Why I am leaving social media

I am leaving all social media for one week, effective immediately.

Lately, I have become present to the extremely negative role that social media has on my view of people in general and more importantly, on my mental health.

Waking up this morning to a myriad of comments celebrating (!!!) the murder of 4 Israeli civilians who were just praying in their synagogue, coupled with the complete lack of even the slightest condemnation from any of my non-Jewish friends on the topic, leaves me empty about the future of humanity.

It saddens me to remember Martin Niemoller’s famous quote in times like this:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

We will get the world that we create, and we will deserve that world. And if we only speak out when we have a personal interest, then we should be ready for our society, our morals, and our values, to be taken over by those who have no morals or values at all.

And if you prefer to brush off my fears as irrational or exaggerated, just look at your timeline. It is already happening.

Worse than the silence of not speaking out against this murderous hatred is the fact that global silence from non-Jews is considered tacit support for their hate-filled, destructive tactics. International aide funneled to terrorists who are believed to be among the richest groups in the world, coupled with international condemnation of Israel for simply defending their people’s right to live leaves me shaking my head in disbelief.

But it’s true. Iran openly declares, three times in one week, about their desire to destroy the state of Israel and their plan to do it, and the United States sits quietly, working back channels to make a deal with them that would allow them to pursue their destructive nuclear goals.

I see friends who decide to stay out of these issues telling me that it’s not worth it. I believe it is worth it, but perhaps I’m wrong.

Perhaps the majority is right.

Perhaps ignorance really is bliss.


PM Harper addresses the Israeli Knesset

This morning, Eastern time, I sat in my recliner (can’t do much else these days 😦 ) and watched my Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, do what no other Canadian Prime Minister has done before him, address the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

Before I go on, let me say proudly: I am a Jewish-Canadian, I am pro-Israel and, though I am a firm believer in judging each issue on its merits and not blindly voting based on ideology, I am (on many issues) a supporter of Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative Party. For some readers, that alone (or any single one of them, really) will be enough to make them sigh (or worse) and click away from my blog in search of Leftier pastures. They’ll likely head straight for their favourite echo chamber where everyone agrees with their views. Mark Unleashed is not such a place.

It was an eloquent speech where he reaffirmed Canada’s friendship to and support of Israel. I nodded in support a few times, notably when Harper said: “Canada supports Israel fundamentally because it is right to do so.”

I appreciated, too, when the Prime Minister addressed world opinion of Israel, saying:

“…in the world of diplomacy, with one, solitary, Jewish state and scores of others, it is all too easy “to go along to get along” and single out Israel. But such “going along to get along,” is not a “balanced” approach, nor a “sophisticated” one; it is, quite simply, weak and wrong.”

It was an historic speech. In a time where the United States, Israel’s most powerful ally, is governed by a President who has largely abandoned historic American support for the Jewish state, Canada has abandoned its sit-on-the-fence approach, which for decades tried to please all sides but succeeding only in showing itself to be unprincipled and incapable of taking a moral stand.

Throughout the Canadian broadcast, cameras panned 3 targets. 1) The Prime Minister at the podium, speaking. 2) The Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, and 3) the seats occupied by 2 Arab-Israeli MKs (members of the Knesset). This is significant because despite allegations of Apartheid, mostly by people who don’t understand what it means, Arab-Israelis are full Israeli citizens who have all of the rights of citizenship in Israel including, as we saw here, the ability to be elected to and sit in parliament.

Sadly, the Canadian media did not say anything to make this clear to Canadians watching at home. Instead, when these 2 Arab MKs started shouting in the middle of Harper’s speech, they changed the headline at the bottom of the screen to read “Harper Heckled at Israeli Knesset”. Because that’s what is important, obviously.

These Arab MKs did not applaud at any point (that we were shown) during Harper’s speech, not even when Harper mentioned that Canada looks forward to the day where it, along with Israel, can recognize an independant, peaceful, Palestinian state. Well, you may answer, they probably knew that the tone of the rest of the speech would be staunchly pro-Israel. This is not the first time they’d heard of Stephen Harper, right?

So why were they even there? From watching the entire speech, I would argue that these Arab MKs were waiting for an opportunity to pounce. After all, they chose one of the most odd moments. Of all of Harper’s comments, talking about anti-Semitism cloaked as anti-Israel criticism and “the twisted logic of calling Israel an Apartheid state” were not the most pro-Israel points Harper made. Weird moment to choose. But they knew that they needed to distract the world media from this historic visit by a Western leader who unforgivingly supports Israel, and hijack the media narrative. They needed to give the media something ELSE to report, something ELSE to open the story with.

The media tends to do that, eh? In addition to pandering to their listeners and readers, they give notoriety to those who disrupt and cause a scene. Whenever there’s a kidnapping or a shooting, they profile the killer, not the victims. Backwards, don’t you think?

But what is most absurd about this outburst is that these Arab MKs mere presence in the Knesset disproves their disruptive words. The simple fact that Arab-Israelis are able to be elected, sit in the Knesset, and scream out “Israel is an Apartheid state” PROVES, ON ALL BY ITSELF, THAT IT IS NOT ONE. Arabs and their elected representatives have full freedom of expression in Israel, yet they represent a culture where, by and large, (and yes, there are exceptions) such behaviour is not tolerated and would likely have grave consequences.

A Jew could NEVER hold a position of governance in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and I can go on. Firstly, because Jews are not treated as equals in these countries unlike how Israeli-Arabs are treated in Israel. But if they were able to (hypothetically, of course), imagine what would happen to one of them who dared interrupt a speech in Syria by Ayatollah Khomeni. Death. No less. Freedom of expression in these countries, especially when it involves dissent against government interests, is unheard of, and the notion is even laughable. But in Israel, it’s part of the fabric of society.

As we stand today, I fail to comprehend how so many educated people still hold such an anti-Israel bias. Is it ignorance? Is it anti-Semitism? Is it hatred passed down from previous generations? Is it the classic underdog scenario? Or is it just fashionable to do so because so many others do?

Whatever it is, I hope that people open their minds and see what is really going on, who they are truly supporting. I will never understand how people who loudly claim to be pro-peace, and anti-war, can support people who cheer those who blow themselves up on packed Israeli-public transit buses, launch rockets into civilian populated areas, and use their own children as armour for PR purposes. We are not going to have peace as long as we support parents teaching their children how to shoot a gun before they learn how to kiss.

Whatever this anti-Israel sentiment is based on, I am glad, and proud, that my Prime Minister is standing tall, against it, on the World stage.

Welcome home, Gilad.

While I question the wisdom of trading 1,027 terrorists for 1 soldier, the deal is done. Questioning, now, serves no purpose, so instead I rejoice in a brave life saved; a life of someone who stood guard to save the lives of his countrymen from unprovoked attack by people who vow to destroy them. 

We know who we are by what moves us.

If you are moved by the reuniting of a young ambushed and kidnapped soldier on duty defending his people, then you are on the side of righteousness, love, and peace.

If, however, you cheered the release of unapologetic terrorist murderers, I wish upon you, with the same lack of apology, the same fate that befell your heroes’ victims.

As long as we have this many people (and a world religion!) glorifying and revering killers who hide behind propaganda and insane stories of justification in the name of a desire for statehood, peace will not be possible. And sadly, that’s exactly their goal: to defeat peace. One cannot be peace-loving and terror-supporting, no matter what word you try to use to sugar coat the facts. If you put sprinkles on a pile of shit, it’s still a pile of shit.

It’s time to call it like it is. You’re either with peace-loving Israel or you’re with their murder-glorifying neighbours.

And if I sound mad, I am. Supposedly sane, normal, rational people are preventing me from living in a world of peace, supporting those who kill when things don’t go their way (remember the Mohammed cartoons?) and teach their children to fire a gun before they learn to read (http://tinyurl.com/6dmdpjd – just one of MANY). Yes, that makes me angry. It should make you angry too.

(Have you ever heard of a Christian threatening someone who drew a picture of Jesus, or a Jew threatening someone who drew Abraham or Moses. Ridiculous!)

Heveinu shalom aleichem. Bring peace upon them. Or we’re all in trouble.

Turkey: Global hypocrites

I am absolutely blown away by the hypocrisy – world edition.

Let’s recap, quickly, for those who missed it. In 2010, the Mavi Marmara ship was purchased by IHH, a Turkish terrorist organization. In May, it set out to breach Israel’s blockade of the waters around Gaza, designed to prevent weapons smuggling, subsequently and indiscriminately used by Palestinian terrorists against Israeli cities and citizens. (For the record, the recent United Nations Palmer report validates the LEGALITY of this blockade.) Despite numerous warnings to stop their advance toward the blockade, the Mavi Marmara continued on its path, with provocation and aggression. The Israeli Defense Forces navy boarded the vessel and were attacked. They responded with rubber bullets and gunfire. In all, 9 IHH terrorists were killed. Turkey tried to convince the world that this ship was full of “peace activists”. The evidence on board tells a different story – that there were in fact peace activists on board, but that they were secluded in a part of the ship, away from the IHH who were controlling the operations.

Fast forward to a few days ago. The United Nations releases a report confirming that the blockade is legal. Israel announces, once again, that it regrets the loss of life but refuses to apologize for defending its borders, its citizens, and its freedom. Turkey responds by banishing the Israeli ambassador from Turkey, cutting diplomatic ties and severing contracts with Israel.

Now you’re up to date. Ready for the hypocrisy? It’s insane.

Turkey blasts Israel for killing 9 IHH terrorists while enforcing a legal naval blockade to prevent arms smuggling. Meanwhile, Turkey is guilty of a massive Armenian genocide (1,500,000 killed!) for which they refuse to acknowledge, let alone apologize for – because an apology would require compensating families! This same Turkey is responsible for the ethnic cleansing of its Kurdish population. Why? Because both groups were of a different ethnic background.

Armenians and Kurds weren’t lobbing rockets on their towns; they were just living.

Then, Turkey “demands” that Israel stop an “occupation” of Gaza and the West Bank that isn’t an occupation at all. Sure, the borders are tightly controlled, but wouldn’t you control your borders diligently and strictly if, in the past, people who swore to destroy you crossed these borders with bombs strapped to themselves and blew themselves up in crowds of your people just riding the bus, shopping at a mall, or having pizza with their family? Damn right you would do the same thing. To claim otherwise would be a boldfaced lie.

Occupation? What occupation? Israel unilaterally withdrew all forces AND EVEN FORCED ISRAELI FAMILIES from the entire territory known as Gaza – in a show of good faith. What did Gazans do in response? They burned and destroyed multimillion dollar infrastructure that would support their people (greenhouses, roadways and more..), set up new rocket building facilities and arms smuggling tunnels from Egypt, resumed firing onto Israeli towns and people, and elected a terrorist government. The truth is that Gazans are free to live under their own control. Period. Meanwhile, Turkey still *occupies* Northern Cyprus, despite UN condemnation.

Somehow, the world listens to Turkey’s side. This is like someone yelling at you to stop yelling. This is like someone telling you to “stop f**king swearing”. Except it’s worse. Much worse. This kind of hypocrisy leads to war, death, hostility, and global hatred that lasts for generations. And not only do people let it happen, they encourage it: actively by spreading lies, and passively by not countering them with the same passion that is used to spread them.

Are we seriously going to sit around and just let this happen? The war is being fought in the forum of public opinion, and the terrorists, racists, and propagandists are winning because of age-old prejudices. People like to hate on the Jews for countless made-up reasons that all reach back to plain, simple, inexcusable intolerance. We are supposed to be smarter today than we were yesterday. We are supposed to learn from past mistakes, not rationalize them. We are supposed to be working for a world of peace for tomorrow, not holding onto garbage from yesterday.

If you are committed to seeing peace take hold, I ask that you take one specific action today: stop being silent. Stop expecting someone else to take care of the problem. We live in a world that runs on communication. Those who are effective in communicating get their messages out and, because most people believe what they hear without much (if any) critical thought, these false messages propagate, multiply, and take over. If you are committed to seeing peace win the day, spread the truth to counter the lies. Spread the love to counter the hate.

Instead of just moving onto your next task for the day, do something to help the cause. Spread this blog.(https://markunleashed.wordpress.com). On Facebook, on Twitter, spread the word of truth and love better than the other side spreads their lies and hatred. Share comments. Your involvement will encourage others to get involved.

I am committed to a world of truth, peace, and possibility. I am committed to being truthful about the facts and calling my opinions as they are, and most importantly, differentiating clearly between the two. We can make a great team, together. Will you help me?

Lies and pants

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
 – Winston Churchill
Why is this so true? Consider that a lie requires only imagination and isn’t held back by that pesky thing called honesty. No need to let facts ruin a good story, eh?
Telling an intentional lie is the lowest of societal lows, and I would venture to say that there is always an ulterior motive behind such a lie. If one’s eyes and mind are open, the reason behind the deception is usually very easy to identify.
Accidental lies, though less egregious, are still offensive.  Whether due to misseducation, misunderstanding, misconception, or miscommunication, a lie-teller always misses the point. Let no one deny that anyone who communicates anything bears the ultimate responsibility for either ensuring the veracity of the information before passing it on or, if it’s not true, for at least making sure that they do not share it with anyone else. (Bonus points to anyone who, after hearing a lie, follows up and confronts the person or source they heard it from.)

Of course, the media has a significant share of responsibility for the ease that lies have in getting around the world. The media promotes lies because it loves controversy, and nothing creates tension and conflict and sells newspapers or commercials like a sensationalized story that plays on emotions. If I had a dime for every time a reporter told me that their facts were wrong because they “didn’t have the time” to check them, I would be living comfortably on a private island instead of writing this blog during a snowfall. It’s truly unfortunate that priorities are this skewed.

Lastly, and even more prevalent now with the increased role of social media and the ease of sharing information, the public has a responsibility for the lies it consumes. We eat this stuff up and, given the sick joy we seem to get from the lies told about others, we are always hungry for the next meal.

Why are so few people taking concrete action to stop lies dead in their tracks? Worse, why are so many groups so eager to help lies get farther, faster?

The inspiration for this blog post came from recent news stories. While in Toronto for a race, monitors in the Toronto subway system shared a “news” report entitled: “Israeli spy device found: Hezbollah.” Really? Reading up on the story online later in the day, Yahoo! News reports that “the device exploded, apparently detonated remotely by the Israelis, Hezbollah said in a statement.”

Simple, basic critical thinking should raise some puzzling questions about this statement. To recap, the device “exploded”, so they never got a chance to study it, so how do they know that it was a spy device and not, say, a bomb? How do they know this “spy device” was Israeli? On what basis can they claim that it was “detonated remotely by the Israelis?”

In reality, there is no such proof, but hey, who needs proof when your aim is to villify your neighbour? Who needs proof when the media just reprints what you tell them to without questioning anything? Who needs proof when the readers believe a sensational headline? When they don’t probe?

Demand proof! If there is no proof, the accusation should never be printed. And if it is printed without proof, don’t believe it! They are counting on people to be stupid pawns in their public relations war. They are counting on their lies creating hatred and animosity towards the only state in the middle east that actually believes in democracy and abides by the rule of law. Don’t let lies create enemies. Stand up for peace!

Even if one stipulates that it *was* a spy device (since no one can prove it with certainty), anyone who has followed middle Eastern news knows that there are other groups who might reasonably be interested in learning more about the goings on (read: spying) in Lebanon. Hezbollah and the Lebanese government don’t always see eye-to-eye, Lebanon and Syria don’t exactly have a relationship based on trust, and the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005 exposed major conflicts in the country. Currently, the United Nations is in the middle of a special investigation into Hariri’s assassination and the theories of the killing (and who is responsible) center around telecommunications equipment, just like the system that the device was allegedly “spying” on.

What happened to real investigative journalism? It seems that like many people in many professions, it’s easier to just “mail it in”, that is, satisfy the bare minimum requirements without doing what we know needs to be done in order to submit quality work.

In response to a Montreal Gazette article entitled “Want fast care? Slip an MD some cash”, Dr. Markus Martin, MD at the Jewish General Hospital, asks “why doesn’t The Gazette try something more challenging, something that involves real reporting and real research and not just innuendo?” The Gazette will undoubtedly respond that they seeked out a “high-ranking physician” as a source. I argue that a single source making an anonymous accusation is not nearly enough to justify the magnitude of the negative impacts on thousands of doctors and on the confidence of millions of patients.

Dr. Martin ends his letter by inviting the Gazette to interview every obstetrics patient of his for the last 10 years in order to “ask if [he] ever accepted cash” in exchange for preferential medical treatment. Dr. Martin suggests that, upon completion of these interviews, the Gazette “will quickly ascertain how scurrilous and hurtful [their] inaccurate insinuations are.” Unfortunately for those who value truth, scurrilous, hurtful, and inaccurate insinuations sell papers much more effectively than the truth.

Some journalists, and the media outlets that support them, are complicit with those whose goal it is to promote their  selfish (and possibly destructive) goals at the expense of truth. They know that the truth will earn them condemnation, not support, and they can’t let that happen. These lies, unchecked, will stand in the way of the realization of society’s best interests.

Worse, lies are standing in the way of peace in many regions of the world. We have a choice. We can either let lies stand in the way, or we can stand up to them in order to stand up for what we all know is right. Instead of turning a blind eye, when confronted with a lie, challenge yourself to help the truth get its pants on quickly.