Sarah Hurwitz will help launch Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s annual campaign on Sept. 8. (photo from Jewish Federation)
Sarah Hurwitz, who for seven years served as head speechwriter for former first lady Michelle Obama, will be a featured speaker at the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s annual campaign opening on Sept. 8, which will be held virtually.
Hurwitz spoke to the Independent about her new book, Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life – in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There), and her upcoming Vancouver talk, which, before the pandemic, she had planned to deliver in person.
Here All Along traces Hurwitz’s personal journey back to her Jewish roots, a journey that began after an introduction to Judaism class in 2014. Before that time, she said, her main points of contact with the faith had been at “dull, incomprehensible” High Holiday events and a “lifeless” seder.
Her book delves into such areas as the Jewish traditions of questioning, debating and interpreting religious texts, “freeing God from his human-shaped cage,” and marking holidays and lifecycle events.
“What most surprised me (after taking the class) was the depth of spiritual and ethical wisdom Judaism had to offer,” she said. “I had always been proud to be Jewish and considered myself a ‘cultural Jew,’ but I knew almost nothing about Judaism. Once I started learning, I discovered thousands of years of profound wisdom about what it means to be human – how to live a worthy life, how to be a good person, how to find spiritual connection, and so much more.”
When asked how this discovery has affected her life, she explained: “My Judaism informs how I live every day of my life. It informs the ethical decisions I make each day about how to treat others, especially when it comes to the words I speak to and about them. It’s helped me develop an adult spirituality – beyond simplistic notions of the divine as a man in the sky who controls everything and punishes us when we’re naughty – which allows me to feel greater awe, wonder and gratitude each day. And it’s brought me into an amazing community of people, not just in the U.S., but across the globe – spiritual leaders, scholars and Jewish professionals who’ve become my dearest friends, mentors and teachers.”
Study, Hurwitz said, is a big part of her Jewish practice these days, though she would not label it an “intellectual pursuit.”
“Law school was an intellectual endeavour. Jewish study is deeply spiritual and emotional for me. I don’t study Jewish texts to gain information or facts, or to hone my analytical skills. I study them to glean the deepest wisdom of my ancestors about how to live my life,” she explained.
Currently, she is studying Psalms in chavruta (partnership) with a friend. Every week, they connect on Zoom and discuss the language and themes of the Psalmists. She also had a recent series of one-on-one study sessions with a rabbi that focused on Chassidic texts.
Selected last December by the Forward as one of the 50 most influential Jewish Americans, Hurwitz helped the former first lady put together many well-received speeches – including her 2016 Democratic National Convention address – and traveled with Obama around the world. She also worked on policy issues, as a senior advisor to the White House Council on Women and Girls.
Before working at the White House, Hurwitz was chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton during Clinton’s 2008 presidential primary campaign. She then joined the Obama campaign, serving as a senior speechwriter for then-Senator Barack Obama and helping Michelle Obama draft her 2008 Democratic National Convention speech.
Prior to the Clinton and Obama campaigns, Hurwitz served as deputy chief speechwriter for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential run and also worked as a deputy chief speechwriter for General Wesley Clark’s primary bid, as well as for Senator Tom Harkin. Earlier in her career, she was a lawyer at the Washington, D.C., office of WilmerHale. Presently, she is working on a proposal for another book and, while she does not write speeches at the moment, she does “help people out with remarks they’re giving, or offer edits.”
Hurwitz’s Vancouver talk will explore a wide range of subjects, such as working for Michelle Obama in the White House, spiritual and ethical insights in Judaism that have most transformed her life, and some thoughts on the future of Judaism. She will be joined at the virtual launch by fellow keynote speaker Nigel Savage, president and chief executive officer of Hazon (jewishindependent.ca/the-world-needs-us-to-change). To register for the Sept. 8 campaign opening, visit jewishvancouver.com/faco2020.
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Hosannas of historical significance followed the announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have normalized relations with each other. The truth is, we don’t really know what this means for the long-term. History is best judged in hindsight.
In some ways, the mutual recognition is not a massive surprise. Israel has long had semi-secret good relations with some of the Gulf states. But, in the name of solidarity with Palestinians, the Arab states kept official relations off the table. It is a sign now that fear of Iran, rather than solidarity with Palestinians, is increasingly the priority guiding diplomatic decision-making in the region.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman made it sound like the accord is the greatest thing to hit the Middle East since hummus. Calling it a “geopolitical earthquake,” Friedman suggested this was the third most important event for the region after President Anwar Sadat visiting Jerusalem and Yasser Arafat shaking Yitzhak Rabin’s hand on the White House lawn. But Friedman’s choice of those two examples may exactly undermine his case that this is quite so tectonic.
Perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, history in the Middle East does not have a consistently forward-moving trajectory. Relations between Israel and its neighbours have often been one step forward and two steps back. The anti-Zionist culture that permeates much of the Middle East and North Africa is not necessarily something that can be overcome simply by a recognition by top government officials on either side. Egypt’s peacemaking with Israel in the late 1970s can be seen as the most direct cause of the assassination of Sadat in 1981. When some extremists saw Jordan’s King Abdullah I as too soft on the Zionists, he was assassinated at the entrance of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by a Palestinian, in 1951. Extremism is not limited to the Arab side – Rabin was killed 25 years ago by an Israeli extremist opposed to concessions with the Palestinians.
Extremism could derail this progress, as well. Some voices in the Arab world are already warning of dire consequences for Arab figures working with Israelis. Even if, as we desperately hope, there is not retaliatory violence, and even if rumours that other Arab countries are ready to follow the UAE’s lead are true, it may be premature to see this one step as a guarantee of rainbows and doves.
When Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David Accords and adopted a position of mutual recognition, it was perceived to be a future-changing moment. It certainly appeared that way at the time. However, relations with Egypt – then the unchallenged political, military and cultural superpower of the Arab world and the birthplace of pan-Arabism – never became chummy. What Israel has received in practical terms in the subsequent 40-plus years is mostly a cold peace. Similarly, after Israel’s parallel agreement with Jordan. There are mutual benefits and a state of comparatively benign adjacency but these relationships are hardly the stuff of great friendship.
Still, the Gulf states are different. They have not been involved in any conflagration with Israel. Their emergence as high-tech and financial powers in recent decades puts them on footing with Israel among the Middle East’s forward-looking economies.
Meanwhile, as part of the deal, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has called off his annexation plan in part of the West Bank, though it was hard to see a way forward for the ill-advised initiative. It’s possible that Netanyahu’s annexation scheme was like U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall – red meat to their respective far-right constituents but a promise that was never going to be kept. It may not have been a jagged pill for Israelis to swallow.
And, speaking of Trump, as he often does, the U.S. president is crowing that he (via his advisor/son-in-law Jared Kushner) is responsible for this great unfolding. It seems undeniable that the U.S. administration played a role. Just 70-some-odd days out from one of the most important elections of our lifetimes, the agreement seems timed to bolster the image of the president as a statesman and appeal to Jewish and evangelical voters. However, the relationships between these actors are not entirely transparent and there are likely many moving pieces – and many lucrative business deals – to which we are not privy. Much of the excited coverage of the agreement fails to recognize the larger geopolitics in the region and how this agreement may best serve those currently in power.
Palestinian leaders are outraged by a deal that reduces their leverage in the region, and Israel and its supporters should be wary of unilateralism if there is any hope of keeping a two-state solution alive. That said, whatever the future holds for Israel’s relationships with the UAE and other Arab states, this is a time for cautious hope. While the Palestinian leadership and some of their ostensible allies, like Turkey and Hezbollah, are upset by the accord, it’s possible that they are among those who should be most enthusiastic.
Denormalization, the once-nearly-unanimous assertion by Arab states that Israel shouldn’t exist – and, in their official diplomatic worldview, doesn’t exist – was intended to harm Israel. But Israel’s economy continues humming along, even as the pandemic makes the outlook more uncertain. The biggest losers of denormalization have been neighbouring Arab people and states – most especially the Palestinian people – who are effectively quarantined from the economic engine of the region. The Israeli-UAE agreement could be a good thing for all people in the area, whether they recognize it right now or not. However, we shouldn’t let our excitement for a détente get in the way of other critical interests: a two-state solution and electing governments in the United States and Israel that are oriented to coexistence and fair play.
Both MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, left, and her political aide, Becca Wertman, have Canadian roots. (photo from Becca Wertman)
A new, dynamic force has hit the Knesset, with a political aide just as passionate, and both are rooted in Canada.
Michal Cotler-Wunsh, who once held Canadian citizenship, became a Member of the Knesset for the Blue and White Party this past June. She is among those who have endorsed a proposed bill that, if passed, would change the requirement that Knesset members who hold citizenship in another country must give up that citizenship.
Recently sworn in, Cotler-Wunsh heads a staff of four – a political aide, a parliamentary aide, a spokesperson and an aide who works with her on her portfolio as chair of the Drug and Alcohol Use Committee. In a recent interview, she told the Independent that the issues that concern her are “unity, mamlachliut (often translated statesmanship) and responsibility…. You can’t politicize or personalize issues,” she stressed. Two other issues about which she is passionate are “the ability to combat antisemitism and a commitment to olim [immigrants] and prospective olim.”
Cotler-Wunsh also emphasized her commitment to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. As a lawyer and international law expert, she added that the international community and Israel must always uphold international law and not allow terror groups to exist in a culture of impunity. She specifically highlighted the importance of this in the context of Hamas not returning the four Israelis currently being held captive in Gaza, in a six-year standing violation of international law.
Jerusalem-born, Cotler-Wunsh spent her first seven years in Israel. When her mother, Ariela (née Ze’evi), married Canadian Irwin Cotler, the family moved to Montreal, where her three siblings were born. Most JI readers will be familiar with Cotler-Wunsh’s father, a former minister of justice of Canada, an international human rights lawyer, emeritus professor of law at McGill University, and founder and chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, among other things.
Cotler-Wunsh returned to Israel for a one-year program after high school and stayed to serve in the Israel Defence Forces as a lone soldier. She then received her law degree from the Hebrew University and did her internship.
In 2000, she and her husband returned to Canada with their son but returned to Israel 10 years later, by which time they had three more children. In 2010, she became associated with the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya and was a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.
Cotler-Wunsh’s political aide is Vancouver-born and -raised Becca Wertman. The two met at a conference of nongovernmental organizations. “I read Becca, I heard her voice in what she writes,” said Cotler-Wunsh.
Wertman, who is the daughter of Charles and Carla Wertman of Vancouver, has a bachelor degree from the University of Southern California in international relations and a master’s from Columbia University in political science. She was managing editor and responsible for the Canada portfolio at the Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor, authoring articles for a wide variety of publications.
“My messages are very nuanced; it was important to find somebody that can make my nuanced messages accessible to the public and be able to represent me,” explained Cotler-Wunsh. “Having read some of what Becca published, I saw that the values that drive me also drive Becca as well, particularly in the areas of human rights, international law, Zionism and democracy.”
Wertman manages Cotler-Wunsh’s schedule, handles all things that come in English, including media and social media, and reaches out to NGOs that fight antisemitism or are concerned with olim; she also assists Cotler-Wunsh in her foreign endeavours. Like her boss, she is passionate about issues concerning olim chadashim (new immigrants) and working with Diaspora communities.
Wertman made aliyah in 2016 and went to an ulpan to learn Hebrew; she is engaged to an oleh from Chicago. She sees her role as a perfect fit because of the values she shares with Cotler-Wunsh and their shared Canadian backgrounds. In addition, she admires Cotler-Wunsh’s father.
“As a Canadian who is interested in human rights, Prof. Irwin Cotler has been someone I looked up to for many years,” said Wertman.
In June, when Cotler-Wunsh received word that she would be a member of the Knesset, she reached out to Wertman and offered her the position.
“I’m 100% dedicated to MK Michal Cutler-Wunsh, to help her accomplish what she wants to accomplish,” said Wertman. “I fully believe in her goals. Her issues are those I care about. I feel so lucky to work for a member of the Knesset who is furthering issues that I so deeply believe in.” She added, “her background in human rights and international law, these are unique and important skills, experiences and values that can and will add to the Knesset.”
Sybil Kaplanis a journalist, lecturer, book reviewer and food writer in Jerusalem. She created and leads the weekly English-language Shuk Walks in Machane Yehuda, she has compiled and edited nine kosher cookbooks, and is the author of Witness to History: Ten Years as a Woman Journalist in Israel.
Annamie Paul is running to succeed Elizabeth May as leader of the Green Party of Canada. (photo from Annamie Paul)
Annamie Paul wants to be the first woman of colour and the first Jewish woman to lead a political party in Canada. But, in the process, the human rights lawyer and former diplomat who is running to succeed Elizabeth May as leader of the Green Party of Canada has been taken aback by the overt antisemitism thrown at her since it became widely known that she is Jewish.
“You almost can’t believe what you’re seeing,” said the Toronto native, who has worked extensively overseas. “There are very explicit comments questioning my loyalty to Canada because I am Jewish. There are those who have suggested that I am seeking to infiltrate the party on behalf of Zionist elements.”
Paul said what disappoints her most is the almost complete silence from others when antisemitic posts are made on social media, such as the Facebook group for Green party supporters.
“The comments were whispers at first, innuendo, and now they’ve become very explicit,” she said. “If people are allowed to make these comments unchecked, it really emboldens them and that’s definitely what I’ve noticed over the last week or two.”
Amid a litany of such comments – including items not directly targeting her but equating Israelis to Nazis on Green-oriented social media sites – only one single individual not on her campaign team has called out the offensive posts. At the urging of Paul’s campaign, moderators removed some of the most disturbing ones.
“It’s taken me aback,” she said. “It wasn’t something I was fully prepared for, to be honest.”
She differentiates between people who are deliberately provocative and those who are uninformed.
“I accept that there are a certain number of people who still need to be educated … and, while it’s perhaps not my responsibility to do that, I’m willing to do that because I think if I can create a little more understanding, then that’s important,” she said.
Paul spoke at a Zoom event organized by Congregation Beth Israel and moderated by Rabbi Jonathan Infeld on July 8. That conversation was primarily about Paul’s life, Jewish journey and career. In a subsequent interview with the Jewish Independent, she delved more deeply into policy and her experiences with antisemitism and racism.
Born in Toronto to a family from the Caribbean, she was among the first students in Toronto public schools’ French immersion program. Her mother, a teacher, and grandmother, a nurse and midwife, worked as domestics when they arrived in Canada. Her mother went on to get a master’s of education and taught in elementary schools for more than three decades; her grandmother became a nurse’s aide.
Paul credits her mother’s broad-mindedness and spiritual bent for the openness that led her to embrace Judaism in early adulthood. Paul was converted by the Hillel rabbi while completing a master’s of public affairs at Princeton University. She also has a law degree from the University of Ottawa. She chose Ottawa in part because its law faculty emphasizes law through an Indigenous lens. In addition to seeking at an early age to be an ally to Indigenous peoples – she started law school at 19 – she saw parallels between the Canadian situation and her own heritage as a member of the Black diaspora.
“We have been stripped of all of the things that Indigenous peoples are fighting for still in this country,” she said. “Through colonialism, we lost our identity, we lost our culture, our language, our religions. We really can’t tell you anything with any great degree of precision about our ancestors. When I saw other peoples fighting for those things, I understood intuitively how important it was.”
Paul has worked as a director for a conflict prevention nongovernmental organization in Brussels, as an advisor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and as a political officer in Canada’s mission to the European Union. She co-founded and co-directed an innovation hub for international NGOs working on global challenges and has served on the board and advised other international NGOs, including the Climate Infrastructure Partnership and Higher Education Alliance for Refugees. She is married to Mark Freeman, a prominent human rights lawyer and author. They have two sons, one in university in London, U.K., the other in high school in Toronto.
Returning to Canada after spending about 13 years abroad, Paul looked at Canadian politics with fresh eyes. While she had been courted to run provincially by the Ontario Liberal Party in the early 2000s, she opted to run federally for the Green party in 2019. She took about 7% of the vote in Toronto Centre, which was won by Finance Minister Bill Morneau. She is one of nine candidates running for Green leader.
She chose the Green party because, she said, “we don’t have time to fool around with the climate emergency.”
“I celebrate the compromise that is the spirit of Canadian politics,” Paul said. “This is the Canadian way. But there are some things that you simply have to do all the way or it really doesn’t work. One of those things is the climate emergency. If we don’t hit our targets, then we are setting ourselves up for disaster. The Liberals, the NDP, the Conservatives, they’re just not committed to that goal and so I wanted to make it clear that I was aligning myself with the party that was very, very committed to reaching those targets.”
COVID-19, for all the health and economic devastation it has wrought, also presents opportunities, said Paul. In Canada, federal and provincial governments came together and political parties set aside partisanship to an extent. Canadians who may have been skeptical that a massive challenge like climate change could be ameliorated see what concerted governmental action – and massive investments – can look like. “[Canadians] know that money can be found if it’s needed and they know that we can mobilize very quickly,” she said.
The billions of dollars being invested into the economic recovery should be directed toward projects that explicitly advance a green economy, she said, such as a cross-Canada energy grid that produces electricity from renewable sources to be shared throughout the country. This is just one of a range of opportunities that Paul sees emerging from this extraordinary economic challenge.
“For a country as wealthy and well-educated as Canada, if we want to be, we can really be first in line for all of this,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
The Green leader has limited constitutional authority in a party dedicated to grassroots policymaking, Paul said. If party members adopt a policy that challenges the leader’s core values, the leader may be required to walk away. Such a scenario emerged in 2016 after the party adopted a resolution to boycott Israel. Following a showdown, the resolution was rescinded and May carried the party into the subsequent election. As a result, Paul said, the party is on record supporting Israel’s right to exist and opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Paul opposes the Netanyahu government’s Jordan Valley annexation plan because she believes it contravenes international law. But she also urged vigilance against those who might mask their antisemitism in anti-Zionism. And she stressed the unlikelihood of pleasing everyone on either side of the Israel and Palestine divide.
“I don’t feel that there’s anything these days that you can say in terms of that conflict where you’re not going to attract criticism that you were too soft or you were too hard,” she said. “It’s very difficult.”
But, while she doesn’t have the magic answer to resolve the longstanding conflict, her background in diplomacy and international law makes her confident in asserting that negotiated settlement is the route to any eventual solution.
“Dialogue always has to be the preferred option,” she said, adding that international law must be applied to all sides. “State actors, non-state actors, they are all subject to international law. Their obligation is to respect international law and to protect fundamental human rights. There are no exceptions to that.”
At a time when North Americans and others are facing our histories of racism and injustice, Paul finds herself at an opportune intersection.
“I’m very aware of what I represent as a candidate,” she said. “I’m a Black woman, I’m a Jewish woman.… I know people are very interested in my identities and I embrace that…. I would say, though, that [I hope] people will take the time to get to know me and not to create a one-dimensional image of me simply focused around those identities. I feel that I’m very prepared because of the work I’ve done, my academic studies, etc. I’m very well prepared to take on this role and all of the elements of this role.
“You’re not just an environmental advocate as the leader of the Green party, for instance, you also need to be able to talk about foreign policy, you need to be able to talk about economic theory, you need to be able to talk about rural revitalization and what are we going to do about long-term care and should we decriminalize illicit drugs. You need someone who is three-dimensional and I know that I’m three-dimensional and I hope people remember that.”
As a Jew of colour, Paul also has insights on antisemitism in the Black Lives Matters movements and racism in the Jewish community.
“The Black diaspora is not a monolith,” she said. “The Jewish community is not a monolith, either. Don’t ever take the actions of some members of the community as an indication of how the entire community feels.… I would just say don’t let that push you out of wanting to support the community in the way that you should. In terms of Black and Indigenous lives in this country, the statistics just take your breath away. Not just the criminal justice statistics but also health, education, life expectancy, they are really very troubling and those communities need as much help as they can get from people who really understand, who have suffered a great deal of persecution historically, as well, and have had to create opportunities and overcome barriers and still do.”
The leadership vote takes place Sept. 26 to Oct. 3. The deadline to join the Green party to vote in the election is Sept. 3.
ראש ממשלת קנדה, ג’סטין טרודו, שוב הסתבך בשערוריה גדולה שיכולה לאיים על עתידו הפוליטי. זאת דווקא כאשר מניותיו עלו לאחרונה בשל הטיפול הנאות של ממשלתו הליברלית במגפת הקורונה. רבים רבים בקנדה ומחוצה לה מוכירים לו הערכה רבה על מה שעשה עבור אזרחי קנדה בימים קשים אלה.
ממשלת טרודו העניקה תשעה מאות מיליון דולר לעומת הצדקה ווי שמטפלת בסטודנטים, במסגרת חוזה חדש בתקופת הקורונה. העמותה נותנת מענקים לסטודנטים שלא יכולים לעבוד בעת הזו עבור פעיליות התנדבויות שונות. בו בזמן מתברר בימים אלה שהעמותה שילמה כספים רבים למשפחת טרודו. אם כן זו השערוריה השלישית בה מעורב טרודו בשתי הקנדציות שלו בזמן שהוא מכהן ראש ממשלה. הפעם מדובר באירוע החמור ביותר שעדיין לא ברורים ממדיו הקשים. משרד האתיקה מתחיל לחקור את הפרשה המסובכת וזו בעצם כאמור זו הפעם השלישית שמעשי טרודו מגיעים לחקירות כאלה.
מפלגת האופוזיציה השמרנית דורשת מהמשטרה הפדרלית לפתוח בחקירה כדי לגלות אם מדובר בפעילות מושחתת של טרודו, עת העניקה ממשלתו חוזה ממשלתי נחשק בשווי של כתשעה מאות מיליון דולר לעומת הצדקה ווי, בזמן שהאחרונה שילמה לאורך השנים סכומי כסף גדולים לבני משפחתו של טרודו.
עומתת הצדקה ווי זכתה בחודש יוני בחוזה לניהול תוכנית פדרלית לחלק מענקים בגובה של עד חמשת אלפים דולר לסטודנטים, עבור התנדבות בארגונים שפועלים ללא מטרות רווח, במהלך משבר הקורונה. טרודו עצמו היה שותף למו”מ עם העמותה להעברת התקציב הגדול. לאור הביקורת הקשה עמותת ווי הודיעה כי לא תממש את החוזה ותוותר על התקציב הממשלתי.
עמות ווי שילמה בשנים האחרונות כמאתיים וחמישים אלף דולר לאמו של ראש הממשלה, מרגרט טרודו, עבור עשרים ושמונה נאומים שנשאה באירועים שונים. אחיו של ראש הממשלה, אלכסנדר טרודו, קיבל שלושים ושתיים אלף דולר עבור שמונה נאומים באירועים שונים. ואילו אשתו של ראש הממשלה, סופי טרודו, קיבלה אלף וחמש מאות דולר עבור נסיעה מטעם העמותה.
עוד מתברר שבתו של שר האוצר בממשלת טרודו, ביל מורנו, הועסקה בעמותת ווי. מורנו כמו טרודו השתתף בדיונים להעברת התקציב לעמותה.
משרד המבקר של קנדה כבר פתח כאמור בבדיקה בנוגע להתנהלות ראש הממשלה טרודו, בנושא העמותה. חבר הפרלמנט מטעם המפלגה השמרנית, מייקל בארט, טוען כי ידוע שמשפחתו של טרודו הפיקה תועלת כספית משמעותית מהארגון. ולכן ברור לגמרי שיש ראיות מספיקות כדי שהמשטרה תחקור את הפרשה. מפלגת בוק קוויבק קראה לטרודו לפנות את כיסאו עד לסיום החקירה, לטובת סגניתו, כריסטיה פרילנד. זאת בשל האפשרות שתיפתח גם חקירה פלילית.
משרד האתיקה של קנדה פרסם בשנים האחרונות שני דוחות שבהם קבע כי טרודו הפר תקנות הנוגעות לניגוד אינטרסים. הראשון מייד לאחר שטרודו מונה לראש הממשלה בקנדציה הראשונה שלו (באלפיים ושבע עשרה). טרודו יצא לחופשה באי הפרטי של הפילנטרופ וידיד המשפחה שלו אגא חאן, באיי בהאמה. זאת בזמן ששחאן ניהל משא ומתן על מימון פרויקטים ממשלתיים שונים. הדוח השני פורסם לפני כשנה לאחר שטרודו הואשם בניסיון להשפיע על ההליך המשפטי בעניין חברת התשתיות הגדולה מקוויבק אס.אן.סי לוולין. אז דובר כי טרודו ניסה להשפיע על התובעת הכללית ששימשה גם שרת המשפטים שלו, כדי שלא תעמיד לדין את החברה שהואשמה בתקופת ראש הממשלה הקודם, סטיבן הרפר, כי שיחדה בכירים בלוב כדי לזכות בחוזים ממשלתיים גדולים.
According to the Associação Scholem Aleichem, in Rio de Janeiro, right-wing religious groups are misappropriating the Israeli flag in their show of support for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. (photo from ASA)
This article is a response to the continuing misappropriation of the Israeli flag by right-wing religious groups, followers of a certain Christian belief known as “progressive dispensationalism” (no political connotation), whose adherents support Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro and his stalwarts have consistently raised the Israeli flag while promoting their reactionary views and hate-mongering. Most recently, several Israeli flags were displayed at a public rally in support of Bolsonaro and his policies regarding COVID-19, including his stance against preventive measures such as social distancing and stay-at-home orders, and the championing of hydroxychloroquine as a sufficient means of treatment and prevention.
Within any nation, there may be contention over its symbols. Two Brazilians may wield the same flag in favour of two different ideals. Such a case is restricted to members of the same country. Likewise, as the state of Israel was created to take in and represent Jews, the only non-Israelis who may claim its flag are Jews from other countries. If non-Jews raise an Israeli flag, for whatever reason, they appropriate a symbol that is not theirs. This is all the more serious in a prejudice-filled world in which various peoples have been losing the right to tell their own story.
It is only natural – indeed, healthy – that Jews, in Israel or elsewhere, should discuss the meaning of a Jewish state. Debate has always been part of our culture, and we have never felt the need to agree on everything. But the spokesperson of another people, by seizing another nation’s symbol, makes it the hostage of their own political agenda. It is one thing to raise the Soviet flag, conceived by a party as an emblem of an international revolution. It is not so much an appropriation of a national symbol as it is an endorsement of Bolshevik ideology. The Israeli flag, by contrast, was meant to rally a people in the Diaspora. Jews outside Israel may brandish it; a non-Jew would be overrunning someone else’s realm.
Throughout history, we Jews have constantly encountered non-Jews ready to ascertain if we are a religion, a race or a nation. The consequences have always been tragic. Yet, just as it is for every people to define itself, it is a Jew’s prerogative to determine the depths of his or her Jewishness and, likewise, to determine his or her relationship with Israel. Nowadays, many Christian groups believe that the Second Coming of Jesus will be ushered in by the regrouping of all Jews in the “Holy Land.” It is no gesture of goodwill toward Jews, just another of the many ways of inserting us into a foreign narrative.
Strains of thought within dispensationalism grant Israel an importance peculiar to their religious aspirations, but the country was not established for this reason. Christian dispensationalism sees history as a series of specific stages (“dispensations”) of the “administration” of the “divine plan.” In this scheme, the prevalent trend has imputed a particular role to “the ethnic nation of Israel” – “Israel,” the people chosen for Jesus’s divine revelation. Its fulfilment entails “the end of disobedience,” namely, the embracing of Jesus as our saviour. This entails a kind of eschatological glorification of the Israeli state. Let it be said that this is no favour for Jews. Indeed, were that “dispensation” to come to pass, it would be the effective end of Judaism. Not a single architect of the state of Israel could have entertained such a notion.
But that is not all. To blur the purpose of the Jewish state with the myth of “Israel’s salvation” is to cloud public opinion and impair its perception of what Israel can – and should – represent. Far more troubling, however, is that these very same groups that preach the aforementioned Christian theory and misappropriate the Israeli flag also polarize the political climate wherever they live. In Brazil, they hold considerable sway, and their conduct is extremely controversial, to say the least. The improper use of Israeli symbols links us Jews to these controversies in a wholly detrimental fashion. And regardless of the collaboration between the current Brazilian and Israeli governments – the current Brazilian government has a strong ideological identity with the Netanyahu government, and its members seek to establish profitable commercial relations with Israeli companies – flags symbolize states, not governments.
Brazilian Jews may and should oppose “bolsonarism,” but a delusion under which Bolsonaro links his policies to a universe as complex and diverse as Israel’s will always be harmful. For starters, there is a cultural element to the issue: Bolsonaro is Brazil’s representative, and a disgraceful one at that, but he does not represent Israel in any shape or form, disgracefully or otherwise. It requires immense ignorance on his part to equate the Israeli experience with his political project.
And there is another level, of a more political note. Israelis have their own problems and, regardless of the kind of society they wish to make, it would be detrimental to link it to Bolsonaro’s administration, with all the dire misfortunes the latter casts upon Brazil.
Finally, there is a matter of principle. By parading his submissiveness towards the United States, saluting its flag and playing the lackey to its president, Bolsonaro undermines the sovereignty of his country and degrades his own authority. By juxtaposing Israel’s flag with those of Brazil and the United States, he seizes someone else’s authority and, above all, affronts the sovereignty of someone else’s country. He transgresses the complexities of Israel’s society to subject it to the same submissiveness he expects for Brazil. The United States has a long history of interference in Brazilian affairs and in those of Latin America in general. This – and the specific perversity of the current U.S. president – adds further weight to Bolsonaro’s folly.
The misappropriation of the Israeli flag effectively represents a transgression of the meaning of Israel, regardless of its government, a disdain for the liberty of the Israelis, regardless of their religious tradition and ethnic identity, and a hindrance to the personal choices of Jews, regardless of our country. As Brazilians, we assert that Bolsonaro lacks standing to uphold national sovereignty. As Jews, we maintain that he lacks legitimacy to wield the Israeli flag – and that he is both fraudulent and destructive when he does.
Esther Kupermansubmitted this article, which was written by the Associação Scholem Aleichem, in Rio de Janeiro ([email protected]). ASA is a century-old institution founded in Brazil by Jews who came from Europe in search of security and survival, fleeing persecution and wars. Its main mission is the cultivation of Jewish culture, without losing sight of Brazilian cultural manifestations and the defence of human rights.
There is no way to determine definitively why Canada failed to secure a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council last week.
Since the UN was created after the Second World War, Canada had generally been elected to one of the temporary seats once per decade. This ended in 2010, when Canada lost its bid, and last Wednesday’s vote represents the second decade of Canadian absence from the prestigious council.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau contended that the successful countries – Ireland and Norway – had been campaigning longer. Also significant may have been the fact that Canada’s contributions to foreign aid and UN peacekeeping efforts have declined in recent years. Not to be dismissed also is the perception of Canada as an ally of Israel.
Since 2006, under Conservative and Liberal governments, Canada has voted against or abstained from the annual litany of 16 recurring anti-Israel resolutions at the UN General Assembly. That trend was broken last winter, when Canada unexpectedly endorsed a resolution condemning Israel.
Jewish and other pro-Israel Canadians have viewed Canada’s pro-Israel UN votes since 2006 as a principled position in the face of a global dogpiling – the votes are routinely passed with numbers like 160 to six, with Israel, the United States and American-aligned South Pacific micro-nations in the minority. No other country is singled out with such multiple routine censures.
Canada’s abrupt reversal of this stand last year was seen by some as an effort to distance Canada from Israel in advance of last week’s vote, particularly among the nearly 60 Arab and Muslim countries in the General Assembly.
While Trudeau made the case that Canada’s principled voice was necessary for the world in this challenging time, Opposition voices, like Conservative (and former Liberal) MP Leona Alleslev, argued that the government had betrayed its principles and, as a result, undermined its own argument for putting a Canadian representative on the Security Council.
The point is fair. To base our country’s campaign for the seat (at least partly) on the idea that we are a principled voice on the world stage and then do a 180 puts the whole venture into a weird light. For those countries who dislike our history of pro-Israel votes, the last-minute reversal must have seemed too little too late. For those (admittedly few) who admired our chutzpah, the recent vote must have been a disappointment, if not a betrayal. It’s almost a wonder that we got as many votes as we did.
Avram Finkelstein will be participating in the Queer Arts Festival, which takes place July 16-26. (photo by Alina Oswald)
A lot of it feels familiar, said New York-based artist and activist Avram Finkelstein about the current situation in the United States. The same American institutions that failed during the HIV-AIDS crisis are failing to effectively deal with the pandemic. And, when he was a teenager in the 1960s, cities were also being burned in America.
“It’s sad to think that we will be having the same struggles,” he told the Jewish Independent in a phone interview last week. “But, also, as you get older, you realize that progress is not a pendulum swing from left to right, it’s actually a spiral going forward and things do move to the right and they move to the left, but [there is] incremental change. So, part of me feels like we’re seeing the dying gasp of a world that I hope we’re leaving behind, and I see a world in the future that I want to live in. So that’s kind of helping me through this.”
Finkelstein was scheduled to come to Vancouver next month to participate in the Queer Arts Festival.
A founding member of the Silence=Death and Gran Fury collectives, as well as the political group ACT UP, he is the author of After Silence: A History of AIDS Through its Images (University of California Press, 2017). His artwork is part of the permanent collections of MoMA, the Smithsonian, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, to name but a few places, and his work has been shown around the world. He was set to unveil one of his new works in Vancouver. As it is, with the restrictions required to minimize the spread of COVID-19, he will be helping open the festival remotely, as part of a panel discussion chaired by curator Jonny Sopotiuk, which will also provide viewers with a tour of the festival’s art exhibition.
“I have a large mural that was going to be in the exhibition and now it’s going to be in a virtual space,” said Finkelstein. “I’m very excited about this piece and the fact that Jonny chose it – it’s the first time I’ve shown it…. I had a commission to do a work for the Shed, which is a new art space in New York, and, while I was waiting for the weaving tests of the final pieces – it’s a very large jacquard weaving – I decided to start drawing from the same source material as the cartoon for the weaving. I hadn’t drawn since recovering from a stroke; I had a stroke about two years ago…. I then realized that my hand isn’t my own, my body is no longer my own.”
The source material, he explained, “is a portrait of a gender-non-conforming friend who later transitioned. The work was all about corporeality as an abstraction and the ways in which we’re allowed to look at certain things, and what is public and what is private about gender and sexuality. And then, all of sudden, I realized, I’m actually talking about my own body in these drawings because my own body is not my own body anymore. I realized that I had made this sharp pivot from an abstract, theoretical idea of corporeality to this kind of war or dance, or I don’t know how to describe the physical process of having to use your entire body to hold a pencil.”
Despite the health, political and other challenges Finkelstein has faced, he remains hopeful.
“We’re trained to think that, if we don’t have hope, then the only thing that’s left is despair, but the truth is, hope isn’t so much the point – it’s the horizon that hope is sitting on and, so long as you can see a horizon, I think that, to me, is the same thing,” he said.
“I’m Jewish, as you know, and I think that Jews have a very different relationship to memory and to witnessing. If your people have been chased all over the globe for centuries, you take a long view. You sleep with one eye open, but you take a long view, and I think, therein, I’m eternally hopeful.”
In an interview in 2018, Finkelstein predicted that the situation in the United States would worsen before it improved.
“Which is another thing about being Jewish – you learn that there is no such thing as paranoia because it’s all real,” he said. “So, one could have seen, as plain as the nose on one’s face, where America was heading. And, in actual fact, what happened with Trump’s election was, we’ve joined the international march of global totalitarianism…. And, it’s not about to get really bad, it’s really, really bad. It’s really bad and I think that, here again, you can’t be Jewish and not think – not think your entire life, actually – in some way being prepared for, OK, what are the risks I’m willing to take if this happens? How far would I be willing to fight for other people if that happens. The shadow of Nazi Germany never escaped your consciousness.”
So how does Finkelstein conquer the fear?
“I guess I’ve replaced it with anxiety,” he said, laughing. But, he added, “I don’t know why I’m not fearful. I think that I was just raised – a day doesn’t go by that I’m not reminded of another lesson or another incident or another part of Jewish-American social history in the 20th century that my family was directly there for. I almost feel like I’m the Zelig of the left. All the stories you would tell my mother or my father, they’d be like, ‘Oh, yeah, we were there. We were there at the Robeson riots. Oh, yeah, we were there when they closed The Cradle Will Rock and everyone walked down the street’ – exactly the way it was in the last scene in Tim Robbins’ movie. When I saw it, it seemed too preposterous, I called my mother, said, ‘Could that have happened?’ And she started singing the song that Emily Watson sings in the film.
“So, I think I have such a sense of self that one could interpret it as fearlessness, but I think that it would be more accurate to say I was not given an alternative role model. I was raised to feel the suffering of others and, if other people are suffering, there’s no night’s sleep for me. So, there’s really no option – you’re either closing your eyes to something terrible or you’re doing everything you can to try and make it less terrible. And I think that that’s the Jewish condition.”
He described Jews as being like queer people. “We are everywhere,” he said. “We’re in every culture, we’re in every race, we’re in every gender, we’re in every country. We have every type of ethnic community that we surround ourselves with. An Ethiopian Jew is different from an Ashkenazi Jew, but we’re still all Jews.”
Though raised by atheists, he said, “I don’t think you’ll find anyone more Jewish than I am or than my family, but Jews are prismatic. We are many things. Consequently, I feel like I can’t speak on behalf of other Jews, I can only speak on behalf of myself.
“Likewise, I’ve always had people of colour in my family; I just always have. And, I learned very early on back in the ’60s, when the civil rights movement was fragmented between King and Stokely Carmichael and the Panthers, and everyone was choosing sides, I think that’s another example of what I’m talking about – there are many ways in which to be black. And so, I don’t feel like what I have to say about this current moment is anywhere near as important, essential, vital, critical … [as] a person of colour – what a person of colour has to say about this moment is much more important.”
Finkelstein was one of the minds behind the now-iconic Silence=Death poster, which has been adapted over the years by many people. A variation of it could be seen in at least one of the recent protests. The original iteration encourages viewers to use their power and, for example, vote. In general, working towards solutions is an important part of Finkelstein’s activism.
“I think critiques are easier,” he said. “I think also we mistake public spaces, we mistake the commons, as a declarative space. I tend to think of it as an interrogative space. I think that, even in late-stage capitalism, when someone is trying to get you to put your money in a bank or go buy a soft drink, there’s something Socratic about the gesture of trying to get you to do something … you’re responding to it, you’re engaged in it, and that’s the interrogative part that I think is easy to overlook. And I think that’s where the answers are.
“I think that the way that the Silence=Death poster is structured is it’s really like a bear trap. We worked on it for nine months – the colour has certain codes and signifiers, and the triangle has another set of codes and we changed the colour of the triangle from the [concentration] camps and inverted it to obfuscate some of the questions about victimhood. And the subtext has two lines of text, one that’s declarative and one that’s interrogative, and the point size forces you into a performative interaction.”
This poster and other work with which Finkelstein has been involved include aspects that “people are very afraid to experience,” he said, “which is fallibility, mess-making and tension. And I find all of those things as generative, as kindness, support, community. They’re differently generative and … hearing so many people who are trying to figure out how to find their way in, as white people, into the conversations that are happening in America right now, is the same struggle as a young queer person trying to find their way into the AIDS crisis. I mentor a lot of young queer artists and activists and the first thing they say, their immediate impulse is, I have no right to this story, I wasn’t here, I didn’t live through it. To which my response is, immediately, you have every right to the story – it’s your story, it’s the story of the world…. Race is a white person’s problem. People of colour are paying the price for it, but the problem, the genesis of the problem, is whiteness. And we have to figure out how to talk about it…. But I think now is the time for listening.”
He said, “We have to know what our responsibilities are and this goes back to Judaism – our responsibilities as witnesses. You can’t let your discomfort change the importance of this moment or overshadow the importance of this moment.”
One of the things Finkelstein does is teach social engagement via flash collectives. “I think we’re never put into a position where people mentor our personhood,” he said. “We have people mentor us as computer programmers or healthcare providers or tax accountants or artists or writers, but … there’s something primeval which is missing in the way we’re acculturated, and the flash collective is almost shamanistic in that regard; it taps into this primal thing that is quite astonishing when you let it out.”
Understanding that he will not live forever, he said “the Silence=Death poster casts a very mighty shadow and it makes it very difficult for people to figure out how to make new work, if that’s what they think it has to be…. It became obvious to me that I could be talking about Silence=Death until the day I drop, but, one day, I am going to drop and I want other people to start making those new works and I thought this would be a way to get people to make new work.”
He described the collectives, which teach political agency, as being “like a stew of the top 10 hits of grassroots organizing in a condensed workshop that’s tailored to the individuals in the room.”
He said, “I believe that I don’t necessarily have to change the world because I know that there could be a teenager in 2050 who sees something that someone I worked with did that made them think of something else that I never would have thought of. That is the point of the work, not the how do I fix it before I’m gone, which is the dilemma of Larry Kramer [who passed away last month]. He really thought, and I think it’s really male, but it’s very men of a certain generation also – he really thought that he could fix the AIDS crisis, and it didn’t happen.”
Unfortunately, space doesn’t allow for most of what Finkelstein shared with the Independent about Kramer, who he described as “a complicated person.”
Kramer was a rhetorician, said Finkelstein. “And I’m a propagandist. We’re both rhetoricians in a way, but what was the dividing line that made Larry incapable of understanding the work that I did?… I felt like I understood his process better than he understood mine. And I started to think, well, here’s the difference between a person who articulates their rage with words and a person who articulates their rage with every tool in the toolbox…. Not to make myself sound superior, but I realized that I think of rage as sculptural; he thought of rage as rhetorical. I think of rhetoric as sculptural, I think of it as casting a shadow and activating social spaces. And I think that he was a Jewish gay man of a different generation and a lot of his rage was tied into his personal struggles. And I did not have those. I had other personal struggles, but I did not have them.”
As part of the Queer Arts Festival, Finkelstein will lead a flash collective on the question, “What does queer public space mean in a 21st-century pandemic?” He hopes the resulting work will be shown in a public space.
For more information about the festival, visit queerartsfestival.com. The next issue of the JI will feature an interview with QAF artistic director and Jewish community member SD Holman.
Left to right: MP Joyce Murray, MLA Selina Robinson and Vancouver Councilor Sarah Kirby-Yung spoke at a June 3 webinar hosted by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee. (photos from the internet)
“Intense” was the word used by speakers from all levels of government to describe their experiences during the pandemic emergency.
In a June 3 webinar on Zoom, federal and provincial cabinet ministers and a Vancouver city councilor addressed COVID-19: What’s the New Normal? The event was hosted by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee.
Joyce Murray, member of Parliament for Vancouver-Quadra, is Canada’s minister of digital government, a role that took on sudden significance when even Parliament began operating virtually and almost all federal civil servants are being asked to work from home.
“It’s been an incredibly intense time,” she said. “I never thought I would work harder than I do as a minister in Ottawa, but I would say these last few months have been much more intense than I expected.”
A million Canadians were able to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) on the first day, which Murray said illustrates the scope and speed of the government’s electronic mobilization.
Responding to a question from an audience member, she acknowledged that there may be some inequities in the program – some people are earning more not working than a neighbour might earn on the job – but the decision was made to ramp up immediately, knowing that anomalies were likely.
The federal government has not decided when to reopen the U.S. border, Murray said. The current, extended closure ends June 21.
“Our primary focus is the safety of Canadians,” she said. “We’ll be taking the advice of public health officials and thinking about all of the different ramifications and make a decision when the time comes.”
The discussion was moderated by James Moore, a former Conservative MP, who pressed Murray on the unanticipated federal expenditures resulting from the pandemic.
“Fortunately, Canada entered this in a very strong fiscal position compared with most of its G-20 partners,” she responded. “So we were ready and able to respond and there is now approximately $150 billion in direct support to Canadians that has been put on the table. That makes it one of the most ambitious response plans in the world. But our view is that we had fiscal firepower, it was right to use it and it will help our economy emerge more quickly and more strongly when the pandemic allows us to do that safely. Our focus right now is on helping Canadians and getting that right.… We will return to a strong fiscal position when it’s time.”
Selina Robinson, British Columbia’s minister of municipal affairs and housing, noted that the provincial government stepped up with $5 billion in emergency funding.
“It would be very, very hard coming out of this if we had people who were evicted from their homes and couldn’t put food on the table,” said Robinson, who is MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville. “I think everybody agrees that we needed to invest in people, so that they can continue to feed their families.”
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has warned that no pandemic in history has not had a second wave. Robinson said British Columbia and other jurisdictions are ready for that potential.
“I think we’re far better prepared for any future waves, given the experience we’ve had over the last few months,” she said.
Murray lamented the sharp rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, while Moore warned that U.S. President Donald Trump “is going to run for reelection against China, and not against Joe Biden” – he fears the repercussions for Asian communities in North America as a result.
Robinson said the Jewish community is uniquely placed to be allies to those affected by this phenomenon, as well as to racialized individuals during the parallel upheavals around race, police violence and Black Lives Matter.
“I’m really proud to be part of the Jewish community and knowing that our history as a Jewish community has historically stood up for these values, to make sure that there is space for everyone and for standing up when we see injustice,” she said. “We will continue to do that and I urge everybody who is participating to make sure that you use your voice however and wherever you can.”
Sarah Kirby-Yung, a Vancouver city councilor, also spoke from a personal perspective, noting that her immediate family is of Asian descent.
“I’m incredibly distressed when I hear from members of the Asian community, seniors and vulnerable people particularly, who are afraid to leave their home or go for groceries or are changing their pattern because of who they are,” she said.
Vancouver’s budget has taken a swift kick during the pandemic, but Kirby-Yung rejected the rumour that the city is approaching bankruptcy.
“We are looking at about a $150 to $200 million projected revenue gap for Vancouver through the end of 2020,” she said. “Vancouver is not going bankrupt. We are in reasonable shape, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to be very thoughtful about our spending in our decisions.”
Clockwise from the top left are Amanda Blitz, Kathleen Monk, Amanda Alvaro and Chad Rogers.
Political pundits Amanda Alvaro, Chad Rogers and Kathleen Monk recently participated in an hour-long panel discussion on politics during COVID-19, examining how Canada’s leaders have fared since the start of the pandemic, what still needs to happen and how the coronavirus will shape the nation’s politics in the future. Hosted by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), the May 14 webinar was emceed by its general counsel and director of communications, former news anchor Amanda Blitz.
The CBC Power & Politics regulars began, not with partisan jabs, but with kind words for the other sides of the political aisle. Alvaro, who frequently champions Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, paid a compliment to Premier Doug Ford of Ontario. “He’s really been able to connect well with Canadians. He’s delivered the news in a way people want to hear,” she acknowledged.
Rogers, a Conservative stalwart, praised Minister of Small Business Mary Ng as a person “who has done the hard work with a tremendous amount of humility and ability.”
And NDP proponent Monk lauded the work of the nation’s public servants, whose “yeoman’s efforts” have brought Canadians home from abroad and supplied them with stimulus cheques in a timely fashion.
Nonetheless, it took only a few seconds for Andrew Scheer’s name to appear on Alvaro’s list of those who have not performed well during the crisis. Rogers sprang to the Conservative leader’s defence, countering that it is exceedingly difficult for anyone on the right to watch a government spend as much as the Liberals currently are. “We’ve already allocated more money than we did in World War Two. For a Conservative, this is the worst horror movie ever written,” he asserted. “We are going to have things in this crisis that are going to be horrible missteps.”
Monk, meanwhile, criticized Quebec’s response to the pandemic but commended British Columbia’s. “It is amazing how good public policy can save lives. Never has it been more evident that we are a country of different governments, different territories,” she said.
Nobody on the panel could dispute the economic toll of the pandemic, including double-digit unemployment. Monk shone light on how women have been disproportionately affected, dubbing it a “she-cession,” as a higher ratio of women work in sectors brought down by COVID-19.
Both Alvaro and Rogers gave kudos to the federal government for providing emergency assistance to individuals quickly. However, Rogers claimed the Liberals were using “COVID-19 as a cover to put their boot heel to the throat of the oil and gas industry in Alberta. There is an extreme environmental agenda trying to pivot the Canadian economy into something it isn’t,” he said.
Of course, China was discussed.
“Despite the erosion of China’s image recently, we can’t avoid China,” Alvaro said. “There are many reasons why China can’t be written off, but many reasons why China is making it very difficult for countries to have a positive relationship with them.”
“The Chinese government is a totalitarian cult of death,” Rogers declared. “They could have aided the world by getting a week or a month ahead of the [COVID-19] curve. We should be very mindful every time we speak with them.”
“China has not done itself any favours with their management of the post-crisis phase,” Monk added.
In the midst of the pandemic, the Conservative party leadership race is taking place. All of the panelists steered clear of the Derek Sloan method of populism – which questioned the patriotism of Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer – and saw it more as a contest between Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay.
All also agreed that it is remarkably challenging to campaign without being able to press the flesh and make stump speeches. However, Alvaro said, while people are at home, politicians do have a captive audience if they “can tap into the digital space that is less time-consuming than going door to door.”
On the topic of leadership, Rogers predicted that Trudeau will, as the crisis subsides, give consideration to his future as leader and ultimately decide it will be time to step down before the next federal election.
“It will give him an honourable exit, after establishing himself as essentially a wartime leader and not having to face a caucus that has lost faith in him,” Rogers said.
As the discussion wrapped up, Monk postulated that a potentially positive outcome from the crisis would be an increase in trade closer to home, i.e., within North America.
Alvaro said there will be many questions to follow: “Much of this will obviously be judged on how the recovery comes about, and how we fix the things we have fundamentally ignored, like long-term-care facilities.”
Rogers appealed to all in attendance to make a charitable donation, as nonprofits have been struggling for funds during the pandemic; a request that was backed by all the panelists.