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Canada’s shame

Israsel missile strike in Gaza City. Photo by Hatem Moussa, AP

Israsel missile strike in Gaza City. Photo by Hatem Moussa, AP

The Conservative government of Stephen Harper and his lackey John Baird ought to be ashamed of themselves as indeed the country should be ashamed of them. Their position with respect to Israel and Gaza is so short sighted as to be a national disgrace and should be condemned by all Canadians.

It would be idle in the extreme to try to trace the history of Israel and Palestine. It goes back into the mists of time. What one can deal with, however, is the use of the word “terrorist “ which seems to be governing the position of the Government of Canada. In short, Hamas is a terrorist organization that is shooting missiles into Israel and thereby is bringing Gaza’s problems on itself and thus is responsible for the hundreds of innocent deaths caused by Israel in that territory. That Hamas is doing minimal damage while Israel is slaughtering hundreds of innocent Gaza citizens is, apparently, beside the point. I, frankly, find it hard to believe that even a Canadian government could take such a shortsighted view of what is a part of an enormous ongoing problem that’s lasted nearly 70 years.

I have no doubt that Hamas is a terrorist organization by the usual definition of that word. What is conveniently overlooked is that the state of Israel was founded with substantial help by Jewish terrorist groups such as Irgun. In fact the first refugees from Palestinian villages left because of Israeli terrorism, not, as claimed, by armies. Irgun spawned later Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin.

That’s why by almost any reasonable definition of the word terrorism, the state of Israel for most of its history can be so defined. That it has used terror in Lebanon, Syria, and in Palestinian territories is a matter of historical record. I would state unequivocally that building on occupied lands and the defending of the settlers is an act of terrorism. I believe that the way Palestinian Arabs are treated within the state of Israel is, whether mild or not by comparison, nevertheless terrorism.

It is not my purpose here to try judge which terrorism is worse then another nor whether at any particular time one side was more guilty than another. My point is simply this – terrorism has been part of the 70-year-old struggle right from the very beginning and is no less practiced now by the state of Israel than by Hamas.

What Canada should be doing is adopting a helpful position as it has in difficult contests in the past. Instead of allying itself with the United States and I might say the Jewish population in Canada (you can be sure I’ll be getting the mail from the Canadian Jewish Congress for that statement), it should be reverting to its traditional position as a peacemaker.

There are two very distinct sides to the question but on the humanitarian side of things,   Palestinian citizens are suffering immeasurably more. Gaza, still in large part, living in refugee camps, is hostage to Israel for such basic things as drinking water and medicines. In every away from tiny little things on a daily basis to the major issues, Palestinians are made to feel like second-class citizens at best. They have no national dignity because they have not been allowed any. This has gone on for almost 70 years.

Canada seems to have forgotten that at one time, the entire land in question was Palestinian. The state of Israel was created by the persistence of the Zionist movement and the extraordinary and quite illegal help it got from Great Britain when she held the area as a mandate after World War I. We are not talking as if this was old Yugoslavia where “nations” had lived side-by-side for centuries.

Do not take from this that I do not support the existence of the state of Israel. It is too late for that debate;  it was over a long time ago. As a state, Israel also is entitled to the security of its borders. I don’t deny that.

What I do say is that the Palestinians have been very badly dealt with by the rest of the world since Israel was formed. To think that it has not yet got a state of its own is unbelievable. It can be said as the Israelis are fond of saying, “Palestine never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. That statement, however, is arrogant as hell implying that Israel has the right to make beneficent concessions from time to time, as it deems it appropriate, at which moment, Palestinians are expected to say “yes sir, yes sir”.

There is nothing easier to do than scupper a peace  conference and neither side can escape blame for that. What Israel must be blamed for is refusal to accept Palestine as a High Contracting Party, as a nation, until its borders are settled to the satisfaction of Israel.

Back to Canada. Canada cannot help matters if it simply adopts the US side and pursues that side uncritically. It can only help if it tries to be a an honest broker. This we have decided not to be and the world is much worse for it.

The Harper myopia  points out again that a large “C” conservative government is unbending and right wing in the worst sense of that word. There is no debate on this issue in Canada sponsored by the government and participated in by the opposition parties. No Canadian consensus has been sought.

By no means do all Canadians support the Harper government. But it is more than just lack of support that’s the problem. Canadians have not come together, debated the issue, and formulated a policy in the Canadian tradition that will be a help rather than a hindrance to the process.

It is that right wing, obdurate, hard line which has made Stephen Harper into an elected dictator and deprived his fellow citizens of expressing their views and, as should happen in a democracy, having those views formulate national policy.

10 Responses to “Canada’s shame”

  1. Larry Scott says:

    Rafe Mair

    I disagree with your stand on the Israel – Palestine conflict. First I have found no record of Palestine being a nation yet History shows that the nation of Israel has been around for thousands of years. When dealing with terrorists they will not negotiate away there reason for being a terrorist group which is to completely rid the earth of all Jews. Remember one thing. It is Hamas that is putting civilians in harms way by hiding behind them. They are cowards and bully’s who will only listen when they are challenged. they have used the death of there own people who they put in harms way to take you hostage to there ideologies.

    PS: I do not see any other Arab nation offering them their own place to call home. It is about ridding the earth of all jews.

  2. Bob Johnston says:


    I have contended for a while now that Canada’s foreign policy with respect to Israel is guided by Harper’s Evangelical beliefs. Evangelicals believe that the Jews must be in the holy land for the Rapture to occur and for true believers, like Harper, to ascend to heaven after the Second Coming.

  3. Gavin Bamber says:

    When Rafe is wrong, he’s really wrong. Rather than waste my time pointing out his copious errors, I will simply refer him to a knowledgeable column.


  4. Rafe Mair says:

    Krauthammer, is an interesting cat …. He is a dedicated Zionist and, if possible, further right than Harper. His family emigrated to Canada and he may well still be a Canadian. I have read a lot of his stuff and in fact have a collection of his columns. He devoutly believes that the state of Israel is slipping away by loss of population and makes the point that if Israel goes so really will Jews because they will be so scattered and in so many places there will no be level of any cohesion left. I heartily disagree with him but enjoy reading him nevertheless and have a bunch of his stuff on my Kindle.
    I am surprised that Mr. Bamber would pick him, of all writers, to cover my arguments. There are many writers, even Jewish ones, who are a lot more moderate in their stance and more humane towards those who happen to oppose, up close, the state of Israel.

  5. D. Walsh says:

    So firing rockets into Israel is wrong, plain and simple. But Israel’s response cannot be described with rather clinical terms like “disproportionate”. It is much, much more than disproportionate. It is evil. And collective punishment of a people is as wrong now as it was in Europe in the 30’s and 40’s.

    The only problem is context and here the balance weighs heavily against Israel. The way it has treated the occupied territories and the Palestinians in general is a disgrace. It has expropriated the land of minorities, occupied territory beyond its borders, driven out much of the population to facilitate the expropriation of their land under martial law, and made ghettos to contain those who remain.

    “The problem” continues to be the brutal military occupation and the abuse and control of Palestinian people and their lands for over 47 years and displacement for close to 70 years. The problem is simply this: there is no opportunity to build or develop the economy with the borders sealed. IDF enter when and where they choose. Freedom of movement is zero, they are imprisoned inside their territory. Death and mass arrests can come from Israel at any time (as it did during the “investigations” into the teenager murders — before the latest Hamas rocket attacks) . There is no hope. Zero. Zilch. Nothing. Israel clearly controls what is possible for Palestinian day to day life.

    ” Empathy relies on a sense of shared humanity; once that is obliterated, it is possible to tolerate almost limitless suffering.”

    You can point out the way that the occupation relies on dehumanizing the population to such a grotesque extent. If the persecution of the Jewish people was so traumatic why inflict it on another people? Everyone agrees the Holocaust was one of the most terrible crime committed against humanity.

    Many people have the misguided belief that if Israel stops shooting, there would no longer be an Israel; that Israel is “preventing another Holocaust”. Preventing another Holocaust? Armed to the teeth by the US, with the most technologically advanced military on planet Earth and nuclear weapons it won’t even admit to, waging war on men, women and children living in some of the most deplorable, densely populated conditions anywhere in the world?

    Successive Israeli governments have played upon the fears of their population in order to justify their aggressive policies toward their neighbours They have also sold the Zionist dream of a greater Israel from the Jordan to the sea to their population. That is why they are stealing the land on the West Bank. Layers of historic trauma, coupled with years as a colonial oppressor, have produced the monstrous unconscious killing machine we are now witnessing, which is the Israeli State. Many Israelis have become coarsened by their treatment of the Palestinians.

    Israel isn’t interested in peace. By continuing to build in occupied territory, Israel removed itself from the negotiating table. It wants control and it wants dominion. Peace, and a lasting, viable settlement, requires the strong to make real, serious concessions to the weak; but Israel isn’t interested in that. It thinks it can make demand after demand after demand of an impoverished, effectively imprisoned people stripped of their dignity. All sense of right and wrong has been lost; any moral compass guiding the country abandoned.

    This current version of Israel is cynical, militaristic, paranoid, aggressive beyond belief, and bent on revenge. Its politics have changed beyond all recognition; so have its attitudes. When Palestinians die, Israelis don’t deny [they] have died, but they’ve simply done a mental process that blames the Palestinian deaths on Palestinians themselves

    As a brave Israeli criticizing his government said… “the rockets are the equivalent of the starving attacking the well fed, and the International calls are for a ceasefire simply mean the starving can go back to starving, the well fed can continue to gloat.” More has to be done than simply stopping the latest round of killing. You need to be very wary of people with nothing to lose.

    The occupier gets away with what it does, not because of its collective psyche of victimhood, but because we allow it to happen.
    What is being done to the Palestinians is a blot on humanity supported by the West.

    The suffering is unbearable in Gaza. The excuses are insufferable.

  6. Gavin Bamber says:

    I purposefully chose an article that was the opposite of Rafe’s. I miss his radio show where opposite views collided, giving the listener lots to digest (and flush when necessary.)

  7. Rafe Mair says:

    Gavin – it is one thing to get an opposing point of view, quite another to get that of a fanatic. Krauthammer is a very good writer and has quite an audience. He represents the very far right wing of Zionism and what you seem to be saying is that I represent precisely the opposite pole. You have known me long enough, Gavin and havelistened to enough of my stuff to know that simply is not true. If I did feel that way I would want to drive Israel into the ocean etc. etc.

    My concern is that you could’ve pick somebody better able to bring the whole issue into focus from an Israeli point of view than this man and while I hate to say it, I suspect that you didn’t expect many people to read him and that of those who did they would not know him.

    Kindest regards


  8. John McNamer says:

    I see the comments by Rafe Mair and Denis Walsh as powerful attempts, with many strong heartfelt and valid points, to expose the horrific consequences of the violent abuse of power to real, living human beings .
    There is no longer any shred of a doubt that the current Canadian government has bought into the sickness of this violence mentality lock, stock and barrel: witness Canada’s military debacle in Afghanistan, and the Government of Canada’s indisputable complicity in torture of detainees and it’s participation in the illegal worldwide CIA “extraordinary rendition” program.
    Rafe Mair is on the right track when he says “What Canada should be doing is adopting a helpful position as it has in difficult contests in the past… it should be reverting to its traditional position as a peacemaker.”
    I would be interested in seeing more concrete information in this discussion about the violations of international law (by both sides) that have taken place, and what mechanisms and resources are available to begin moving toward enforcement of applicable international law. It seems a good place to start in order to take it out of the realm of highly-charged emotional debate and toward realistic change.
    Perhaps Canada could actually become a nation of peacemakers — or maybe being just peacekeepers would suffice. Surely we already have enough wannabe warlords in this world; let’s stop spreading the sickness.

  9. Dear Rafe,

    I was pleasantly surprised to see the tone of your article and your recognition of the fact that the Harper Conservatives are basically complicit in the current war crimes that Israel is committing in Gaza. Much appreciated.

    Mostly though I want to thank the poster “D. Walsh” for his comprehensive, truthful, factual and realistic appraisal of the situation.

    The Israeli government has been breaking international law since the inception of the state in 1948 and the UN has been unable to get any control of this rogue state or stop it from stealing the lands of the Palestinian people and creating illegal settlements.

    This issue is bound to divide Canadians big time as there are millions of voters who see not only Harper but Trudeau and Mulcair as well all “standing with Israel” and not speaking out for the defenceless Palestinian people who are being slaughtered like cattle while the Western nations sit by and applaud the killers.

    Zionism has now become the major threat to world peace rather than what it was initially intended to achieve – a “spiritual homeland” for the Jews where they would flourish in peace and stand as a beacon of hope and peace for the rest of humanity.

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