The Middle-East is a depressing place. Today the Levant serves as a cautionary tale in how quickly societies can tear themselves to pieces when the only dominant ideologies are extremist ones.
A lesson, apparently, which many Western societies seem to be losing sight of. Against the backdrop of the current conflict in Gaza, the past few weeks have seen synagogues attacked in Paris, and openly anti-Semitic demonstrations in Germany. And an attempted lynching of Jews in Calgary, Canada.
Yes, Canada. When Syrians went out to demonstrate for change in 2011, everyone had their own idea of the kind of society they wanted Syria to emulate. For me personally, that society was Canada.
But on Friday 18th of July, Canadian values were blatantly and contemptuously disregarded as a demonstration of a thousand "pro-Gaza" demonstrators turned into a brutal and vicious assault on a group of ten pro-Israel Calgarians, who at the time were holding a token counter-protest.
The account of the violence inflicted on the small group is sickening. A middle-aged woman who had been recovering from surgery was repeatedly punched.
A young man had the Israeli flag he was holding tied around his neck noose-like, and dragged along the streets.
A young woman was set upon by no less than six thugs and beaten unconscious. Another young man had the shirt ripped off his back, was bitten and beaten into a concussion.
All because the mob of "pro-Gaza" rioters found the open expression of an opposing view deeply offensive. And apparently, the only answer to such "offense" was to physically and barbarically assault those deemed to have inflicted the offense. To treat the Jews in Calgary like one would treat a Jew in Gaza.
ISIS may not be in Canada yet, but their mindset is very much alive there.
Let's be very clear about what happened in Calgary that day; a small group of Jewish and non-Jewish activists got together to express their opinion on an issue, and were in no way interfering with the much larger "pro-Palestine" demonstration expressing an opposing view.
But Calgary amply demonstrated that one doesn't have to wave the ISIS flag or pledge bai'a to its Caliphate to share the group's vicious and extremist mentality. On that day, it wasn't just a small group of Jews who were assaulted; it was the very core and definition of the values of Canadian society that were so blatantly and viciously violated.
It is those values that define societies, that differentiate a country that everyone aspires to live in, from the failing crap-holes that make up much of the Middle East and which people cannot flee fast enough. There is a reason why Europe and North America are the favored destinations for most Arab expats and asylum seekers.
The apathy of Calgary's police was just as shocking as the assaults themselves. No arrests were made in the aftermath of the brutal violence. Indeed, one of the Jewish victims of the barbaric violence was admonished by a Calgary police officer, who told him "when you're wearing that [the Israeli flag] what do you expect is going to happen here?"
And so it begins. The capitulation of every liberal society has always begun by justifying the actions of extremists. What did the young Calgarian expect to happen.
What do Copts in Egypt expect to happen when they openly pray in their churches in a predominantly Muslim country. Why are they surprised when their churches are attacked and burned.
What does a woman living in Raqqa expect to happen when she doesn't wear the burqa. Why is she surprised when ISIS thugs whip her in public.
What does a KFC franchise in the Lebanese city of Tripoli expect to happen in such an anti-American atmosphere. Why are they surprised when the place is burned down.
And it is morally reprehensible to justify the violence of that day by pointing to events in Gaza. At any given time, there is always a war or strife going on someplace on this miserable planet, and exploiting world events to justify thuggery is to give any extremist group carte blanche to act with complete impunity.
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper is probably the most pro-Israeli politician in the Western world, but that will be of little comfort to Canada's Jewish population, who have seen brazen violence against them go unpunished and unaddressed. Likewise, the response of Naheed Nenshi, Calgary's colorful liberal Muslim Mayor, has been anything but forceful.
So what is a vulnerable community to do when those whose job it is to uphold the safety of a society's individuals fail to do the task entrusted to them?
Enter Ezra Levant; lawyer, author and conservative media personality. I seriously do not like the guy. Everything in his punditry comes down to Arabs, or oil, or Arab oil. But Levant has stepped in where Calgary's authorities and politicians are too timid to go.
While one may not like Levant's politics or style, the victims of the Calgary violence could not have found a more tenacious person to champion their cause or shine the spotlight on the barbarity of the "pro-Palestine" thugs.
When society fails to uphold its values, it is the Ezra Levants of this world who step in. Levant is currently putting together a legal defense fund to seek redress for the brutality inflicted on the Jewish demonstrators and their supporters, and to collect signatures for a petition expressing outrage on the events of that day.
As a Syrian who has witnessed his own country fall apart, and seen the region in general continue its inexorable descent into extremist madness, I have some heartfelt advice for Canada. At one point, we hoped to emulate you. Please do not end up emulating us, through apathy, complacency, or appeasement.
It begins with a few Jews being beaten up. And I guarantee you it will end with this;
Update July 25th 2014:
One of the organizers of the "pro-Gaza" demonstration, Saima Jamal, spoke to Canada's National Post and expressed "regret" over the violence. However, while Jamal was acting apologetic in front of Canadian media, her tone on Facebook to her fellow Gaza Groupie thugs was very different; gloating and disgustingly exultant. "After today they would be foolish to show up again in another protest in Calgary as long as they live".