The American Flag

Beware what you wish for.

“After a long night that turned into a long day, many are breathing a sigh of relief that Donald Trump the man is going down to defeat.  But Trump the movement has consolidated a realignment in American politics that has deeper origins than his shocking triumph in 2016 and which will outlive his narrow defeat in 2020.  While Joe Biden edges to victory, it is almost as shocking that Trump took 48 per cent of votes cast in the middle of a pandemic that he made worse with a cocktail of malice and incompetence.” Jeremy Adelman

Sixty years ago, the revised national flag of the United States was born with its fifty stars and thirteen alternating seven red and six white stripes; Alaska had become a state in 1959 and Hawaii followed in 1960. Old Glory, initially put together by seamstress Betsy Ross, had reached the age of maturity. President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an Executive Order in 1959 to arrange 49 stars in seven rows with seven stars in each row staggered horizontally and vertically. In 1960, a fiftieth star was added utilizing the same offset grid pattern of fifty white stars on a blue rectangular background. The appearance of this flag as a consecrated image of America had become fixed.

Just over fifty years ago, in 1968, the American Congress passed the Federal Flag Desecration Law. It had become a federal crime to “knowingly cast contempt upon any flag of the United States by publicly mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning, or trampling upon it.” One year later, Apollo II Astronauts planted the American flag on the moon. However, back in America, the Chicago 8 and then 7 were on trial, in good part for mocking the American flag. American youth traveled through Europe with Canadian flags sewn on the back of their denim jackets. Pride in the flag and shame competed to reveal the very deep divide in America that fifty years later became a chasm.

A symbol of lost pride or an expression of protest, that was the question. And Americans had no difficulty in choosing sides. On the north side of the street, Americans saw the flag as a symbol of human rights, freedom and equality all in decline. America had quickly evolved in twenty years from the country that freed Europe to the militarized state that dropped napalm on villages of women and children in Indochina. White supremacists flew the Confederate flag to oppose the efforts at integration. Protesters burned the American flag to express their resistance to the hated military draft.

In the same year that the Cold War ended, in the same year that the Berlin Wall was dismantled brick by brick,  the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Texas v. Johnson struck down all state and federal flag protection laws as violating the First Amendment right to free speech. Gregory Lee Johnson had burned an American flag outside of the convention center where the 1984 Republican National Convention was being held in Dallas, Texas to protest President Ronald Reagan’s policies. He was arrested and charged under a Texas statute forbidding the desecration of the American flag as an object of veneration. 

The anti-flaggers had won. The protesters against America’s betrayal of human rights, of its heritage off racism, appeared to have won. The American flag was no longer flying as a sign of pride but of shame. Thus, just when the Berlin Wall was being demolished, a new wall of division began being constructed, but this time within America, this time between those who revered and idolized the flag and those who saw it as a symbol of an imperfect union, of a union that had failed to realize its highest ideals.

The schisms sewn in the 1960s and concretized in the 1990s reached their zenith when almost 67 million Americans supported the re-election of Donald Trump as president. In 2016, he had won 46.1% of the popular vote against Hilary Clinton’s 48.2%, but he had won the Electoral College 314 to 227. In 2020, Donald Trump won more votes that Hillary Clinton (66 million) in 2016, 4 million more votes than he had won in 2016. Biden obtained almost 70 million votes.

232,000 Americans had died from the COVID-19 virus in 2020. But more Americans than ever stood in long lines to vote early or mailed their ballots in trepidation that they would not be counted. The ballot remained as the uniting symbol of American democracy as the flag had become the symbol of Trumpism versus Americanism.

A month after a muscle car driver drove into a crown of peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators on Fifth Avenue in New York, a month after a parade of drivers in souped-up pickup trucks displaying Trump and American flags drove through the streets of Manhattan in cars with their license plates illegally masked but with snarling faces that were unmasked, on a Sunday as these Trumpists sought to intimidate voters for Biden in a Democratic stronghold, the division of a divided America was on full display. A driver in an SUV drove into a group of pro-Biden supporters on bicycles. The car festooned with American flags had become an assault weapon.

But the election itself was a quiet affair. Americans on both sides were well behaved. The feared domestic terrorists had not appeared on the streets of America. Was this the first sign of success of Joe Biden’s attempt to heal America with a golden smile? Or had the domestic terrorists simply retreated into the woodwork to plan guerilla attacks in the name of Old Glory. After all, caravans of flag-waving cars and muscle trucks had attempted to intimidate Biden-Harris Campaign vehicles on a Texas Highway in what appeared to be an organized attempt to drive the Democratic campaign bus off the road. They did hit and damage one of the Democratic volunteer’s cars on the I-35 on route to San Antonio.

According to Donald Trump, they were just driving to protect the Democratic vehicles. The drivers and passengers of the intimidating vehicles had yelled profanities and screamed obscenities at the passengers in the bus, but presumably that was all for their protection. Trump tweeted urging the FBI to investigate “anarchists and agitators of ANTIFA” instead of focusing on the “patriots” who had escorted the bus and had done nothing wrong. “Trump and the American flag. Trump and the American flag. That’s all you saw,” said Trump to a rally of his supporters.

The American flag had been weaponized.

In his Convention acceptance speech, Joe Biden said, “I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness. United we can, and will, overcome this season of darkness in America.” Flag-waving idolatrous Americans were relegated to the darkness and liberals were lauded for living in the light. But his was a sermon on unity, not division. In the name of the eternal lightness of being with a winning pearly smile, Biden had adumbrated the coming war between the children of lightness and the children of darkness. Dreamers on bicycles would be arraigned against dragoons in souped-up pickup trucks.

But this was not the vision of Tom Friedman, the esteemed columnist of The New York Times. He had opined that the best outcome of the election would be a Biden victory but with the Republicans retaining control of the Senate (and, presumably, also of the courts across the land). Then once again, Americans could relearn how to speak to one another across the aisle. According to Friedman, Mitch McConnell would metamorphose into a Buberian advocate of dialogue.

That is not a wish. That is not a hope. That is a symptom of mindblindness. The new civil war in America has been a long time in coming. Americans of all stripes bear no tolerance for Iraq Wars, or for Paris Accords for that matter. Americans are now united in turning their backs on the interconnected and interdependent world they had been so instrumental in creating. Americans, whatever the Democratic rhetoric, would have no time for the troubles of the world. They would be too busy fighting a new type of civil war. Americans will be united, but only on turning their backs on the world as one domestic front after another is opened on the as-yet-to-be declared war of the Dreamers versus thee Dragoons.

Beware what you wish for.

The following is a paragraph extracted from an Op-ed that my oldest son is publishing in a French newspaper today. “On election day, I was standing on the sidewalk in my town in central New Jersey and watched as a pick-up truck with a large trailer drove down the main street bedecked with massive TRUMP and American flags.  In the preceding months, this kind of display was becoming more common, a kind of ‘take that’ for genteel onlookers. Weaponized versions were on display among vigilantes during the summer’s street protests. As the truck went by, a woman standing beside me turned to speak through the gauze of her mask: ‘I feel like it is no longer my flag.’  She had lost her credo.”

The American Election

It has been a long and tense night. I expected to write a blog to prove that my past protests that I was not a prophet and rarely if ever can predict what would happen had finally been shattered. For I predicted and expected a Democratic sweep in spite of all the nervous nellies that surrounded me. But once again I proved to be a disaster as a forecaster. What happened? Why was I so wrong?

Had my hopes squashed my fears and pushed the latter into the shadows of my life? That is not the reason. For I had analyzed the data. I had delved into votes by county. I still expected Biden not only to win Florida but to win decisively. And this was true even though I knew the Democrats would not do as well in Miami-Dade County in the south-east of the state. It was clear that Cuban Americans and the more recent arrivals from Venezuela would swing heavily in favour of Trump, but not enough to push him into a majority I believed. The Democratic majority would just be reduced.

However, in Broward and Palm Beach north of Miami-Dade I, like most pundits, expected retirees from the north to increase their percentage of the vote for the Democrats given Trump’s terrible performance in managing the COVID crisis. Further, in mid-Florida I expected the new suburbanites and the Mexican Latinos to go even heavier for Biden.  As I watched the initial results come in, I was reassured that I was correct. But within two hours of the polls closing in most of Florida, I was overtaken by depression. Though it took a few more hours until 12:40 for CNN to project the Florida electoral votes as a win for Trump, the direction became clear by 9:30 p.m. Donald Trump would win. And the votes from the Florida panhandle where the polls closed an hour later had just started to come in.

Wrong on Florida. But my hopes were soon dashed over my expectations that the Democrats would flip North Carolina. Biden had been running an average of three points ahead of Hillary in 2016. In the initial results, Biden was beating Trump 55/45. However, Trump took the lead by 10:00 p.m. But the early vote, the majority of which were Democratic, had still to be contacted. By 11:00 p.m., it was undeniable to me; Trump would win North Carolina. The hope that this state would fall into the Democratic column was a chimera.

At 2:00 a.m. Trump declared that he won North Carolina by 1.4% and 77,000 votes with only 5% of the vote left to count. It was clear that it would be very difficult for Biden to catch up and overtake Trump. But not impossible. I presume that is why the TV stations had not yet projected North Carolina as a victory for Trump. It was too close to call. Nevertheless, it was not so close that one could set aside one’s pessimism.

This was the case with Ohio. Ohio was a bell weather state. It almost always fell into the camp of the winner. Biden was in the lead in the first few hours which I had not expected. Further, only 29% of the early vote had been counted. But then Trump took the lead and gradually increased it. Ohio was going to end up in the Republican column. When Trump appeared in the White House to declare his victory at 2:00 a.m., he was indeed well in the lead there. He said he was 700,000 votes ahead, but 2020 Election Centre declared his victory at 2:55 a.m. with a vote of 3,065,441 (53.4%) compared to Biden’s 2,596,393 (45.2%). He won Ohio, but Trump could not avoid exaggerating. Why 700,000? Wasn’t a 469,000 vote win good enough?

For a short while, I even had hopes for Texas. The votes in the urban areas of Harris County and in San Antonio were going solidly for Biden. But in the rural areas, the turnout in the vote was tremendous and the proportions by which Trump led was enormous. Texas was lost even though the prognosticators refused to call the outcome for a few more hours. At 1:20 a.m. they called Texas for Trump.

Then there was Georgia. At first it seemed that Biden could pick the state up. Then it swung into the Trump camp. However, when the vote came in from Charlotte and especially from Atlanta and its suburbs, Georgia swung back. But this only meant that my hopes would be dashed over one state twice that evening. On the other hand, Virginia swung back into the Democratic column as the ballot counts for Richmond and Fairfax Counties flowed in. Further, my spirit was lifted by the results in Arizona. The expanding urban and suburban population around Phoenix soon stole that state from Trump. However, when Trump declared victory in Georgia, he was leading 2,366,242 (50.7%) to 2,248,032 (48.1%) for Biden. I was sure that he had won, but those who have to call elections obviously believed the state vote was too close to call.

Nevada also turned out to be a tighter race than expected. When two-thirds of the vote had been counted, Joe Biden led by just over 3,000 votes, 50% (553,7785) to 47.9% (530,571). Close but favouring Biden. It was another story in the old Blue Wall states. Just as the pundits predicted, and contrary to my own prophecy that we would not have to wait for the results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan to be counted to declare a Democratic victory, the vote counting continued all night without declaring a victory. At 12:45 Joe Biden came on television to both thank his election workers and to cheer them on with the assurance that he was on the way to a victory. But the following figures seemed to tell a different story.

 Trump – %Biden – %

Yet President Trump tweeted that, “They are trying to steal the election.” However, we were told by the experts to be patient. The mail-in and early ballots were being counted last.  And the big turnout of Republican voters had been on election day. The Democrats could easily come from behind.

When Trump appeared on television at 2:00 a.m., he declared that he had won in all three states by significant and unassailable margins. The vote totals then were:

 Trump Biden 

Biden was narrowing the lead both in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But the gap seemed too great to catch up. Except when one heard that several million write in and absentee ballots – which evidently favoured the Democrats – had not been counted. Thus, though I was sure that Trump was correct that he had won all three states – and he only needed to win 2 of 3 to win a majority in the Electoral College – I was sure Trump had won. It was also true that Biden still had a realistic even if highly improbable chance to win.

But it was not as improbable as I thought. By 4:45 a.m., Biden was suddenly in the lead in Wisconsin. 90% of the absentee and mail-in ballot in heavily Democratic Milwaukee county had come in. Biden now led by 8,000 votes – 49.3%. Joe Biden had 49.4% (1,583,112) versus 49.1% (1,575,326). But three red counties still had to report their absentee and mail-in ballots. Except Trump had not won them by huuge margins in 2016. Further, these ballots were expected to favour Biden. Wisconsin had become a cliff hanger.

It was certainly not the case that Donald Trump had definitively won. As Vice-President Pence said at the White House at 2:00 a.m., he was sure at that time that they were on the road to victory. However, Trump declared that he had won. Any other conclusion would constitute “a fraud on the American public.” “A very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people, and we won’t stand for it. We will not stand for it.” The issue had nothing to do with fraud. It was simply a matter of counting all the ballots before a victor was declared. Trump declared, “We want all the voting to stop.” But the voting had stopped. Only the counting continued. Nevertheless, Trump declared, “we already have won.”

“This is a fraud! We will take it to the Supreme Court,” presumably the same Supreme Court which he stacked with judges who shared his extreme right-wing views of a justice system. Of course, nothing had changed. This was the same way that all presidential elections had been conducted. Trump was simply lying. There was no fraud. There was no cheating. Nor any realistic prospect of cheating. Trump was scare-mongering. Why when the chances were that he would emerge victorious when all the ballots were cast was he sewing fear and doubt? Did he know something that I did not know? Or did he not believe this? Or did he not want to take a chance? Or was he preparing an excuse in case he did lose?

What happened? After all, Biden had run a brilliant campaign. No serious fumbles. He had reached out to the progressives in his party without altering his stance of such issues as medicare and they enthusiastically backed him. He seemed not only to have worked assiduously to cultivate minorities. He ran a campaign with substantive policies and his dedication and work ethic seemed formidable. It also seemed clear that although the Democrats reputedly did not have as good a ground game as the Republicans, they were determined to get out the vote. The Republicans had started their ground game after the last election and had spent $300 million perfecting it.

The Republicans were even more determined. And they did so by mass lining based around Donald Trump’s large rallies with crowds who largely did not wear masks and crowded shoulder-to-shoulder to hear their hero. But why do the masses of Americans, whether a small majority or even a large minority vote for and support a president addicted to lying? Why would they support a president whom they had witnessed over the past year how incompetently he had managed the COVID crisis? Why would they support a person directly and indirectly responsible for many if not most of the 225,000 Americans who ha died from the virus this past year?

Trump called a truly fair election a fraud while being the chief fraudster in the country. Trump may call for a campaign of law and order, but he has shown he has no respect for the rule of law. While he called for cleaning up the swamp in Washington, he had more associates charged and convicted than any president in my memory. He was not a detached leader but a skilled practitioner of cronyism. And the con. “We are rounding he corner. We are rounding the corner. The China virus will soon disappear.”

He lied to the American people and did not tell them that the virus was a very lethal airborne disease. Yet half the Americans voted for him even though he totally mishandled the pandemic, and, more importantly, even though Americans believed the pandemic was a top issue in the election campaign.  Why would American evangelicals and ultra-orthodox Jews support a president who boasted of being a pussy-grabber and whom a multitude of women had launched suits against him for rape and assault? Fourteen of his top associates had been indicted or jailed.  

Why indeed? It seems incomprehensible. Is that why I felt so sure that the would be defeated in this election? After all, why would they vote for a man who could not tolerate expertise and knowledge but favoured toadies and sycophants like his Attorney General, William Barr? Trump pardons the venal and pumps up his followers to call for jailing innocent political leaders. Trump blackmailed the leader of Ukraine to launch an investigation into the son of his opponent. Why would Americans support a racist who would assert that there were some good people among the storm troopers who marched and chanted, “Jews will not replace us.” Why would they vote for a billionaire who rarely paid any income taxes and when he did, it was just $750 per year?

I had expected a landslide victory by Biden. I had hoped for a landslide victory by Biden. Had my hopes blinded me to the real character of half the population of America? Was America sick or have I been blind?

At 6:45 a.m. I was ready for bed. I believe Nevada was close but in the Biden column. Wisconsin was close but in the Biden column. Pennsylvania was not close, but given the areas only partially reported – Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – Biden had a slim chance. In contrast, Biden had a good chance in Michigan when all the votes from Wayne County came in.

I went to bed crying and depressed even though Biden still had a chance. For whatever the results of the presidential race, the Democrats had only picked up one senate seat. It would be a Republican controlled Senate and more obstructionism even if Biden was elected as president.

What did this tell me about America?

Political Assassinations: Gedaliah and Rabin

This past Shabat Torah study, just before the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination on 4 November, Rabbi Splansky took up the case of Gedaliah ben Ahikam. The fast of Gedaliah is held one day after Rosh Hashanah on the 3rd of Tishrei. Gedaliah had been appointed to head the government of the remnant satrap of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon after the Babylonian conquest and the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C. The Temple was not the only thing destroyed. The royal family, the nobility, the high priests, the top civil servants and the military leaders of Judah were all trucked off to Babylon where most were executed.

Four years after Gedaliah became Governor, ignoring forewarnings, he was assassinated by Ishmael ben Netaniah and his ten henchmen on Rosh Hashanah 582 B.C. Evidently Netaniah had the support of the Ammonites for his coup. Netaniah had another motive; he came from the Davidic line via the House of Zedekiah and, therefore, claimed royal descent and entitlement. In comparison, Gedaliah’s father, Ahikam, was renowned for having saved the life of the prophet of peace, Jeremiah, who opted to stay in Judah under Gedaliah’s protection in the new religious and political capital, Mitzpah. (Ahikam’s father, Shaphan, purportedly discovered the Book of Deuteronomy.) It is not clear whether the family was part of the nobility coopted by Nebuchadnezar to rule the remnant of Judah.

While refugees that had left, but had not been taken into captivity (the farmers and artisans), had returned to Judah after the overthrow of the Gedaliah government, the murder of his entourage as well as the members of the Babylonian garrison stationed in Mitzpah, instigated all of its inhabitants to flee and seek sanctuary in Egypt, contrary to the advice of Jeremiah.

Was Gedaliah a collaborator who deserved to be overthrown and even assassinated? Was Netaniah a freedom fighter challenging a false king and Petain-like character? Or, alternatively, was Gedaliah a pragmatic peacemaker who believed that a quarter loaf was better than no loaf at all?

Contemporary Israelis and diaspora Jews often compare Rabin to Gedaliah. Both had been pragmatic and responsible rulers. Both are examples of a Jewish ruler being assassinated by a Jew.

Gedaliah’s reputation is largely based on Jeremiah who had a double bias – the prophet was ideologically a peacemaker. Further, as noted above, his life had been saved by Gedaliah’s father; Gedaliah received a religious imprimatur for his political position. Based on Jeremiah 40:5, 40:8, 41:9 and 52:16, and the Second Book of Kings, 25:22-26[i], note the comparison between Gedaliah and Rabin.

 Gedaliah ben AhikamYitzhak Rabin
Date killed582 BCE4 November 1995 CE
CharacterModest, humble, wiseModest, gentle, pragmatic but tough when believed necessary
AssassinIshmael son of Netaniah + ten henchmenYigal Amir
Motive of assassinPossibly opposed getting only a remnant of the land, but also wanted to inherit the throneOpposed giving up any of the land
Early WarningYes, but dismissedYes, but of extremism, not assassination
Social Status of Person assassinatedNobility (?)A Sabra “prince” from the founding fathers’ generation
PeacemakersImposed by conquerorRisked negotiations with defeated enemy
RefugeesReturn of refugeesPeace without return of Palestinian refugees
ProtectionChaldean guardsShin Bet
Consequence for the landLeft depopulated and desolateExpansionist into West Bank
Evaluation of OutcomeImmediate failureSuccess

Assassination of Jews by Jews is not an extreme rarity. King Joash of Judah was assassinated by his own servants. (2 Kings 12:19-21) Absalom, King David’s son, was assassinated by Joab. (2 Samuel 3:26-28) Assassinations of Jews by Jews in the modern era for political motives are also not uncommon.

1920JuneLower GalileeOscar OplerHaganahKibbutznikBritish informant re arms caches
1924JuneJerusalemJacob Israël de Haan[ii]HaganahDutch Jewish writer, lawyer and activist for Jewish prisoners in Czarist Russia (AI precursor);  later religious Haredi representativeGay relations with Arabs, anti-Zionist journalism, pro-Haredi efforts
1933JuneTel AvivHaim ArosoroffZionist RevisionistsZionist Mapai leaderSpearheaded negotiations with Nazis
1940OctoberHaifaBaruch WeinschellHaganahJewish migration to PalestineBritish informant
1948SeptemberJerusalemCount Folke BernadotteLehi (Shamir)Palestine UN Mediatoraccused of being British spy
1957MarchTel AvivRezső (Rudolf) KasztnerLehiHungarian Zionist leadernegotiated with Nazis – trucks for Jews
1981JanuaryJerusalemHamad Abu EabiaSons of Abu RabiaFirst Bedouin Knesset memberCancelled Abu Rabia, their father’s rotation agreement
1985OctoberSanta Ana, CAAlex OdehJDLAmerican-Arab lawyer ADCOpposed US aid to Israel
2000DecemberOfra SettlementBinyamin KahanePLOLeader of Kahane ChaiExtremist anti-Arab Zionist
2001October Rehavam ZeeviPFLPIsraeli general and politicianpopulation transfer advocate

Not all the cases above were of Jews assassinated. Hamad Abu Eabia was a Bedouin killed by an Arab rival. Bernadotte was a Swedish diplomat and member of the royal family killed on the false belief that he was secretly an agent of the British. – Alex Odeh was an Arab American assassinated by a Jewish extremist group when entering a Reform synagogue. The last three were all assassinated by different terrorist groups. I have included these other cases simply to provide a tiny taste of perspective.

There other political assassinations far more infamous than the above. President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, as well as Martin Luther king and Malcolm X, were all assassinated for political motives in the United States. Even in Canadian history, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the fathers of confederation, was assassinated by an Irish patriot who felt that McGee had sold out to the British. The most famous modern assassination was not of an American but of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand, an assassination that triggered World War I.  

When is assassination of a political leader, especially a Jewish political leader by a Jew, justified if ever? If there is a justification, what intentions are considered just? Certainly not ambition, jealousy, reward by an enemy, vengeance or greed for power. But what about other political or military motives, such as the claim that the person had “sold out” to a foreigner, had betrayed the people, was abusing his power or was totally incompetent as a ruler resulting in the death of tens of thousands of citizens?

The Israeli government itself carried out a significant number of preemptive targeted killings or extrajudicial killings or the “liquidation” of Palestinians who were considered terrorists, therefore combatants under international law. The claim was that these cases did not fall under the prohibition against assassination. The justification was the European Court of Human Rights in the case of McCann and others v. the United Kingdom. To justify the killings, the principle of proportionality was cited, provided collateral damage was minimized and the principle of “last resort’ was applicable. This was the justification for the killing of Osama bin Laden by the Americans as well as the assassinations under the operation Wrath of God to avenge the Munich Olympics murders of Israelis. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, estimated that during and in the immediate aftermath of the Second Intifada, 387 Palestinians, including 153 who were collateral damage, were Israeli targeted killings.[iii]

However, our issue is not extrajudicial killings that are claimed to be exempt from laws against political assassinations, nor even political assassinations in general, but political assassinations of prominent Jews by other Jews. If we examine the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin more closely, this chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces during the Six-Day War, Prime Minister and Defence Minister as well as winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, he carried a copy of the very popular Israeli song, Shit Lashalom (“Song for Peace”) that put forth the proposition that the dead cannot come back to life and that is why peace was needed – so no more lives would be lost in an endless series of Israeli wars. Yigal Amir, an extremist ultranationalist, shot Rabin for signing the Oslo Accords that entailed an Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank because it was promised by God to the Jews.

Politicians had stirred the pot. Benjamin Netanyahu accused Rabin of betraying Jewish tradition. Likud rallies featured effigies of Rabin in an S.S. uniform and, in one poster, in the crosshairs of a gun. Likudniks at rallies compared Rabin to Hitler. In July 1995, Netanyahu led a mock funeral with a coffin and hangman’s noose as his supporters shouted, “Death to Rabin.”

There were religious justifications as well. Some rabbis proclaimed din rodef, the traditional justification for killing based on self-defense since the Oslo Agreement allegedly threatened the lives of Jews. Amir claimed that Rabin was a rodef, a pursuer who threatened Jewish lives because his actions opened the gates to others set on killing Jews. Amir believed he would be justified under din rodef in removing Rabin as a threat to Jews in the territories. Though he claimed that the rabbis issued a bin rodef against Rabin, none has been found. But it is possible that one was issued but has not been publicized lest the rabbis responsible be charged as accessories to murder.

Which brings us full circle back to Gedaliah. Had he been for some a traitor to the Jewish people in cooperating with the enemy? Was he like Haim Arosoroff or Rezső Kasztner, Jews who negotiated with the Nazis? But on appeal, Kasztner was cleared of all charges of knowingly sending Hungarian Jews to their deaths in exchange for saving his personal relatives and friends on the Kasztner train. The problem is that when you justify assassinations, you end up traveling down a worm hole and easily lose your way in the darkness. Further, as assassinations of fellow Jews become questionable, so do targeted killings of enemies.

Orthodox and ultra-orthodox rabbis who believe Israel must hold onto the West Bank have a more specific problem. How can they fast honouring the assassination of Gedaliah yet be totally reluctant to honour Rabin, with some even secretly applauding his murder?

[i] See also Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews, 9.

[ii] Shlomo Nakdimon and Shaul Mayzlish (1985) De Haan: The first political assassination in Palestine.

[iii] See Ronen Bergman, Ruse Up and Kill: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.

On Being a Jew – Parashat Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

“Our Bodies are the Instruments through which our Souls Play their Music.”

Albert Einstein

By-the-by, something entirely irrelevant to this blog but critically important: Taiwan reached a milestone – 200 days without recording a single locally transmitted coronavirus infection.

There are four ways to organize the polities in the world. One option – globalism –seeks a world government that can impose its will on individual nation-states that deviate from what is accepted as a universal norm. The second option entails multilateralism, the world managed by agreements between and among nation states to establish and strengthen order across the world. These two options are taken as given; that is, without either one or the other, there can be no order in the world, only chaos. One or the other is the sine qua non of a peaceful world.

There are two other ways that challenge or, at the very least, deviate from this claim to install and perpetuate a world order. They are particularist rather than universal options. One is nationalism that gives primacy to the family and to community values, and not identity politics or any claim that those values are inherently universal or even superior. They can become universal when offered in the form of witnessing and other nations choose to follow them. A fourth unseemly option is particularist as well, but it is also unilateralist. It entails choosing one’s own nation as destined to rule, not only over one’s own citizens, but to dominate other nations.

The four options then are:                  Illustrative Tales


Globalism                                         The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)

Multilateralism                                  Abraham as a father of many nations


Nationalism                                       Sarah as the mother of the Jewish nation

Unilateral Imperialism                       The story of Ishmael      

I begin with the Tower of Babel tale and the underlying concept of globalism in a tale purportedly explaining the origin of different languages and the spread of humanity around the globe. However, more interesting is what is replaced and why. What was wrong with a monolithic and linguistically uniform global system in which everyone speaks the same language? What was wrong with “the whole earth…of one language and of one speech?” Its second major feature is that a common language was the means to storm the gates of heaven with a mighty city with “its top in the heavens.”

Why were humans so widely scattered across the earth and why do they speak so many and such different languages? Does that mean that the sin of the Babylonians was to try to rise above their allotted station in the order of the universe? Or was it because of human pride in a building erected to honour a false god – such as Marduk? Or was it really because humans expanded their imperialist goals and envisioned conquering the realm of the gods?

In the Torah, we are not told what sin was committed. But since Abraham and Sarah become migrants, it may be a statement against cultural stasis even more than uniformity. It may be a statement in favour of horizontal mobility in contrast to vertical mobility of a sedentary society where the desire is to get higher on the ladder and become an overlord of those beneath you. Instead of human concentration, the Torah lauded dispersion. I believe it is a story that celebrates pluralism and opposes uniformity. For with absolute unity, humans behave like aspiring gods with their eyes upwards to the heavens instead of stressing their responsibility for making the earth fertile and bountiful.  

Alternatively, the story may offer a rationalization for violence and war. For in building the tower, humans were engaged in a cooperative community endeavour. Just as God at the beginning of Genesis set up enmity in men between their mindhearts and their bodies, between Adam’s mind and his flesh, between his brain and his penis, now God sews the seeds of enmity among nations of men. However, no matter the costs, struggle between and among nations is superior to a unitary given order.

What follows, ten generations after the flood, is a paeon to multilateralism, to pluralism, to nationalism, for Abram becomes Abraham, “a father of many nations.” His name in Hebrew means “father of a multitude.” He is commanded or driven to leave his native land and found a new nation. He is NOT the father of all nations. From being exalted as a father (Abram means “to be exalted”), he becomes a devotee of his offspring. His children do not worship him as a god. Instead, he lives for his children. It is a total inversion of the customary order.

Was Abram, like Noah, obedient to God, willing to do whatever God ordered, including sacrificing his son? Trust in is not the same as blind obedience. Look at the relationship between Abraham and his father. Terah takes Abram and his wife, Sarai, his brother, Haran and the latter’s son, Lot, away from Ur to travel to Canaan, but became waylaid in Haran. In the next version, Abram is instructed to migrate by God, which he does with his wife, Sarai, his brother, Haran, and Haran’s son, Lot. God commands Abram to leave Ur, to leave his father’s house and away from his kindred, Whatever complementary version, Abram and Sarai become migrants rather than sedentary inhabitants of their home country travelling even on to Egypt because there was a famine in the land. They had become humanitarian refugees.

They are received well in Egypt because Sarai agrees to follow Abram’s lead and says she is his sister rather than his wife. Because she is beautiful, she is taken into Pharaoh’s harem and Abraham is allowed to prosper under the Pharaoh’s protection. But when God visits a plague on Pharaoh’s household because of Sarai, and Pharaoh learns the reason why (how we are not told), Abram and Sarai are expelled, but Abram now has a herd of cattle. And silver and gold. He has prospered because of his deceit.

So had Lot. But his herdsmen and Abram’s quarreled as if they did not have enough strife on their hands from the resident Canaanites and Perizzites. Abram and Lot each went their own way, Lot to settle the plains of Jordan and Abram to Canaan. However, a long war of attrition broke out among the resident nations in Lot’s territory. Lot was captured by the victors in Sodom and taken prisoner with all his herds.

At the same time, Abram had become a wealthy man with 318 trained guards. He set out to rescue Lot, which he did after killing Lot’s captors. Abram became richer still and was given land by the King who ruled over Sodom. While the King took the captives as slaves, Abram was offered the rest of the spoils. But Abram turned the king down, insisted that he did not want wealth from war, but only the wealth he obtained with his own labour.

One is eager to question Abram. Why is it alright to prostitute your wife to preserve your own life and gain wealth but not take the spoils of military victory? There is no answer. Only the switch to the devotion to progeny rather than either self or one’s forefathers. God promises that He and Sarai will have a son. “The LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.’” (15:18)

But the tale becomes even more complicated. For Sarai remains barren. She gives her maid, Hagar, to Abram who gets her pregnant with Ishmael. But Sarai feels that her maid is now lording over her. In a fit of jealousy, she sends Hagar and Ishmael into exile. They become persecuted refugees. And Ishmael grows up to be “a wild ass of a man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the face of all his brethren.”

We are in a totally different world, a world of national rivalry, a world in which might can possibly rule over right, especially when the might belongs to a leader who cannot get along with any of his neighbours. Then the absence of universal laws from a unitary source or even from agreement among the nations becomes a cause of wars because the nations cannot get along. But God has opted for nationalism and, like globalism, it comes in two varieties. In one, a nation is allotted land as if in a lottery. In another, a nation seizes land. In the first, the nation is chosen for that land. In the second, the nation itself chooses to become a great nation.

There has been one other development besides the turn from the global to the national, the universal to the particular, and from devotion to one’s progeny versus progeny kowtowing to the Lord their father. We have moved from a shame culture to a guilt culture, a shame culture whereby your children cover up your embarrassment versus one which insists that wealth and land be acquired by contract and not by conquest. Guilt comes from breaking written laws. Shame is an internal policeman and arises because of inherited traditional values which a society is dedicated to protecting. But for the nation that is to come from the loins of Abram (now Abraham) and his wife Sarai (now Sarah), what is most important is not where you came from but who you give birth to. Knowing where you came from is critical only because it reinforces the progeny to become more than oneself or one’s ancestors.

Abraham was desperate to be a father, was destined to found a family tree rather than just serving the natural continuity of cultural memory. This was the great moral revolution of the Hebrews – not just a guilt rather than a shame culture, but a covenant with God whereby not only is the land held by humans only as a trustee, but so are your children who enter into a covenant with God. And the Brit Milah is the sign that we are only custodians of our children.

Thus, the diversity of nations (and within each nation) yields a diversity of values even at the risk of one nation seeking to dominate and rule over others.

This is how Rabbi Yitz Greenberg’s parashat for this week begins:

In parashat Noah, the Torah revealed a dramatically transformative understanding of the interaction between the divine and the human. Before Noah, God, operating as a universal unlimited Force (called Elohim in the Torah) had appeared to humans as a Ruler, instructing them to live good lives and repair the world (tikkun olam). These commands were enforced by harsh, sometimes overwhelming, punishments. In the new understanding, God (called YHWH/Adonai in the Torah) self-limits out of love, renouncing coercive tactics such as future floods. God establishes objective natural processes and laws to govern reality. Out of respect for human dignity—and desire that human beings become responsible moral agents—God engages with humans in partnership (brit), so that they will act morally and repair the world out of free will. In the Noahide covenant, in recognition of human nature and habits, God “reduces” expectations (allowing meat, for example), compromising to ask humans to act the best possible way rather than at the ideal level.

In parashat Lekh Lekha, the next divine step toward accommodating human nature and emotions is revealed. Human beings are more energized by, and cling more tightly to, a covenant that is more intimate, more related to them and their distinctive memories and experiences. On the foundation of the universal Noahide covenant, God now enters into a particular covenant with one family, Abraham and Sarah. This sets up a paradigm of (future) multiple partnerships, each with distinctive practices, models, and emotional associations, with the same goal of overall tikkun olam.

                                                THE FOUR CHOICES


Globalism                                         The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)

Multilateralism                                  Abram as a father of many nations


Nationalism                                       Sarah as the mother of the Jewish nation

Unilateral Imperialism                       The story of Ishmael

From the bottom, populist dictatorships lead to imperialist adventurism. From the top, there is a different type of authoritarian totalitarianism based on a centralised source of formal authority with concentrated power in a single locale over everyone beneath. As Greenberg refers to the midrashic imagination, the Babel of Tower project is pure totalitarianism, “conscripting everybody to labor, imposing exaggerated quotas for construction, and mercilessly punishing failure to meet the requirement…Pluralism—political, economic, cultural, religious—is the best prophylactic against dictatorial centralization.” 

It is only when we opt for the two middle options, when we have nationalism based on citizens and citizen interests rather than identity politics, married to multilateralism, that we can find a balance between the particular and the universal, between nationalism and international cooperation, reinforced by the primacy given to the future but erected on a continuity with the past, and a present built on contractual and covenantal relations rather than shame. Both multilateralism and nationalism thrive on experimentation, on building based on comparative advantages, on progressing through demonstrations and witnessing. It is the only combination that and can develop without intimidation or coercion.  

The principle works for domestic politics as well.

In an election year set to overturn many precedents, one of the most anticipated is the prospect of Arizona turning blue. In a state that has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate only once since 1952polls have consistently favored Joe Biden. In our much-watched Senate race, former astronaut Mark Kelly leads Republican incumbent Martha McSally by a comfortable margin. If Kelly wins, the state would send its first all-Democratic Senate delegation to Washington in 67 years. Talking heads have plenty of explanations for this shift. It’s Latinos! It’s suburbanites! It’s moderate Republicans! These answers make for convenient sound bites. But the desire to explain Arizona through different voter blocs, with a lot of the focus on the increasing Latino population, misses what’s actually happening in Arizona. The key to understanding the state’s leftward shift isn’t identity politics: It’s the issues and ideas that shape daily reality for the people who live and work here. What the pundit class fails to grasp is that this is a state of fluid plurality, a place where the very definition of “American” is changing as the lines blur and the walls that have long safeguarded a monochromatic hold on power have begun to crack. Several identities often apply to the same person, making it a mistake to attribute changes in Arizona’s political DNA to the work of any one group of voters. I am an immigrant and a naturalized citizen; a college-educated Latina and college professor; a mother and widow whose new partner comes from a family with a long history of military service. Which of these identities guides my vote?

Fernanda Santos, The Washington Post, 30.10.2020

Rashid Khalidi (2020) The Hundred Years of War on Palestine

A Review by Howard Adelman – Part I

I have not seen Rashid Khalidi for over two decades. When I saw him recently in a webinar on his book The Hundred Years of War on Palestine run by The Harvard Divinity School, he has aged much less that I have. He looks great. And he is even clearer and more articulate than I remember. He is a first-class scholar and historian and I have always learned a great deal from him.

This book is clearly very different than Khalidi’s numerous scholarly tomes. It is personal, part family memoir, but also has a clear central political thesis. Khalidi has articulated a position that he has held over the years in a way that is more powerful and more emotional precisely because it is so overtly personal.

Khalidi has never gone along with the mantra that the dispute over Palestine has been a conflict between two national groups each with legitimate claims to the same land. Jews, he argues, certainly have an historical link to the land and especially to Jerusalem, but they have no claim rooted in rights. Instead, for Khalidi, the conflict has been a long colonial war of settler colonialism in which one group, the Zionists, has been propped up by one colonial power after another.

The explicit Zionist purpose was to have that national group displace another as the civil polity in a region – Palestine. The ingathering of Jewish exiles was intended to supplant the local population by those who mouthed words of peace and the slogan ‘Do No Harm,’ such as David Ben Gurion and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They were hypocrites, unlike Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky. The mouthers of the prospect of peaceful replacement knew that such a displacement enterprise would cause a great deal of harm. (I will examine this fundamental claim in greater detail at the end of this series of reviews.)

One of the strengths of the Khalidi thesis that has such a wide purchase among Palestinians is that it does not deny the pogroms and persecution that motivated Jewish relocation from Europe. He also acknowledges the blockages to resettlement in the West. But he refuses to accept the assurances of Zionist leaders at the time that the migration of Jews to Palestine would neither be an invasion nor an imposition on the native population. Instead, he characterizes Theodor Herzl as arrogant, ignorant and disingenuous; Herzl blamed all sources of harm on the resistance of the native Palestinians.

Palestine was not an “empty” country. Zionism, for him, was a Jewish colonization movement which offered the world a narrative line that whitewashed its history of its willingness to sacrifice the local population and to paint itself as simply another anti-colonial uprising. For Khalidi, since colonization had such a bad odour after WWII, the Zionists had to reconstruct their tale even when it is historically clear that their immersion into counter insurgency lasted a very short period. The true story is that Zionism was a stepchild of British imperialism. Further, it only succeeded because of the massive economic and political support behind the enterprise.

Benny Morris, who was the first to document the intentional ethnic cleansing underway, became a revisionist in the twenty-first century asserting that Jews had no other choice. It bequeathed a “them or us” moral dilemma. What Khalidi argues in the vein of Edward Said is that the war was as much a discursive battle as a fight on the ground. Which side would control the dominant narrative? For the tropes underpinning each side were irreconcilable. And the Zionists had the Hollywood propaganda machine behind it – Leon Uris’ Exodus as a novel and a film providing the most explicit example of the propaganda of one side.

The myth, which is what he calls it, of immigration to Palestine as the only option to prevent Jewish annihilation, is countermanded by the fact that other options for relocation were offered to Jews by the Imperial powers – Uganda and Argentina for example. And the Zionists considered each one seriously, but then opted for Palestine. That alone is proof for Khalidi of the complicity of Zionism and imperialism. The real story is how, because of its partnership with great powers, the Zionists managed to establish the dominant narrative of its success into a tale of liberation by a genuine nationalist movement.

The creation of Israel was no different that the creation of Australia, of Canada, of New Zealand and especially of the United States. It was a settler movement built and developed at the expense of the indigenous population. The major difference is that, in Palestine, the native population was not devastated by contagious diseases and not as bereft of other actors to support its cause. Hence it struggled and survived to challenge the Zionists. Thus, in spite of Zionist designs, in spite of its anti-assimilationist underpinnings and the artifice of its nationalism, the opposition of the indigenous population refuses to wither away and die. This is the Khalidi thesis.

And, for Khalidi, every historical step reinforces that thesis, whether it be Jewish collaboration in suppressing the Palestinian revolt from 1936-1939 that killed, wounded or captured anywhere from 10-17% of the adult male population of Palestine and gave the Zionist the manpower advantage in the 1948 war, the 1967 war in which every expert who really knew the strength of the forces on each side predicted an easy Zionist victory, the 1982 exile of the Palestinians from Beirut, the explicit objective of the 1982 war, and Oslo, the greatest fraud perpetrated against the Palestinians in the whole history of the conflict, for, in the name of peace, a Zionist colonial settler enterprise was not only legitimized but given a moral cover, international endorsement and American military backing. 

Part of this argument over narratives and the discursive war is to claim that when Britain became exhausted in the 1939-1948 period and withdrew from the trenches and the de facto collaboration, the Americans took their place. Israel could take no steps that did not have the wholehearted backing of the Americans. The Americans were fully and knowingly complicit in the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982 that drove the PLO out of the region and that made an unsuccessful effort to make Lebanon a puppet and satrap of Israel.

With Oslo and the effort to craft an accord, the gap between America and Israel kept re-emerging. Americans viewed the enterprise of settlement and displacement as having an iron ceiling while the right-wing Zionists recognized that the matter would be settled in the end by facts on the ground and not American diplomatic posturing. The key was to control both the land and the people.

Israel had the narrative advantage that it could give the whole colonial enterprise a Biblical cast with a very wide appeal in the Christian West. This extracted external support for an imposition enterprise even in the days when colonialism had been sentenced to international death. The Jews could and did argue that they had a genuine historical connection to the land and that Jewish presence of the land had been continuous – a very different colonial tale than that of the American pioneers of the Canadian and Australian and Kiwi settlers.

They also had the advantage, according to Khalidi, that the Palestinian leadership repeatedly betrayed the Palestinian population. But the times have changed and the pace of change has picked up. In universities, the BDS movement is continuing to gain support. Within the redeemed Democratic Party, on the verge of winning re-election in both the Presidential office and the Senate, allies of the Palestinian cause have experienced a resurgence and the old order Zionists apologists are being forced into retirement.

What a plethora of assumptions in creating this alternative discourse. They have revived the will of Palestinian youth to re-engage in the enterprise of resistance, but this time with a network of support and anti-colonial attitudes in the West, for there is a natural synergy between movements like Black Lives Matter and anti-Zionism. Resistance can displace resignation. To what degree do these premises and the narrative built upon them enjoy enough resonance to strengthen the resistance to Zionist hegemony?

Let me list the revisionist assumptions and tropes.

  1. The territory of Palestine was not empty.
  2. The conflict is not a fight between two nationalisms with opposing claims to the same land, but a long-term colonial enterprise of resettlement and local displacement.
  3. The Zionist only won their victories because of support from strong imperial powers.
  4. The explicit purpose of Zionism from the beginning was to displace a local population by a settler population.
  5. All Zionist narratives describing the peaceful intent of the settlers are false fronts to disguise true intentions; they knew that they could only achieve their aims by causing harm to the locals.
  6. A Palestinian population with a nationalist idea of self-determination was already present in Palestine at the end of the nineteenth century when Jewish Zionism had its modern birth.
  7. Zionism was a stepchild first of British then of American imperialism.
  8. Zionist success depended less on enterprise and ingenuity from within than on extensive political and economic support from without.
  9. The war on the ground was matched by a discursive battle between competing narratives.
  10. Zionism and Palestinian self-determination are irreconcilable.
  11. Zionism was boosted by the highly influential American Hollywood propaganda machine.
  12. Zionism discarded its narrative of partnership with the powerful in favour of a liberation movement when colonialism fell into disfavour after WWII.
  13. In contrast to settlement colonialist movements in the West, the indigenous movement for self-determination did not suffer the enormous loss of population from disease, but it did suffer a huge manpower loss in its war with the British from 1936-1939 that put it at a great disadvantage in the conflict that followed WWII.
  14. From the start, the Zionists enjoyed a logistic advantage over not only the local population but the Arab states in the region.
  15.  The Palestinians were not only overwhelmed by settler colonialism but by incompetence and corruption of their own leadership.
  16.  The movement for Palestinian self-determination is gaining new momentum with the rise of the people in the West against their own elites and against settler colonialism that delivered so much harm to not only indigenous populations but to mistreated minorities.

My response will follow in a series of separate blogs.  

Refugees and Higher Education

Part V: The Impact on the Education of Canadian Students

There are a myriad of recent initiatives using modern instruments and methods underway, such as the installation of Wikipedians-in-residence to enhance both the quality of the Wikipedia at the same time as it assists in its most effective but also critical use, including the severe shortcomings of its editorial process. Rather than downgrading the level of knowledge which students access, the process of engagement can involve them deeper in the process of producing quality learning materials while, at the same time, teaching students how knowledge can be subject to biases. This is but one of many examples.

Many of these initiatives are designed to reduce attrition rates that result from a variety of factors from the amount of debt students accrue in gaining a higher education to the student’s lower GPA score and the quality of teaching offered these students. Motivation is also a key factor. When it comes to refugee students, the motivation to do well and to complete a course of studies is very high. Further, the strong motivation rubs off on native students. Ironically, the higher the percentage of more motivated students, the lower the attrition rate and the greater the effectiveness of college education. This is especially true when the native students can experience a degree of responsibility for and involvement in bringing refugee students on campus. 

Currently, as Maclean’s Magazine reported in 2018, the drop-out rate of students in Canada from universities varies from 10% at Queen’s to over 50% in a few institutions. York University is the mean where the drop-out rate is 27.5%. The average drop-out rate from first year is 14%. This represents a very inefficient use of resources.

What is needed is a better pipeline, one connecting potential refugee learners on one end and universities with an absorptive capacity at the other end, one connecting native students at the latter end with very highly motivated refugee students at the other end. As one prominent scholar involved with distance education serving refugees has remarked, this global situation “resembles an hourglass: one bulb is filled with thousands of institutions with great and growing absorptive capacity, while the other bulb is filled and filling with millions of potential refugee learners. The bulbs are connected by a thin neck through which refugees trickle like solitary grains of sand to universities while the knowledge from the world’s universities trickles through the neck one lesson at a time to refugee learners in the global south.” The issue is how to widen the neck?

“How do we turn the trickle into a flow, with students going one way and knowledge and capacity-building investments go the other?  Is there a model that can overcome the collective action problems endemic to higher education (HE) in the global north while investing in HE education in host countries?  How do we strengthen the system so it is sustainable, adaptive, and resilient enough to sustain the flow?”

In 2018, about 1.8 million native students attended postsecondary institutions in Canada. This number has been relatively constant since 2011. If the number remained constant, if the foreign student population also remained constant at 600,000, if by 2025 120,000 PSSV students were added to this total, then PSSV students would eventually constitute only 5% of the total postsecondary student population in Canada, a relatively insignificant increase in enrollment. Total foreign student enrollment would be about 30%.

With 642,000 foreign students, Canada is now the world’s third-leading destination of international students. Study permits for 404,000 international students took effect in 2019 alone. PSSV students would constitute a relatively small proportion of the student visa population. At the same time, to both select those students as well as incentivize young refugees, Canada, with partners, would run a distance education program at the post-secondary level for refugees. For every nine students educated overseas, one student would be brought to Canada. At the same time, with the skills acquired, refugee youth would be in a much better position to enter the knowledge economy in their countries of asylum.[i]

If there are 30 million refugees in such situations, if half of them are of school age (15,000,000), if 1,500,000 can be assisted to graduate from secondary school each year, if Canada takes on the responsibility of distance higher education for 10% of them, or 150,000, if 20% of them enter Canada on student visas (30,000) each year, then students in the PSSV program would constitute about 5% initially of students in Canada on student visas.

We need to connect institutions of higher learning in host countries where refugees in significant numbers are located with institutions that are able and eagerly willing to enhance their online learning capacities. Knowledge can travel down the pipeline one way. So can students eager to acquire and participate in field experience. Research and students can travel in the opposite way. At the same time, the capacity for higher education in the region will be significantly enhanced.

What we need to do is couple universities and colleges, students and faculty, universities and civil society organizations at one end with institutions of higher learning and service organizations at the other end to make higher education available to refugees in a far more extensive way. The coupling process entails expanding the private sponsorship model initiated and developed in Canada.[ii] Student bodies would be asked to sponsor not just a few students as they do now, but an institution like York could sponsor 500.

Students would organize into groups of at least five to enlist partners in the private sector who would put up the costs for each student sponsored. Costs could be significantly reduced if volunteer sponsors offered students free room and even possibly board. Courses would be offered in refugee camps and refugee areas through both distance learning and intensive in-person support locally.[iii] Online is most effective when it is coupled with high-dosage teaching that MOOCs currently miss.[iv] From the achievement of those students, selected ones would be accepted for sponsorship. In this way, educational possibilities would connect with economic opportunities and in turn with membership openings not only in sponsoring societies, but in local societies that can benefit from the skills acquired.

The model entails the following nodes that need to be connected:

  • Relevant research centres, such as the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, linked in a mega-university network of parallel institutions in the same and adjacent areas of a megalopolis, such as: Ryerson University Centre for Immigration and Refugee Studies; Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies and the Global Migration Research Institute in the Munk Centre at the University of Toronto; Dr. Christopher Kyriakides who holds the Canada Research Chair with the Department of Sociology and Professor Vic Satsawich at McMaster University, the former working on the intersection of media and refugee policy and the latter on the intersection of organization and refugee policy and also include Charles Carlo Handy, the Founder of McMaster University’s Graduate Migration and Mobility Network; the Centre for Studies in Social Justice, University of Windsor; CERIS, Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, Citizenship and Immigration Canada; Migration and Diaspora Studies at Carleton University; the Centre for Migration and Ethnic Relations in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies at Western University; Culture and Language Studies at the University of Waterloo; International Migration Research Centre (IMRC), Wilfrid Laurier University; Development Studies at the University of Guelph which would include faculty such as Prof. Monique Deveaux in U of G’s Department of Philosophy.
  • a number of journals that publish refugee scholarship: Linkages would be fostered by the use of existing networks and journals such as Refuge: Canada’s Journal for Refugee Studies; Journal for Refugee Studies; Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration; Journal for Ethnic and Migration Studies; Journal of the Global Migration published by the Munk Centre; 

 Griffith Journal of Law & Human DignityJournal of International Migration and Integration;

  • Linkages with nearby community colleges with relevant programs which often do far more to integrate first-generation learners and migrants than do the elite institutions;
  • Linkages between those centres and the student councils at those universities as well as among those student councils as students are envisioned as the backbone for delivering the sponsorships;
  • Linkages with municipalities in which those higher learning centres are located to enhance the capabilities and opportunities of a mega-region now considered the key locus of business and economic development while allowing refugees to join knowledge economies to the benefit of both the resettlement countries and the refugees themselves with the additional side effect that some of these refugees will return to help others gain an education and enhance the economic prospects of both the host and possibly home states;
  • Linkages between businesses and social service organizations with the student councils active in the program.

It should be noted that without such linkages, there is a propensity of businesses to exploit refugee labour for profit purposes in the guise of providing skill training. In the move away from humanitarian resettlement responses, wealthy countries have instead invested in countries of first asylum to abet border enforcement and institute economic development zones such as in The Jordan Compact. However, economic gains have been minimal and, taking advantage of their immobility, refugees are used to make a profit at the expense of their well-being.[v]

In contrast, the purpose is to significantly enlarge the necks of the pipeline joining the refugee population centres with the university-urban partnerships so that global emergency zones become both the target of providing educational opportunities and a source for talent to feed the economic growth of a mega-region. Refugees acquire a gateway and sponsorship centres acquire a creative and highly motivated source of talent.

To achieve these synergies requires an increased investment in distance learning and the technology related thereto, the organization of sponsorships in the global north and the creation of and partnership with higher learning centres in the global south in areas of high concentration of refugees. This would be an excellent application to the goals of the Open Societies University Network (OSUN) located at Bard College and funded by the Soros Foundation, the goals of which are to:

  • Foster critical thinking, open intellectual inquiry, and fact-based research to strengthen foundations of open society amid authoritarian resurgence
  • Educate students to address tomorrow’s global challenges by getting to know other societies from the inside
  • Expand access to higher education at a time of growing inequities
  • Counteract polarization by promoting global research collaboration and educating students to examine issues from different perspectives and advance reasoned arguments[vi]
  • Bolster efforts by universities in challenging environments to build their own capacity through global partnerships to make greater contributions to their societies.

Foundations with existing programs already in place will have to be approached. Further, a media campaign will be necessary to demonstrate how this will be a win-win situation for refugees and the receiving country.

[i] The access to higher education significantly improves the chances for young people. Cf. Caitlin Nunn, Sandra M. Gifford, Celia McMichael, and Ignacio Correa-Velez (2017) “Navigating precarious terrains: reconceptualizing refugee youth settlement,” Refuge: Canadian. journal on refugees. 33:2, 45-55. le/view/40462 

[ii] For a review of this program, see Refuge, a special issue on private sponsorship, co-editors Johanna Reynolds and Christina Clark-Kazak

[iii] “Refugee camps versus urban refugees: what’s been said – and done,” Cristiano D’Orsi, The Conversation (November 3, 2019). This news report summarizes the ongoing confusion on the policy front regarding camp vs. urban refugees.

[iv] MOOCs miss much more. The decision in 2016 by Coursera to open a track for vulnerable populations (Coursera for Refugees) was well-intentioned but misbegotten.  It not only recycled and marketing of a partial solution, it made assumptions about learners that are at best tenuous, and at worst misleading.  Some would say unethical.  As one economist in the African Development Bank, “please, no more MOOCs!”

[v] Julia Morris (2020) “Extractive Landscapes: The Case of the Jordan Refugee Compact,” Refuge 36:1.

[vi] Hopkins, G., L. Buffoni (2019) The IGAD Kampala Declaration on jobs, livelihoods, and self-reliance: from declaration to reality,” PalgraveCommun 5, 157.  The article emphasizes the crucial importance of planned and active participation, inclusion and collaboration of all parties to enable a high-level meetings and fora to prioritize an approach to discussions which creates enabling contexts of formal but inclusive dialog.

Refugees and Higher Education

Part IV: Initiatives Already Underway

MOOCs aside, a number of online efforts and consortia have emerged targeting new educational opportunities for refugees. Those initiatives can be enlisted as partners. There are those that facilitate stakeholders through consultation but do not provide program content or bridge institutions, such as the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium that functions as an exchange of best practices and promotes and coordinates quality higher education in conflict, crisis and displacement zones through connected learning to make accredited higher education accessible to refugee and other displaced learners.

This is as serious a problem as content. The lack of access is called the “digital divide.”[i]

Then there are the academic programmers that provide the content and curricula:

  • Education for Humanity sponsored by the ASU and Norwegian Refugee Council to provide digital English Language courses in a blended learning format to Syrian refugees residing in Amman; ASU provides a one-year “Global Freshman Academy” consisting of online courses offered in partnership with local NGOs (focusing on Uganda and Jordan)
  • Southern New Hampshire University Global Education Movement (GEM) partnered with local institutions like Kepler in Kigali, Jusoor in Amman as well as partners in South Africa, Lebanon, Kenya, Rwanda and Malawi providing online coursework leading to associate’s or bachelor’s degrees for refugee learners in partnership with Jesuit Worldwide Learning
  • Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (PADILEIA) King’s College London working with Kiron and other universities to target needs of Syrian learners in Jordan and Lebanon offering both blended and online-only courses with partners such as Al al-Bayt University and American University of Beirut, as well as Kiron
  • MIT ReACT Hub launched its first program in Jordan with a certificate in Computer and Data Science
  • REACH at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Research Education and Action for Refugees Harvard Graduate School of Education which aims to foster welcoming communities and quality education in settings of migration and displacement.
  • InZone at the University of Geneva initially led by Barbara Moser-Mercer, in Kakuma (Kenya), Asraq and Za’atari camps (Jordan), with human rights, history (GHL), and translation courses
  • Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) from the Center for Refugee Studies led by Professors Wenona Giles and Don Dippo[ii] which focuses on language and education training working closely with partners in Kenya, WUSC, and more recently the University of British Columbia; it recently graduated its first cohort of students with a MEd from York University[iii]
  • The Jesuit Digital Network (JDN) developing a new-generation online platform for sharing digital educational resources and hosting multiple global and local learning communities to create, deliver, and continuously improve digital educational material, including digital learning objects, learning communities, and new generation online courses from middle school through post-graduate courses
  • Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins and Jesuit Worldwide Learning with a unique model of integrated partnerships that sustains programs in development, leadership, and liberal studies
  • Microsoft offers free training and curriculum resources to help humanitarian organizations deliver training that will help refugees gain digital literacy and computer science skills
  • OSUN and the Bard Network with a global reach with educational partners in locations around the world such as a multitude of fugitive universities in Lebanon (GHL), Jordan (AQB and GHL), Nairobi (AQB, GHL, Rift Valley Institute) and Bangladesh (Brac University)[iv]
  • Princeton’s Global History Lab with a 22-partner network within OSUN, with refugee programs in Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya, Iraq, Uganda and in Europe (Paris, with Sciences Po, Berlin/Potsdam, and Athens with Panteion University).[v]

There are also aggregators which pool content, connect to partners and design articulated pathways or learning clusters to make them available to universities for entrance, such as Kiron Open Higher Education based in Berlin with a great deal of experience at creating systems for refugees to enter German higher educational institutions. The European Commission and the Directorate General Joint Research Centre maps and analyzes MOOCs and free digital learning programs for migrants and refugees. Here: Higher Education Supporting Refugees in Europe, based in the Mediterranean Universities Union, is another aggregator.

A specific combination of organizations with active local partners that offer accredited degrees while engaged in local capacity building and attending to the material and social needs of refugees seems to work best. “Refugee students in Dadaab described as critical, but not singular, the assistance provided by UNHCR and its NGO partners, particularly in building schools, hiring and paying teachers, and providing scholarships for higher education. Within these support structures, refugee students drew on a complex web of locally and globally situated relationships.”[vi] There is a need to create integrated learning systems that invest in programs that open gateways and create links between sectors and stakeholders.

Fixed costs are on the rise, income is declining as well as investments in technologies and methods of teaching to counteract the results. The benefit, however, may be the increased pressure to move both to a new model and a much broader and reconceptualized vision of the university. What has emerged as a competitor to the consumer model has been a very different university, one that addresses global issues and not just problems in one’s society, that engages students in active learning in the application of what they know and in the extraction from that action to enrich the body of knowledge informing them. It is a university in which the whole idea of the university as a sanctuary has come tumbling down and the process of embedding universities and colleges into the societies that sustain them is completed.

It is a university engaged in partnerships with business, with civil society organizations and with the larger world and where the foremost problems are worldwide – climate change, refugees and, yes, pandemics at a time when knowledge is more free-flowing than ever, students and scholars more mobile, both physically and electronically, and when teaching and research have both transcended local or national boundaries. Tentatively and for convenience, I have dubbed it the Welcoming University, though a better term would be very welcome – no pun intended.

These trends are already well underway. Waterloo University innovated in partnering with businesses so that students and researchers can split their time between academia and business.[vii] The practice has broadened from computer science and engineering to other fields and has been copied by many institutions. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the 2020 Elevate Technology Conference in Toronto painted a picture of Toronto as a research-driven innovation hub that’s collaborative, inclusive and uniquely Canadian driven by artificial intelligence research at the University of Toronto and in universities in the mega-region as well as close ties between post-secondary institutions and industry players. Hence, Google Brain Toronto in partnership with the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence as well as federal and provincial governments. At Vector, academia and industry work together to support both applied and fundamental AI research. Such partnerships are not without their hazards. The cancellation of Quayside was a serious blow to this collaboration.

Ride-sharing giant Uber plans to invest $200 million into a new Toronto engineering lab, Microsoft plans to open a new office in downtown Toronto. Chip-maker Intel plans to set up an engineering lab north of the city that focuses on graphics processing units, or GPUs. Companies, from LG to Nvidia,  plan to set up new AI-focused research labs in Toronto in connection  with U of T.

In the U.S., Google has offices in many universities and co-hires faculty; Cornell Tech’s new campus on Roosevelt Island is buoyed by many private sector joint ventures; Pfizer created a biotech campus in Boston in 2014 with a specific aim of being able to liaise and partner with the region’s powerhouse universities; Philips Healthcare followed suit to initiate a Cambridge MA the next year for the same reason.  Long before COVID, universities turned to complex partnerships to fund training and applied research in the pursuit of coveted intellectual property.

The eclipse of the national social service autonomous university in favour of an international interconnected global one means new pathways for learning, new models of learning and new modes of producing knowledge. It also moves universities and colleges from support roles in society into central actors in the emergence of a welcoming society, a knowledge and information-based society and one, more specifically, that can serve as a route for refugees to gain the security of membership in a state via their accomplishments in higher education.

COVID-19 has emerged as an inflexion point in this transformation. That is because of the development of online learning which COVID-19 has forced into a central place from its peripheral role in the very recent past. Distance online learning allows university and college courses to be delivered directly to refugees in camps and in urban areas where they may have temporarily self-settled but without the legal security of membership in the state. COVID-19 has spurred and will spur even greater massive investments in online learning.

There will be feedback on the institution, its nature and the way it fulfills its mission as well. First, many universities will be receptive to thinking outside and beyond the four-year educational box, including more programmatic innovation and accessibility for refugee and at-risk migrants while allowing them to combine schooling and work in the process of resettlement. Second, the internalization of distance technologies will enable pathways to develop that lead all the way to the source of the conflicts that produce and contain the global migrant crisis. Third, partnerships are the future. While the focus will largely be on businesses, universities are linking with each other, joining forces with NGO’s and philanthropic organizations to extend their sprawling internship and civic-engagement missions.

At the same time, because of closures, and, more importantly, shifts back and forth in closure plans, variable costs have increased that could have been invested in new teaching tools and skills to suit online learning. At the same time, incomes may decline as students drop out unwilling to pay high fees for an inferior product.

However, if monies are invested in new teaching tools and new technologies, there are long-term savings. Universities will be able to play a dual role, not only in addressing a social problem on a global scale but also in allowing student refugees to acquire higher and marketable skills. At the same time, the student and faculty body in our universities, with the support of society, can lead in the provision of private sponsorship to a proportion of those refugee students in the global south to migrate to cities of the global north.[viii] Private sector partners will have to invest their share based on both longer time horizons that learning and open experimentation require as well as broadening their global vision to deal with humanitarian crises.

The current idea of the university is ill-suited to this purpose as anything but a peripheral role. They are too de-linked, too decentralized, too competitive and too resistant to a top-down approach to higher education. The private sponsorship of refugee students led by universities and colleges will greatly accelerate a process of transformation already underway. Into what? An institution propelled to change from the bottom up based on partnerships of students and faculty. A coalition- sustained higher education system rather than one in which universities have to anticipate the needs of society based on guestimates. A university system in which not only universities and colleges enter into more partnerships much more frequently, but where they conjoin with municipalities, with businesses and with social institutions (NGOs) to enhance the quality of their graduates and ensure a much higher percentage of them graduate.

[i] Leung, Linda (2018) Technologies of Refuge and Displacement Rethinking Digital Divides, Roman and Littlefield. Refugees as a group have received scant attention as technology users, despite their urgent need for technological access, as a minimum for tenuous links to family and loved ones during displacement. An article in Toronto Life by Raizel Robin (“Class Dismissed”) describes the digital divide within Toronto when the school board tried to adapt distance learning to the absence of classroom education when schools were shuttered. There turned out to be two digital divides, one by about one-third of households, overwhelmingly immigrant, who lacked a computer to which their child could have a dedicated use and about 10% who even lacked internet connectivity. The second was one among teachers, many of whom were computer illiterate, found distance education alienating and were wary of mastering the skills. The Board had to deal with the lack of technology: “they would need to transition to remote learning” and “they had to make sure all 250,000 students…would have a functional and up-to-date computer…Once the kids were finally set up with computers, it became apparent that a quarter of the board’s teachers didn’t know how to use the TDSB-supplied online teaching software or needed a refresher.” (64-65) To complicate the situation further, the teachers’ unions were at war with and were not cooperating with the Board. If you understand the extent of the difficulties that deeply sabotaged the effort to introduce distance education in pre-tertiary schools in a sophisticated region like Toronto, imagine how hard it will be to set up distance learning in refugee camps and in urban areas where refugees have self-settled. Fortunately, as discussed in this paper, we have now had far more experience with distance education for refugees than Toronto has had for its elementary and secondary school pupils.

[ii] See their chapter in Susan McGrath and Julie Young (eds.) (2019) Mobilizing Global Knowledge: Refugee Research in an Age of Displacement. See also Susan F. Martin, Rochelle Davis, Grace Benton and Zoya Waliany (2018) “Working paper: International Responsibility-Sharing for Refugees,” as part of the KNOMAD Working Paper Series of the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD). Multidisciplinary knowledge is used to generate policy options, the latter, in particular, focused on responsibility-sharing.


[iv] Work is underway on child exploitation and protection in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees, but the focus of this paper is on career paths for refugees in their later teen years. For work on the former, see Bina D’Costa from the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness, & the Melbourne Social Equity Institute on Migration, Refugees and Statelessness. For an overview of the Rohingya crisis, see the report of Bob Rae, currently the Canadian ambassador to the UN, at IRIN news. Also  Ashrafuk Azad and Fareha Jasmin (2013) “Durable solutions to the protracted refugee situation- The case of Rohingyas in Bangladesh decades in the making,” Journal of Indian Research, I:4, 25-35.

[v] See also Asad Hussein, who moved from being a refugee to attending Princeton University as a student, “Chasing the Mirage, from Nairobi to New York City,” New York Review of Books, 4 April 2020.

[vi] Sarah Dryden-Peterson, Negin Dahya, and Elizabeth Adelman (2017) “Pathways to Educational Success Among Refugees: Connecting Locally and Globally Situated Resources.” American Educational Research Journal 54:6, December, 1011–47.

[1] See Sanchit Mittal (2020) “Canadian Contribution to the Global Refugee Crisis,” MBA Vancouver Island University.–3bd838bd769e3a0ef642e4691b2395991cb6c26d/t/bvH43-NWouApr-yrVJ/resource/work/38999592/Canadian_Contribution_to_the_Global_Refugee_Crisis_MBA_541_Corporate_Social_Responsibility?email_work_card=thumbnail

[viii] See Migration Policy Institute (2018) “Decision: Private Refugee Sponsorship: Concepts, Cases and Consequences.” See also Bose, Pablo and Lucas Grigri (2018) PR4: Refugee Resettlement Trends in the Midwest. Refugee Resettlement in Small Cities Reports. University of Vermont. May. This report shows the importance of cities in the effort at resettlement and offers evidence that, in the US, the experience of coastal cities is currently being replicated in cities in middle America. Finally, the scholarship on India is very instructive. Cities are engines of economic growth greatly enhanced by migration. That growth is enhanced when migrants are assisted and undercut when obstacles are put in the way of refugees and migrants. Cf. Samaddar, Ranabir (ed.) (2018) Migrants and the Neoliberal City. Orient Blackswan See also the pact on the rights of urban refugees entered into in November 2017 by the International Organization for Migration and the umbrella group United Cities and Local Governments, which included 150 cities around the world.

Refugees and Higher Education

Part III: The Changing Mission of the University

The beginning of the pipeline of resettlement for refugees are the camps and urban areas in countries of first asylum where refugees congregate. The proposed terminus is the university for PSSV students. I now want to put such a proposal within the context of the changing idea and function of the university and then within the context of the current inflexion point as a result of the most important influence on the course of higher education in recent years – the COVID-19 pandemic. I will then review the initiatives universities have undertaken, particularly in the last decade, to actually address the refugee issue. I will then place such a proposal within a context of prospective actual numbers and then practically within a framework of how such a program can be initiated and institutionalized.

In the nineteenth century, the university could be characterized as a Sanctuary of Truth[i], a sanctuary because it was held aloof from society as the inheritor of the wisdom of the ages to be transferred to the political and moral leadership of society. It was a sanctuary of truth because it presumed that it was the repository of inherited truth rather than a locus for discovering new truths. Relative to the society around it, the university served as a place for ossified thoughts and ideas. A very small percentage of students attended universities; there were no community colleges.

In the English-speaking world, the idea behind such a vision of education was articulated very clearly by Matthew Arnold in his 1869 volume, Culture and Anarchy. Culture is the study of perfection in order to resist the forces of anarchy extant in a changing society that valued the work ethic and what he called “money-making.”  It was an exercise not simply in praise of great poetry and literature, but in contempt for popular culture and what he dubbed “philistinism.” Such a pursuit was driven, not by greed or by the need to acquire credentials or even to master a specialty, but by a moral and social passion for doing good. A man – and university students were males – was to be valued by his inherent nature and not by striving to become someone or fulfill some role and especially not anything governed by the measure of commercial success. “Our prevalent notion is…that it is a most happy and important thing for a man merely to be able to do as he likes. On what he is to do when he is thus free to do as he likes, we do not lay so much stress.” It was a philosophy of education for the leisure class, for those destined to rule and ensure that the exercise of liberty did not descend into anarchy.

A parallel set of ideas was applied by Cardinal John Henry Newman in his 1873 volume The Idea of a University in which he integrated ideas articulated in two earlier volumes of essays from 1852 and 1859, the latter with the same title as the 1873 volume. In those essays, he articulated his conception of the nature of knowledge, the role of faith in service of such knowledge and the application of both to the liberal education of university students in opposition to the specialized development of defined skills. Higher education was necessary in order to develop a young person’s understanding of the world.

As a believer in liberal and free scientific enquiry unencumbered by oppression and censorship, questioning dogma and wrestling with the struggle between faith and reason (a general preoccupation of the nineteenth century trying to free itself from the shackles of institutionalized religion), he appeared to be a man ahead of his time. What is most interesting about Newman is that he was descended on his mother’s side from Huguenot refugees while his father as a banker was thoroughly immersed in the world of commerce. The social inflexion point that challenged universities simply rooted in the expression of one faith was the Great Irish Potato Famine from 1845 to 1849; one million died and an estimated at least another million migrated abroad.

Newman led the battle against dogma and in favour of intellectual analysis in partnership with a moral conscience. Though he had converted to Catholicism, he opposed the idea of the university as a vehicle for spreading the Catholic faith, but also education that simply focused on training young Irishmen in real world skills for employment in the emerging industrial society.

In the aftermath of World War I, pressures already widely extant in higher education and already implemented in the United States, led to a new vision for a university, The Sanctuary of Method. The university was still a lofty sanctuary for the few – at most 3% of the population – and for instilling a common culture for a leadership class, but the stress was now placed on the discovery and recognition of new “truths” as skepticism about any inherited truth became widespread. The emphasis was placed on mastery of a particular intellectual methodological skill set – whether in writing history, undertaking English criticism or in electrical engineering and medicine. It meant also mastering a set of books that were classics in the field – whether Grant’s Anatomy or Ham’s Histology or the classics of English literature. The university became the repository for the professionalization of different fields and displacing the moral amateurism of The Sanctuary of Truth. Inculcating a set of values became a side story rather than a major focus of the university.

In the 1960s in Canada, the university underwent another radical transformation from a Sanctuary of Method to a Social Service Station, a model that had been developed much earlier in the United States. The model took shape with the move to the forefront of social science studies – economics, sociology, psychology, political science, anthropology – and, more importantly, the shift in focus of the university from a primary obligation to acculturate a social leadership class to one centered on addressing social problems. With that shift came an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies accompanied by the fissures that emerged in disciplinary departments on the core methodology to be taught and the core material to be mastered.

We are now in the throws of a new radical transformation of the university. There was a fear that out of the Social Service University would emerge a university that, instead of stressing the production of skilled workers for society’s needs and research addressed to society’s problems, there would emerge a university as a supermarket offering consumers a range of courses to satisfy individual interests rather than a focus on development of a specific discipline or a broader interdisciplinary perspective to help resolve social ills. The model would be one based on a consumer rather than a producer society.

That the fear is real is demonstrated by the following shifts:

  • The current pressure on universities and colleges to open just as there has been pressure on and from the consumer product and service economy to open in spite of the pandemic still not under control; in the U.S., the pressure became so great that a great many universities opened to disastrous results in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan as well as other institutions.
  • The pressure of the Baumol effect or Baumol’s cost disease, that is the rise of salaries in jobs that have experienced no or low increase of labor productivity, in response to rising salaries in other positions with higher labor productivity, growth as is the case with teaching salaries at universities and colleges where the cost of services rise rapidly because they cannot be made more efficient.
  • Declining provincial (and, in the U.S., state) funds below Great Recession levels so that increased costs combined with shortages are passed onto students in fees so that students acquire greater debts to attend; as debt loads increase, so do attrition rates, thereby compounding the problem for both students and institutions; in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for college tuition and fees were 1,411.16% higher in 2020 versus 1977 (a $282,231.63 difference in value and an average inflation rate of 6.52% per year); in Canada, Statistics Canada announced in 2016 that on average, undergraduates paid 40 per cent more in tuition than they did 10 years previously.
  • The attempt to compensate for these declining sources of incomes with foreign students who pay full costs; however, with COVID-19 (as well as international political tensions with China), this source is subject to sudden and dramatic declines, especially pronounced in the U.S.
  • The pressure of additional non-academic costs that increase as a proportion of overall costs to ensure students receive more comprehensive support and ensure “customer” satisfaction; in the U.S., this pressure has even been greater with universities offering better food plans, better amenities, etc.
  • The shift to market-based solutions that solve some short-term problems but aggravate long-term ones and create new challenges, especially increasing student debt loads so that, in the U.S., student debt is greater than debt on consumer credit cards and for auto loans combined: (only mortgage debt exceeds student debt).
  • In the time of COVID-19, students increasingly question the return value, especially as more and more courses are taught by low-paid adjunct faculty and graduate students. (In the U.S., in 1970 80% of courses were taught by full-time faculty.) In Canada, the current figure is 27.5% on average taught by part-time faculty; though in very small colleges like Mount Allison University, 88% of courses are consistently taught by full-time faculty; this is the clear exception rather than the norm.
  • Poorly prepared on-line courses that fail to take advantage of the benefits of the new technology.
  • The resistance of many if not most faculty to the introduction of online courses and more self-directed learning models because of heritage biases and the resistance of young part-time teachers to the believed threat to their employment opportunities – hence the extreme shortfall in investment in enhanced productivity in both teaching and delivery of learning materials.
  • Universities reduce or wave fees when online courses are offered just at the time when there needs to be much greater investment in such courses to improve the quality and expand the delivery so that combined pressures on the bottom line of universities and colleges to costs will be significantly reduced over time.
  • Yet for many, the pressure will focus on pushing for greater and larger subsidies so that tuition can be lowered and more full-time tenure track positions created; given the COVID-19 crisis, Ontario plans to cut tuition fees for college and university students by 10 per cent for the 2019-2020 year and hold them constant for 2020-2021. At the same time, local and provincial polities have their own financial crises.

There is an irony in all of the above. Higher education institutions are facing their greatest economic crisis of the past few decades precisely at a time when the educational premium they confer is most valued. Universities are coveted at the same time as they have become so traumatized and challenged to deliver on their mission by broadening access even more, raising the quality of teaching by taking advantage of new technologies and even expanding the leading edge of research in a very competitive environment with more claims on scarcer public resources.  With respect to teaching, the application of psychology, the development of teaching and learning design, the development of international programs, the rise of MOOCs and online technologies have all had an effect, but most of the possibilities remain untapped.

Nevertheless, the process of transformation is underway as the last vestiges of the sanctuary university are torn down with innovations in extra-mural learning: internships in NGO’s and labs, civic engagement and service, teaching in prisons, reaching out to refugees and at-risk migrants near and far, not to mention the boom in study and work abroad. What is being considered here is not retrenchment but transformation to the next and higher stage and the effort to overcome the sclerotic systems resistant to reform while the economic costs outpace the ability of society to support the old model.                

[i] See Howard Adelman (1973) The Holiversity: A Perspective on the Wright Report, New Press for an expanded characterization of the different stages of the university articulated in this paper.

After the Flood Was Over – Parashat Noah

Last week in Torah study we discussed God being an all-knowing and a perfect being. Certainly, this is clearly the preeminent conception of God in the Christian Gospels. (1 John 3:20); Matthew 10:30) One member of the group asserted that God is omniscient and knows everything. Does not Psalm 139 assert, “Lord you know it all?” (4)” Does not Psalm 147 say, “His understanding is infinite? (5) Psalm 139 is even more detailed:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

You understand my thought from afar.

You scrutinize my path and my lying down,

And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. (1-4)

Another member of the group cited the passage, “I shall be who I shall be.” When Moses queried God’s identity, Hashem answered, “I shall be as I shall be.” I am the God of revelation. I am Becoming, not Being. The Noah story of the flood would seem to support the latter interpretation, for God says that he believes he made a mistake in creating humanity. Further, after He wipes out much of the world in the flood, he learns that there is no restart button. And he promises never to do that again, for expecting perfection in humans was a mistake.

Let us go along with the latter line of interpretation and the notion that God’s knowledge is not unlimited as a result but, as Psalm 44 states it, “He knows the secrets of the heart.” (21) He is the most empathetic one around. Is that what it means to say that God knows the hearts of men? God’s knowing does not mean that God knows everything that is, that was and that will ever be, but that God is capable of knowing what you are feeling.

In the Babylonian Atrahasis Epic from which the story of the flood was drawn, the god Enki organized humans into a new order because in the old order humans were noisy, whining complainers. And there were too many of them. In Genesis, the flood is a punishment for human sin rather than a result of the gods’ annoyance at the overpopulation and noise humans make. Most significantly, in the Babylonian epic, limits were set on human reproduction, but in Genesis, humans were instructed to be fruitful and multiply. Why the difference? In turn, in Genesis God promised that there would be no flood and mass extinction in the future.

What was wrong with the first arrangement a few generations earlier that was set on the sixth day of creation? The flood takes place following a seven-day warning (7:4 and 7:10) just as the god Enki told Atrahasis that the flood will come on the seventh night. Why seven days or nights? Further, why was Noah allowed to take his children aboard the ark, but the animals came in two by two (6:18), seven pairs of clean animals and only one pair of each of the unclean ones as in the Babylonian epic?

No sooner is the world totally reordered when God recognizes that the reforms did not work. Evil emerged again. God now proclaimed that he would work with what he had and never again extinguish almost everything to start all over again. God had learned a lesson. Had humans? Had man?

Let’s go back to the first arrangement. Adam is a nerd. God says and there is. Adam is made in the image of God. He imitates. He gives things names and they come into being as distinct objects. Adam may have a bountiful mind, but he has a shriveled heart. He does not even recognize that he is lonely. And when he is offered a companion, he objectifies her. Further, he treats Eve as if she were just a physical extension of himself and he sees himself as just a mind. He has no heart. He has no desires. He even objectifies his own body as Other. It is an erect smooth talking snake who seduces Eve. Adam does not do it. He as Other does it.

Adam knows how to serve God with his whole mind but not his whole heart. In fact, he does not even recognize he has a heart, that he is an emotional being. And he sees God only as middat ha-din, a God who metes out justice, and not a God of mercy, middat ha-rahamim. God is Elohim and not YHWH, the inscrutable God of mercy. If God is too soft, if God is too merciful, everything will get out of hand. The world must be ruled with tough love.

YHWH, not Elohim, saw “how great was the evil of humans on the earth, for every design of their hearts was only evil all day long. YHWH regretted that he had made humans on the earth, and his heart was pained.  YHWH said, “I will wipe out humans, whom I created, from the face of the earth … for I regret that I made them.” (6.6-6.8) How come the source of evil was in their hearts and not in their minds if the original problem was the result of the mind not recognizing that Adam had a heart and had feelings?

The answer is not too hard to find. Feelings without the counterpoint of thought, feelings without critical reflection, lead to evil all day long. Thought without feelings leads to the mindblindness of Adam. The lesson is that man is made in the image of both Elohim and YHWH; his life will be a struggle to reconcile two such opposite attributes.

Regret comes from the heart. So does the will to destroy what you regret creating. However, reason and judgement intervene. God finds Noah who for some reason is worthy of salvation. But the text reads: “But Noah found favour in YHWH’s eyes.” (6:8) Not in Elohim’s eyes. Elohim limited the infinitude of emotional destruction. But it was left to the heart to find Noah, to find a male that was full of caring and empathy. Elohim could not perform that task. YHWH’s heart was pained. His heart has been broken. That is why He wanted to destroy humans. But it is that same heart that recognized Noah as a man with a great heart. God is full of delight. He is willing to try again.

I shall be who I shall be. God’s mind recommends that he changes his heart from regret and resentment to delight in heartfulness. God has a change of heart. God grows. God develops a greater understanding that perfection is a false standard. God promises never to repeat that act of widespread extermination ever again. God savours the smell of the pure animal and we see why a seventh pair of clean animals had to be brought aboard the ark.

Noah built an altar for YHWH. He took one of every clean animal and every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  YHWH smelled the soothing aroma, and YHWH said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the earth because of humans, for the designs of the human heart are evil from their youth. Never again will I destroy all life as I have done.’” (8:20-21)

In the Gilgamesh story drawn from the same Babylonian Atrahasis Epic, Enlil destroys and Enki saves. Enlil is angry, not Enki. What angers him is not the evil humans do but that there are too many of them and they are too noisy. Enlil is a narcissist who decides on what he should do by what affects him. Enki is the superego that berates Enlil for his self-centeredness, for sending the flood, for destroying the wicked. In the Torah, rather than two unchanging divine beings with specific characteristics, the divine has opposing forces operating within and through each wrestling with the other, God learns and can be a better witness for man.

Such an interpretation fits with textual criticism that sees the story as a melding of a J text featuring YHWH and a P text featuring Elohim. In J, in one’s emotional life, there is an ongoing internal dialogue. In P, what happens is a consequence of external forces. In P, creation is undone as the waters from the heavens merge with the waters from the deep. P plans and calculates. Every plan devised by the mind without considering the emotions is “evil all the time.” In J, the flood is a result of a surfeit of water, a plethora of tears that are the basis for all life. Emotion is key and brings about both creation and preservation as well as remorse and destruction.

Then why does the story end with Noah planting a vineyard and getting drunk? Why does he end up naked so that his two sons, Shem and Japhet, have to cover him up? Why is Ham not involved in the cover-up? Why, when Noah wakes up, does he bless Shem and Japhet but curse his grandson, Canaan, the son of Ham, to serving as a slave to his brothers?

If God at the beginning of the story thought that it was the earth that was corrupt and filled with lawlessness and, therefore, decided to end all flesh, how, in the end, does the heart end up on top, as the source of mercy? By God recognizing that he was wrong about the source of evil. The very idea of eliminating evil is a conceit. And Noah, a righteous and good man, is the proof. After the ordeal, Noah understandably cut loose and went on a bender. He appreciated the concern of two of his sons for his embarrassment (great!), but then punished his other son by cursing his grandson. Noah clearly still had a great deal to learn. He had not learned how justice had to be tempered with mercy.

God also had a great deal more to learn and teach in the balance of the Torah.

Refugees and Higher Education

Part II: The Refugee Crisis

For anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the current refugee situation, this material will be familiar. Yet it is important to review it as a prologue to reconceiving the role of universities in tackling the problem. Of the millions of refugees worldwide, almost 17 million are of relatively recent vintage and represent at least two-thirds of the refugees worldwide. The list below includes the largest movements but leaves out a number of refugees – Yemenis, Libyans, Nigerians, Central Americans, Congolese, Eritreans, etc.:

Syria             6.6 million

Venezuela      5.2 million

Afghanistan   2.7 million

South Sudan  2.2 million

Myanmar    ­  1.1 million

Somalia          .4 million

Iraqi                .25 million

Total            17.45 million

Why is Yemen not included? The answer: because though there some refugees from Yemen, this is primarily a humanitarian crisis, one that is currently growing much worse. In Yemen, 3.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes and 80% of the population (24 million) are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations refers to Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis on earth. Severe storms, a destroyed economy, COVID-19, an immanent famine and continuous Saudi-led airstrikes makes Yemen ill-prepared to deal with the massive cutbacks about to take place in UN programs. However, as horrific as the situation is, Yemen refugees are not the prime target of these blogs since there are not enough of them. Just over 16,000 Yemenis sought refugee status in 2018 in Jordan, Egypt and Germany. Yemeni refugees will undoubtedly benefit from the program proposed, but as a side effect rather than a primary focus. The proposal does not address the very severe issue of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Venezuela is a possible target, even though, in the end, the program proposed will not primarily apply to Venezuelan refugees. That is because of the level of education of the refugees and the fact that most have self-settled in the adjacent countries or the USA.[i] There may be a modest program since Venezuelans in Brazil, Colombia, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, the immediate neighbours,[ii] tend to have the lowest educational attainment, but they are also the oldest cohort in age. Those who traveled to nearby Ecuador and Peru tend to be young, but one-third hold a technical degree or higher. Venezuelans who moved to other countries farther away (Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Uruguay) are more likely to be older on average with high levels of educational attainment, over half with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Those who went to the US form the smallest cohort and are the richest group. Many are dubbed migrants rather than refugees. Only 5% of all of these groups would consider returning. They were (and continue to be) in flight from a failed state and government rather than from a war and violent conflict, the source of the other “official” refugees.

Very few of the latter could claim a well-founded fear of persecution and ask for resettlement as a matter of right. In the case of Syrian, Afghani and Iraqi refugees, in a mass migration from January 2015 to March 2016 that continued until 2019, almost 1.7 million refugees migrated either across the Mediterranean Sea or overland through Southeast Europe.[iii] In 2016, 750,000 in 2016 filed asylum requests in Germany. In March 2019, the European Commission declared the “migrant” crisis to be at an end even though most refugees remained in dire straits in the countries of first asylum. In spite of initial forebodings and some security problems at the beginning, the program was a tremendous success[iv] though critics have placed the effort within a securitization and deterrence context.[v] 

There is another major difference between refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq versus those from Somalia, South Sudan and Myanmar. The latter are mostly in camps. The former group have overwhelmingly settled in urban areas.[vi] This difference directly affects how universities can play a role in helping refugees. It also affects possible, even likely obstacles, when the solution is applied to some camps. [vii]

Of the three durable solutions, my focus will primarily be on resettlement. However, one cannot look at resettlement and ignore voluntary repatriation and settlement options in adjacent countries of asylum, if only because a country like Canada has a policy of considering an applicant for resettlement only after first being satisfied that there is no reasonable prospect, within a reasonable period of time, for the refugee applicant to obtain another durable solution.

Let me begin with the prospects of repatriation for Arab refugees from Syria and Iraq (without excluding refugees from Yemen described above and from Libya where wars have also produced refugees). “The prospects for early repatriation of refugees who have fled conflicts in Arab countries in recent years do not yet look promising. The conflict in Yemen is at a stalemate; Libya is wedged in a power struggle between two military/political factions; Iraq is struggling to recover from decades of instability; and Syria remains a country at war.”[viii] There is a limited trickle of return, but any organized large-scale repatriation seems premature. Further, the possibility of naturalization currently is closed, especially given the weakening socio-economic situation in host countries. Prospects of resettlement are also miniscule.

I will suggest that integration in countries of first asylum can best be facilitated through the postsecondary student visa route. In 2019, roughly 1% of refugees worldwide were enrolled in some form of tertiary education prior to resettlement[ix]—compared to 37% of non-refugees.[x] There is a huge gap between demand and opportunity between the global refugee regime and the global higher education regime. Fortunately, the networks developed on refugee research can be used as a basis for improving the network of refugee higher education.[xi]

Canada accepts refugees as permanent residents under its Refugee Resettlement Program for humanitarian reasons to align with its international obligations to protect those in need and reunite refugee families. This report suggests that the pathway of private sponsorship, facilitated by dedicated civil servants as was the case in the flow of Indochinese refugees in 1979-80[xii], can be replicated in the 2020s using a new pathway of private sponsorship for student refugees who are sponsored to come to Canada on student visas. UNHCR has actively promoted the search for such pathways whereby actors to find new ways to bring refugees to safety as well as to rebuild public interest and consensus around the importance of protection. New pathways will not only benefit refugees but discourage irregular migration.[xiii]

Many other countries have programs or plans underway[xiv] to copy the Canadian private sponsorship initiative.[xv] “Amid the divisive debates over migration in Europe, national governments broadly agree on the need to provide safe, legal ways of entry for refugees. The Global Compact on Refugees endorsed by the UN General Assembly provides “a basis for predictable and equitable burden and responsibility-sharing” based on a firmer mechanism for that responsibility sharing. However, development can no longer be the critical vehicle for change as was featured in the past. We suggest that access to higher education is.[xvi]

One initiative that could help achieve this aim is the private sponsorship of refugees whereby communities or individuals take the lead in helping refugees to find jobs, language courses, and other services. Some even envision creating new private sponsorship pathways[xvii]. This kind of initiative, put on the map by Canada and now piloted in different parts of the globe, could work in Europe if planned and implemented carefully. However, civil society and engaged individuals[xviii] are the bedrock of any such program; EU-level oversight should not be heavy-handed.[xix]

In the existing Canadian program, based on targets to focus efforts where needed, these refugees are referred to the Canadian government by IRCC, the UNHCR, other authorized agencies or by a private sponsor in Canada where the refugee can be slotted into the privately-sponsored refugee (PSR) program which pays most of the costs for resettlement[xx] rather than the government-assisted refugee (GAR or Quebec GAR) program which provides full government assistance. There continues to be strong support in Canada for this mode of settling refugees.[xxi] According to a UN Global Trends Report, Canada did relatively well in opening its doors to refugees but not in terms of its past history or the dramatic need. Canada did relatively well in comparison to the Trump Administration’s policies in the US. However, on a global level, Canada’s position does not seem as positive.[xxii]

In addition, there is the Blended Visa Office Referral (BVOR) program[xxiii] where government assisted refugees may benefit from sponsor support and Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) for government-assisted refugees with exceptional needs requiring extended support. Canada also select cases for priority and special processing referred for urgent protection, vulnerable cases, public policies, applicants who are persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity expression (SOGIE-LGBTQI) and other groups requiring special attention.

One purpose of this proposal is to recommend creating a special class of refugees who enter Canada on student visas and only, subsequent to the completion of their studies, become eligible for landed status. These students will be privately sponsored by student organizations partnered with faculty, civil society partners and accepted by postsecondary institutions. This has the benefit of mobilizing students and faculty eager to play an active social role in welcoming and settling refugees arriving on student visas. These might be designated as the Privately Sponsored Student Visa (PSSV) class.

The point of such a program is to use education as not only a vehicle of upward mobility, but of horizontal mobility to end protracted refugee situations over time. Currently, the Canadian Student Refugee Program (CSRP) (administered by World University Service of Canada) receives far more applications than places available. CRSP supports 130 refugees per year. WUS provides a critical foundation on which to build and should definitely be a partner in the scheme proposed.

[i] Diego Chaves-González and Carlos Echeverría-Estrada (2020) “Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Regional Profile,” Migration Policy Institute.

[ii] Cf. Dany Bahar and Sebastian Strauss (2018) “Neighbor nations can’t bear costs of Venezuelan refugee crisis alone.”

[iii] For an experiential account in 2015, cf.Heaven Crawley, Franck Duvell, Katharine Jones, Simon McMahon and Nando Sigona (2018). Unravelling Europe’s Migration Crisis: Journeys Over Land and Sea. Policy Press.

[iv] Philip Oltermann (2020) “How Angela Merkel’s great migrant gamble paid off,” The Guardian, 30 August. He tells the specific story of Mohammad Hallak, a 21-year-old Syrian from Aleppo studying computer science at the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences.

[v] Susana de Sousa Ferreira (2019). Human Security and Migration in Europe’s Southern Borders.

[vi] For a comparison of the two possibilities, see Betts, Alexander, Remco Geervliet, Claire MacPherson, Naohiko Omata, Cory Rodgers and Olivier Sterck (2018) Self-reliance in Kalobeyei? Socio-Economic Outcomes for refugees in northwest Kenya. University of Oxford Refugee Studies Centre and the World Food Programme. This study compares outcomes for refugees from South Sudan who are now in two places in northwest Kenya, the Kolobeyei settlement established in 2015 using a self-reliance model and the older Kakuma camp that uses more of an ‘aid model’.

[vii] When Howard Adelman was part of the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, we studied the attitudes of NGOs to resettlement and integration of Burmese refugees in Thailand. There was (to us) a surprising resistance. A number of reasons were offered, but a major one was the vested interest of NGOs in humanitarian services to refugee and the concern with disrupting services in the camps because the best resettle first. Further, enhancing critical thinking skills of refugees create a possibly of providing leadership for disruptive behaviour as refugees mobilize themselves. Thus, agencies may prefer traditional “charity” work to tertiary education.

[viii] Ibrahim Elbadawi, Roger Albinyana, Belal Fallah, Maryse Louis, Samir Makdisi and Jala Youssef (2019) “Repatriation of Refugees from Arab Conflicts: Conditions, Costs and Scenarios for Reconstruction,” FEMISE Euromed Report, p.8. See also Samuel Hall (2018) Syria’s The author concludes that returns to Syria should neither be promoted nor facilitated Spontaneous Returns Study.

[ix] ESPMI discussion series analyzes the effects of disrupted education on school-age refugees: “What are the most significant impacts of disrupted education on refugee children & youth and what are solutions to address them?” According to UNHCR, 50% of refugee children attend primary school, just 22% of refugee adolescents receive a secondary education.

[x] [x] UNHCR. “Stepping Up: Refugee Education in Crisis.” Geneva: UNHCR, 2019.

[xi] Cf. McGrath, S., & Young, J. E. (eds.) (2019) Mobilizing Global Knowledge: Refugee Research in an Age of Displacement, University of Calgary Press.  The essays by academics and practitioners reflect on the emerging global collaborative research network and the efforts to bridge silos, sectors, and regions to address power and politics in refugee research, engage across tensions between the Global North and Global South, and engage deeply with questions of practice, methodology, and ethics in refugee research. 

[xii] Molloy, Michael J., Peter Duschinsky, Kurt F. Jensen, and Robert J. Shalka (2017) Running on Empty: Canada and the Indochinese Refugees, 1975-1980. McGill-Queen’s Press.

[xiii] Triandafyllidou, A., Bartolini, L., Guidi, C.F. (2019) “Exploring the links between enhancing regular pathways and discouraging irregular migration: a discussion paper to inform future policy deliberations,” International Organization for Migration, Discussion Paper.

[xiv] A 2020 Migration Policy Institute Europe policy brief examines refugee private sponsorship programs as one route increasingly used as a complementary or alternative resettlement pathway. Such initiatives empower community groups, civil-society organizations and even private individuals to take on some degree of responsibility for helping refugees settle and integrate into their new society, and even in some cases to identify and prepare refugees for travel. Interest in refugee sponsorship is booming, with a range of countries joining Canada, which pioneered the concept and has seen more than 306,000 refugees sponsored by private or community groups since 1978. Argentina, Australia, France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom have launched or committed to start such initiatives. The brief, Refugee Sponsorship Programmes: A global state of play and opportunities for investment, was released in advance of the 2019 Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, where the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which launched a new three-year resettlement strategy, including a commitment to expanding access to complementary pathways such as sponsorship and, presumably, private sponsorship of student refugees on student visas.

[xv] Audrey Macklin, a prominent refugee researcher, and her colleagues, after refugee migrations reached a moment of ‘crisis’ in 2015, started investigating the realities of resettlement and responses to precarious migration. Their respective research projects explored questions of private sponsorship and community resettlement from the perspective of various actors and access to higher education for young adult refugees as well as various other topics related to private sponsorship. See the workshop they ran at the University of Toronto on “Lived Learning as Researchers: Reflections on Migration Research,” 30 March 2020.

[xvi] Refugee Law Initiative’s 9th International Refugee Law Seminar Series, Speaker: Professor Penelope Mathew, Griffith University, Date: 19 November 2018. Matthew was Dean of Law at Griffith from 2014-2018.

[xvii] M. The Expert Council’s Research Unit (SVR Research Unit (2018) What Next for Global Refugee Policy? Opportunities and Limits of Resettlement at Global, European and National Levels. Berlin.

[xviii] For a more critical approach to private sponsorship as an expression of neo-liberalism, cf. Enns, T. (2017). The Opportunity to Welcome: Shifting responsibilities and the resettlement of Syrian refugees within Canadian communities, Dissertation, University of Oxford This dissertation asks: to what extent have local and individual resettlement efforts been shaped by a rhetoric of “welcome”, and to what extent have national policies and practices of refugee resettlement reconfigured the scales of responsibility? It starts by providing a revisionist history of refugee resettlement in Canada, it then contextualizes the latter within the recent Syrian resettlement effort, and assess the national, community and individual responses and responsibilities—with a particular focus on the community-led response within the Region of Waterloo. It argues that the Syrian example has revealed manifestations of neo-liberalization, regarding who determines one’s right to resettlement, and on whose shoulders the moral and economic impact of resettlement rests.

[xix] Cf. Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Europe prepared with ICF International for the European Commission’s Directorate General for Home Affairs prepared by Hanne Beirens and Susan Fratzke. These are a potted version of their words.

[xx]Cf.  Ilcan, S., Thomaz, D., & Jimenez Bueno, (2020) “Private sponsorship in Canada: the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the Kitchener-Waterloo region,”. IMRC Policy Points, Issue 17; see also Suzan Ilcan, Diana Thomaz, and Manuela Jimenez Bueno. (2020) “Private Sponsorship in Canada: The Resettlement of Syrian Refugees in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region,” International Migration Research Centre, Wilfrid Laurier University.

[xxi] A majority of Canadians continue to see Canada as an international role model with 86 per cent of respondents saying the country can have a positive impact on world affairs, both in 2008 and in 2018. 25% of respondents think the most important contribution the country can make to the world is accepting immigrants and multiculturalism, a shift from ten years ago when peacekeeping topped the list. Consequently, the survey estimates that two million adult Canadians were involved directly in the sponsorship of refugees, with another seven million who knew someone who did. In addition, a majority of those surveyed believe Canada should either increase the number of refugees accepted over the next two years or continue to accept the same number. Cf. the 2018 survey by Francesca Fionda forEnvironics Institute for Survey Research.


[xxiii] The BVOR program was introduced in 2013 as a modified version of private sponsorship and middle ground between sponsorship and government-assisted resettlement. While the program was met with criticism and skepticism that the government was off-loading more resettlement responsibility to private sponsors, the Syrian crisis significantly impacted and changed the Canadian resettlement landscape. Labman, S., & Pearlman, M. (2018) “Blending, Bargaining, and Burden-Sharing: Canada’s Resettlement Programs,” Journal of International Migration and Integration, 1-11.