According to an old Israeli quip, the way to remove 500 Canadians from a swimming pool at closing time is to whisper, “Everybody out of the water, please.”
The implication is both clear and amusing to each group. Israelis are famous for and proud of being disobedient and unruly; Canadians are considered and view themselves as well-mannered and orderly.
But the joke, apparently, is on all concerned, now that the latter’s truckers have entered the picture. These guys aren’t exiting the proverbial premises with a subservient bow. On the contrary, they’re not only conducting a serious protest but leading others in the world to follow suit.
Their shouts to be heard by the government in Ottawa started as a reaction to draconian measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic—or, at least, it’s the excuse used by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his very illiberal Liberal Party to exercise power over the public.
Trudeau is by no means alone in this endeavor. Leaders around the globe, initially flummoxed by COVID-19, have spent the past two years caving to the dire predictions of and warnings by health “authorities,” despite equally gloomy economic and psychological forecasts.
Nor are Canadians the only people who’ve been putting up with restrictions imposed on them by politicians. Indeed, even normally cheeky and rebellious Israelis meekly accepted lockdowns and the like from the outset.
It’s almost funny that a microbe came along and instilled a level of fear that no Hamas or Hezbollah missile had been able to do until that point. And that’s not a joke.
Israelis I know personally who used to pooh-pooh calls to take shelter during rocket attacks—some going so far as to head outside to film Iron Dome interceptions—suddenly were terrified not to wear the best surgical masks on the market and wouldn’t leave home without bottles of hand sanitizer at the ready.
Much of the hysteria waned when vaccines became available. But then a second and third wave arrived, followed by a fourth and a fifth. This had an interesting effect.
With the help of the media’s go-to medical professionals, some people’s anxiety rose. If the jabs weren’t keeping them safe from the virus, then they’d need to be more, not less, vigilant.
Others became inured to the hype as common sense kicked in. To them, the statistics about morbidity no longer served as evidence that the danger to everyone was ever-present. Even the idea of a full-blown vaccine mandate was in debate.
All along, however, the peril of lost livelihood was concrete. Business owners in Israel and abroad have been in such distress that some claim to see death as a preferable alternative.
This is more an expression of deep frustration than a threat to commit suicide. But it is grave nonetheless and should be heeded by the chattering classes dictating the “science.”
Herein lies the crux of the matter that the Canadian truckers—now joined across the border by American counterparts, and farther away, in France, for example—are raising. Trudeau and his gang responded to the decrease in COVID numbers by coming up with yet another rule, requiring truckers returning from the United States to be vaccinated or quarantine for two weeks.
Aside from the fact that the majority of the “Freedom Convoy” participants are indeed vaccinated, there’s absolutely no logic to creating such a regulation for long-distance drivers who toil solo while delivering and collecting goods.
But this is merely a symptom of the societal disease that the pandemic unmasked. While the arguments surrounding the virus and vaccines at times divide along left-right lines, the people engaged in them are just as frequently separated by class. And truckers, like many of the faceless workers on whom the high-tech crowd and TV-studio literati depend for just about everything, are sick and tired of being the butt of elite scorn.
If there was any doubt about this, Trudeau dispelled it on Monday by announcing that he would invoke Canada’s 1988 Emergencies Act to quell the unrest. Never mind that he himself is responsible for the situation.
Forget that the law in question, which was forged to handle public-welfare, public-order, and international and war emergencies doesn’t apply to the current protests. Trudeau has no problem displaying a mixture of cluelessness and hypocrisy when treating the truckers as though it is they who are harming the nation’s economy by blocking roads and bridges. Somehow, he is oblivious to his key role in that particular malady.
Whether or not he succeeds in his immediate mission to put the brakes on this sector of Canadian society, he’s in for a rude awakening. The truckers have lit a fire under swathes of fellow disgruntled citizens that won’t easily be extinguished.
Israelis, particularly those whose attempt at mimicking the “Freedom Convoy” on Monday fell flat like a tire, might want to pause from now on before poking fun at “submissive” Canadians. Getting those truckers out of a swimming pool will require a lot more than a delicate nudge.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”