I know how fortunate I am to be living in Hamilton, enjoying a safe night-out downtown with my wife. Saturday's began with pointed analysis of the Middle East at the grand Centenary United Church, followed by a fantastic late-kitchen meal and discussion at the London Tap House, as the popular dance club warmed-up above.
Too soon for dancing, but we will before long and celebrate all the recent victories of our brothers and sisters overseas. Right now, I just feel sober gratitude for where I live, and where my children can go to school.
The only disappointment this weekend was hearing that tired song about Hamilton: it's somehow more unsafe here, compared to other cities.
In all of the controversy, Mohawk College called up that old fave of the local press, and it was replayed by Mr. Finkelstein for Arab-rights supporters world-wide, and directly challenged by the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, claiming security is not really the issue.
I am not critical of the College for all this. It seems reasonable to feel threatened by outraged calls and messages. These are tense days, and we are all at the crossroads of history this month.
But like all the overstatements of the constant danger in our town, I just do not see the practical threat.
I suppose it is not unimaginable to some that my anxious Jewish, Arab or Persian neighbors might come to a head at a controversial Israeli-policy lecture. However, the truth of who we are as Hamiltonians was evident in who came out on Saturday night, ironically, to one of our oldest houses of Christ.
I met concerned people with family overseas, looking for some further insight into the fears that have followed them across oceans and throughout a lifetime. I also met concerned people with no familial ties to the region, who were equally terrified for a lifetime by cultural clashes of biblical proportions.
All of us, equally helpless a world away, were hoping to understand more. But there were no protests and no need for security here in Hamilton. In the end, I even felt our warm host made it a better night than one spent in a cold auditorium.
Norman Finkelstein's introduction at the Q & A portion of the lecture called for disagreement, declaring the Historian had eagerly awaited a debate all week. I would like to offer one.
I admire Mr. Finkelstein's wealth of historical facts. I could listen to ten more nights, would buy his book to study his point of view and relentless information. My own opinion always changes and, one hopes, evolves.
However, as usual with American perspectives, we hear a lot about what nations have done wrong with U.S. cash, but not so much about why the money keeps coming.
Our speaker painted Israel with a very broad brush; Israel plots to do wrong and waits for very long stretches, and Finkelstein claims an entire nation hopes for pretext to do harm to another.
But if we accept an entire population is possessed of a singular, diabolic plan, can we not view you, The Americans, as part of that same agenda? After all, one nation has paid for nearly all of the regional Autocratic political parties at some point.
From your friend Mubarak in Egypt to friend Musharraf in Pakistan, endless billions for tiny Bahrain, luxurious Kuwait and the vast House of Saud. Iraq and Iran too, until those friends turned or fell to people's revolt. You offer strongmen $2 billion a year (or endless choking sanctions) and the armageddon-proof U.S. 5th Fleet looms, ready to help close the deals and keep peace with firepower.
It was Americans who supported like-minded friends in Israeli politics. Even now, in the glory of Egypt, the U.S. State Department warns that our families in Cairo are not ready for democracy. So, is the Arab 4/5ths of a person, just not there yet for American freedom? We understand, friends of Amerca in Israel are worried.
But perhaps I'm oversimplifying it all when I say "you Americans", as it appears it was the Neoconservitive dedication for decades - Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld's friends - handing out oversized cheques to brutal Kings. The U.S. delivers the latest tools of civic repression to partners, and the world sees the Made in America tear-gas cans in Egypt and the fleet of 2011 Suburbans in Bahrain.
But if it is wrong to assume The American is of one mind, then you must admit these are the plans of individual hawks in Israeli politics, which go hand-in-hand with the wishes of certain American eagles.
I suggest it is not "Israel", or even "America" that is the problem: there is a specific list of individuals, I'm sure you could name, that should be deloused in The Hague.
Mr. Finkelstein, you took the time to call "President Change Obama ...a pathological narcissist", but no choice words about the students of Nixon and Kissinger who ushered us all here?
Debate is interesting, but here at home, we are presented with an opportunity to act. A number of Hamiltonians are determined to form a chapter of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East in our community.
This organization aims to bring Canadians of all backgrounds together, in the pursuit of regional freedom and development. I hope it will include people of all our local faiths. It would be unfortunate if this organization did not include Jewish Hamiltonians, who may have felt Mr. Finkelstein's opinions to be antisemitic.
Personally, I did not. I took away a detailed condemnation of an ultraconservative political party that runs a state and military, in no way a denouncement a religion or race. If you disagree, perhaps all the more reason to participate in the CJPME here in our City.
I wish the CJPME advocates a bright future here in Hamilton, and thank both Mr. Finkelstein for sharing his life's work with us and Centenary United for hosting the discussion.
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