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July 27, 2014

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Andrew Klager

Thanks for your questions, Brad.

1. I was very discouraged to hear Trudeau’s statement and I hope that it represents only a small, short-lived blip in the ongoing and upcoming campaign strategies in Canadian politics. I can’t speak to the level and influence of lobbying or other similar tactics here in Canada as there have been few studies on this dimension, but Harper and his cohort are certainly influenced by the same Christian Zionist impulses as in the States and the American media coverage has, it appears, taken its toll on the Canadian conscience too. I do think, however, that there is a natural populist Western sympathy for Israel’s cause in North American generally that’s at play here, especially when a balanced and in-depth education on related issues is severely lacking and is replaced with neatly packaged sound-bites from media pundits. Bottom line, however, is that Harper has made this a policy issue for the upcoming federal election and the other candidates (save for Elizabeth May and the Greens) seem to be touting their pro-Israeli stance so that Harper doesn’t hijack or monopolize this position and win over that portion of the electorate. I assume that Trudeau and Mulcair don’t want Harper to dominate this perceived hardline support for Israel, while banking on Lib and NDP supporters to realize that Trudeau and Mulcair will likely be more measured and moderate in their actual responses if/when one of them becomes Prime Minister.

2. The anti-Semitism in Europe (or anywhere) is a truly horrible and disturbing element to consider. I wrote in my piece that “[w]hile the horrific accounts of persecution against Jews began in Christian Europe, the memories of persecution against Palestinians began in the midst of this lamentable conflict in their own homeland.” This certainly wasn’t meant to trivialize the persecution and pogroms against Jews in Christian Europe over the centuries (i.e., not just during the Holocaust, which always seems to be the focus that actually undermines the Jewish cause by glossing over the hundreds of years and other locations where persecution occurred). Instead, I wanted to point out that from the Palestinian perspective and in the back-and-forth accusations of “who started it,” we need to focus on the region that the indigenous people of the Levant know, where their actual lives begin and end. That said, my strategy is always pragmatic and teleological: what is the goal and how do we get there? Underlying these two considerations is the universal dignity of all human beings. My “strategizing” is therefore always values-based. But these values don’t contradict or oppose my pragmatic suggestions; they actually support and authenticate my pragmatism, i.e., the pragmatic solutions will work because human nature responds positively to the recognition of universal human dignity. Aggression is reciprocated by more aggression; empathy and practical assistance is met with gratitude and peace (generally speaking) --- it’s just as hard to punch someone who hugs us as it is to hug someone who punches us. So, all this to say, we need to look at what is causing hostilities and alleviate these causes while preserving the dignity of all human beings --- acknowledging that in the process, we may not save the world, but we can preserve single lives, which are themselves (from each person’s own perspective) entire worlds: they are icons of God and the entire cosmos absorbed into and experienced by each person. So, if we need to look at causes, our goal should be to build peace everywhere through nonviolent initiatives --- in Israel-Palestine and in Europe; this should have been the focus decades—even centuries—ago, but it is a focus today for many peace workers (although it’s not sexy enough to make into the news, and is drastically underfunded). I think this insight from the Raven Foundation about Robert Koehler’s (peace journalist) recent article applies well: “Is ‘Never Again’ a tribal slogan or a universal aspiration? Mimetic Theory teaches us that if it is merely a tribal slogan, the violence and horror that we hope will never happen again will almost certainly continue to happen. If we can only recognize ourselves as victims and not recognize our victimization of others, we will perpetuate a cycle of violence.”

3. I’m not an expert on the Arab world’s support of Gaza, but it seems to me that their solidarity with them is not as minimal as you seem to suggest here. Certainly there are supporters (financial and munitions) of Hamas (Hezbollah, Iran, bedouin elders and extremist groups in the northern Sinai, perhaps even ISIS, etc.). We also see more recent support coming from oil-rich Qatar, given their earlier support of the Muslim Brotherhood (from which Hamas is an offshoot). This has complicated the alliances with the Gulf States generally: Saudi-US and Qatari-Palestine, while the Wahhabist elements in many parts of (US-supported) Saudi Arabia are wreaking havoc in many pockets of the Middle East and creating a headache for the US/Israel. With this background, however, we see that there is indeed support for the government and resistance movements in Gaza, while support for regular Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank is near universal throughout the Arab world. If you’re asking why these supporters don’t come to the rescue on behalf of Gaza, there may be many behind-the-scenes factors (particularly in the tangled web of internal Middle East alliances, Gulf-US alliances, and the Shi’a/Sunni divide) but the debilitating blockade and superiority of the US-funded Israeli military are, of course, strong deterrents. That said, several Middle East countries give aid to Gaza in practical ways; after Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, for example, the biggest monetary aid came from Mideast countries. While the US gave $20 million, the top three spenders were Mideast countries: Saudi Arabia at $1 billion, Kuwait at $534 million, and Turkey at $63 million.

Brad Jersak

A few questions Andrew. I'd welcome your input.

1. While I can see the Christian Zionist position being a force in pressuring American policy, that doesn't seem to account for the Canadian scene ... esp. people like Justin Trudeau or Christy Clark. What's in it for them to spontaneously release press statements like, 'You can count on us as friends of Israel' on days when things are escalating? Is this about courting money or influence somehow? I.e. lobbying the lobbyists?

2. I'm also looking at the horrendous resurgence in anti-Semitism in Europe ... on the one hand, this seems an obvious backlash to the injustice of the occupation. But in a viciously cyclical way, also seems a source of Israel's own desperation. That is, while the local Israeli scene makes them the obvious Goliath, they may increasingly identify with David on the intercontinental front(s) of Europe ... and more justifiably so as the anti-semitism there becomes more overt. Thoughts?

3. Something disingenuous seems to be embedded in the Middle Eastern Islamic response to Gaza. For all the anti-Israeli rhetoric we hear from Islam, an actual pro-Gaza response of any practical kind seems vacuous. There seems to me a real ambivalence towards Gaza from Islamic nations. What's the deal with that?

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