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Monday, April 22, 2013

Pro-Israel passion from an unusual suspect at Toronto celebration

Fossils and ancient relics were part of the Yom Ha'atmaut (Independence Day) celebrations held last Tuesday by Israel's Consulate General in Toronto. No, I'm not talking about former Canadian Jewish Congress boss Bernie Farber, although he was there too. This year's party took place at the Royal Ontario Museum in the central gallery adorned by shining Medieval suits of plated armor, enormous dinosaur bones and Egyptian funeral artifacts.

Royal Ontario Museum
The party happened last Tuesday night and a line stretching from the Museum entrance on University Avenue extended almost half a block up to Bloor Street as the invited guests slowly filed into the party. Security was tighter than in previous years, but the Boston Marathon bombings the day before made people patient and sensitive to the need for caution.

Inside, almost a thousand dignitaries, diplomats and assorted other guests filled the air with pleasantries while noshing on deserts and sipping on some very palatable Israeli wines.

I bumped into Richmond Hill MPP Reza Moridi, who was, as usual, warm and engaging. We'd met previously at a gathering at the home of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center CEO Avi Benlolo, whom, along with his charming wife, was also at the Yom Ha'atmaut party.

I also ran into the beautiful Natalie Weed, who had been the Mistress of Ceremonies at last year's celebration, but has since moved on to become a regional press secretary for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. That was a very clever move on Tim Hudak's part, as it finally gives people a reason to look forward to hearing something from him.

The party was the first for newly appointed Consul General DJ Schneeweiss, who delivered a fiery speech extolling Israeli achievements and his nation's close relationship with Canada combined with an unapologetic assertion of Israel's right to self-determination.

The venue of this year's party was, while aesthetically interesting, was functionally less satisfying than last year's. The room was much smaller and it was difficult to move about among the crowd. But worse, there were only two bar stations, which made getting access to wine a frustratingly prolonged process.

After moving through a lineup that progressed with a tortoise's gait, and loaded up with as much wine as I could entice from the bartender, a felt a slight brush against my side. I turned to see that I was standing shoulder to shoulder with none other than Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Readers of this blog will note that I am a huge fan of Ms Wynne, who was awaiting being called to deliver her speech. I tried to get The Jewish Tribune's ace reporter Joanne Hill, who was laughing at me,  to get a picture of the premier and I together.  Joanne refused, probably fearful that she might become persona non grata at such events if such a picture ever emerged.

Moments later, the Premier was flanked by her entourage, which among others included MPP Moridi and my own representative, Dr. Eric Hoskins. Taking to the podium, Wynne delivered a speech which passionately lavished praise on Israel and boasted of her government's increased cooperation between the two jurisdictions. The speech sounded sincere and heartfelt, which will come as a bitter disappointment to her alma mater, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, where some politicized programs make activism towards elimination of the Jewish state part of their curriculum.

Curiously, Premier Wynne's government continues to push educational policies that encourage a type of narrow-minded, Marxist-based ideology that is anathema to liberal democracies like Israel and to the capitalist structures her government encourages. Whether this is an internal ideological conflict within the Liberal Party or if politicians are lazy and ignorant of what is happening under their watch are equally probable explanations.

But in any case, Yom Ha'atzmaut's celebrants in Toronto proved something that is painful for the fanatics sitting atop unions and institutions such as CUPW, CUPE Ontario and OISE. Because like it or not, acceptance for and affinity with the advanced, liberal bastion of democracy that is Israel is part of a mainstream discourse that leaves its bitter, radical opponents on the outside.

1 comment:

The Hammer said...

Has OISE responded yet?