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‘Two Israels’: What’s really behind the judicial reform protests

(JTA) — When Benjamin Netanyahu put his controversial calls for judicial reform on pause two weeks ago, many thought the protesters in Israel and abroad might declare victory and take a break. And yet a week ago Saturday some 200,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv, and pro-democracy protests continued among Diaspora Jews and Israeli expats, including those who gather each Sunday in New York’s Washington Square Park. 

On its face, the weeks of protest have been about proposed legislation that critics said would sap power from the Israeli Supreme Court and give legislators — in this case, led by Netanyahu’s recently elected far-right coalition — unchecked and unprecedented power. Protesters said that, in the absence of an Israeli constitution establishing basic rights and norms, they were fighting for democracy. The government too says the changes are about democracy, claiming under the current system unelected judges too often overrule elected lawmakers and the will of Israel’s diverse electorate.

But the political dynamics in Israel are complex, and the proposals and the backlash are also about deeper cracks in Israeli society. Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, recently said in a podcast that the crisis in Israel represents “six linked but separate stories unfolding at the same time.” Beyond the judicial reform itself, these stories include the Palestinians and the occupation, a resurgent patriotism among the center and the left, chaos within Netanyahu’s camp, a Diaspora emboldened to weigh in on the future of Zionism and the rejection on the part of the public of a reform that failed the “reasonableness test.”

“If these protests are effective in the long run, it will be, I think, because they will have succeeded at reorganizing and mobilizing the Israeli electorate to think and behave differently than before,” said Kurtzer. 

I recently asked observers, here and in Israel, what they feel is really mobilizing the electorate, and what kind of Israel will emerge as a result of the showdown. The respondents included organizers of the protests, supporters of their aims and those skeptical of the protesters’ motivations. They discussed a slew of issues just below the surface of the protest, including the simmering Israeli-Palestinian conflict, divisions over the increasing strength of Israel’s haredi Orthodox sector, and a lingering divide between Ashkenazi Jews with roots in Europe and Mizrahi Jews whose ancestry is Middle Eastern and North African.  

Conservatives, meanwhile, insist that Israeli “elites” — the highly educated, the tech sector, the military leadership, for starters — don’t respect the will of the majority who brought Netanyahu and his coalition partners to power.

Here are the emerging themes of weeks of protest:

Defending democracy

Whatever their long-term concerns about Israel’s future, the protests are being held under the banner of “democracy.” 

For Alon-Lee Green, one of the organizers of the protests, the issues are equality and fairness. “People in Israel,” said Green, national co-director of Standing Together, a grassroots movement in Israel, “hundreds of thousands of them, are going out to the streets for months now not only because of the judicial reform, but also — and mainly — because of the fundamental question of what is the society we want to live in: Will we keep living in a society that is unequal, unfair and that is moving away from our basic needs and desires, or will it be an equal society for everyone who lives in our land?”

Shany Granot-Lubaton, who has been organizing pro-democracy rallies among Israelis living in New York City, says Netanyahu, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and the coalition’s haredi Orthodox parties “are waging a war against democracy and the freedoms of citizens.”

“They seek to exert control over the Knesset and the judicial system, appoint judges in their favor and legalize corruption,” she said. “If this legal coup is allowed to proceed, minorities will be in serious danger, and democracy itself will be threatened.”

Two researchers at the Institute for Liberty and Responsibility at Herzliya’s Reichman University, psychology student Benjamin Amram and research associate Keren L.G. Snider, said Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reform “undermines the integrity of Israel’s democracy by consolidating power.” 

“How can citizens trust a government that ultimately has no limitations set upon them?” they asked in a joint email. “At a time when political trust and political representation are at the lowest points, this legislation can only create instability and call into question the intentions of the current ruling party. When one coalition holds all the power, laws and policies can be swiftly overturned, causing instability and volatility.” 

A struggle between two Israels

Other commentators said the protests revealed fractures within Israeli society that long predated the conflict over judicial reform. “The split is between those that believe Israel should be a more religious country, with less democracy, and see democracy as only a system of elections and not a set of values, and those who want Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic state,” Tzipi Livni, who served in the cabinets of right-wing prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert before tacking to the center in recent years, recently told Haaretz

Author and translator David Hazony called this “a struggle between two Israels” — one that sees Israel’s founding vision as a European-style, rights-based democracy, and the other that sees that vision as the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland. 

“Those on the first side believe that the judiciary has always been Israel’s protector of rights and therefore of democracy, against the rapaciousness and lawlessness of politicians in general and especially those on the right. Therefore an assault on its supremacy is an assault on democracy itself. They accuse the other side of being barbaric, antidemocratic and violent,” said Hazony, editor of the forthcoming anthology “Jewish Priorities.”

As for the other side, he said, they see an activist judiciary as an attempt by Ashkenazi elites to force their minority view on the majority. Supporters of the government think it is entirely unreasonable “for judges to think they can choose their successors, strike down constitutional legislation  and rule according to ‘that which is reasonable in the eyes of the enlightened community in Israel,’” said Hazony, quoting Aharon Barak, the former president of the Supreme Court of Israel and bane of Israel’s right.

(Naveh Dromi, a right-wing columnist for Yediot Achronot, puts this more bluntly: “The problem,” she writes, “lies in the fact that the left has no faith in its chance to win an election, so it relies on the high court to represent it.”)

Daniel Tauber, an attorney and Likud Central Committee member, agrees that those who voted for Netanyahu and his coalition have their own concerns about a democracy — one dominated by “elites,” which in the Israeli context means old-guard Ashkenazi Jews, powerful labor unions and highly educated secular Jews. “The more this process is subject to veto by non-democratic institutions, whether it be the Court chosen as it is, elite military units, the Histadrut [labor union], or others, the more people will lose faith in democracy,” said Tauber.  

Green also said there is “a war waging now between two elites in Israel” — the “old and more established liberal elite, who consist of the financial, high-tech army and industry people,” and the “new emerging elite of the settlers and the political far-right parties.”

Israelis protest against the government’s planned judicial overhaul, outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

And yet, he said, “I think we will lose if one of these elites wins. The real victory of this historic political moment in Israel will be if we achieve true equality, both to the people who are not represented by the Jewish supremacists, such as the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to the people who are not represented by the ‘old Israel,’ such as the haredi and Mizrahi people on the peripheries.”  

The crises behind the crisis

Although the protests were ignited by Netanyahu’s calls for judicial reform, they also represented pushback against the most right-wing government in Israeli history — which means at some level the protests were also about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of religion in Israeli society. “The unspoken motivation driving the architects and supporters of the [judicial] ‘reform,’ as well as the protest leaders, is umbilically connected to the occupation,” writes Carolina Landsmann, a Haaretz columnist. If Netanyahu has his way, she writes, “​​There will be no more two-state solution, and there will be no territorial compromises. The new diplomatic horizon will be a single state, with the Palestinians as subjects deprived of citizenship.”

Nimrod Novik, the Israel Fellow at the Israel Policy Forum, said that “once awakened, the simmering resentment of those liberal Israelis about other issues was brought to the surface.” The Palestinian issue, for example, is at an “explosive moment,” said Novik: The Palestinian Authority is weakened and ineffective, Palestinian youth lack hope for a better future, and Israeli settlers feel emboldened by supporters in the ruling coalition. “The Israeli security establishment took this all into account when warning the government to change course before it is too late,” said Novik. 

Kurtzer too noted that the Palestinians “also stand to be extremely victimized following the passage of judicial reform, both in Israel and in the West Bank.” And yet, he said, most Israelis aren’t ready to upend the current status quo between Israelis and Palestinians. “It can also be true that the Israeli public can only build the kind of coalition that it’s building right now because it is patently not a referendum on the issue of Palestinian rights,” he said. 

Religion and state

Novik spoke about another barely subterranean theme of the protests: the growing power of the haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, parties. Secular Israelis especially resent that the haredim disproportionately seek exemption from military service and that non-haredi Israelis contribute some 90% of all taxes collected. One fear of those opposing the judicial reform legislation is that the religious parties will “forever secure state funding to the haredi Orthodox school system while exempting it from teaching the subjects required for ever joining the workforce. It is to secure for them an exemption from any military or other national service. And it is to expand the imposition of their lifestyle on non-Orthodox Israelis.”  

What’s next

Predictions for the future range from warnings of a civil war (by Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, among others) to an eventual compromise on Netanyahu’s part to the emergence of a new center electorate that will reject extremists on both ends of the political spectrum. 

David E. Bernstein, a law professor at the George Mason University School of Law who writes frequently about Israel, imagines a future without extremists. “One can definitely easily imagine the business, academic and legal elite using their newfound political voice to insist that future governments not align with extremists, that haredi authority over national life be limited, and, perhaps most important, that Israel create a formal constitution that protects certain basic rights,” he said. “Perhaps there will also be demand to counter such long-festering problems as corruption, disproportionate influence over export markets by a few influential families, burgeoning lawlessness in the Arab sector and a massive shortage of affordable housing.”

Elie Bennett, director of International Strategy at the Israel Democracy Institute, also sees an opportunity in the crisis. 

In the aftermath of the disastrous 1973 Yom Kippur war, he said, Israel “rebuilt its military and eventually laid the foundations for today’s ‘startup nation.’ In this current crisis, we do not need a call-up of our reserves forces, or a massive airlift of American weaponry to prevail. What we need is goodwill among fellow Israelis and a commitment to work together to strengthen our society and reach an agreed-upon constitutional framework. If we are able to achieve such an agreement, it will protect our rights, better define the relationships between the branches of government, and result in an Israel that is more stable and prosperous than ever as we celebrate 75 years of independence.”

The post ‘Two Israels’: What’s really behind the judicial reform protests appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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