Benjamin Netanyahu's appearance in North York Tuesday, September 10, was a fiasco from beginning to end.Make no mistake -- the sold-out gig was meant to open wallets, not minds.
The former and maybe soon-to-be- again Likud prime minister was actually introduced by a slick large-screen video ad for State of Israel Bonds.
The Israeli economy's in dire straits. Businesses are failing. Hotels sit empty. So Bibi does the rounds and appeals to the diaspora by playing to their worst fears instead of giving them hope.
Yup, these days even Israel's staunchest free-marketeer goes cap in hand.
Outside the Toronto Performing Arts Centre, a few hundred pro-Netanyahu Jews and pro-Palestinian Arabs wave flags and taunt from behind barricades. There's some kind of Middle Eastern Sharks-vs.-Jets thing going on as the two sides scream at each other.
The riot police and mounted unit are on full parade, the event already ramped up due to the previous day's violence in Montreal, where protestors at Concordia University prevented Netanyahu from speaking.
Netanyahu's opener and Canadian touring buddy, Izzy Asper, owner of Canwest Global Media, warms up the crowd by intentionally blurring the line between legitimate criticism of the Israeli government and anti-Semitism.
"Yesterday in Montreal you saw the face of hatred," Asper declares.
The last thing Netanyahu's here to discuss is the bumpy road to peace. Instead, he talks up "the battle against terrorism" to counter what he calls the Arab obfuscation of the real historical facts on the ground. And, of course, he presses the urgent need for a "regime change" in totalitarian "Arafatistan."
For an hour, Netanyahu leads the rapt audience through a history lesson on "our land." Far from dislocating Arabs, Jews, by the sweat of their brow, created an oasis of civilization out of desert and swamp that the Arabs came to inhabit, he lectures.
"We have accepted that we have done (the Arabs) a grievous wrong, and it's the opposite," he concludes.
Earlier, I notice a sign in the Palestinian protest camp that reads, "Bibi's bigoted bile is poisoning the Jewish soul."
I don't know about that. But an awful lot of people around here are ready to take each other to school, while nobody's ready to listen.
I walk out while Netanyahu takes his standing ovation. Outside, it's quiet, protestors gone, barricades dismantled. The silence is so peaceful.