Saturday, December 30, 2023

“Justin, this is your chance to be a leader,” by Brian Henry

 

Now that we've come to the end of 2023 with the Hamas terror group publicly thanking Canada, it seems foolish, but I confess I had hopes our government would stand by Israel following the worst terror attack in its history. Even more foolishly, I still have hope. 

Back on October 9, me and 15,000 other people rallied in Toronto in support of Israel. This was in those black days when the news just kept getting worse: the numbers confirmed murdered and kidnapped kept rising, the news of mass torture and rape began to circulate, while horrific videos taken by the terrorists themselves were on internet, and in Canada and around the world, upon hearing the news of the slaughter, thousands of people were rejoicing – literally dancing in the streets (here).

One of the speakers that night in Toronto’s Mel Lastman Square was Chrystia Freeland, our Deputy Prime Minister, while the Prime Minister himself was speaking at a similar rally in Ottawa. In Ottawa, Trudeau condemned Hamas’s terrorist attack, and stated: “We stand with Israel and reaffirm our support for Israel’s right to defend itself (here).” Freeland delivered this same message.

I wanted to believe they meant it. The Jewish community in Canada is tiny and vulnerable, as is Israel in the world at large. I needed to believe.

Throughout the West and around the democratic world, other leaders were affirming they, too, stood with Israel, they too affirmed Israel is right to defend itself. But unlike elsewhere, here in Canada, Trudeau and Freeland added a clause: “in accordance with international law.”

I hoped this was just a bit of reflexive Liberal preening – adding an obvious caveat as a reminder that the Liberals consider themselves high-minded. I could forgive them their vanity.

By now, though, it’s clear Trudeau was laying the groundwork to try to please both sides: those supporting Canada’s ally, the only fellow democracy in the Middle East, and those who hate that democracy.

For the benefit of those supporting Israel’s war to destroy Hamas so that Israelis may once again live without fear, Trudeau decries Hamas’s terrorism.

But he also fashions statements for the other side. On November 14, he declared Israel must end its "killing of women, of children, of babies" – phrasing it as if Israel chooses to kill innocents. Trudeau’s words could have been written by Hamas’s propaganda department. His words had an eerie echo of centuries of blood libel – of accusations of Jews killing babies for ritual or for pleasure or because that’s just what Jews do.

The same day, November 14, a poster making the blood libel was put up at the main entrance to the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto: a picture of a hook-nosed Netanyahu sacrificing a Palestinian baby on an altar. 

Not a coincidence.

Trudeau surely doesn’t believe in the blood libel. But at this moment in Canada, the idea of Israelis as evil incarnated has become part of the Zeit Geist (and the same for Jews who support Israel, meaning almost all of us). That we’re committing genocide against helpless Palestinians is an article of faith both for the trendy left and the extreme right.

Then on November 16, Trudeau again affirmed Canada’s “long-standing support for Israel and its right to defend itself” (here), as if he hadn’t slandered Israel as baby-killers two days earlier.

We saw this policy of extreme wobble earlier when Hamas claimed Israel had bombed the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza. Trudeau rushed to a microphone to declare the bombing “absolutely unacceptable” and “not legal.” 

Why the rush? It seemed such a rookie mistake not to wait for confirmation. 

I think Trudeau expected the accusation would quickly be disproved, because (a) the claim came from Hamas and you don’t believe what terrorists say (duh) and (b) because Israel doesn’t randomly bomb hospitals. Trudeau needed to get his outrage on record while it was still credible.

By morning, that credibility was gone. Photos taken by daylight showed a hospital that hadn’t been hit at all; instead, a parking lot with several burnt cars. An Israeli missile had supposedly killed 500 people. Where was the huge crater such a strike would have left? There wasn’t one.

It was a misfired Palestinian rocket that caused the damage, Israel said, and offered proof. Yup, misfired Palestinian rocket, intelligence agencies from the US, France, the UK and Canada all agreed. Yup, Palestinian rocket, said all the independent experts. One of 2,000 such misfired terrorist rockets that have fallen on Gaza and killed who knows how many people - Five hundred in this one strike Hamas says, though like everything else coming from Hamas, that's not to be believed.

Trudeau stayed silent several days (leaving it to his Defence Minister Bill Blair to confirm it was a Palestinian rocket) and then resumed saying Israel’s a good friend, yada, yada.

Why the extreme wobble?

On the one hand, Israel is an ally. For 75 years, since Israel’s founding, Canada and Israel have had firm friendship based on shared values and the deep desire of millions of Canadians to see the world’s only Jewish state thrive.

On the other hand, Trudeau surely has his eye on ridings with large Muslim populations, especially in the Greater Toronto area which the Liberals must hold to get re-elected (or at least escape utter destruction).

Also, Trudeau faces rebellion within his party. Last month, 23 of his MPs put their names to a letter calling for an immediate ceasefire.

This was directly contrary to Liberal policy. To call for a ceasefire is to say to Israel: No, you cannot defend yourself. If Jews are killed, massacred like it’s the Holocaust all over again, that’s okay. Hamas must be allowed to rebuild and do it again – as they have promised to.

But that was last month’s policy. On December 7, Canada did an about-face and voted in the UN for an unconditional ceasefire – a ceasefire that would leave Hamas in place ruling over Gaza.

So now Trudeau has a new rebellion: Three Liberal MPs have denounced this betrayal: Anthony Housefather (Mount Royal), Marco Mendicino (Eglinton–Lawrence), and Ben Carr (Winnipeg South Centre).

{My own MP, Ya’ra Saks (York), has chosen loyalty to Trudeau over loyalty to her constituents and has kept quiet, even though her riding is 20% Jewish.}

Continuing with his policy of trying to please everyone, on the same day Canada voted for Hamas in the UN, Trudeau also issued a statement along with Australia and New Zealand calling for Hamas to “lay down its arms” and stating, “There is no role for Hamas in the future governance of Gaza.”

To be sure this statement is another call for a ceasefire, but a ceasefire conditional on Hamas surrendering. Unfortunately, as Housefather pointed out, this is not what Canada voted for in the UN – it’s the opposite of what Canada voted for. 

Politically, Trudeau can’t square this circle, and by wobbling, he just enrages both sides. 

As if to emphasize what a mess the Liberals have made, Hamas came out and publicly thanked Canada for our position (here). Which position? you might ask. Well the one they like - the ceasefire that leaves Hamas in charge of Gaza and in fact encourages them to further atrocities.

May I make a suggestion….

Justin, this is your chance to man up – to be a leader. Get in front of one of those microphones you love and tell the truth:

War is a horrible business, and of all wars, urban warfare is the worst, especially in a situation like Gaza, where Hamas has dug in beneath hospitals, schools, and apartment buildings.

But Israel did not start this war and has no choice other than to win it and to end Hamas as a viable military force.

As it always has, Israel is of course trying to minimize civilian deaths, and despite Hamas urging Gazans to act as human shields, Israel is having some success.

As I write this, Hamas claims more than 20,000have died in Gaza – a number which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and terrorists[i]. Nor does Hamas distinguish between those killed by Israeli strikes and those killed by errant Hamas missiles. Nor is there any reason to believe anything Hamas says.

Even so, by way of comparison, the war Canada and its allies fought against the Taliban in Afghanistan killed about 200,000 people – and that was with little close urban fighting of the kind we’re seeing in Gaza. 

As the conflict continues, here are a few things to keep in mind:

First, responsibility for all deaths, on both sides, lies with Hamas for starting this war and doubly so for using the civilian population as human shields.

Second, remember that wherever Hamas holds power and wherever Palestinians still fear these terrorists, Hamas controls every word and image that comes out of Gaza.

Doctors and nurses who work in Gaza hospitals may be enthusiastic supporters of Hamas. For example, Dr. Abu Salmiya (also rendered in English as Abu Selmia), Director of al Shifa Hospital, filled his social media with praise for terror attacks and terrorists – no surprise as his brother was a Hamas military commander until killed by the Israelis. And one guess as to who appointed Selmia as Director in the first place.

Yet the CBC, other media, and UN agencies rely on Selmia as the source for many of their most lurid stories (see here).[ii]

Other doctors in Gaza, who aren’t willing channels for its propaganda, live in fear of Hamas (see here). We cannot expect them to say anything to the media that Hamas wouldn’t want them to say. 

Likewise, local photographers and stringers in Gaza who supply the news to the international wire services must also answer to Hamas.

All international agencies operating on the ground in Gaza also depend on Hamas’s goodwill. Plus, such agencies hire locally, which means their staff may be enthusiastic supporters Hamas. See here, for example.

What’s most important to keep in mind is that, in time, Israel will break Hamas’s grip on Gaza. This war will end, and Hamas will no longer terrorize either Israelis or the people of Gaza.

Pray for that day, may it arrive swiftly, and rebuilding can then begin.

Go ahead, Justin, just say all that. I’ll help write your speech. What have you got to lose? Even if you don’t win the next election, at least you’ll go down in history as a real leader, not as a wobble doll.

***


An earlier version of this piece appeared on TheJ.ca here.

An excerpt also appeared as an addendum to my piece "Jesus wasn't a Palestinian" on on Canadian Zionist Forum. If you liked this piece, do please go to Canadian Zionist Forum and click the Heart button and maybe leave a comment here.

Brian Henry teaches creative writing and publishes Quick Brown Fox. He’s been a regular contributor to the TheJ.ca and has also contributed to Canadian Zionist Forum, The Line, the National PostThe Toronto Starthe (now defunct) Jewish Tribune, and the Engage and Harry’s Place websites in the UK. 



[i] As of two weeks ago, Israel Defence Forces believed they had killed about 8,000 terrorists in Gaza, plus an additional 1,000 in southern Israel.

[ii] Abu Salmiya has now been arrested by Israel and is being questioned as a terror suspect. See here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Evolving schedule of writing classes, workshops, and retreats

Literary agent Jacqui Lipton
2024

Writing Workshops

Online: Writing for Children and for Young Adults, with children's books editor Sarah Howden, Saturday, Feb 3. Details here

Online: How to Get Published, with literary agent Jacqui Lipton, Sunday, Feb 25. Details here.

***

Writing Retreats

Early Spring Writing Retreat in Muskoka at Sherwood Inn, Friday, April 5 – Monday, April 8, but register by February 27 to be sure of a spot! Details here.

June Writing Retreat in Algonquin Park, at Arowhon Pines Resort, Friday, June 7 – Monday, June 10. Details here.

Stretch out your summer with our September Writing Retreat in Algonquin Park, at Arowhon Pines Resort, Tuesday, Sept 3 – Friday, Sept 6. Details here.

***

Spring Classes  

Online: Writing Personal Stories & Other Nonfiction, Monday afternoons, 1 – 3 p.m. April 15 – June 17 (or to June 24 if the class fills up).     Details here

Welcome to Creative Writing
  
~ offered online and -in-person:

Online: Monday evenings, 7 – 9 p.m., April 15 –
   June 17 (or to June 24 if the class fills up)

In-person: Thursday evenings, 7 – 9 p.m., April 18 – May 30 (or to June 13 if the class fills up) at Burlington Anglican Lutheran Church, 3455 Lakeshore Rd, Burlington, Ontario (Map here)

     Details for both "Welcome" classes here.

In-person: (Not so) Extreme Creative Writing,” Thursday afternoons, 12:30 – 3:00 p.m., March 21 – June 13 {or to June 20 if the class fills up. First readings emailed March 14,   in Burlington, Ontario (Map here). Details here.

“Intensive Creative Writing”

  ~ offered online at 3 different times:

Tuesday evenings 6:30 – 9:00, March 19 to June 18. First readings emailed March 12.

Wednesday afternoons, 12:30 – 3:00, March 20 – June 19. First readings emailed March 13.

Friday mornings 10:00 – 12:30, March 22 – June 21 First readings emailed March 15.

     Details for all three “Intensive” classes here.

To reserve a spot or for more details about any course, workshop or retreat, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Sunday, December 24, 2023

“The carollers who brought joy and music to Mum’s last Christmas” by Valerie McCall

Brian,

I hope all is well. I was wondering if you wanted to post this. It is the story of my mum that was written during your class and then revamped. I tried very hard to read the original version on the last day of your class a few months ago but couldn’t make it past the first sentence. Lucky for me someone stepped in and finished reading it for me. It went online today at The Globe and Mail First Person Section.

Regards,

Valerie McCall (Clark)

P.S. – Your classes have given me the confidence to believe that someone is actually interested in my writing, so I thank you for that.

***

“The carollers who brought joy and music to Mum’s last Christmas”

It was 16 days before Christmas and my mother was dying from a brain tumour. Having survived a stroke and two bouts of esophageal cancer, how could it be that an aggressive brain tumour would kill our mother?

She had little time left and kept asking, “Where are all the singing children?” My siblings and I had no idea what she meant.

While growing up, our kitchen table had seen many heated and sometimes livid arguments over politics, religion, sports or who had more roast beef on their plate. My parents would always finish with a cup of tea. Here we were, all these years later, gazing lovingly at a mother who was now very childlike. The tumour had affected the part of the brain that holds memory and imagination.

Although she was not in pain, her visions sometimes terrorized and, in some cases, amused her. One afternoon, she turned to me with a smile on her face, and told me she was going to let me in on a secret, that baby Jesus was a girl and not a boy. This, coming from an agnostic mother, made me smile as well. On other days, she was frightened by shadows on the wall.

I felt helpless as I watched her slip further toward death and decided that, somehow, I needed to find those singing children. When we were young, our family always sang carols after dinner on Christmas Day. Could this be the reason she was looking for singing children?

A few days later, I was driving to my mother’s house and suddenly saw my answer. I quickly swerved into the coffee shop parking lot and stopped the car in front of a group of Christmas carollers trying to keep warm. They were dressed in Victorian clothing and had just finished going from store to store in downtown Streetsville, singing Christmas carols as they had done for years.

I approached the group and gave them a rather rambling history of my mum, her close approach to death and most importantly her vision of singing children. I asked them to come back to my mother’s house and sing carols for her. They might not be children, but I knew they would touch a part of her that was longing to hear this music. 

Mum

They politely listened but said they were finished for the day and would happily come the following Saturday. After giving them the address, I silently prayed my mother would last the week and hoped they would be true to their word.

The week had many ups and downs for my mother. Her body was slowly shutting down and food was going right through her. My younger sister and I were on duty that Saturday morning and worked hard at getting her ready for visitors. Shortbread cookies and tea were waiting in the kitchen and a comfortable chair was positioned facing the front door with my mother securely in place.

Just after 10 a.m., singing could be heard in the distance.

I will always cherish the moment I saw my mother’s head lift and the dullness in her eyes disappear. Her lips began moving, and the softest whisper of a song could be heard. My sister and I looked at each other with the realization that Mum was trying to sing Christmas carols.

The inside front door had been left open, as well as the curtains, so she could see the carollers coming up the driveway. There were five of them, and they came through the front door without hesitation and a glorious sound erupted in her small house. It felt like angels had descended just for her. My mum tried singing along with them like she was part of the group. She had a smile and a knowing look on her face, as if to say, “What took you so long?”

My sister and I were so overwhelmed with emotion that we had to move into the kitchen so she wouldn’t see us cry. These were tears of sadness, of joy and, most importantly, tears of love. Composing ourselves, we walked back to enjoy our mother’s happiness. We both agreed that this was one of those shared moments in life that would never be forgotten.

The choir sang four more songs along with Mum, who tapped her foot. I could see she tried hard to remember the words. When the carollers finished, they enjoyed some hot tea and went on their way with our heartfelt thanks. After the joyous sounds had died away, I looked over at my mum. She was still smiling, and my heart was at peace.

My mother made it through that Christmas and enjoyed a wee dram on Scottish Hogmanay, Dec. 31, the biggest night of the year for Scots.

This Christmas, I’ll be looking for my mother’s singing angels, and when I find them, I know they will once again bring peace to my heart.

***

Valerie McCall (Clark) lives in Mississauga.

Note: For information about submitting a First Person essay to the Globe and Mail (and to 21 other places), see here.

See Brian’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Kudos to Eunice, Evelyn, and Joan for getting published, and to Sharon for winning a contest!

If you’ve had a story (or a book!) published, if you’ve won or placed in a writing contest, if you’ve gotten yourself an agent, or if you have any other news, send me an email so I can share your success. As writers, we’re all in this together, and your good news gives us all a boost. 

Also, be sure to let know if you're looking for a writers' group or beta readers; a notice in Quick Brown Fox, will help you find them. 

Email me at: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

 

Hi, Brian.

My cottage story, “The Poacher's Cabin,” has been published in the The South Shore Review.

Happy holidays!

Joan MacIntosh

Read Joan’s story here.

For information about joining a weekly writing class (to get some of your work ready for publication, see here.

 

Hi, Brian.

I want to wish you a Happy Hanukkah, and good health and happiness in 2024. 

I have some good news to share:

My story, “Dry Bones” was chosen as the Adult winner of the 2023 South Simcoe Arts Council Short Story Contest. I'm so full of gratitude! Because I've been focused on my novel(s), I hadn’t entered any writing contests this past year. Full of trepidation, I crossed all my fingers and toes, and took a chance with “Dry Bones.” I'm very thankful to the organizers, donors and Adjudicator Denis Stokes for this opportunity.  

All the best to you – and thanks for all your hard work helping Canadian authors!

Sharon Frayne

For information about the South Simcoe Arts Council, including winners of the Adult and Youth short story contests, and the Wordsmith Creative Writing Group, which meets at New Tecumseth Library.

And for information about Sharon's latest young adult novel, The Sound of a Rainbow, see here.

 

Hi, Brian.

Thought you would be interested in this article about my Chicken Soup for the Soul piece, “The Sally Ann Christmas Kettle, Make sure to read the part after the ads🤣 here.

Wishing you and your family well.

Evelyn Pollock

For information about submitting to Chicken Soup for the Soul (and a few other places), see here.

 

Hi, Brian.

It has been over ten years since I attended your workshops in Oakville but I have been writing ever since. Your constructive criticism and encouragement were much appreciated. More of Our Canada has published the following children’s stories:

March 2019 “Mallory the Mallard”

September 2019 “Nay Nay Stinky Pants”

September 2020 “Forever Five”

September 2023 “Grammie’s Glasses”

And “The Knife and Fork Debate” is to be published in the April edition of Our Canada.

The Greening is a full-length novel for children published online by Story Quilt. It had over 1,000 hits.

Thanks again for the influence of your workshops.

Sincerely,

Eunice Perneel Cooke

For information on submitting to Our Canada Magazine and a few other places, see here

And for information about submitting to Story Quilt and a few other places, see here.

***

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.