A hard letter to write, this week.
I have lived and worked in countries at war. I’ve seen death up close. A column of
smoke marking a Kabul suicide bombing. The scorched concrete and smell of blood
in a Kathmandu bus shelter after a grenade went off, minutes before. Talking with
victims of war crimes and police states, about lives ended and families broken. For
better or worse I was used to this, as much as it motivates me to do what I can to
help end wars and build peace.
But this week’s terrorist attack on Israel shook me.
Political murder is usually cloaked in distorted idealism, individual deaths a sad but
inevitable consequence of great historical acts. Brutality is concealed and minimized.
Not Hamas, not this week.
As Canadians gathered for Thanksgiving hours of video flooded our screens.
Terrorists and their supporters chose the image they want to project to the world.
That image? The murder of babies in their cribs, young people dancing, families in
their home and cars. Videos saying “Jews believe life starts with birth. We believe life
starts with death. We celebrate death.”
You can’t get much clearer than that. Me, I celebrate life, and the joy and beauty and
freedom of choice it can offer in an open society. We all have a side to choose.
The voices celebrating death are being heard in Canadian cities, with rallies
supporting Hamas reflecting the anger boiling online. Attacks on Jews have started.
As Israel takes the fight to Hamas, and to the people of Gaza they hide behind,
antisemitism is going to increase. What are we going to do about it? We only have
one option, here at home:
Enforce our laws.
Marching for Palestine is legal. Support for Palestine is legitimate, whether you agree
with it or not.
Supporting Hamas is illegal. Expressions of support for it should be prevented, and
supporters investigated as you’d investigate any organized crime group.
Also, we cannot ask Jews to cancel religious services because of threats from Hamas
and others. We have laws to protect our rights as we use and enjoy them.
This is why we have police. Security forces. To enforce the law. To put themselves
between those following the law and those breaking it. Laws do not exist to avoid
conflict between those living lawful lives and those who seek to take rights away. The
latter need to be stopped and punished.
Showing Canada takes its own laws seriously would protect legitimate protestors
from the terrorist groups who prey on diaspora communities. It would make Canada
an unwelcome harbour for infiltrators -ahem Chinese Communist Party-, and
extremist groups foreign and domestic.
Drawing the line where free speech and expression ends is one of government’s
heaviest responsibilities. That line should be surgically applied at the exact limit of the
law, but no further: open societies like Canada’s must use every opportunity to show
how our open system is better than the closed and twisted alternatives - whether the
Islamist, Moscow, Beijing, or MAGA variants.
The coming years are not going to be easy for democracies. Having a clearer
understanding of who we are as a country, and what limits we want to put on our
government, is how we protect our freedoms. Those freedoms are what make our
lives worth living. That’s the life I talked earlier. Hamas, Xi, and Putin will kill, are
killing, to stop that life from spreading.
So, because we are an open society, Canada should stand with Israel. Instead of
being terrorized by images of Hamas’ atrocities we should be mobilized. To stop the
rot from spreading.
We should support Palestinians, and people all over the world, who fight to create or
defend open countries of their own. Countries where the rule of law, free speech,
open elections, and human rights are protected. We should oppose the countries and
groups who reject and trample on those gifts.
Each of these proposals would mean big changes for our country. But right now, big
changes are coming whether we like them or not. I prefer to prepare, and to start the
fight by summoning our better angels.