01/15/21 By Avi Abraham Benlolo
Candle Lighting: 4:49 PM EST Shabbat Shalom
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard released this photo today of missiles launched today in a drill as part of a military exercise involving ballistic missiles and drones. Meantime, North Korea is showing off its nuclear arsenal once again. Tensions are running high.
Its been another tumultuous week everywhere on the planet. Between major lockdowns due to the pandemic - which has now taken 2 million lives globally - and the upcoming American Inauguration on Wednesday January 20th - we seem to be living in a land of confusion. As it happens, January 20th will also be my big 5-0. Not sure if to celebrate or to cry given all that is happening.
There is much to tell in TheFridayReport and so little time. In my column this week in the National Post, I juxtaposed my theme song for the week, "Land of Confusion" by Genesis. When you insert the 1986 lyrics to today's happenings, you can step back and ask - has anything really changed? I have included a link to the article below in case you want to read it in full.
Its hard to see images of military personnel carrying M16s around the American Capitol building and beyond. The riot which took place on January 6th was a turning point for America and the free world. It showed the deep divisions within the country and the fragility of its freedom and democracy.
I have always said, we cannot take our freedom for granted. Freedom has never been a natural order in human history. It is relatively a new phenomenon. Its up to each and every one of us to safeguard it. Unfortunately, Freedom House has consistently registered a decline of freedom globally over the last two decades.
Part of freedom of course is free speech. The world is enraged over what seems to be a concerted effort to silence dissent and discussion. If Twitter and Facebook are apt to shut down the Presidents' accounts and disable him from communicating, why then the double standard of not wanting to shut down Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini's account? After all, he has long promoted Anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and the destruction of a nation state - the State of Israel.
Much debate has also ensued online and in the media about Arnold Schwarzenegger's comparison of the June 6th riot to Kristallnacht. Many people (including myself) cautioned that it was not the same. The November 9th 1938 Nazi attack against the Jews - resulted in some 300 synagogues destroyed; 7000 businesses vandalized; 90 Jews murdered and some 30,000 taken to concentration camps.
While the event on the Capitol was tragic, it was not comparable to Kristallnacht, which was a night that solidified the coming Holocaust of the Jewish people. Not surprisingly, the American Jewish community has generally been vocal and against the terrible riot on the Capitol. Many organizations like the ADL and the American Jewish Committee and others have made strong statements encouraging Trump's removal while others have denounced the riot.
Anti-Semitism was on full display at the Capitol Riot with one rioter at least captured on camera wearing a shirt that said, "Camp Auschwitz - Freedom Makes you Free". Its unclear but its believed a litany of white supremacist groups participated including Proud Boys. Some have told me that members of ANTIFA also participated. As arrests take place, we will learn more about the participants and who they truly were.
Canadian Authorities in Manitoba announced this week that the chapter in that province has been disbanded. Nevertheless, these groups have a tendency to resurface perhaps under different names and authorities are encouraged to maintain vigilance. Indeed, it was reported this week in The Chronicle Herald that it took outgoing General Vance some three years to develop a policy to deal with military extremists, including Proud Boys.
But the Anti-Semitism at the Capitol unleashed a rash of Anti-Semitic vandalism this week around the planet. In Montreal this week, a man was arrested spray painting the Shaar Hashalom Synagogue with swastikas on its front doors. He also had with him a gas canister with obvious intent to burn the Synagogue. In Portland, three Israeli restaurants were vandalized with "Free Palestine" graffiti and similarly, in a French town, a soccer stadium was also hit was similar type of hateful language - including the words, "Death to Jews".
Even in London, the Daily Mail reported that a local resident smeared blood on Jewish homes in Stamford Hill in East London, calling it an antisemitic hate crime. We ask ourselves again and again, what drives people to behave in most primitive possible way?
It didn't stop there. In British Columbia, a hateful racist white supremacist letter in Surrey was found to have been posted in a bus station. It read in part that "only white people can create and sustain Canada" - demonstrating a terrible example of the dangers lurking behind the shadows of civilized nations today. Earlier in the week, a Vancouver synagogue's virtual service was ambushed by a Holocaust denier.
Similarly, a Holocaust denier based in Canada wrote an open letter defending a Florida principal who said, "not everyone agrees in the Holocaust". The denier wrote to the Palm Beach County School Board urging reinstatement of the fired principal. Holocaust denial is alive and well and the blurring of the lines between truth and fiction has become commonplace.
Even some university professors have begun assigning students with essay assignments asking them to challenge the "myth of the Holocaust". This would not happen against any other ethnic or religious group in the world. But it seems perfectly okay to continuously attack the Jews.
And this week, I wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to Minister Karina Gould asking them to look into allegations in a new study put out by Impact-se, a think-tank. Since Canada recently renewed its commitment to UNWRA giving the agency some $90 million over the next three years,
I have asked for greater accountability on the matter of UNWRA curriculum. According to Impact-se, there are problems with Palestinian curriculum which still encourages violence, Jihad and terrorism; rejects peace; has libel and conspiracy theories and seeks the destruction of Israel. The Prime Minister's Office has replied and has advised it would be looking into this problem further.
In fact, just this week AIPAC wrote that "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas begins year 17 of his 4 year term this week. Under his leadership, the Palestinian Authority has diverted over $1 billion from building a sustainable Palestinian economy to paying terrorists and other families". That is a serious charge that should be taken seriously by all nations who are funding the Palestinian Authority.
The Abraham Accords have obviously changed the dynamics in the Middle East and with the Palestinian Authority. This week, Michael Oren authored a compelling argument in Tablet argued that the Arab-Israeli Conflict is dead. He said this is "a big problem that the Biden Administration suddenly won't have to deal with". Indeed, while the conflict with the Palestinians persists, the conflict with the Arab world at large is abating. This is a major development.
Still, there are those who are accused of attempting to defame the State of Israel. CNN tweeted a disconcerting message this week stating the following: "Israel is no longer a democracy but an "apartheid regime" devoted to cementing the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, the country's best-known human rights group (Betselem) said in a report".
In reply, I wrote, "actually CNN since you have not offered an alternate perspective, according to the IHRA definition, the statement can be construed as antisemitic..."by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour". My friend, Israeli-Arab Yoseph Haddad directly challenged CNN directly by producing a video about Israel's Co-existence.
Haddad wrote CNN: "since you guys all had trouble separating fact from fiction in betselem's propaganda, I, as an Israeli Arab myself, decided to help you out and show you the Israeli "apartheid that exists here on the ground". Of course, Yoseph was being sarcastic - he showed Arabs, Beduins, Christians, Druze and others who are successfully integrated into Israeli society.
Young people are taking action against defamation of Israel and antisemitism. This week, it was reported that a Jewish student at the University of Manitoba advocated and passed a resolution to condemn Anti-Semitism. The motion and its successful condemnation was calls the university's student union to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
As I have argued elsewhere, universities will have a tougher time accepting anti-semitism because of the growth and prominence of the IHRA definition globally. Its been adopted by more than 27 UK universities including Oxford - in addition to European nations and cities and provinces.
Sadly and tragically, this week and despite the hard gains won by the IHRA definition, Left-wing Jewish, Israel groups issued a statement against adopting the universal definition of anti-semitism. The group, calling itself the Progressive Israel Network of prominent left wing Jewish organizations said it maintains "no substantive objection to the core definition itself" but expressed concern "with its adoption as a legal tool".
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My Article in the National Post