Monthly Archives: June 2010

Rules Proposed For Off-shore Wind Turbines

Here you go, Commentators. Better late than never.  Note that these rules are for Off-shore Wind Turbines only. You might like to suggest some for On-shore ones.

Rules Proposed For Off-shore Wind Turbines <http://news.ontario.ca/ene/en/2010/06/rules-proposed-for-off-shore-wind-turbines.html>
June 25, 2010
McGuinty Government Helping Protect The Environment And Develop Clean Energy
Ontario is seeking input on proposed rules for off-shore wind turbines including keeping them at least five kilometres from the shoreline.

A shoreline exclusion zone would be comparable with proposals by many U.S. states that border the Great Lakes.

In addition the Ministry of Natural Resources is undertaking a review of Ontario’s current process for making Crown land available for off-shore wind projects.  This review will include consideration of where, when and how the government makes Crown land available.

Another proposed rule would require turbine developers to complete a comprehensive application process. This would include addressing potential impacts to endangered and threatened species and their habitat, significant wildlife habitats, users of Crown land, flooding and erosion.

The public and industry can comment on the proposal on the province’s environmental registry <http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/>  (Registry number 011-0089) for the next 60 days. Public and industry consultation sessions will also be held starting in the fall. Dates and locations will be available soon at http://www.ontario.ca <http://www.ontario.ca/> .

Clean energy and conservation are key aspects of combating climate change and phasing out coal-fired electricity. This is also part of the Open Ontario plan to create thousands of clean jobs in Ontario and market clean energy expertise to the world.
QUOTES
“Our priority is making sure renewable, clean energy sources are developed in a way that protects the environment. We look forward to hearing from the public and industry on the protective rules we are proposing.”

– John Gerretsen
Minister of the Environment

“A clean supply of renewable energy is vital for Ontario’s economic growth and future prosperity. It is a priority to ensure Ontario is a renewable energy leader in technology and site selection. We will continue to work with industry and seek public input to advance renewable energy projects across the province.”

– Linda Jeffrey
Minister of Natural Resources

“The Green Energy Act is opening Ontario’s clean energy economy to new investment and will help create 50,000 jobs in the first three years of implementation. Today’s posting of rules proposed for off-shore wind turbines demonstrates that our government is advancing renewable energy technology in a responsible way that protects the environment.”

– Brad Duguid
Minister of Energy and Infrastructure

“This is an encouraging step towards ensuring that offshore wind energy developments avoid impacts on wildlife, particularly birds.”

– Caroline Schultz
Executive Director Ontario Nature

QUICK FACTS

  • All off-shore wind projects would be subject to Ontario’s Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) regulation which requires extensive environmental reports, public, municipal and Aboriginal consultation, as well as noise assessments.
  • Since 2003, about 1,300 megawatts of renewable electricity has come online in Ontario, enough to power more than 300,000 homes – or a city the size of Windsor.
  • Compared to land-based wind, off-shore wind has been found to have faster, more uniform wind currents for greater energy production.

LEARN MORE

CONTACTS

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Reading: Literacy and the Economy, Brain and Educational Benefits, E-books and Paper Books

Reading:  Who will read? What are the benefits of reading? How will texts be dispersed and acquired? These aspects of reading are much discussed: the New Yorker and Fortune both recently had long articles on e-books, and you can’t go to a writers’ and readers’ gathering these days without somebody asking about them.

I was at three related events recently: the Future of Reading conference at the Rochester Institute of Technology, on June 9, Idea City in Toronto, on June 17, and the meeting of the International Short Story in English: The Border as Fiction, on June 19. Here were some of the things I and others said about reading:

Literacy and the economy: You have to be literate to use the Internet. Literacy is also required in order to lead an “economic life,” and the cellphone and the Internet are facilitating increased economic possibilities, especially for women (you don’t have to leave your house) and especially in developing countries (you don’t need expensive land lines and Point of Sale hookups to do mobile banking and also point of sale transactions via your phone). Online security is still however an issue.

As stated at Davos in February, women are the fastest-growing economic group on the planet. With increased literacy and access to information and the possibility of an “economic life” – facilitated through microfinance plans such as the Grameen Bank – the birth rate and infant mortality rate both go down, making it increasingly possible for families once locked into poverty to extricate themselves, as more family resources can be devoted to children, and more children can survive to benefit. (As the carrying power of the earth re: the human race has probably already been exceeded, and as millions are now  dying of malnutrition, starvation, pollution, and inadequate water supplies, this imbalance is a problem that will either have to be solved by us or that will be “solved” by physics, chemistry, and resource wars, in very unpleasant ways – as financial journalist Diane Francis pointed out at Idea City, while regaling us with tales of the death threats she had received for writing about this subject.)

Brain benefits, educational gains:

Reading, unlike talking, doesn’t come with a built-in human program activated simply by witnessing others doing it. It has to be learned.  Everything we do is built on a pre-existing brain “platform,” and the platform for reading appears to be the one for object recognition – such as—for instance – predators, prey, and food items. (Devour any books lately? Been devoured by them?)

Reading actually makes you smarter, as neurological activity during the act of reading increases, and the connections are both wide and deep. For a book that summarizes what we know so far, see Proust and the Squid, by  Maryanne Wolf.                                         .

We are told that the single best thing you can do for your child’s future success is to have books in the house. Having a school library with a librarian in it increases the average score by 20%, even if no other change in the school is made. Schools are now trying to put back these facilities, that were dumped several decades ago as a “frill.”

Reading and E-books:

Reading is not decreasing, as feared – in fact it’s increasing, as one must be able to read in order to use the Internet – but it’s being done in different ways.

I speculate that the availability of e-books is actually increasing reading, as e-books are cheap, portable en mass, and instantly available. I also speculate – based on the two previous blogposts I did on this subject, and the wide range of comments received – that readers, given the choice, would like to have both formats – the e-book to take on travels long or short, and to read to see if the book is one you might want to keep; and the paper book for favourites, gifts, cozy reading at home (in bed and bath, for instance). There are also some who say that screen reading bothers their eyes, though others are grateful for the power to enlarge type.

The hazards of keeping books in e-form only can be summed up in one sentence: Would you keep your will in e-form only? (No: a)It could be hacked and changed. b) With internet failures – electrical shortages, solar-flare meltdowns, internet failure or overload, computer and backup failure, changes in technology that render previous forms unreadable – your will could disappear. c) Your will would not be a legal document.) And, as we have seen, your e-book can suddenly vanish from your e-reader, deleted by the e-company.

The Internet is dependent on energy, and energy is still dependent on oil.

So, looking down the path towards the future: unless the world solves the dreaded oil/pollution/global warming problem, e-forms—though convenient – are not totally reliable. (Neither are paper books. Over the centuries, millions have been burned….)

One other advantage to paper books: They make it much harder for anyone else to track what you’ve been reading.

____

This is from near the beginning of the Rochester Institute speech:

“What people usually mean when they start talking about “the future of reading” is not really reading at all, but different methods of transmitting and preserving texts. They want to skip any palaver about alphabets and such, and get straight to whether the paper book as we have known it since Gutenberg is about to go the way of the cuneiform clay tablet and the scroll. They want to leap to the Kindle, and to the Sony Reader, and to the Kobo and the Nook, and thus to e-books, and internet theft, and to what all of this e-energy might do, not to reading as such, but to publishing, and thus to the author’s ability to make even the sort of paltry living that most authors do in fact make, if they make any living at all. And we shall indeed discuss these matters in due time, for I am as interested in them as anyone. Well, maybe not quite as interested, because at my age I’m not looking at an infinite vista down which there lurks some sort of e-troll that might leap out of an e-shrub and tear apart my paper life, and utterly destroy my prospects in twenty-five years’ time. I don’t worry much about that twenty-five-year timeline. Just get me through the next ten without undue attrition, and add in a footnote in which I avoid the print equivalent of drooling and babbling and wandering into strange parking lots, and I will be sufficiently content. It’s beginning to be flattering to be told I am really amazing for my age.

But the young – among which I number all of you – for the young it is a different business. All of this e-stuff might seriously affect the shape of a young’s future life. Such a young might have to throw over his or her dreams of being, say, Norman Mailer, or Joyce Carol Oates, or even Chekhov or Alice Munro or Jane Austen or William Faulkner or Virginia Woolf or … but the list is very long indeed. Let’s just say that, in view of developing conditions, such a young might decide to go into dentistry or chartered accountancy, just as its parents would have preferred, instead to hi-ho-ing off to Paris or Spain or Mexico or the wilds of Cleveland to hole up in a garret or cellar or creative writing workshop in order to write masterpieces. For what good is a masterpiece if you are unable to enter the immortality and/or big publisher’s advance sweepstakes?  If, in a word, you are unable to publish it? Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound if there’s no one around to hear it? Does a manuscript that lies in a drawer unread have any real existence in the world?”

And at the end of the speech, I thanked my 97-year-old aunt, author Joyce Barkhouse  (Pit Pony), for having been one of the first people who took me seriously as a writer, and quoted – from recent newspaper article about her that mentions one of her old favourite poems, Strickland Gilliland’s “The Reading Mother:”

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.

Will that mother soon be an e-mother? Who knows?

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.

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Save Our Prison Farms Rally, Kingston, Ontario, June 6

On the way back from Ottawa and the Writers’ Union AGM, I stopped in Kingston, where the Save Our Prison Farms organization was having a rally, a march, and a spot of peaceful civil disobedience, as a protest against the Federal Government’s secretive, blinkered, ideological, and weird decision to shut down all of Canada’s prison farms – that help feed prisoners, that provide training, and especially that allow prisoners to learn how to work with other beings and with other human beings. As Sister Pauline Lally said, why “correct” something that is already working?

http://saveourprisonfarms.ca/

The enthusiastic group (1000 +) gathered in Sydenham Street United Church, and heard speeches  –see their website – and music – see their website for that as well. One of the speeches was about peaceful civil disobedience: we all promised not to get too rowdy. Then, accompanied by kids dressed as sheep and cows, babies in strollers, dogs on leashes, Stormy the Donkey, a tractor pulling a hay wagon, high school students carrying banners, golden oldies like me, and everyone in between – all ages, all political stripes, all interested in food and where it comes from –Kingston has a string local-food and community-food movement – and all alert to the land grabs and misguided ideas about “correction” that are no doubt behind all this – we marched to Correctional Institutes and duct-taped our sign and letter to the door. Stormy the Donkey did not kick or bite me or anyone else, though he did let fly with a few indignant brays. He might not have been too sure about why he was there, but everyone else was.

Save Our Prison Farms Speech

Thank you for being here today. It’s unfortunate that we have to be here at all. If there were a sane, thoughtful, and respectful government policy on federal prison farms – and one that serves the best interests of the Canadian taxpayer and of our society, and one in tune with the systems we will need as we move further into the era of an already changed and changing climate – we would not need to be conducting this event. As it is, I’d like to run through the reasons why I believe the Conservative Government’s closing of our prison farms is not respectful, not in the best interests of Canadians, and not in tune with the more disaster-prone climate we have entered.

First, you are entitled to ask yourself the question – What’s she doing here? She’s just a writer – a member of what is now often termed “the entertainment business.”  I guess that depends on what you find entertaining. Myself, I thought that my two adventure-packed, joke-ridden novels that revolve around the almost total annihilation of the human race were pretty entertaining, though not everyone found them the laugh riot that I did. But I did have to research the carrying capacity of the earth and the general rules of biological organisms – that would include your food  — and the likely effects of climate change on these things – just as I had to research prison conditions and penal policies of the 19th C – right here in Kingston, for my penitentiary-setting novel, Alias Grace.

For all of these novels, I had some helpful personal background. I was brought up with vegetable gardens – it was the war, and food self-sufficiency was important  — and, much later, Graeme Gibson and I had a big vegetable and fruit garden ourselves, when we ran a working farm near Alliston.  When I say “working farm,” I mean we worked hard. I don’t mean we made a profit. That nine-year-long enterprise taught both of us a lot of respect for farming and farmers. Anyone who’s ever come near such a hands-on experience knows that food doesn’t appear out of the air done up in plastic wrap.

Which brings me to my first point: The government policy is disrespectful. It is disrespectful to farmers and farming. It implies that the skills learned in prison farm programs and the experience gained are unimportant.  But it’s always a mistake to diss farmers. Money is an entirely human invention – a mental construct that has value only if we think it does, and that can therefore vanish in a flash when the systems it serves melt down – but food is a basic. The body can survive without money, but it doesn’t last long without food. King Midas wished that everything he touched might turn to gold, and his wish was granted – but then he starved to death. The prison farms program has the support of farmers and farmers’ organizations across Canada, because they know the value of farming. They resent being told that their profession is worthless, as a profession. So: change and improve the prison farms. Expand them to provide more local food to communities. Teach new skills, for which there are increasing opportunities. For instance, in greenhouse operations, or in horticulture and lawn care, in which there are at present 90% more jobs than can be filled. But why just disrespectfully shut them down?

Unless, of course, you want to privatize prisons, run them as a business for which crime must be increased because it is the raw material from which you profit, and bring the food in from the U.S.

Point two: The government prison farm closure policy is not in the best interests of the Canadian taxpayer, nor of society.

This one ought to be a no-brainer. Prisons cost the taxpayer a lot of money. (They’re also full of people who’d be better doing community service, but that’s another conversation.) Too much of the time prisons provide an education in criminal networking, and return people to society as more efficient crime perpetrators than when they went in. Skills that are valued by the community and result in jobs can offset this effect, as is well known.  So what do we want –more and more criminals, increasingly expensive for us to warehouse, or more self-sufficient citizens who taxpayers do not have to support?

Now let’s consider health. There’s the moral or mental health value of contributing to your upkeep by growing your own food, of course. But also,  people in prisons get sick and have to be treated at taxpayer’s expense. Many studies have shown that an interaction with nature and other living beings makes prisoners six times less likely to get sick. Taxpayers, add up the bills. Do you want to pay the doctor for six times more patients who have been made artificially ill by being cut off from the organic world? By closing prison farms, the government is mis-spending your money in advance. They say they are closing the farms to save money – but they haven’t figured in the increased costs of more and more repeat offenders, nor of the increased illness rate that will result from the closures. But maybe that’s what they want: more criminals. At your expense. In super-prisons. Because it’s big business.

My last point is:  The government is out of tune with the era of a changed and changing climate into which we have already moved.

Despite the climate change deniers who don’ want to believe in the laws of chemistry and physics, the climate is indeed changing – with more extreme weather worldwide – more droughts, more floods, more tornadoes, more heat waves. Farmers know that. These changes are already affecting world food production. Big agribusinesses with their monocultures will be hardest hit – for monocultures and their mon-diseases, see wheat rust and the potato famine — whereas smaller, more diverse mixed-farming operations are not only more productive per acre but also more resilient during extreme weather episodes — especially if they build organic soils.

Also, the closer a community is to its food supply, the better it will be able to get through such systems melt-downs without famines, civic disorders, and loss of life. Other governments – such as Britain’s – are already planning along those lines – towards national and local food self-sufficiency — and implementing their plans. Why isn’t our government doing the same? Why is it moving backwards?

In conclusion, let me say that I think the government plan to close prison farms is a wasted opportunity, as well as a direct contribution, not to increased “public safety” as the government claims, but to increased public poverty, increased public instability, and increased public danger.

It is also dumb as a stump and stupid as a box of hair and also a sack of hammers, and those who thought it up have their lights on but nobody home, and aren’t playing with a full deck. Follow them, and you’ll soon be up an aptly-named excrement-filled creek without a paddle. I learnt those down-to-earth expressions while we were running our farm, farms being places where you do tend to get down to the earth, literally.

Government! Are you listening? Are you living up to the promises on which you got elected, long ago – accountability, responsibility, transparency, and access for the taxpayer? Or have you shut yourselves up in a mental prison of your own construction – where, on the taxpayer’s dollar, you need listen to nobody but yourselves, like some old-fashioned absolute monarch surrounded by yes-men and flunkies?

It’s time to descend from the ideological palace and get down to earth. Because that’s where the food comes from.

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The Griffin Poetry Prize, Toronto, June 2 & 3; The Writers’ Union of Canada AGM, Ottawa, June 4, 5, 6.

Griffin Poetry Prize

The Griffin Poetry Prize, with its International and Canadian divisions, is now the biggest one in the world. This year is its 10th anniversary. I am a Trustee, so am always there if humanly possible. Since the prize was founded, the Griffin Trust has added various other features – notably the Lifetime Achievement Award, won this year by Adrienne Rich, who was able to come and read – special for me, as I reviewed Diving Into the Wreck when it first so spellbindingly appeared.

There are two Griffin evenings: the first, when all the poets read – an event that began as a small affair ten years ago, but that now regularly sells out a venue such as this year’s Koerner Hall; and the second night, when there’s a party – spectacularly planned and decorated by Krystyne Griffin — and the judges announce the winners. After some initial forays into nightclubs and converted churches, that event has taken place recently in the Distillery District. I’m told there is wild poetic dancing late into the night, though my days for actually being able to do that sort of thing are more or less over.

For all events, the shortlist, the winners, and more, see:

http://www.griffinpoetryprize.com/home.php

If you want to see a picture of me before I was a “blonde,” look at the tiny band of founders under “The Griffin Trust.” Scott Griffin is the Ur-Founder and Presiding Spirit. Besides being a mad plane pilot (no, I will not get into his plane with him and fly under bridges, no matter how much he wheedles), he was punished as a child by being made to memorize poems – hence his love of the form. Figure that one out.

The Writers’ Union of Canada

This organization was founded in 1973 – a time when most prose writers in Canada had never even met, and did not have agents because there weren’t any on Canada.

(http://www.writersunion.ca/au_history.asp)

This year the AGM was in Ottawa, where members met with MPs to discuss copyright (so gnarly) and other matters. It was also a year when the Union decided to honour all its past Chairs, so as one of them, off I tottered. Graeme Gibson – the moving spirit at the beginning – was already there, as were many old friends and battle-scarred survivors of past fights – infights among them (ouch, ouch –some of those were painful). The past Chairs who are no longer on the planet in visible form were also honoured.

It’s a pleasure to see younger people throwing themselves into the fray – doing work that benefits all writers, not only those who belong to the Union.

http://www.writersunion.ca

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The Shadow: for Ha’aretz, week of May 31; and Artists For Peace Letter

This piece was written the week before it was published and sent for translation — and then the Flotilla was attacked. I did manage to add one sentence into the piece below abut that. Here is a response from Rick Salutin to “The Shadow” in his Globe and Mail column:   http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/who-are-the-friends-of-israel/article1591587/


Here is a link to the piece on the Ha’aretz website:  http://www.haaretz.com/haaretz-authors-edition

Here is the Artists for Peace <http://www.artistespourlapaix.org/> petition to the Canadian government,  which I have just signed: <http://www.lautjournal.info>

THE SHADOW

Recently I was in Israel. The Israelis I met could not have been more welcoming. I saw many impressive accomplishments and creative projects, and talked with many different people. The sun was shining, the waves waving, the flowers were in bloom. Tourists jogged along the beach at Tel Aviv as if everything was normal.

But… there was the Shadow. Why was everything trembling a little, like a mirage? Was it like that moment before a tsunami when the birds fly to the treetops and the animals head for the hills because they can feel it coming?

“Every morning I wake up in fear,” someone told me. “That’s just self-pity, to excuse what’s happening,” said someone else. Of course, fear and self-pity can both be real.  But by “what’s happening,” they meant the Shadow.

I’d been told ahead of time that Israelis would try to cover up the Shadow, but instead they talked about it non-stop. Two minutes into any conversation, the Shadow would appear. It’s not called the Shadow, it’s called “the situation.” It haunts everything.

The Shadow is not the Palestinians. The Shadow is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, linked with Israeli’s own fears. The worse the Palestinians are treated in the name of those fears, the bigger the Shadow grows, and then the fears grow with them; and the justifications for the treatment multiply.

The attempts to shut down criticism are ominous, as is the language being used. Once you start calling other people by vermin names such as “vipers,” you imply their extermination. To name just one example, such labels were applied wholesale to the Tutsis months before the Rwanda massacre began. Studies have shown that ordinary people can be led to commit horrors if told they’ll be acting in self-defense, for “victory,” or to benefit mankind.

I’d never been to Israel before, except in the airport. Like a lot of people on the sidelines – not Jewish, not Israeli, not Palestinian, not Muslim – I hadn’t followed the “the situation” closely, though, also like most, I’d deplored the violence and wished for a happy ending for all.

Again like most, I’d avoided conversations on this subject because they swiftly became screaming matches. (Why was that? Faced with two undesirable choices, the brain – we’re told — chooses one as less evil, pronounces it good, and demonizes the other.)

I did have some distant background. As “Egypt” at a Model U.N. in 1956, my high school’s delegation had presented the Palestinian case. Why was it fair that the Palestinians, innocent bystanders during the Holocaust, had lost their homes? To which the Model Israel replied, “You don’t want Israel to exist.” A mere decade after the Camps and the six million obliterated, such a statement was a talk-stopper.

Then I’d been hired to start a Nature program at a liberal Jewish  summer camp. The people were smart, funny, inventive, idealistic. We went in a lot for World Peace and the Brotherhood of Man. I couldn’t fit this together with the Model U.N. Palestinian experience. Did these two realities nullify each other? Surely not, and surely the humane Jewish Brotherhood-of-Manners numerous in both the summer camp and in Israel itself would soon sort this conflict out in a fair way.

But they didn’t. And they haven’t. And it’s no longer 1956. The conversation has changed dramatically. I was recently attacked for accepting a cultural prize that such others as Atom Egoyan, Al Gore, Tom Stoppard, Goenawan Mohamad, and Yo-Yo Ma had previously received.  This prize was decided upon, not by an instrument of Israeli state power as some would have it, but by a moderate committee within an independent foundation. This group was pitching real democracy, open dialogue, a two-state solution, and reconciliation. Nevertheless, I’ve now heard every possible negative thing about Israel – in effect, I’ve had an abrupt and searing immersion course in present-day politics. The whole experience was like learning about cooking by being thrown into the soup pot.

The most virulent language was truly anti-Semitic (as opposed to the label often used to deflect criticism). There were hot debates among activists about whether boycotting Israel would “work,” or not; about a one-state or else a two-state solution; about whether a boycott should exclude culture, as it is a bridge, or was that hypocritical dreaming? Was the term “apartheid” appropriate, or just a distraction? What about “de-legitimizing” the State of Israel? Over the decades, the debate had acquired a vocabulary and a set of rituals that those who hadn’t hung around universities – as I had not — would simply not grasp.

Some kindly souls, maddened by frustration and injustice, began by screaming at me; but then, deciding I suppose that I was like a toddler who’d wandered into traffic, became very helpful. Others dismissed my citing of International PEN and its cultural-boycott-precluding efforts to free imprisoned writers as irrelevant twaddle. (An opinion cheered by every repressive government, extremist religion, and hard-line political group on the planet, which is why so many fiction writers are banned, jailed, exiled, and shot.)

None of this changes the core nature of the reality, which is that the concept of Israel as a humane and democratic state is in serious trouble. Once a country starts refusing entry to the likes of Noam Chomsky, shutting down the rights of its citizens to use words like “Nakba,” and labelling as “anti-Israel” anyone who tries to tell them what they need to know, a police-state clampdown looms. Will it be a betrayal of age-old humane Jewish traditions and the rule of just law, or a turn towards reconciliation and a truly open society?

Time is running out. Opinion in Israel may be hardening, but in the United States things are moving in the opposite direction. Campus activity is increasing; many young Jewish Americans don’t want Israel speaking for them. America, snarled in two chaotic wars and facing increasing international anger over Palestine, may well be starting to see Israel not as an asset but as a liability.

Then there are people like me. Having been preoccupied of late with mass extinctions and environmental disasters, and thus having strayed into the Middle-eastern neighbourhood with a mind as open as it could be without being totally vacant, I’ve come out altered. Child-killing in Gaza? Killing aid-bringers on ships in international waters? Civilians malnourished thanks to the blockade? Forbidding writing paper? Forbidding pizza? How petty and vindictive! Is pizza is a tool of terrorists? Would most Canadians agree? And am I a tool of terrorists for saying this?  I think not.

There are many groups in which Israelis and Palestinians work together on issues of common interest, and these show what a positive future might hold; but until the structural problem is fixed and Palestine has its own “legitimized” state within its internationally recognized borders, the Shadow will remain.

“We know what we have to do, to fix it,” said many Israelis. “We need to get beyond Us and Them, to We,” said a Palestinian. This is the hopeful path. For Israelis and Palestinians both, the region itself is what’s now being threatened, as the globe heats up and water vanishes. Two traumas create neither erasure nor invalidation: both are real. And a catastrophe for one would also be a catastrophe for the other.

______

Here is te translation of a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper from Artists for Peace:  http://www.artistespourlapaix.org/   concerning the Gaza flotilla and actions the Canadian government is asked to take:

Montreal, June 3, 2010

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
HarpeS@parl.gc.ca <mailto:HarpeS@parl.gc.ca>

Mr. Prime Minister of Canada

We bring the following to your attention:

1 – We protest the attack on May 31 by Israel against the flotilla of unarmed humanitarians who were sailing in international waters, carrying food, medical and school supplies and building materials.

2 – Gaza civilians, cut off from the world by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), are reported to be dying from lack of medical resources and food, and as a consequence of the destruction of water mains and sewers in the invasion of Gaza by the IDF in January 2009. Artists for Peace have given their full support to the Goldstone Report. That report condemned both Palestinian indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by Israel. In May 2009 the sculptor and Vice-Chairman of Artists for Peace, Daniel-Jean Primeau, attempted to see the extent of damage with his own eyes and to provide assistance to school children in Gaza. He was denied this opportunity by the IDF. In addition to his testimony, other visitors to Israel and Palestine have informed us of the prevailing climate of repression: for example, the writer Margaret Atwood (see her article “The Shadow” published recently in Ha’aretz) and filmmaker Martin Duckworth, Artist for Peace of the Year 2002, who just returned from Israel on June 3.

3 – Documents signed by Shimon Peres in 1975 have recently been unearthed that show that Israel offered nuclear bombs to the apartheid regime in South Africa, which was ready to use them against their neighbours. The London Sunday Times revealed on May 30 that three Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear armed missiles, and identified by the names Dolphin, Tekuma and Leviathan, were patrolling off the coast of Iran. Each of the colonels at the head of their team of thirty men could launch these missiles. We have just seen that the Israeli navy shows a disregard for the lives of humanitarians motivated by a legitimate compassionate mission, not by hostility to Israel. Has your government considered the risk of an unprecedented historical catastrophe, when a short-fused Israeli navy armed with nuclear bombs is confronting a country governed by Ahmadinejab, someone who has already proclaimed his desire to eradicate Israel?

International solution in view

We fully support the unanimous call by 189 nations that signed the final resolution adopted on May 28 at the conclusion of the review conference of the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York. Canada welcomed this success, but without saying a word about a key resolution element pertaining to convening a conference in 2012 towards a Middle East free of nuclear weapons (see press release of Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs). It is essential that Canada plays a positive role in promoting this particular conference. We must find a way to ensure Israel’s security without leaving nuclear weapons in the hands of a military that could lead humanity into disaster.

We therefore urge your government to
1 – Request that the UN convene an impartial investigation into the recent tragic events that killed members of the humanitarian flotilla
2 – Demand that Israel lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip
3 – Work with the UN for a successful 2012 conference, in order to secure a Middle East free of nuclear weapons

Signatories:

Pierre Jasmin, pianist and president of Artists for Peace
Margaret Atwood, writer and Vice-Chair of PEN International
Daniel-Jean Primeau, sculptor and Vice-Chair of Artists for Peace
Robin Collins, writer
Martin Duckworth, Artist for Peace 2002
Andrée Ferretti, writer
Graeme Gibson, writer
Georges Leroux, philosopher and Vice-Chair of l’Académie des Lettres du Québec
Pascale Montpetit, actress
Alice Munro, writer
Louise Warren, poet
Claudio Zanchettin, philosopher

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