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(Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
(Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

Drawn Off Topic

Izzeldin Abuelaish on F-35 fighter jets Add to ...

Izzeldin Abuelaish, an associate professor at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, is the author of I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey . Dr. Abuelaish will speak at The Globe and Mail Open House Festival, Bram and Bluma Appel Salon, Toronto Reference Library, on May 1.

The government of Canada is committed to purchasing 65 F-35 fighter jets, costing billions of dollars, to assert our sovereignty over the resource-rich Far North. Should we?

The money that they want to invest - these billions of dollars for the military machine to fight for those resources - we want to invest in action to help the people and find a way to maximize the benefit of those resources to help the many.

Nations don't work that way, sadly. They tend to think, "This is ours, you can't have it."

The means of fighting these days has changed. What has happened in the Middle East? It is not bullets, it is not fighters. If we want order in this world, we have to change our course not with military machines. We need minds and wisdom and humanity.

If I don't have the resources, I can ask you. Happiness can be achieved through sharing. Happiness is not with how much do I have. Happiness is how much do I share, how much do I give, how much do I connect with others. When people are helping others, they are helping themselves. As long as others are not free, I am not free. If my neighbour is hungry, I am not satisfied.

That's a wonderful sentiment but would involve a 180-degree turn in mentalities around the world - both governments and people.

We must change. If we keep materialized, we are fighting and killing each other like wild animals.

Wild animals with zillion-dollar stealth fighter jets.

Is it going to provide us with safety and security and protect our resources, or can we find other ways to protect our resources?

The alternative is to have the moral courage, from both sides, to say what can be done to minimize the loss. To find other ways, political ways. To have negotiations, discussions, engage the international community with these issues. We are not alone.

At stake are massive natural resources of the Far North. If other nations say this territory is not Canada's, how do we assert and protect our sovereignty? Just saying it's Canada's doesn't make it so.

The world's dignity and sovereignty, that's what we want to protect. The world also has to take its part to support us.

I am not proving it to someone else. I am dealing with it with the international community and I want the international community to help me with that.

The international community manifest in the United Nations?

It is the only recognized international organization. We have to accept it.

This is our territory. We will fight with our words and our wisdom and our faith in it. We must fight in peaceful ways, in political ways. With our allies, with support of the international community, we can achieve that.

What happened between Iraq and Kuwait? When Iraq said, "This is our territory." You remember? It is the same. Consider that Iraq is Russia and Canada is Kuwait. The international community stood up in front of Iraq and they kicked them out.

People are not living alone. Libya. Who is there? The international community. They took action.

With that rationale, no nation would need a military.

Military is the last option. As a medical doctor, we have many approaches in treating our patients, and the last option is surgery. We have to be sure the surgery wouldn't do any harm to the patient.

Our largest and most powerful ally, the U.S., is "encouraging" our purchase of the F-35s.

If someone is smoking, can I smoke? I am not imitating. I want to do what is helpful to me. What would give me safety and security and help my people? I am not blindly following others.

Should Canada reconsider purchasing high-end fighter jets in a time of deficit reduction?

Now is the time, because of the election. Let the people decide. Ask, do the people want the jets or not?

You live in Toronto now. Does your home have fences and defined boundaries? Could you take those fences down and negotiate peacefully with your neighbours over what is whose backyard?

When we first arrived here, my neighbour came to me - and this is the example, the model others have to learn. I have children, he has children. He said, "What do you think? We can take apart the wooden fence to make the lives of our children easy." You can come to see it. Come to my home now and see that part of the fence is taken away.

I'd say that mentality, writ large, would eliminate the need for spending billions on high-end fighter jets.

Yes, yes, yes! Take from me something that I want by good word, not by force. Not force me to give to you or you to me.

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