Monthly Archives: December 2009

Opening up a book can be harder than you think…

I thought I could do it. I mean, I really had belief in my abilities. I guess I figured the more I read, the more I learned, the more I became educated, the more I would be able to put aside my emotions and learn from a more objective perspective.

But today, I finally cracked open the book I bought from the 9/11 Memorial Site in New York: “The 9/11 Commission Report.” It is a detailed, 643 page book, that goes through the entire events of 9/11, the communication failures, the plans, the responses and then discusses the aftermath of 9/11: terrorism, counter-terrorism, wars and new policies.

I only arrived at page 14 before I had to close the book for a few minutes, close my eyes and will myself not to be angry. Because is it truly possible not to hate those who destroyed so many lives? Is it possible to read the details of that horrifying day, learning about how our security and state leaders failed us, without feeling any pain? Can I really promise myself that I won’t discriminate against an entire religion based on the actions of these ten individuals?

And all these feelings are coming from a girl who does not personally know anyone hurt in these attacks.

I’m not sure if it is possible. But I do know I have to continue reading that book. The Chair of the Commission wrote that they are evaluating the past in order to understand the present and work towards a better future. That’s all we can ever hope to do.

Talk about Discussing Anti-Semitism

My letter to the editor was published Dec 7 2009 in Ottawa’s The Hill Times.

Re: “Israel and the new McCarthyism,” (The Hill Times, Nov. 23, Murray Dobbin, p. 24).

Murray Dobbin’s doubts of rising anti-Semitism and his refutes of growing anti-Israel criticism disguised as anti-Semitism could hardly be more invalid. Contrary to Dobbin’s views, anti-Semitism increased 11.4 per cent from 2006 to 2007, according to B’nai Brith Canada. This number increased last year to include an additional thousand reported events of anti-Semitism in 2009. There is no strategy to label criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism; however, more often than not, this seems to be the case.

Anti-Semitism is an old phenomenon that is always being reinvented to suit new purposes. For example, while accusations of blood libels are still being made against the Jewish people, instead they are being directed against the state of Israel, so that anti-Zionism is being used as a cover for anti-Semitism. Criticism of Israel certainly does not make one an anti-Semite, yet we must ask ourselves if people unnecessarily target the Jewish state for its actions, while completely refusing to criticize any other state in the Middle East who commit the worst crimes known to mankind (martyrdom, abuse of human rights in Iran and Saudi Arabia, etc.), can those people truly claim they do not have some sort of bias against Israel, the Jewish state, and therefore against Jews?

In this new left-wing intellectual climate, belittling any race or religion per se is off limits. The new tactic is to disparage the allegedly colonial, imperialist, racist nature of their actions. Targeting Jews’ right to live peacefully, under the mantra of social justice, although critics of Israel only care about the need for equality of Arabs in Israel, but not in the rest of the Middle East, is indeed a new manifestation of this old phenomenon. How else can we explain the over 100 resolutions condemning Israel and the lack of any resolution condemning states who actually are committing genocide, like the situation in Iran and Darfur?

I don’t believe criticizing Israel makes one an anti-Semite, but I do have to think twice when I see that these so-called ‘social activists’ unnecessarily focus exclusively on Israel, refusing to condemn any other state for its actions.

Waiting on a Tuesday

On Tuesday it will all be over. On Tuesday, I will finally have written my final exam for my “Arab Israeli Conflict” course. Three hundred plus pages of reading later, I will finally be free. Done. Conflict solved.

Not.

On Tuesday, my academic study of the Arab Israeli conflict will be over (for now). On Tuesday, I will now be responsible for studying this conflict out of my own free will. No longer will I need to learn about the domestic determinants of the Israeli-Syrian peace process (or lack thereof) to achieve a good grade in the course. It will now be my own initiative. And I’m ready to take it. If this course has taught me anything, it’s that I know nothing (and that’s often the case – the more we learn, the more we realize we have so much more to learn). From every one hour of lecture, I’ve left with thirty questions that I want answers to. But I think the main thing I’ve learned is that I want to learn those answers by myself – I want to figure them out on my own. I want to open up history and start learning facts and I’m confident that I can do it.

I almost teared at our last class this past week, because it meant that the knowledge I gain about this conflict is now mine to discover – I cannot rely on others to teach me what I want to know. Of course, I love to study and discuss academia with other students, professors and colleagues. But in order to even discuss, or to form an opinion, I must first have a basic knowledge of what it is I am discussing. And that is what I’m off to discover.

Who knows, maybe in a week I will have already forgotten this thirst for knowledge. But maybe not. Because as I’ve continued down the path of my university education, I’ve learned that the thirst for knowledge can rarely be satiated.