The Mile High Club: What they were doing may have felt like love but it was really just going through a motion.

By Ray Rivers

January 30, 2014


Last week two passengers flying from Toronto to Halifax got carried away and joined the Mile High Club (MHC).  On landing the police detained them, and the female ended up getting arrested – which as you can imagine would kind of ruin the moment.  Perhaps the most celebrated case of making your own in-flight entertainment was Ralph Fiennes and a very eager-to-please attendant, on route to Bombay from Darwin. Australia.  Somebody caught her fixing her skirt as she left the toilet cubicle shortly after Fiennes did.  

Part of the growing up stages?

These are the stories of fancy – how many of us secretly wish it were us?  And seriously, why would they arrest somebody for doing what comes naturally, providing it was in the confines of a planes tiny toilet compartment or discretely in one of those horribly uncomfortable seats.  Perhaps the lucky couple should qualify for a medal for having the chutzpah to engage in that kind of near-gymnastic activity, rather than being arrested.  Maybe this could be another Olympic event?

Anything to escape from the boredom of listening to those whining jet engines and that annoying intercom.  Richard Branson once bragged that he got initiated into the MHC at a very young age – but then what would you expect from a guy who named his airline Virgin?  I once saw an advert for an hour-long MHC private flight for under $500, and our own Justin Bieber reportedly has joined the club, though the HIGH may be just the kind one gets from smoking Rob Fords favourite herb.

Then there is the other mile-high club – the one where Canadas prime minister flies hundreds of business people to foreign lands to expand Canadas trade opportunities.  Jean Chretien first created the Team Canada concept.  And last week Stephen Harper flew 200 people to Israel.  though Im not sure why, since we already have a free trade deal with them – one Chretien negotiated back in the 90s.  And our business with that tiny nation will only ever amount to a mere fraction of our total exports. 

So what was Harper doing in Israel and why did he bring over so many delegates?  The fact is that this excursion wasnt about trade, it was about politics.   Harper apparently believes that if you profess your love enough times youll get loved in return.  Though, its really the votes he wants – enough to give him another ten or so ridings in vote-rich Ontario. 

Is it working?  The pollsters and pundits will tell you it is, but my friends of Jewish background always seem more insulted than impressed with this kind of deliberate over-the-top pandering.  After all, the PMs love extends shamelessly to any minority group which can return his love at the ballot box.  We recall how he performed a masterful grandstand for the Tamil community, refusing to attend an annual commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka last year. 

And there is never a shortage of client groups to love.  The recent Ukrainian disturbance, for example, has provided him with a plum opportunity to play up to Canadians of Ukrainian origin.   For Mr. Harper and his party all politics is local – and Canadas foreign policy gets determined by what will win votes back  home.  That isnt new and he isnt the first politician to play politics with international relations, but Harper has turned this kind of pandering into a new art form.

In one of his speeches he talked about Canadas unquestioning support for Israel as being the right thing to do.  But is it?  The roadmap to the future for Israel and the Palestinians is either a two-state solution or a one-state solution.  Of course a form of occupied single-state is what they have right now.  But this situation is unsustainable – a time bomb ticking until violence once again brings chaos and calamity to this part of the middle east. 

Close to 200 people trekked to Israel with the Prime Minister – the public paid for a lot of those airplane seats.

And time is also against a two-state solution, which is partly our fault, since Canadas international posture has helped mitigate against that outcome.  John Baird voted against a Palestinian state at the UN and we intervened at the G8 to avoid criticizing Israels occupation beyond the 1967 borders.  Our recent role in the Middle East has helped enable Israel to flaunt international law, including construction of a barrier through occupied territory, violating UN resolutions and creating new settlements in the occupied territories.

Stephen Harper may claim he is doing the right thing – but his unquestioning support for the status quo in that nation is wrong.  While his motives may be genuine, this is not the kind of love that Israel needs.  If there is no two-state solution there will be a one-state solution and that will mean the end of the Jewish nation.  Israel will not be able to avoid integrating its Palestinian population into an evolved secular democratic state.  South Africa, Israels one time ally, can provide a working blueprint of how to proceed.

Being a mile above the earth is supposed to provide greater perspective, but our PM was missing the big picture as he and the rest of his 200 mile-high delegates flew in to Israel last week.  Just like that couple on the flight to Halifax he is confusing passion for love.   What they were doing may have felt like love but it was really just going through a motion.

Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.

Background links:

Stephen Harper and Israel

A Matter of Principle

Jewish Voters

Harpers Zeal

Mile High Club

 Justin Bieber

Halifax Flight

 Two State solution

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