
Now bear in mind the costume has been resuced from $57.62 to $27.44. It certainly appears like a steal to me.

What is it with the critics who have flooded Walmart’s Facebook page with some pretty trenchant criticism.
One very grumpy post called the costume “extremely offensive and highly insensitive, not only to the millions of Palestinian-Americans that shop in your stores, but to anyone who has an ounce of humanity in their bodies.”

Obviously not a real American patriot who does not realize USA”s deep attatchment to “the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Another antisemite wrote “Might as well sell a Hitler outfit for children as well! Pitiful!”
Now the deal is off.The cowardly folks at  Walmart has pulled this fabulous item.This pleased a truly awful man with the un-American name Samer Khalat who represents a probable Commie front called The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Naturally he was pleased at Walmart’s decision.
“The Israeli forces are responsible for the continued death and occupation of the Palestinian people. Such a symbol of fear, violence and a long history of dispossession should not be used for entertainment purposes. Sselling merchandise which mocks Arabs, or any other race or ethnicity, must not be tolerated. These images do nothing but perpetuate racist tropes that have long been used to demonize, otherize and alienate Arab communities throughout history.”

Open Up the Windows

October 27, 2015

Now that the Harperites have left the building, the timid are coming out and writing the truth about the long, lost years of this Republican regime. A classic case is William Thorsell the former Globe editor who reamed Harper out in fine editorial fashion in Maclean’s.

Nice job, Bill but where were you before?

There are several other pieces which I could easily quote but the same old story. When the emperor sits on the throne, prophecy disappears. Thorsell begins:

You do not cut the national sales tax in favour of targeted tax goodies in your party’s political interest. Nor do you do so to reduce Ottawa’s capacity to fund grievously inadequate infrastructure, undermining productivity and aggravating social divides.

You do not claim success in energy policy having seen no new significant pipelines approved or built on your watch, either domestically or in our interest in the United States. Nor do you sit out the global conversation on climate change in words and action.

You do not exacerbate income inequality by providing significant new tax breaks for the wealthy in tax-free savings and investment accounts.

You do not fan cultural conflict in Canada in the face of unprecedented cultural diversity and high rates of immigration. Canada’s generally successful experience in accommodating diversity needs nurturing attention, not a matador’s incendiary skills.

You do not acquiesce to deteriorating relations with Canada’s First Peoples. You do not evince contempt for science or, for that matter, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the courts mandated to interpret and uphold it. You do not tendentiously attack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada as cover for your own incompetence in making laws and appointments.

But the most succinct encapsulation of how Canadians felt was sung by Bruce Cockburn at the end of summer.It was from his 1999 album Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu’
Open Up the Windows and Let the Bad Air Out


Judge said to the hooker, “Can you come out to play?
I’ve been condemning people all day long, that’s how I get paid
My dreams are full of criminals frolicking about
Open up the window, let the bad air out!”

Strangled by confusion, my mind is in decay
Can’t picture tomorrow, can’t remember yesterday
Send out for the Black & Decker and the psychiatric couch
Open up the window, let the bad air out

Traitors in high places take my money, tell me lies
Take a walk past Parliament, it smells like something died
They ask for trust, but somehow I’ve got serious doubts
Open up the window, let the bad air out

Too much monkey business, like Mr. Berry said
Drugs and oil and money, don’t mean nothing when you’re dead
At the risk of being subversive, nothing left to do but shout
“Open up the window, let the bad air out!”

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.

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.

It’s not kosher!

June 13, 2015


Lone soldier sentenced to military jail for eating non-kosher sandwich

After journalists called for comment, however, the IDF soldier’s sentence was reduced.

I mean what was grandma thinking?

By Haaretz | Jun. 1, 2015 |

An American-born lone soldier serving in the Israel Defense Forces was sentenced to military jail for eating a non-kosher sandwich during training, according to an Israel Radio report.

After an Israel Radio reporter asked the IDF Spokespeson’s Unit to comment, however, it was decided that the soldier would not be sent to jail, but rather would not receive his upcoming weekend leave.

The soldier lives on a kibbutz with his grandmother, who made him the sandwiches, which he proceeded to offer to his fellow soldiers.

A representative for the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit told Israel Radio that the soldier was given such a harsh sentence because his actions were unbecoming for a soldier currently in commander’s training school.

It is against army regulations to bring non-kosher food onto IDF bases, which are all kosher.

Israeli columnist on Pope Francis: funny stuff

May 31, 2015


Yossi Sarid was a longtime member of the Knesset who now pens columns for Haaretz,. A  bit sardonic and pointed, he penned a quietly prophetic column on friday on Pope Francis. “who proves how stagnant Israel has become.”
Sarid alludes to Il Papa recognizing Palestine. and he asks with tongue in cheek,”why is he butting in?”Doesn’t he realize that nobody in Israel speaks of peace any more—or even justice. Doesn’t the pope know bridging the divide between Israel and Palestine is hopeless. Nobody here is interested. One more statement like that and we’ll bring up the Church’s notorious anti-Semitism and pin it on you

Now this is biting stuff. There are lots of Jews around both in Israel and the diaspora who think like this .Like shut up, where were you when we were put into ovens. That shtick has been wearing thin for a long,long time.As former speaker of the Knesset Avram Burg said, “The Holocaust is over, time to rise from the ashes.”

Said has real wit. He warns the pope:

Anyway, the new spirit you’re trying to bring to the world isn’t suitable for us. Israel isn’t ready yet to allow a bride to marry a bride and a groom to marry a groom. Don’t pretend to be naïve: We all know that without your silent consent, the Irish – devout Catholics that they are – wouldn’t have voted for same-sex marriage.

Only a secular Israeli would dare flagellate the rabbinate like Sarid does:

Also, your war against the corrupt clergy isn’t our war. We prefer the rabbinate the way it is, rotten…No one in the Jewish world today can match the pope’s stature; no rabbi can light a candle to his holiness. The Torah world, like its teachers and rabbis, is stagnant.


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