Mar 09 2010
My interest in Israel probably has as much to do with my “Canadian” values and political news junkie habit as my ethnic heritage. As a staunch believer in the values of liberal democracy, I am utterly intrigued by the unique challenges that face Israel. How does a besieged nation surrounded by largely implacable foes avoid the temptation of adopting more autocratic trappings of a traditional security-obsessed state? How can it maintain civil rights for its citizens and avoid oppressing Palestinians amidst a decades-long terrorist insurgency?
Israel is also an intriguing contrast with Canada as a country that reconciles both ancient and modern aspects remarkably well. Foreigners often look at Canada and see a “new” country, unaware that we actually have one of the oldest continuous liberal democracies anywhere on the planet and a heritage brought by our First Nations people that connects all Canadian citizens to a prehistoric legacy.
At the same time, Israel is an ancient land, with its own indigenous groups that have shared the land for thousands of years. But it is one of the newest constituted states and the only country explicitly endorsed in its inception by a vote of the United Nations in the 20th century.
Israel and Jews worldwide are connected in a very modern yet uncomfortable way. We are the canary in the coal mine for the rising threat of Islamofascism, buttressed both in Canada and even in Israel itself by an unholy alliance with a political left that has lost its way. In that sense, it is not merely a Jewish concern – Canadians from across the political spectrum need to be take seriously the threat that deligitimizing Israel is merely a stepping stone to undermining Western liberal democracy in many countries.
This is one of the main themes I’d like to explore as I travel Israel. How do ordinary Israelis feel about the trends we find so worrying? Do the feel supported or abandoned? What do they think they can do to change the situation? What do they think we can do from our perch in the True North? And what do the Palestinians in Israel have to say about these matters with their own voices, unfiltered?
I'm looking forward to getting some answers, but I get the feeling I'll be leaving with plenty of new questions to consider by the time I get on the plane back to Toronto.