Defend the only democracy in the Middle East and defend our own way of life in the process

Published March 31, 2018

Israel is surprisingly often on the front lines of the free world. It certainly has all the right enemies, from Hitler to the Soviet Union to the Iranian theocracy. And so the question arises: Does it have the right friends?

Or rather, are we among that number? Israel is a long way away, it’s the Jewish homeland and most of us aren’t Jewish, there are more pressing problems. But imagine Israel overwhelmed by its enemies. What would we say? Ooops?

Well, we’d better say something now. Especially given the strange views of Israel that you find among a great many Canadians. We often tell pollsters we support the Palestinian Authority almost as much as we support Israel. We express doubts that it’s really a democracy. We blame it for conflict in the Middle East. And much of this confusion results from messages that are not themselves merely confused but malevolent. So it’s important to stand against this tide of poisonous nonsense.

I even think it’s important strategically, because if Israel were to fall to its enemies they would not stop there. Indeed, it’s important to be able to stop Iranian missiles from falling on Tel Aviv because those same missiles can, or soon will be able to, reach Paris and London.

I also think it’s important for our own self-respect. If we do not have the courage to defend a Western society in the Middle East, to insist that democracy, free markets and all the other blessings we share with Israelis need not be perfect to outperform the alternatives, we will not have the courage to defend it in North America except perhaps when desperation forces clarity upon us.

Finally, it’s important morally. In the wake of the Holocaust to be indifferent to or careless about the security of the Jewish homeland diminishes us terribly. How can we treat “Never again” as just words? Yet if we do not denounce the creeping anti-Semitism on the political fringes, the BDS movement, the various alarming manifestations of an unreasonable, even frenzied hostility to Israel explicable only as a veiled form of anti-Semitism, what do we become?

If you’re in agreement thus far the question arises what we can do to support Israel. Obviously, for most of us joining the IDF or the security services isn’t practical and in any case the problem is not one of an immediate threat though in Israel’s case all threats are immediate given its size. It is less than 10 miles wide at its narrowest, excluding the West Bank, which is why proposals to trade land for peace would be greeted with skepticism within Israel even if their adversaries didn’t scornfully reject the idea of peace until Israel is destroyed. But what we can do is speak out, including dramatizing Israel’s security problems in the face of such implacable hostility.

We can also speak out in defence of Israel’s open society, its political freedom, cultural tolerance, prosperity and social conscience. It’s a way to defend the only democracy in the Middle East and to defend our own way of life in the process. And one way to do so, and yes here comes the hat or in this case perhaps the yarmulke, is to back my new documentary project “Israel for Canadians”. Once again I’m crowdfunding and the link is https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/robson-pellerin/israel-for-canadians/

Israel is an amazing place. I had the good fortune to visit it 13 years ago and I found a prosperous democracy surrounded by impoverished tyrannies. I found an ancient nation that was thoroughly modern, a society rooted in a specific religion and ethnicity that was thoroughly cosmopolitan. I found exactly the sort of place Canadians should admire and appreciate. And I’ve been longing to tell the story ever since.
I want to start in Jerusalem and underline the amazing fact that Israel exists at all. I want to go to Tel Aviv and highlight the dramatic differences between its two main urban centres, and note that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Muslims enjoy religious freedom and other core human rights.

There are also the beautiful Baha’i gardens that show Israelis’ tolerance and concern for the environment. There are centres of learning and innovation like the Weizmann Institute of Science. There are the kibbutzim that remind us of Zionists’ struggles to reestablish their ancient homeland including farming arid deserts and malarial swamps, and of the curious evolution of Israeli political history from a commitment to the left that made Stalin an early supporter to today’s realism and all-party political fracas including Arab parties.

There are also key Biblical and historic sites from the Temple Mount to Bethlehem and Golgotha to Masada. And of course there’s Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, a stark reminder that Israelis cannot ever let down their guard. And yet the documentary, like Israel, will be upbeat in tone.

It will show Canadians what they’re missing about Israel when all they know about this remarkable nation is what they read in the newspapers. But it will only do so if it is successfully crowd-funded. So now it’s over to you.

It is a story that needs to be told. And with your help it can be. So please make a pledge by the April 2 deadline.

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