Gideon Levy: When a Leader’s Persona and Person Align

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With any well-known personality, I suppose it would be easy to confuse the celebrated public persona with the actual person.  But having recently wrapped up a 10-day cross-Canada trip with Gideon Levy, it is heartening to see that the impressive persona and the real person actually align. 

Over the past six years, CJPME has hosted quite a number of respected thinkers with important things to say about justice in the Middle East: Robert Fisk, John Mearsheimer, Tarek Ramadan, Amira Hass, Mustapha Barghouti, and others.  At a personal level, the relationship we develop with each is unique.  Various words come to mind when thinking over our various experiences. “Professional” describes our relationship with some; “warm and friendly” describes our relationship with others.  “Passionate” describes our impression of quite a number; while “aloof” captures our impression of a few others.

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Saudi Arabia, the Swedish example, and what Canada could learn

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Earlier this month, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström had planned to deliver a speech on democracy and women’s rights at an Arab League conference in Cairo. Though it appears that her remarks were intended to be quite general in nature, she had planned to condemn the public flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, which has made headlines in recent months. However, Wallström’s speech was quickly and effectively blocked by the delegation from Saudi Arabia who felt that the speech was “incompatible with the fact that the constitution of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia [law].”

What followed was a series of political and diplomatic retaliations by both governments, which included the dissolution of a trade agreement between Sweden in Saudi Arabia. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two countries has existed since 2005 and secures cooperation in issues of intelligence, security, and the trade of Swedish-manufactured weapons.[i] The agreement was up for renewal this May, but has since been abandoned by the Swedish government.

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Jon Stewart, Netanyahu, and a Nuclear Free Middle East

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If you haven’t seen Jon Stewart’s spoof on Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress this past week, it’s well worth the viewing. Among many other things, Stewart contrasts several different video clips of Netanyahu across the years, and demonstrates how self-contradictory, and flat-out wrong Netanyahu has been concerning Iran, Iraq, and other regional developments.

Indeed, Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress was an exercise in hubris.  As Stewart jokes, with Israeli elections less than two weeks away, Netanyahu used the US Congress as “the most elaborate campaign commercial backdrop ever.” 

 

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Seven key insights to the Israeli elections

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There was no shortage of surprises and last minute twists with the recent Israeli elections.  Many on the left were disappointed to see Netanyahu’s Likud party come out on top again, with the likely result that Netanyahu will form the governing coalition.  Despite the overall bleak outlook for Palestinian human rights under Netanyahu, there are some otherwise important observations to be made. 

1) Netanyahu won, in part, because he formally ditched the two-state solution:

The day before Israelis went to the polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in an interview that there would be no Palestinian state while he was in office. His statement is in stark contradiction to his supposed support of the two-state solution, which he advocated for very publicly in a 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University. [i]

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Bill C-51, and why Canadians should care about privacy

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Ever since Edward Snowdon leaked classified National Security Agency (NSA) information in the summer of 2013, the issue of privacy has become an increasingly mainstream one. More specifically, people all over the world have begun to heavily question the relationship between their governments, their rights, and their information. 

In recent months, this critical debate has found its way into Canada as the Harper government officially proposed Bill C-51,[i] otherwise known as the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015. The bill has been highly controversial,[ii] with many legal experts expressing concern over the relatively unregulated exchange of information proposed in the bill.

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