by Fred Maroun (@Fred_Maroun) in Ottawa, Ontario

Let me start by saying, I am not a partisan New Democrat, although I was a member of the New Democratic Party (NDP) when I was much younger. More recently I have preferred the centrist Liberals, and I was considering voting Conservative in the coming federal election; however, under the leadership of Tom Mulcair, I think that the NDP offers the best choice for Canadians, especially if one happens to be an immigrant from the Middle East. Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Support for Palestinians. Like the two other major parties, the NDP supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. In addition, the NDP specifically opposes, “Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.” Mulcair responded sympathetically to the Palestinian request for statehood status at the United Nations (UN) in 2012, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper vehemently opposed it.

2. Support for Israel. Mulcair supports Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, even when a political cost must be paid. He has successfully sidelined a small, but vocal, anti-Israel element within his party. Harper is often cited as a strong ally of Israel, but I have my doubts as I explained in the Times of Israel. I think that the mature and dignified approach of Mulcair is more valuable to Israel and to peace.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Being pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel at the same time is a significant challenge in a conflict that is very polarized, but Mulcair is in a better position than either of the two other leaders to meet that challenge.[/quote]

3. Balanced on the Middle East. Mulcair’s response to the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014 showed a deep concern for Palestinian casualties, but at the same time, he did not waver in his support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorists. Being pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel at the same time is a significant challenge in a conflict that is very polarized, but Mulcair is in a better position than either of the two other leaders to meet that challenge. Canada is not a major player in the Middle East, but if we can ever help mediate between the two sides, Mulcair would be more credible than Harper.

4. Cautious about military interventions. I have argued in the past that the NDP erred in not supporting military action against Daesh (ISIS), but the NDP has supported other military actions, such as the Canadian mission in Libya under a UN mandate to protect civilians. The NDP makes these decisions on a case-by-case basis, but it is clear that it is less keen on military interventions than Harper who had supported the disastrous U.S. intervention against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The new anti-terrorism legislation has been denounced by a long list of legal experts ... The NDP is the only major party to oppose the bill.[/quote]

5. Bill C-51.The new anti-terrorism legislation has been denounced by a long list of legal experts who wrote that it, “vastly expands the scope of covert state activity when that activity will be subject to poor or even non-existent democratic oversight or review,” and by the privacy commissioner of Canada who said that, “measures in the bill to protect against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient.” The NDP is the only major party to oppose the bill.

6. Mulcair’s experience and capability. Those who do not support Harper’s policies, particularly on the environment and on scientific research, will look for an alternative, and Mulcair, who has experience in government and who is knowledgeable on many issues, is a more credible choice than the Liberals' Justin Trudeau. Trudeau has never been elected to any post, not even as a school board trustee, before he was elected Member of Parliament in 2008. Since then, Trudeau has shown poor political judgement, making several gaffes that embarrassed his party, including an inappropriate sexual joke during a debate about the serious topic of Daesh.

7. Support for manufacturing sector and small businesses. Mulcair has pledged to support Canada’s manufacturing industry and small businesses. These sectors provide good jobs and business opportunities to new immigrants.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Mulcair took a bold stand against the “charter of values” that was proposed by the Parti Quebecois in 2013, despite the potential electoral cost to the NDP in Quebec.[/quote]

8. Support for minority rights. Mulcair took a bold stand against the “charter of values” that was proposed by the Parti Quebecois in 2013, despite the potential electoral cost to the NDP in Quebec. He declared, “What we have today is an attempt to impose state-mandated discrimination against minorities in the Quebec civil service. That for us is an absolute non-starter.”

9. Strong social policies while fiscally conservative. The NDP is notorious for its concern for the working class and the disadvantaged, but also has had an excellent record of fiscal conservatism during its tenures in provincial governments. This dual approach helps new immigrants who are struggling to find jobs and make ends meet.

10. Support for immigrants and refugees. New Democrats support immigrants and refugees, not only in theory, but also in practice. In the case of gay Palestinian John Calvin who is seeking refugee status, I have personally contacted all three parties, but three weeks later, only the NDP MPs have taken the time to respond, ask questions and try to help.

The Conservative government is increasingly arrogant, secretive and unimaginative. The Liberal party failed to rebuild itself and is instead attempting to rely on a glamorous name in order to seduce what it appears to believe is a naïve electorate. I do not expect miracles from any government, but I believe that under the pragmatic and experienced leadership of Mulcair, now is finally the right time to give the New Democrats a chance.

Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin. He lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at and

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Published in Commentary

by Vicky Tobianah (@vicktob) in Toronto

Israel’s highly contentious elections saw incumbent Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu return for his fourth term as the country experienced its highest voter turnout in almost two decades. While this has been widely covered in the mainstream media, Israeli outlets here in Canada have some other top stories they've been reporting, including their own take on the elections.

Netanyahu Lacks Leadership, Claims Vancouver-based Newspaper

An editorial piece published by the Jewish Independent says Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu lacks leadership. The newspaper criticizes statements released by Netanyahu’s Likud Party just days before the election, that many read as proof he did not support a two-state solution even though Netanyahu had previously said he did.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any evacuated territory would fall into the hands of Islamic extremism and terror organizations supported by Iran. Therefore, there will be no concessions and no withdrawals. It is simply irrelevant,” read the Likud Party statement. The editorial board also commented on Netanyahu's failure to participate in debates during the campaign and his insistence on speaking to the U.S. Congress without U.S. President Barack Obama’s support.

“It remains to be seen whether he is just grasping at political straws, trying to convince those on the right to vote for him, or he feels so confident that he can finally say what he truly believes,” the newspaper reported.

Anti-Jewish Slurs Used in Real Estate Listings

According to The Canadian Jewish News, the Jewish community was outraged after seeing online advertisements for houses in Brampton, Ontario, that read “You don’t have to be Jewish to buy this house.”

Real estate agent Jazz Samra of Homexperts Real Estate Inc. said he used a third-party for his advertisements and doesn’t review every ad that gets posted. The ads were posted on online sites such as kijiji and craigslist but were taken down after the matter was brought to their attention. They still appeared on Trovit and Mitula, and the craigslist ad was changed to “You don’t have to be rich to buy this house.”

Homexpert’s president and CEO apologized for any offense the ad caused and said he was looking into the matter.

Jews Urged to Immigrate to Israel

Following last month's attacks on Jewish communities in France and Copenhagen, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has urged European Jews to immigrate to Israel – much to the dismay of European Jewish leaders   reported the Jewish Independent.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Once Israel was established as a Jewish state in 1948, some argued Zionism’s goals had been achieved and thus there was no more need for it.[/quote]

The article questioned the purpose of Zionism (the nationalist movement for the return of the Jewish people to Israel), citing Copenhagen’s chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, who said that increased terrorism should not be the reason European Jews immigrate to Israel. “People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism. Not because of terrorism. If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island,” he is quoted as saying.

The term Zionism was coined in 1896. Ever since then, the movement has been a divisive issue within the Jewish diaspora (outside Israel). Once Israel was established as a Jewish state in 1948, some argued Zionism’s goals had been achieved and thus there was no more need for it, noted the Jewish Independent’s editorial board.

But Zionism soon took on a different meaning; as Jewish groups outside Israel began allocating their fundraising efforts to support the Jewish state, especially during times of war. This, they noted, is another reason why Netanyahu’s comments were uncalled for – the country itself is not immune to terrorism, so why promote the idea of leaving Europe after terrorist incidents?

Although Zionism is contested, especially amongst Jews, the newspaper argued that, “it is not quite time for Zionism to wind up its affairs.” 

Did Denmark Live Up to Its Reputation? Photo credit: Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen

Over 30,000 Danes gathered for a vigil to commemorate the victims of a shooting at a Denmark synagogue in early February – a show of support that fits the country’s history, reported the Jewish Independent.

In 1943, the country helped successfully evacuate the country’s Jews to Sweden, saving almost the entire Jewish community at a time when Jews were being annihilated across Europe. The Danish resistance, as it came to be known, was organized by ordinary citizens and was one of most successful resistance efforts during the Nazi era.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The motive, argued the reporters, was clear; terrorists went to a Jewish place of worship to murder its inhabitants, specifically targeting a certain group of people.[/quote]

But the newspaper claims the support ended there. Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called the murders a “cynical act of terror” while discussing the motive. But then added, “we don’t know the motive for the attacks but we know that there are forces that want to harm Denmark, that want to crush our freedom of expression, our belief in liberty. We are not facing a fight between Islam and the West, it is not a fight between Muslims and non-Muslims.”

The motive, argued the reporters, was clear; terrorists went to a Jewish place of worship to murder its inhabitants, specifically targeting a certain group of people. The article went on to question, why then did the Prime Minister refuse to call out these clear motives? The fact that over 500 Danes attended the attacker’s funeral gave the reporters more reason to question Danish support towards its Jewish population.

Rabbi David Stav and his wife, Aviva, sign a prenuptial agreement after decades of marriage. Canadian Jewish News.

Israeli Prenups Won’t Help “Chained Women” in Canada

Under Jewish law, a woman can only get a divorce (called a get) if her husband grants her one. When a husband refuses, his wife is considered an agunah – a chained woman who cannot remarry until granted a divorce.

To combat this phenomenon, Israeli rabbinical and legal experts unveiled a legal prenuptial agreement that would prevent husbands from withholding divorces. But these agreements will likely not hold up in Canada, reported Paul Lungen from The Canadian Jewish News.

According to the Israeli agreement, introduced by Tzohar (an Orthodox Zionist group whose goal is to enforce “moderate, rabbinic leadership and sharing public policy”), if a husband refused to grant a divorce, he would be required to make maintenance payments until a religious divorce is issued.

That agreement won’t help “chained women” in Ontario, though, since Ontario courts don’t enforce the decision of religious courts when it comes to matters of family law, rendering the prenups legally ineffective.

“It appears the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) document will not be upheld by a Canadian court, because the courts in Canada will only allow monetary penalties imposed by courts, not by rabbis [or] panels,” said Rabbi Michael Whitman of Adath Israel Poale Zedek synagogue in Montreal.

For many Orthodox Jewish women, being unable to get a divorce from their husband can have lifelong implications, preventing them from remarrying and leaving them “chained” to their husbands.

Vicky Tobianah is an experienced writer, editor, and content strategist. She has a Bachelor of Arts, Honours from McGill University in Political Science and English Literature. She is passionate about the future of digital media. Find her work at: 

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Published in Israel

by Mourad Haroutunian (@MHaroutunianTO) in Toronto

From the anti-terrorism bill, Charlie Hebdo and William Schabas’ resignation to Ontario’s new sex education curriculum, ethnic media covering the Arab world has had its hands full. Here’s a look at the top five headlines that have made the most waves in January and February from Arab media.

Anti-terror Bill: Be Careful

In a Feb. 11 editorial, Salah Allam (pictured to right), editor in chief of the biweekly newspaper Arab News, calls for more caution and more parliamentary supervision to be included in the new anti-terror bill that Parliament is about to enact. 

Allam says that although many political analysts agree to the new bill, which aims to serve the country’s national interests and hunt international terrorists at large, his request is important. “We have to be very careful while accepting the bill in its current shape,” he writes.

Allam admits that the new legislation boosts the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP’s powers, but warns that, in the meantime, it affects civil rights protection.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A bird’s-eye view on the new bill shows that it will be considered an illegal act when a person incites terrorism or slams Canada’s policies, even if it is merely haphazard talk.” - Arab News[/quote]

He cites the absence of effective mechanisms for the Canadian parliament to oversee the way security agencies perform their duties in this regard.

“A bird’s-eye view on the new bill shows that it will be considered an illegal act when a person incites terrorism or slams Canada’s policies, even if it is merely haphazard talk,” he writes.

The bill will forbid “propagating for terrorism” via any audio-visual medium, website or social networking platform. It will also simplify legal procedures required to detain suspected terrorists and restrict their movement.

“Thus, it is not yet clear,” Allam continues, “how such impact on existing freedom might secure more protection for Canadian citizens.”

Charlie Hebdo: All Guilty

Only Canada survived criticism over the Charlie Hebdo incident in a Jan. 22 editorial by Jamal Alqaryouti (pictured to the left), editor in chief of the biweekly newspaper Al Wattan. All are deplorable, from his perspective: the criminals, the victims, the host country and the mobs across the Muslim world, as well as the Israeli prime minister, who attended the Jan. 11 Paris march in solidarity with France.

Alqaryouti writes that the event might have repercussions in Europe, but not in Canada: “Canadian society is fortified against racism and stereotypes as evident through the common reaction to the dual crimes of Ottawa and Quebec a few months ago— and their reaction to heinous attacks on some mosques and Islamic centres.”

He says that in Europe, “the crime, even before proving Muslims are behind it, will give European right-wing [populists] a justification to act against Muslims, in particular, and immigrants in general, and will further justify the ‘Islamizing the West’ myth.”

Furthermore, he adds: “Even with Charlie Hebdo being a leftist magazine that used to ridicule religious or political figures without discrimination, I categorically reject making fun of any beliefs. I deplore reactions to the magazine’s behaviour, noting that the Prophet Mohammed helped treat patients of some people who had offended him by throwing their garbage on his house and himself.”

Schabas, Israel

Nazih Khatatba (pictured to the right), editor in chief of the biweekly newspaper Meshwar, declares via a Feb. 6 editorial, “William Schabas’ resignation will not hide Israeli crimes.”

Schabas, a Canadian academic, was heading a three-member commission appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Commission to investigate all alleged violations of international humanitarian laws carried out by Israel during the Israel–Gaza conflict last summer.

Schabas resigned in February in response to Israeli accusations of bias because he had billed the Palestine Liberation Organization for $1,300 in 2012 for legal advice he gave the organization at its request. Israel said the precedent constituted evidence of a conflict of interest with his position.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Schabas is not the first person who has been exposed to Israeli rudeness, pressure and threats.” - Meshwar newspaper[/quote]

“Has Israel achieved a political victory by pushing Schabas to step down by posing pressures on him or even by threatening his life?” asks Khatatba.

“Schabas is not the first person who has been exposed to Israeli rudeness, pressure and threats,” says Khatatba, pointing to a former Israeli critic, Richard Goldstone.

“From the Israeli point of view, everyone who criticizes it is anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli, greedy or even manipulated by external directives.

“Schabas refused to be like many people who disregard practices being carried out by Israeli leaders and the Israeli army. He said he wanted to see Netanyahu and Liebermann in the dock, and asked, ‘Why are we going after the President of Sudan for Darfur and not the President of Israel for Gaza?’

“Schabas has to pride himself on his humanitarianism and bias to the victim and the truth, and to standing by the Palestinian people against war crimes executed by the leaders of the occupation state, which lauds itself as the only democracy in the Middle East.

“It’s the Israeli terror that imposes its will on the international community with force,” Khatatba writes.

Sex-ed Curricula: Oral, Anal

Abram Makar (pictured to the left), editor in chief of the biweekly newspaper Good News, earmarks its Feb. 14 editorial to lamenting Ontario’s new sex ed curriculum.

“The fear of sex approaching our kids has become a reality for us, the residents of the Canadian province of Ontario. This reality was imposed by the Liberal government of the province via minister of education, Liz Sandals, who resubmitted the sex education curricula project for primary school students in Ontario to be effective as of the coming fall. It’s the same project that Kathleen Wynne submitted in 2010 when she was minister of education and was aborted, thanks to opposition spearheaded by Canadian Christian advocate Charles McVety.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Minister Sandals says these ages are suitable to study those topics, but the minister has failed to tell us where she obtained this information.” - Good News[/quote]

The article reports that under this new curriculum, Grade 3 students will be taught about homosexuality and same-sex marriages, Grade 6 students will study maturity and masturbation, while Grade 7 students are going to learn about anal and oral sex in the context of how to prevent the transfer of sexual diseases.

“Minister Sandals says these ages are suitable to study those topics, but the minister has failed to tell us where she obtained this information,” Makar writes. “Did she conduct research and learn that children at these ages are capable of understanding these matters?

“The project advocates claim they want to teach kids such sex-related topics lest they learn this information from unreliable sources.

“My question is: who guarantees that [teachers] who instruct such topics are reliable sources?”

The writer, at the end of his editorial, calls on all who reject teaching such topics to their children and grandchildren at these early ages to join in opposition of the new sex-ed curricula before the start of the coming school year and take part in a protest, organized by Parents as First Educators, to be held before Ontario Parliament on Feb. 24.

‘Copy-paste’ Media

The monthly newspaper Sakher Sabeel conducted an interview with Yilmaz Jawid, a Canadian–Iraqi social activist.

Jawid (pictured to the right), who immigrated to Canada in 1994, served as the president of the Iraqi Canadian Association for two terms. He also founded the Jawid Seniors Services Foundation, which offers free services for newcomers and free taxation services for low-income senior citizens.

To Jawid, culturally based media activity in Canada is swinging between for-profit activity, with some newspapers relying on advertising and publishing materials “copy-pasted” from other newspapers and online outlets, and not-for-profit political activity, with some newspapers depending on publishing controversial news stories.

“Successful cultural activity should focus on social life to solve problems that face immigrants. These should not be the job of newspapers only, but also of all organizations and associations,” he explains.

As such, Jawid says he has posted more than 270 articles on the Al Hewar Al Motamaden website, a leftist online platform.

Mourad Haroutunian is a Toronto-based journalist. Born and raised in Cairo, Haroutunian has worked in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, for Bloomberg News, CNBC Arabiya and Nile TV International. He holds an M.A. in journalism and mass communication from the American University in Cairo. Visit his Facebook page.

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Published in Arab World

by Dennis Gruending (@dennisgruending) in Ottawa

Although I have attended Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa in the past, in 2009 I decided to support a smaller event whose theme was peace and reconciliation. I was one of about 300 people who heard an agonizingly sad but ultimately hopeful speech by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. He is a Palestinian pediatric physician and peace advocate whose house in Gaza was struck by an Israeli tank shell on January 16, 2009.

Abuelaish, a widower, was home that day with his eight children and other family members and was scheduled to give an interview on Israeli television via cell phone. A shell fired from a tank hit his house and killed three of his daughters, aged 14, 15 and 21, along with a seventeen-year-old niece. Another daughter, Shada, and a second niece were injured. The journalist who called moments after the attack found the doctor sobbing inconsolably. “My girls, O God, they are dead,” he said. The video clip was broadcast around the world. Abuelaish and his family became the face of the human suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. A ceasefire was declared two days later.

A “rarity”

The New York Times describes Abuelaish as “a rarity, a Gazan at home among Israelis.” He told his Ottawa audience that he practiced medicine in both Gaza and Israel and that he has delivered as many Jewish babies as Palestinian ones. His says tragedy has not deflected him from the path of peace and reconciliation. “I am Muslim but we have to go beyond that to think about humanity and what brings us, Muslims and Jews, together,” he said. “I believe that God is good and even tragedy is good. I assure you I am looking forward. I believe that everything is possible other than having my daughters back.” 

Ed Broadbent, former leader of the New Democratic Party and a human rights campaigner, was the evening’s moderator. “As a Canadian, a father and grandfather,” Broadbent said to Abuelaish, “it is almost impossible for me to conceive of losing these children as you have lost your daughters.” Broadbent then said to the audience: “It would be easier to understand if Dr. Abuelaish came through that with dreams of vengeance. He continues to reach out to those who might be considered his enemies, but he does not see them as such.” Abuelaish was nominated for the 2009 and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Potlucks for Peace

He was in Ottawa as the guest of Potlucks for Peace, a group of Jewish and Arab people who gather monthly to share food and talk about how to pursue peace in the Middle East. The group’s members do not always agree on solutions — whether, for example, there should be one state or two states in the region, or whether Israeli settlements pushed into the Palestinian West Bank are justified in the name of security. I have, at their previous events, sensed tensions over the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands on the one hand and anxiety about Israeli security on the other. The potluck group appears to hold it all together through mutual respect and discipline. “We believe that out of the willingness to engage in dialogue, solutions can arise,” the group says on its website. “We hope that our very existence sends a positive message.”

Abuelaish’s story has a Canadian twist. He had been invited to the University of Toronto to undertake a three-year medical residency and was making plans to move his family to Canada when his home in Gaza was shelled and three of his daughters killed. Abuelaish did come to Toronto in March 2009. His seventeen-year-old daughter, who was injured in the attack, spent four months in hospital and is now studying computer engineering in Canada.

Medical analogies

Abuelaish draws many of his peace analogies from his practice of medicine. “As a physician, I am not allowed ever to give up hope on a patient. We must act and we must forgive each other,” he said. “No one is perfect. We make mistakes. Forgiveness allows us to move forward.” He also said: “As a doctor, I know that hatred is a toxin. The path of light in the long run is the more efficient choice than to live with hate and be consumed with revenge”

He is an inspirational speaker in the best sense, but his response to questions indicated that he is not a politician or diplomat and is unlikely to be one of those negotiating land for peace or the future of Israeli settlements. When asked during the question-answer period if he was in favour of an economic boycott of Israel similar to that against South Africa in years past, he did not answer, but spoke about his high hopes for peace initiatives driven by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. Asked whether he favours a one-state or two-state solution for the region, he fell back on a medical metaphor. “Survival is most important at the moment. The first action is to stabilize the patient. One state or two states is theoretical. There is a Palestinian nation and an Israeli nation, and they must live together in peace.”

Remembrance Day

I did not attend the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial that year but I did watch it on television. It is always moving to see the veterans but less so the fly-bys, march bys, and the firing of canons. As I watched and heard the television commentary, it was all about us: our freedom, our sacrifice, our families, and our heroes.

Even the armed forces chaplain who spoke could invoke God’s caring and sympathy only for us. In this ceremony, there was no compassion for the other — for example, the bride and groom and their guests in an Afghan wedding procession, for example, who were bombed to bits in 2008 by an air strike called in by NATO soldiers. No one on Remembrance Day recalls the deadly mess of war that remains for others to clean up after the troops have withdrawn — the unexploded land mines, the buildings and fields in ruins, the shrapnel embedded in flesh, and the body burns from white phosphorous.

Potlucks for Peace and Dr. Abuelaish attempt to reach across a divide of fear and hatred to acknowledge and embrace the other. Our officially planned and sanctioned Remembrance Day ceremonies do not.

This piece was originally published on the blog Pulpit and Politics, and is being re-published with permission from the author in the context of Dr. Abuelaish's latest campaign to medically treat wounded children from the Israel-Gaza conflict. Read a preview of the campaign in our NCM Newsfeed of Aug. 8 under Back Pocket.

Published in Commentary

New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved