Canadian Muslims should accept full political responsibility as citizens: loyalty to their country, critical of its policies

Just as I was about to write a follow-up to an earlier article on the anti-terrorism handbook published jointly by two Canadian Muslim organizations and the RCMP, a recent convert to Islam killed a member of the Canadian Armed Forces in Québec and, one day later, a shooter apparently self-identified as a Muslim attacked Canada’s House of Parliament in Ottawa. Muslim organizations were quick to denounce the attacks in the strongest terms.

Such disclaimers, while undoubtedly sincere, are no longer adequate to the security-obsessed political atmosphere that has been created in Canada. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada is once again a belligerent in a Middle-East war. Its avowed enemy (though it may have other adversaries it prefers not to identify) is the hyper-Islamist faction ISIS, also known as the Islamic State or Da’ish, its Arabic acronym. This organization, if we are to believe media accounts, clearly intends to carry the war to the enemy, wherever he might be. Including Ottawa, we may presume.

Muslims in Canada, who have lately been going to extraordinary lengths to dissociate themselves from what has been correctly labeled as an “ideology of violence”, may soon run out of workable options. The unanimous declarations of Canadian imams condemning Da’ish and its works as un-Islamic do not appear to be having any effect on either the Harper government’s determination to bomb far-away Muslim countries as part of yet another colonial-imperialist coalition, or on the hot-headed, single-minded and often deeply troubled young men prepared to act on the call of the group’s leaders to strike their foes wherever they find them.

Put bluntly, Canada’s Muslims are caught in a bind. Trapped between the shrill propaganda of the Harper government and its policy of punitive expeditions on the one hand, and the equally shrill call for jihad, seen as sanctified combat against the enemies of Islam on the other, what plea for moderation can prevail? In fact, the extreme nature of both positions ensures that extremism will prevail. Would Stephen Harper soon channel Pierre-Elliot (“Just watch me”) Trudeau of War Measures Act fame?

We need not have held our collective breath. Prime Minister Harper announced the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu attack in the House of Commons in response to a set-up question from an obscure backbencher. He then introduced legislation to strengthen Canada’s security services. These services—the RCMP and CSIS—already notorious for their disregard for, and hostility to, civil liberties, will gain draconian new powers to monitor, detain and arrest on suspicion or “reasonable assumption.”

What should Canada’s growing Muslim population do now? Public statements by individuals and organizations, while properly expressing abhorrence of crimes committed in the name of Islam, should be expanded to describe the current political context that the Harper government (and its arch-secularist Islamophobe allies in and around the Parti Québécois) has shaped. Muslim grass-roots organizations, while declaring their abhorrence of the crimes committed in the name of their religion, should be equally firm in demonstrating their loathing for the atrocities (known as “collateral damage”) committed by their government—and the coalition of which it is a member—in their name. Canada, they might well point out, has no United Nations mandate to bomb Syrian or Iraqi territory in whatever capacity. The country to which they as citizens owe allegiance is thus a party to aggression as defined by the UN Charter.

Citizen-based organizations and anti-war movements in Québec and the rest of Canada have already taken to the streets to protest Ottawa’s policy. Muslims should join such demonstrations and make their voices heard. They cannot afford to surrender their rights as citizens. Their determination to speak out against Canada’s policy of militarism should be as bold and forthright as their condemnation of the violent acts perpetrated in the name of their religion.

No more than they should accept collective responsibility for the acts of a handful of fools, petty criminals or, at best, misled young men.  Muslims in Canada cannot abdicate their duty as citizens to call their government to account for shaping the international climate that has fostered the rise of groups like Da’ish. Indeed, the finger of accusation should be pointed straight at Ottawa for its unconditional defense and support of Zionist crimes in Palestine and, by extension, for the oppressive and unjust status quo that prevails throughout the Middle East and stokes the fires of sectarian strife.

While it is a crime for Canadians to travel abroad to join the ranks of Da’ish, the Israel-based Lone Soldier Program benefits from tax-deductible status through the Ne’eman Foundation in Toronto. This program recruits mercenaries to serve—and fight–in the Israeli army against its Palestinian “enemies.”

None of these measures, however, should allow Muslims in Canada to avoid some communal soul searching. While they can and must reject collective guilt, they cannot remain indifferent to the exclusionist language that has, over the years, become accepted as religious discourse in mosques and, worse, in informal discussion groups and on the internet. The issue is less one of financial support of institutions by Middle Eastern sponsors of violence and obscurantism, and more that of legitimizing a retrograde political ideology—Wahhabi Salafism—that masquerades as religion. Curiously, while Da’ish has been identified as the enemy of the day, the sources of its political/religious program do not appear to bother either Washington or Ottawa, both of which maintain excellent relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its principal state purveyor.

Canadian political leaders, and their security services, enjoy instructing Muslims in the steps they must take to head off religiously inspired violence. They should be politely requested to keep their advice to themselves and go about their information gathering without the willing cooperation of Canadian Muslims. If state surveillance and monitoring tools and skills are as well developed and extensive as Edward Snowdon’s revelations show, does the political police really need help from us?

Ultimately the task of Muslims in Canada should be to deconstruct the pseudo-religions ideology that has enabled extremism to carve out a niche in their midst. Only Canada’s Muslims themselves can do the job. At the same time they should accept full political responsibility as citizens: loyalty to their country, critical of its policies. Especially when those policies perpetuate the climate of sectarian violence now wracking the Middle East.

Muslim Presence Canada extends its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent who were killed while on duty.

Our thoughts also are with the other victims injured in last week’s tragic events. We wish them a swift and full recovery.

In reaction to the attacks, the Harper government is now wanting to toughen the country’s anti-terror laws, including a measure that would allow “preventative detention”.  

Let us beware of the roads we take in the name of security.

We believe, given the attitude of the Harper government, that such measures are likely to stigmatize communities, erode civil liberties, institutionalize discrimination and create a serious breech in basic human rights protection.

The sad reality is that today there is a general lack of knowledge of Muslims and of their religion, and a resulting tendency to accept simplistic and absolute caricatures.

Canadian Muslims, for their part, have at times been slow to participate fully in and to understand Canadian society.

We call upon our fellow Canadian citizens to exercise their obligation of critical vigilance and to oppose all discriminatory security policies.

We call upon all Muslims to discharge their duties as citizens and residents to the fullest and to participate fully in every aspect of Canadian social and political life.

We are determined to work together to find a better way to address security concerns in a manner which is in keeping with the Canadian values we all share and are committed to defending.


“My expectations and the experience itself evolved from a history tour for teachers into a human rights eye-opener for me”


During the last two weeks of July 2009, six teachers from Los Angeles toured Jordan, Israel, and Palestine thanks to the last wishes of the late Dr. Maggie Grater.

Maggie Grater was a dedicated teacher, principal and administrator who devoted her energies to bringing greater understanding of the Arab world. 

In her will, Dr. Grater left a monetary gift to the Middle East Fellowship of Southern California and asked that it be used to educate teachers about the Middle East. After much consideration, the group decided to use the funds to send a group of teachers to tour the region. On Aug. 1, 2009—four years to the day after Dr. Grater’s passing—the six teachers selected returned from this extraordinary learning experience.

The teachers were accompanied on their two-week study tour of Jordan and Israel/Palestine by trip leader and coordinator Brice Harris, a retired Occidental College professor and specialist in Middle Eastern history. In keeping with the theme of Arab history, culture and circumstances, the group spent a week in Jordan touring the early proto-Arab site of Petra, the Roman-Byzantine ruins at Jarash, the old and modern souq in Amman, and religious locations on Mt. Nebo and baptismal sites in the Jordan valley. The group also met with representatives of the American Friends Service Committee and the Presbyterian Church in Amman.

In Israel/Palestine, the group continued its emphasis on background material which the teachers might find helpful in their classes or interactions with students and other faculty. The teachers met with various religious groups, toured East and West Jerusalem, and visited Palestinian refugee camps and Israel’s Yad Vashem museum, as well as many places of historical and cultural interest.

While the purpose of the trip was not to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, inevitably the struggle for land and control was everywhere apparent. This was especially significant in light of President Barack Obama’s efforts to persuade Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to halt Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Following are impressions of this trip written by five of the six participating teachers. For further information, or if you are interested in creating a similar program in your school district, contact Vicki Tamoush at (714) 368-5100 or .

Alice Lee, who teaches U.S. and world history at Eagle Rock High School. This was her first trip to the Middle East.

In mid-July, I was given the opportunity to travel to the Middle East with a group of educators through the Dr. Maggie Grater Fund. Little did I know that this great honor was going to be a life-changing experience for me.

You see, I used to think of myself as a compassionate and well-informed global citizen of the modern world; adequately armed with an “above-average” awareness of the events that shape our world today. I follow the news. I listen to public radio. I surround myself with knowledgeable people who are eager to share their insights. I had no idea that, in reality, I knew very little about the situation in Palestine. While on this trip, I witnessed things that made a profound and lasting impression on me.

Being a social studies teacher, I’ve always been fascinated with other cultures and histories. I was so excited to visit all of the historic and religious sites that were scheduled on the itinerary. Eventually, my expectations and the experience itself evolved from a history tour for teachers into a human rights eye-opener for me.

As I began packing my bags for the trip, I was anticipating the feeling of awe any history-lover might get from walking through the narrow crevasses of Petra. Or the tear-jerking, heart-thumping thrill any pilgrim might get from visiting the site of Jesus’ birth. What ended up making the greatest lasting impression on me, however, was the genuine benevolence I experienced from the locals I met on the trip. Their generosity, hospitality, knowledge, kindness and self-control in a time of oppression left me in awe, as tears welled up in my eyes and my heart began pounding for the plight of the people of Palestine.

On this trip I heard Israeli jets flying over the city of Nablus, demonstrating their might and supremacy. I witnessed a grown man groveling before an armed teenage soldier to let him through a checkpoint. I heard testimonies from courageous activists who have been shot at by Israeli soldiers. I visited homes and entire villages that have been demolished by the Israeli government. I listened intently as individuals shared their stories of affliction with eloquence, relevance and poise. I saw the injustice. I observed the apartheid. I felt the tension. My eyes were opened to the savage treatment Palestinians experience daily under Israeli occupation.

I feel that this trip has ignited an energy in me that urges me to take action and to spread peace and understanding to others. I want to share what I know about the inequality and hostility I saw in Israel, the dignity and resilience of the Palestinian people and, finally, the truth about what is happening in the Holy Land. Ben Franklin once said, “Experience is not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you.” This means so much more to me now that I’ve experienced Palestine. I am so grateful to the late Dr. Grater and the people of Palestine for this truly moving experience.

Rosa Melendez, who was born in El Salvador. A teacher and fitness enthusiast who enjoys traveling and learning about other cultures, she also loves reading, running and food.

From the moment I crossed the Allenby Bridge, I felt that I had entered a very dark place, despite the scorching sun shining in the clear skies of the Middle East. Ironic is another adjective that comes to mind. Coming from Jordan, a country ruled by a monarch, I entered the self-proclaimed “only democracy in the Middle East” just to find an abundance of slender teenage soldiers with big guns and matching attitudes roaming everywhere. It’s interesting to note that in an area that the Western media claim is teeming with Palestinian terrorists, the only weapons I saw were in the hands of Israelis. There were armed soldiers, armed police officers, and, most puzzling of all, armed settlers everywhere.

Entering Israel, I witnessed the humiliating manner in which Palestinians are welcomed into their homeland. Without going into detail about the discomfort and inconvenience of the long waits, searches, and interrogations to enter the country, it was the calculated contempt and hatred I saw in the customs officers’ faces that angered me the most.

It reminded me of the dread I felt before I became an American citizen every time I had to cross the border and show my green card. INS officers were coldly professional and unfriendly, but the Israeli agents were mean-spirited and rude. INS agents had nothing on their Israeli counterparts, but I hear that Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas are eager to learn from Israel how to properly secure airports and borders.

The line of Palestinians going through customs moved at a snail’s pace. They stood patiently and somber, while the youthful Israeli agents and soldiers chatted amiably in small groups. Eventually, a female agent put on her best “go ahead, make my day” face, and began calling each person to her window. At the window, she would refuse to look at people as they stood there and very resignedly handed their passports. At this point, she would glare at them with something that my gut feeling said was disgust and hatred to verify that the passport picture matched the person standing before her. The look was not one of a human being recognizing another one. Finally, she would slam the passport back to its owner in a manner that fairly screamed, “I want you to disappear.”

Having lived in El Salvador in the 1980s and having lost my father in the civil war that raged there for years, I easily saw many parallels of oppression and injustice. I believe that my past experience allows me to use these two adjectives without fear of sounding melodramatic. The tight knot of anxiety and apprehension in my stomach also confirmed my assessment of the situation. I was surrounded by a violent military presence that made itself seen and felt everywhere. The checkpoints and the wall added to the sense of imprisonment and desolation. Palestinians went about their business with a tired but determined gait. I saw a sea of people crowded in the Old City of Jerusalem eerily part to let a black-clad, sullen-faced Orthodox Jew stroll down the alleyways as if he owned the place. No one challenged him or even looked at him, while at the end of the alley two soldiers toyed with their guns.

The contradictions were everywhere. There were modern highways that only Israelis could travel on. Statements have been made that the walls, which trap the Palestinian population within virtual jails, were built to protect Israelis, but whole sections of the wall have been left unfinished. City streets came to an abrupt end where they ran into the omnipresent apartheid wall. Israelis claim that they are merely returning to a land that was theirs a couple of millennia ago, but Palestinians lose their lands after two years of absence that in many cases are the result of forced evictions.

In Hebron, a civilian population in the tens of thousands has been victimized, robbed, and violently subdued for the benefit of a few hundred armed-to-the-teeth settlers. Children need foreign observers to be able to walk to school safely. In an area with extremely limited water resources, settlers feel entitled to have lush lawns and swimming pools, while the Palestinians make do with one-third of the water allotted to Israelis. Poverty, unemployment, unsanitary conditions, hopelessness, resentment, fear, anger, discontent, etc.—are all there temporarily contained within the walls with the might of the armed forces.

What is surprising is that so many of the people I met spoke of peaceful resolutions and hope for the future, not of bloodshed. They learn English and other foreign languages. They go to school and universities. They do odd jobs. They make do with what they have. They resist by refusing to give up and leave. The most common request I heard was, “Please, tell your family, friends, co-workers, and fellow Americans that we are not terrorists. We want to live in peace and with dignity.”

A fair compromise needs to be reached. A failure to do this will bring dire consequences. As the docent at Yad Vashem informed me that Jews had been placed in ghettoes, forced to carry identification cards, and their freedom of movements restricted, she failed to catch the irony of her own words. Tragically, she did not stop there, and went on to say that the WWII Jewish underground resistance fighters risked their lives so selflessly because when conditions are so oppressive, brutal, and unbearable, one’s life is not worth living.

Weeks after my trip, I cannot get the images I saw out of my mind. I feel the same knot in my stomach when I think about it. My memory of Palestine and Israel is one of apartheid walls, checkpoints, water tanks, soldiers, armed settlers, long queues, identification cards, cameras, Israeli flags in Palestinian neighborhoods—and determined Palestinians who refuse to give in to desolation and defeat.

Elvia Alvarado, who is a psychiatric social worker with Los Angeles Unified School.

I was in the Chicano Moratorium in the 1970s, when what appeared like hundreds of LAPD officers came down on us at an L.A. park where we were protesting the Vietnam War, and especially all the Mexican Americans who were dying unnecessarily. I am old now, and I hope that our kids will remember that we fought and protested against injustice.

So here we find another horrific injustice many miles away from us, but still the atrocities to the Palestinians are unbearable, and Mexicans can understand the injustice, and we can relate really well. There are some parallels between the two people. And now the Palestinians are fighting, too. The Palestinians are also a proud people, with a fighting spirit, who refuse to accept injustice. While the Palestinians are being kicked out of their land, the Latinos are incarcerated, put into detention centers for being “undocumented,” deported, told they are illegal—all in a land where they have deep historical roots. Years ago, my father was deported to Mexico in the period of the repatriations, even though he was born in Arizona.

This was my first trip to the Middle East, and it was wonderful. I liked the cucumbers and yogurt, and the men were cute, too. Many Arabs are multi-lingual and speak English. In the U.S., most of us are encouraged to speak only one language: English.

I saw the historical greatness, the rich traditions, the awesome landscapes, the ruins at Petra, the land where Jesus once walked, the great historical roots of these Palestinians, Arab people, these Arabs, these amazing people, who refuse to give up and are angry that the Israelis want and are grabbing their land with impunity. Anyway, as we visited these schools we were told about the tension, bombings, and the effects of the war on the kids and the families. My host family (where we stayed for two days) told me that I looked like them. I am dark-skinned like some Arabs.

I feel sorry for those young Israeli soldiers, because they are buying all that propaganda that the Israeli government is giving them, indoctrinating them into hating Arabs, or Palestinians. It’s a mess, and it’s been going on for too long. It’s time it stopped.

I am one of those who saw the many, many movies about Arabs where they are portrayed as terrorists. The media gives us very few, if any, positive portraits of Arabs. This trip helped me appreciate the diversity and complexity of the Arab world. I had only two friends or people I knew personally who were Arab. One I used to pray with in a Christian church I went to; my friend would sob when we prayed together, she a Christian and me a not-so-good Catholic. Later she told me that she was from Ramallah, where she grew up with bombings as a regular way of life. I thought that maybe she had been sobbing from her devastating experiences in Ramallah, her home city. Was there a connection? I regret that I never asked her.

My friends asked me why go to the Middle East? It’s hot, it’s dangerous. And it was hot, but it was a trip of a lifetime. The anger, the unthinkable gall of people to take over the land, and the fact that the United States continues to fund the army, the society of Israel, how could they, the gall.

Maria Isabel Elgueta, who is a licensed clinical social worker practicing in the East Los Angeles area schools. Born and raised in Chile, she attended graduate school at UCLA. She loves traveling and learning about other cultures.

The trip to Israel and occupied Palestine in July verified what I had read in preparation for this visit, my very first to the Middle East.

The checkpoint system was a total turn-off; I saw Palestinians, young and old, standing in long lines to access their own land. They waited for hours under the sun, while the Israeli staff, under air conditioning, were killing time and acting grandiose. Their clear intention was to show who is in charge. At a checkpoint in one of the villages we were asked, “Christians or Muslims?”

The biggest outrage, though, is the continuing extension of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, usually on hilltops. The Israeli government, their settlers and their supporters, have no regard for property laws and have destroyed Palestinian homes and orchards, causing tremendous damage and suffering to countless families, including children and the elderly.

The miles and miles of walls isolating Palestinian communities are terribly offensive to the eye and the soul; it is a system of apartheid. Did they forget about the ghettos of Europe?

It was hurtful to see children in a village near Hebron going with containers in hand to pick up soup to feed their families, because the settlers and the politics of terror destroyed their local economy.

I grew tired of the noise from Israeli jet bombers cruising the Palestinian skies, and in my mind I said, “Una vez mas, aqui van los matones” [“Once again, here come the murderers”].

I feel pained by what Palestinians are enduring; as a Chilean, I know well what happens when human rights don’t count and there is abuse of power; we witnessed it all over.

The religious rhetoric and the politics of greed mixes in a very ugly way in the Middle East. Contributing millions and millions of dollars to the Israeli coffers every year makes us partners in crime.


Vicki Tamoush is an Arab-American pacifist in California who has lived and worked in the Middle East. Brice Harris was a professor of history at Occidental College from 1965-2005 and taught at the American University in Cairo from 1973-1975 and in 1986.


Bad times bring out the best in some people. Most of us remain passive, even willfully blind, in the face of great crimes that we see perpetrated on others, whether they are strangers or our next-door neighbors. But there will always be someone, probably just an ordinary decent person, to whom this rule doesn’t apply – someone who will try to do the right thing at any cost, risking his or her well-being or even, perhaps, life itself. Ezra Nawi is such a man. He’s a plumber by profession, a Jewish Jerusalemite, and he is also the unsung hero of the Israeli peace movement in the south Hebron hills. It’s largely thanks to him that the Palestinian farmers in this area are still living on their land. Unless something happens to change the current prognosis, an Israeli court will sentence Nawi to jail on July 1.

Nawi was convicted on March 19 in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court of assaulting a police officer. Since I’ve known the man for decades and seen him in action in many extreme situations, I’m certain that the charge is untrue; but let’s look at the circumstances. On February 14, 2007, the Israeli authorities sent army bulldozers to demolish several Palestinian shacks in a tiny place called Umm al-Kheir, 25 kilometers southeast of Hebron. Umm al-Kheir embodies the everyday reality of the Israeli occupation like no place else: The 100 or so impoverished Bedouin who call it their home, eking out a livelihood by grazing goats and sheep on the dry, stony hills, live in rickety structures of canvas, tin and stone. The land is theirs: Originally refugees from Tel Arad in the Negev in 1948, they bought it for good money from its Palestinian owners in the early 1950s. Israel, however, has put up a large settlement called Carmel right next to Umm al-Kheir, and like all settlements, Carmel (founded in 1981) is constantly expanding, encroaching on the lands of its Palestinian neighbors. As documented in detail in police records in Kiryat Arba, settlers also regularly attack these neighbors, whom they would like to remove altogether from this area.

House demolitions in the Palestinian territories are routine, and there have been several at Umm al-Kheir, too. The legal justification is always that the houses were built without a permit. But Palestinians living in Area C in the territories have almost no hope of getting a building permit. (To give some idea: on average, in all of Area C, only one building permit is granted to Palestinians each month, whereas some 60 demolitions orders are issued, of which 20 are carried out. Fewer than 5 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C are approved.) Quite apart from the statistics, there is something ludicrous, even shameful, about sending bulldozers to tear down these Bedouin shanties, especially with the settlers of Carmel building modern villas right next door, on the historical grazing grounds of Umm al-Kheir.


So when the bulldozers showed up, Ezra tried to stop them, in the classic mode of non-violent resistance associated with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. He lay down in front of the bulldozers, and the soldiers removed him. And when the bulldozers headed for one of the houses, home to a large family, he rushed inside. Two policemen went in after him. All this is documented on film and can be viewed at the Web site The policemen dragged him out. What is not recorded in the video is what happened in the 20 seconds or so inside the hut. The policemen claimed Nawi raised his hand against one of them; Ezra denies this, and anyone who knows him believes him. He is a man committed, in every fiber of his being, to non-violent protest against the inequities of the occupation.

Of course Ezra was arrested, and on the video you can see the soldiers laughing at him, mocking him for his sympathy with the victims. It’s not a pretty sight. When the case came to trial, the judge had only the word of the policemen against Ezra’s, and naturally she believed the policemen. So, if nothing happens to stop it, Ezra will be going to jail for protesting, peacefully, an act of blatant injustice committed against innocent and helpless civilians. Ezra has been arrested many times for such acts of protest, and he’s not about to give up. There’s a fine film about him, “Citizen Nawi,” made in 2007 by Nissim Mossek; it gives a clear sense of the man, his dedication, his abhorrence of violence of any kind. It also shows what happened at Umm al-Kheir.

You have here the whole misery and cruelty of the occupation in a nutshell. Israel, inside the Green Line, is a modern, more or less (less and less?) democratic state, with a functioning legal system, freedom of the press, and all the other elements we regard as minimal requirements for civilized existence. But inside the occupied Palestinian territories is a shadow state where the only real law is the law of the gun, where land is being taken away from its rightful owners every day, and where the very few who stand up to protest, without violence, like Ezra Nawi, are sent to prison. Bad times generally bring out the worst in most of us.

Prof. David Shulman is an activist in Ta’ayush, an Israeli-Palestinian peace group, and the author of “Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine” (University of Chicago Press, 2007).

To support Ezra Nawi, go to


Join Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Neve Gordon and thousands of others and tell Israel not to jail Ezra Nawi, one of Israel’s most courageous human rights activists. His crime? He tried to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the South Hebron region. Watch the remarkable video and send a letter now.

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I am Abousfian Abdelrazik. I am Canadian. For about the last year, I have lived inside the Canadian Embassy in Sudan. For the last six years, I have been in Sudan against my will, because the Government of Canada will not let me go home to Montreal to see my children and my friends. The Government of Canada does not let me go back home because it falsely accuses me of being a terrorist.

In 2003, I traveled to Sudan to visit my sick mother. Without telling me, agents from CSIS recommended to Sudan that I should be arrested. I was thrown into prison because Canada asked; I was imprisoned and beaten and almost died. I was tortured. The Canadian government knows that Sudan tortures its prisoners, but it did not help me. Instead the Canadian government sent CSIS agents to interrogate me in prison. My lawyers have documents to prove all this.

For six years I have tried to go back home to my children, but the Canadian government took my old passport and will not give me another one. Without a passport, I cannot travel.

So I have been in Sudan against my will for six years now. I have been imprisoned and tortured. I am safer now because I live in the Canadian Embassy. But I miss my children in Canada; they grew up, and my ex-wife died. My teenage daughter is an orphan now, and still the Harper government does not let me to go home.

All this happened to me because the Harper government says I am an “Islamic extremist”. This is a lie. I am a Muslim, and I pray to my God, but this does not make me a terrorist or a criminal. My lawyers have letters from both RCMP and CSIS that say I am not involved in any criminal activity. Why would Canada’s police say I am not involved in criminal activity if I were a terrorist? Would the Canadian government let me live and sleep inside the walls of the Canadian Embassy if I was a terrorist?

Let me tell you a story: In March 2008, Mr. Deepak Obhrai, the Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, came to Sudan to talk to me. I pleaded with him that I wanted to come home to Canada to see my children. But Mr. Obhrai and the Prime Minister did nothing. In March 2008, Mr. Obhrai personally inspected my wounds from being tortured in Sudanese prisons. I showed Mr. Obhrai the scars on my body and back from being beaten. He saw that I was tortured, but he did not help me.

I understand Mr. Obhrai and the Prime Minister refuse to discuss my case and many other cases of Canadian Muslims in trouble now. Do they think we are not “real Canadians”? I tell you, I am Canadian, and so are my children; they are born in Canada. The Prime Minister has blue eyes and white skin, and the Governor General is a black lady. Is one of them more “Canadian” than the other?

I know many Canadians of all colors and religions are trying to help me. I pray for you and I want to thank you so much. My lawyers have worked for free for over a year. Almost 200 people have given money and bought me a ticket to come home. Many people have sent me letters to the Embassy, which are full of love and hope. You have never met me, but I thank you in my prayers every day. I want to fly home on April 3 and celebrate with you, InShahAllah.

All these gentle people who are helping me come from all colors and all religions. They belong to churches and teach in schools. But the Harper government threatens to charge them for aiding terrorism just because they bought my plane ticket to return home. Shame on you! Shame on you! Why would you want to charge Canadians who just want to help, when the Canadian police say I am not a terrorist? Do not be cruel this way.

It is very lonely to live in the embassy and I am sick and suffering. I hope to fly home on April 3, but if I am denied a passport, I will wait so my case goes to Court. I know that my fellow Canadians are not to blame for my situation, and even the RCMP say I am innocent. It is only Mr. Harper and his officials who do not let me go back to Canada.

But for my fellow Canadians who understand that I just want to go home, I want to say: thank you, thank you so much for helping me. When I am finally allowed to return to Canada, I hope I can meet all of you and say thank you for the love and support that you given me with your kindness and good wishes. You are always in my prayers.

Stocking up on lunch snacks at Costco, I saw a book that immediately grabbed my attention. It had a picture of a woman wearing a niqab, a face covering worn by a minority of Muslim women.

Intrigued, I bought the book, mentally congratulating the publisher for having squeezed $20 out of my pocket. They know only too well that the niqab sells, grabs headlines and diverts attention. It is also a lightening rod for emotions and fear.

A few months ago, the debate raged among Canadian politicians whether wearing the niqab and voting could jibe, and whether women would be allowed to wear the veil in legal proceedings. It has been discussed in Quebec, England, the Netherlands, Italy and many other parts of the world, usually spun to create false controversy by right-wing politicians.

Predictably, this issue is making the rounds again, this time in France, a country in the midst of identity crises. President Nicolas Sarkozy is making the burqa — a full-body covering with a screen over the face — his flavour of the month to deflect attention from his plunging popularity. Amid raucous applause from his fellow parliamentarians, he said:

“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity … it is a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement.”

They know that fear will easily buy votes among a population who feel increasingly vulnerable to the growing number of Muslims, and who will embrace laws which provide a false sense of security in preserving their identity. In 2004, Muslim women were the targets of this strategy through a law banning headscarves from French public schools.

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed this in his Cairo speech two weeks ago: “… it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practising religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretense of liberalism.”

In defending his words, Obama stated, “I will tell you that in the U.S., our basic attitude is that we’re not going to tell people what to wear.”

He gets it. Unfortunately, the people who lash out at the niqab or burqa are usually those who feel the most uncomfortable with it: journalists, politicians, intellectuals and feminists. Under the pretense of defending freedom of thought, they are actually legitimizing hate, thus generating the exact opposite of what they claim to defend.

Ironically, they don’t seem to be particularly attentive to those whom they are supposedly defending. In speaking for these women, they assume they are oppressed idiots who can only be spoken to, about, or for but never with.

Muslim women wear the face covering for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, we never hear their voices, their stories, their choices, how they negotiate the challenges, how it impacts their integration and how they feel.

Sahar Ullah, a Chicago graduate student, voices her experience of wearing the niqab in an online blog, “Most people who had an opinion about niqab never asked me why I wore it although they were willing to express their opinion …” adding “It was actually Muslims that were the cruelest. They insisted that niqab was wrong, I felt more defensive about having the right to make my own choices.”

The laundry list of assumptions people had about her intentions included: ideology; adherence to law; a method of escape; entrapment; pretentiousness; performance of piety; heroism; fear of men; desire to seduce; covered naughtiness; anti-social behaviour; a vain call for attention; a passport to marriage; desire to be silent; an oppressive father; and the classic — anxiety about being too dark.

Perhaps it is time we reassess the biases that are fuelling this debate. To fear means that we lack confidence in ourselves and in others. By allowing this fear to infiltrate our societies, we are entertaining the most serious illusions about our freedom, putting in danger our notions of what a truly democratic society is.

The organization Human Rights Watch concurs: “The ban on the veil violates human rights and stigmatizes and marginalizes women who wear it. The freedom to express religion and freedom of conscience are fundamental rights … and such a ban would send a signal to many French Muslims that they are not welcome in their own country.”

It has been announced that an official commission in France will be created to assess the question of the burqa over the next six months. It smells suspiciously patriarchal.

In looking at the context and origins of the niqab, the majority of Muslim scholars do not view it as compulsory. For the minority who see it as a religious requirement, they should be, under freedom of religion provisions, afforded the right to wear the niqab.

Within Muslim communities, there are growing discussions about Islamic feminism — the struggle for women’s rights within the Islamic terms of reference, against cultural discrimination and a literalist approach to the texts.

These grassroots conversations are an important avenue to reiterate that women should not be forced to do anything against their will. But also that choices made through personal conviction need to be respected — a right embedded in most democracies.

This dialogue had already started during the Prophet Muhammad’s time. He strongly encouraged the active role of women in early Islamic society, insisting that they should never confuse modesty with disappearing from the political, scholarly, religious, social, economic or even military sphere. In other words, Muslim women were the actors of their own destinies.

In concluding his speech, Sarkozy stated that the burqa “will not be welcome on our territory.”

Hopefully he will come to understand that a potential law banning a piece of clothing won’t change anything except outward appearances. True emancipation and empowerment of Muslim women to be free, autonomous and engaged will only occur when they are afforded the right to speak on their own terms, not for someone else’s political agenda.

Shelina Merani is the spokesperson for the network Muslim Presence and has recently launched the local/global website

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VIEW VIDEO: Heal The World

There’s a place in
Your heart
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If you want to know why
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Heal the world
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There are people dying
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And the dream we were
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Be God’s glow

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Create a world with
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See the nations turn
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We could really get there
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Make a little space
To make a better place…

Heal the world
Make it a better place
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And the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough
For the living
Make a better place
For you and for me

Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough
For the living
Make a better place
For you and for me

Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough
For the living
Make a better place
For you and for me

There are people dying
If you care enough
For the living
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There are people dying
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You and for me
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The issue of Palestinian suicide bombings has become a familiar topic to many people throughout the world. It is easy for people to either quickly and forthrightly condemn it as a primitive and barbaric form of terrorism against civilians, or condone and support it as a legitimate method of resisting an oppressive Israeli occupation that has trampled Palestinian dignity and brutalized their very existence.

As a Christian, I know that the way of Christ is the way of nonviolence and, therefore, I condemn all forms of violence and terrorism, whether coming from the government of Israel or from militant Palestinian groups. Having said that clearly, it is still important to understand the phenomenon of suicide bombings that tragically arises from the deep misery and torment of many Palestinians. For how else can one explain it? When healthy, beautiful and intelligent young men and women set out to kill and be killed, something is basically wrong in a world that has not heard their anguished cry for justice.

The Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip took a very important turn since the early 1990s. Young Palestinian men, and more lately women, started to strap themselves with explosives, make their way to Israeli Jewish areas and blow themselves up, killing and injuring dozens of people around them. Between the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000 and February 22, 2003, Palestinian militants carried out 69 suicide bombings in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank including Jerusalem, as well as inside Israel, killing, according to Israeli statistics, 341 Israelis including soldiers, men, women, and children. In the same period, the Israeli army killed 2,106 Palestinians including police, men, women and children.

For the last 35 years, the Palestinians have been engaged in resisting the occupation of their country. For many years they have worked through the international community to bring an end to the Israeli occupation, but they have been unsuccessful.

Historically speaking, the Palestinians did not begin their resistance to the occupation with suicide bombings. There were no suicide bombings before the Oslo Peace Process. It is the result of despair and hopelessness that started to set in when an increasing number of Palestinians became frustrated by the deepening Israeli oppression and humiliation.

Breeding ground for suicide bombers
Besides the basic political injustice and the oppressiveness of the occupation, there are four major areas that constitute the breeding ground for suicide bombers. To begin with, many young men have become permanently unemployed.

Moreover, it is the young men more than others who are humiliated, harassed and provoked by the Israeli soldiers.

Furthermore, there is hardly any Palestinian family in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that has not experienced some kind of pain or injury. Many families have lost their loved ones. Almost every aspect of Palestinian life is controlled by the Israeli army and many people have lost the ability to dream of a better future or envisage a better life.

There is another group of young Palestinian men and women that must be mentioned. Many of these have been arrested and tortured in Israeli prisons and “concentration” camps. In fact, Israeli prisons have become the “factories” for creating and “manufacturing” collaborators. Young men are detained for indefinite periods of time and are pressured into becoming spies and collaborators. They are simply trapped and some of them do not know how to shake it off. This phenomenon causes some of them to exist in constant self-contempt and scorn for having betrayed their own people. They are ready to become suicide bombers in order to purify and redeem themselves and express their utmost loyalty and patriotism for their country and people.

For these young people, daily life has become an experience of death. Indeed, many of them feel that Israel has practically pronounced a death sentence on them. They feel they have no options and very little to lose. Consequently, they are willing to give themselves up for the cause of God and the homeland (watan), believing that with God there is so much to gain.

From the perspective of those who believe in and carry out these suicide operations, there is a simple and plain logic. As Israeli soldiers shell and kill Palestinians indiscriminately, Palestinian suicide bombers strap themselves with explosives and kill Israelis indiscriminately.

Muslim perspectives
The suicide bombings become a more powerful phenomenon when their religious underpinnings are emphasized. It is difficult to determine whether the religious dimension followed and enhanced the political decision for its use or whether the religious significance preceded and prompted it. It is most likely that both went hand in hand, since any Palestinian killed by Israel, whether a militant or an innocent bystander, was regarded as a martyr. Consequently, groups like Hamas were referring to these acts not as suicide bombings but as “martyrdom operations” and “martyrdom weapons.” Nationalism and faith have been fused together and imbued with power. People regarded the suicide bombers as martyrs and believed that paradise awaited them.

Other Muslims argued strongly that Islamic law forbids the killing of non-combatants and, therefore, the killing of innocent Israelis is wrong.

Effects of suicide bombings
Although Israel was deeply hurt by suicide bombings, the consequences that the extremists were hoping would happen did not take place.

First, Israel had many more options than the Palestinians thought they did. As it turned out, Israel had a good number of military options; and due to its successful media campaign, everything it did was justified as self-defense.

Second, the West Bank is not southern Lebanon. Hizballah was, indeed, successful in driving the Israeli army from southern Lebanon after 22 years of occupation (May 25, 2000). The West Bank is different. Religious Jewish settlers and right-wing Zionists find strong biblical and historical roots in the West Bank and it will not be easy to evict them from there. The presence of the illegal settlements is one of the most difficult issues in the struggle for peace.

Third, the U.S. is the only great world power today and has an unflinching commitment to the well-being and security of the state of Israel. It will come to its rescue politically, militarily, and economically whenever it is needed.

Fourth, Israel was successful in its media campaign internationally. Many countries in the world are against suicide bombings.

Fifth, the Israeli society did not crumble economically in spite of hardships.

And sixth, the vast majority of the Israeli people, perceiving the struggle as a fight for the very existence of the state of Israel, supported Sharon and his right-wing policies.

Palestinian condemnation
Although suicide bombings were condemned by some Palestinians, including the Palestinian Authority, they were accepted popularly by many as a way of avenging the Israeli army’s daily killings of resistance fighters and innocent Palestinians. And while the American government rushed to condemn suicide bombings and expected the same from the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s killing of Palestinian leaders and ordinary civilians did not abate and was not condemned publicly by the U.S.

Be that as it may, it is important to reiterate clearly that the Palestinian community is not totally in support of the suicide bombings. On Wednesday, June 16, 2002, 58 Palestinian men and women, Muslims and Christians, among whom are well-known personalities, signed a public statement published by the most read Arabic daily, Al-Quds, asking for a halt to all suicide bombings. They made it clear that such operations only widen and deepen the hate and resentment between Palestinians and Israelis. They also destroy the possibility for the two peoples to live in two states side by side. The statement mentioned that the suicide bombings are counterproductive and will not lead to the fulfillment of the Palestinian national aspirations. They only allow Israel to justify its increasing vicious attacks on Palestinian towns and villages. The statement was published in the paper on five consecutive days before it was transferred to the website with hundreds more signatories.

Israeli reaction
There were voices inside Israel that were calling for more drastic and severe measures to curb the suicide bombings. One of those was Gideon Ezra, the deputy public security minister who openly on television on August 19, 2001, called on his government to execute the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. He argued that if potential suicide bombers know that their families will be wiped out then they will refrain from committing the act. Apparently, Ezra was basing his suggestion on a Nazi practice that used to arrest and inflict suffering on the families of those who were suspected of undermining the state. Shockingly, Ezra’s words did not draw any protest or criticism from the Israeli government.

By contrast, there are courageous voices that called on their Israeli government to examine its harsh policies against the Palestinians that breed suicide bombings. In one case, Rami and Nurit Elhanan lost their 14-year-old-daughter who was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in September 1997. In spite of the tragic loss, the parents became actively involved in peacemaking. They blamed the Israeli occupation, saying, “Our daughter was killed because of the terror of Israeli occupation. Every innocent victim from both sides is a victim of the occupation.” The couple established the Bereaved Family Forum with Izzat Ghazzawi, a Palestinian whose 16-year-old son Ramy was killed by Israeli troops.

Was Samson a suicide bomber?
In discussing suicide bombings from a religious perspective, it is worthwhile to reflect on the story of Samson in the book of Judges (13—16). It is a story of a strong young man who rose up to save his people who were oppressed by the coastal powerful neighbor, the Philistines. Obviously, from the perspective of the Israelites he was regarded as a hero and a freedom fighter while from the perspective of the people of power, namely the Philistines, he was, in today’s language, a terrorist.

According to the story, Samson was very successful in his brave adventures against his enemies. Eventually, he was captured by the Philistines and tortured. They pulled out his eyes and kept him in jail. In order to celebrate their victory over their archenemy, Samson, the Philistines brought him to a big event attended by 3,000 men and women, including their five kings. His final act of revenge took place when he pushed the two main columns of the building and pulled it down, killing himself and all the attendees. Samson’s final prayer seems very similar to the prayer of a suicide bomber before he blows himself up. “Lord God, remember me and strengthen me only this once, O God, so that with this one act of revenge I may pay back the Philistines for my two eyes.”

Read in the light of today’s suicide bombers, how do we evaluate the story of Samson? Was not Samson a suicide bomber? Was he acting on behalf of the God of justice who wills the liberation of the oppressed? Was God pleased with the death of thousands of men and women of the Philistines? Is it legitimate to tell the story today by substituting the name Ahmad for Samson? Is the dynamic under which God operates that of Jew versus other people or is it that of oppressor versus oppressed? Is the story of Samson legitimate because it is written in the Bible while the story of Ahmad is rejected because it is not and therefore he is condemned as a terrorist? Do we have the courage to condone both as acts of bravery and liberation or condemn both as acts of violence and terror? Or do we hold a theology of a biased God who only stands with Israel whether right or wrong?

Why we condemn suicide bombings
Although some people in our Palestinian community admire the sacrifice of the suicide bombers and although we understand its deeper motivation and background, we condemn it from both our position of faith as well as a legitimate method for resisting the occupation.

First, we condemn suicide bombings because they are a crime against God. Ultimately, it is only God our creator who gives us life and who can take it. Those who love God do not kill themselves. Moreover, those who love God do not kill themselves for the sake of God. Indeed, they should be ready to die and even be killed for God’s sake, but they will not do it themselves.

Second, we condemn it because we believe that we must refrain from inflicting suffering or death on others. From a Christian point of view, the tragedy lies in the fact that these young men and women do not only kill themselves, they cause the death of others, many of whom are civilians and innocent. We must hasten to add that we equally condemn the state of Israel’s killing of Palestinians. Indeed, it constitutes the underlying cause of the conflict. Be that as it may, from our position of faith we say that even when the cause for which a person kills himself/herself is noble, as it is in the case of Palestine, nothing justifies the killing of innocent people. Christ accepted suffering on himself and did not inflict it on others. In fact, from a New Testament perspective, when Christians suffer, it should make them more compassionate for the suffering of others rather than bitter and vengeful. In the struggle for civil rights in the U.S., Martin Luther King, Jr., recognized the heavy price that needs to be paid for freedom but refused to accept any violent method to achieve it. He said, “Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood.” King insisted on the teaching of Jesus and Gandhi that unearned suffering is redemptive. Furthermore, for the Christian, suffering endured can serve as evidence of Christ’s victory over suffering and death. It can also be a way of exposing the evil and the injustice that must be resisted.

Third, we condemn it because we believe that when we are confronted by injustice and evil, we must resist it without using its evil methods. We bear it but do not accept, submit or succumb to it. Some Christians have developed nonviolent direct action as a method of resisting unjust governments and systems. Martin Luther King, Jr., expressed it well when he wrote: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.”

It is our faithfulness to God that drives us to work for justice and for the ending of the occupation of Palestine. But it must be carried out through nonviolence, no matter how long it takes. It is only nonviolence that can guarantee the restoration of the humanity of both sides when the conflict is over. Moreover, nonviolent resistance contributes to a speedier process of reconciliation and healing because it does not violate human dignity.

Fourth, for the Christian, the supreme example is Christ. “When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly” (1Peter 2:23). This is not passive resignation. It is total surrender to the God of justice who established this world on justice and who is going to make sure that injustice does not have the last word.

We condemn suicide bombings because they are trapped with the same violent logic exercised and perpetrated by the Israeli government. It is based on the law of revenge expressed in “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Although it is very difficult for us as humans, we are still encouraged as Christians to seek a higher law.

Fifth, it is probable that Prime Minister Sharon (and the right-wing religious extremist ministers and settlers around him, including some Christian Zionists) believes that the war against the Palestinians can be justified biblically because he is doing exactly what Joshua did in the Old Testament. Therefore, as Joshua’s actions (Joshua 1—11) pleased God so must Sharon’s actions. Similarly, the suicide bombers believe that by blowing themselves up and killing those around them they are fighting in the cause of God by ridding their land of the injustice inflicted on it by “infidels,” and so earning for themselves a place in paradise.

Our basic problem with both lies in their concept of God. We reject any understanding of God that reflects war, violence or terrorism. God is a God of justice, but God’s justice is not expressed in violence or in terrorizing people. God’s justice is expressed supremely in love, peace and forgiveness.

Sixth, in the midst of the injustice, suffering and death inflicted on us, we believe that God in Christ is there with us. Christ is not in the tanks and jet fighters, fighting on the side of the oppressors (although many Jewish and Christian Zionists believe that). God is in the city of Gaza, in the Jenin camp and in the old city of Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem suffering with the oppressed. God has not abandoned us. We reject suicide bombings because, from a Christian perspective, they reflect feelings of total despair and hopelessness.

Seventh, we condemn suicide bombings because they practice, in essence, collective punishment against people, many of whom are civilians. They are guilty of the very things Palestinians detest in the Israeli government. When suicide bombers commit collective punishment, they become what they loathe. When the Israeli army incarcerates whole towns for long periods of time or a suicide bomber blows himself up in a market place and indiscriminate killing ensues, both are collective punishment directed at largely innocent people.

Eighth, although people may be ready to die for their faith or even for their country, they need to do everything they can to stay alive and witness in life rather than kill themselves. So long as they are alive, they have the opportunity to witness to the truth. Indeed, they need to remain faithful until death but they must not give up on life and kill themselves. We reject suicide bombings because we believe in life before death as well as life after death. In spite of the despairing situation, these young men and women deserve to live.

There cannot be room for hate if we want to live together. And live together we must. Ending the occupation will certainly end the suicide bombings. All peace-loving people, whether people of faith or not, must exert greater concerted effort to work for the ending of the occupation.

The Rev. Naim Ateek is often called the “Desmond Tutu of Palestine” for his leading role in promoting Palestinian nonviolent resistance. Rejecting the misuse of scriptures by Jewish and Christian Zionists, he has written a new book offering theological insights to biblical texts that help Palestinian Christians living under Israeli occupation.

His most recent book, A Palestinian Christian Call for Reconciliation presents a very human Jesus who will appeal even to non-religionists (if they are peaceful ones), while also honoring the Jesus Christ of the Christian faith. Ateek also reaches back to Old Testament figures to debunk problematic Christian and Jewish theologies and uncovers ancient biblical teachings relevant to today’s Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

This article was originally published in 2005

Abe Foxman of the so-called Anti-Defamation League (ADL) attacked Bill Moyers for trying to create a moral equivalency in the Middle East. That is expected, of course—but the ADL head also claims that George Mitchell is too fair to be a broker between Israel and the Palestinians.

I guess that Foxman, in denouncing President Barack Obama’s choice of Mitchell for Middle East negotiator, shows that he is accustomed to such impartial mediators as Dennis Ross—who, when he left the Clinton administration, returned to the Israel Lobby—in the incarnation as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy—from whence he came. Or Foxman possibly could be making a comparison between Mitchell and Alan Dershowitz, the famed Israel propagandist. (I once called Dershowitz a “snake” on Al Manar TV, which prompted him to write a column in the Jerusalem Post calling me an anti-Semite. My mistake was to forget to apologize to the snakes.)

I’m sorry to say that, as much as I admire George Mitchell for the public service he has provided over the years, being fair will not be enough to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the brutality that accompanies it.

The gyrations of various administrations over the years, all of whom have put on great shows of “settling” the conflict, have done nothing but waste a great deal of newspaper ink and television time reporting peace efforts, as though the media believed what snake oil salespeople, such as Condi Rice, were selling to the American public. What someone in our government should have realized by now is that Israel absolutely does not want to give up the West Bank for a Palestinian state, even though there are warnings that if a “two-state solution” is not reached, the Palestinians will be forced into a state of apartheid for the rest of the century. Certainly, the Israelis have no intention of allowing the Palestinians to outvote them in Israel, which leaves South African-style apartheid as the only solution.

One can count all the reasons given by the Israelis for not achieving the “peace” that Israel claims it wants, reasons such as:

We have no negotiating partner.
The Palestinians have to recognize Israel’s right to exist first, before we talk to them.
They have to end terrorism first.
We made the Palestinians the best offer they could ever have gotten, but they turned it down.
These are just some of the shopworn excuses trotted out to avoid cutting a deal.

It seems that very few people have caught on to this scam, even though it really has been exposed for many years. So, as the establishment continues to dream about achieving “peace,” Israel continues to swallow up Palestinian lands, beating up, imprisoning and massacring Palestinians on a daily basis.

It is very clear to me, as well as to anyone else who declines to see the conflict solely through an Israeli prism, that until an American president flatly tells the Israelis that they must move the settlers out of the West Bank there will be no peace—only more occupation, more brutality, more violations of international law, and more bloody massacres of civilians such as the one we only recently witnessed in Gaza. Anything short of that leaves the Israelis in complete control, and it will leave America with more and more enemies not only in the Middle East, but around the world.

President Obama mentioned recently that if he doesn’t get the economy turned around in his first term, he most likely will not have a second term. What he has not yet calculated, however, is that the occupation of the Palestinians results in angry terrorism against American interests all over the world. Obama is faced with the choice of either angering the Likud Lobby by demanding that the Israeli settlers be kicked out of the West Bank, or of continuing the heavy spending required to maintain Israel’s occupation against the wishes of the people they are occupying. What is your guess as to what he will do?

By now we should have learned that America can no longer afford to listen to the Abe Foxmans and Alan Dershowitzes of the world. As a nation, we are out of money, bereft of ideas, and incapable of curbing the moral and financial corruption in Washington, DC—which includes the corruption brought about by the Likud Lobby.

The result is that the rich get richer and the poor and the middle class become more and more desperate, searching for jobs that no longer exist, and for homes they no longer can afford.

The likes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have brought the world down around our collective ears—and, after having done so, have ridden off into the sunset, happy in the knowledge that they’ve taken care of their rich friends who have profited from the wars they have started. The oil price fluctuations and the conflicts in the Middle East, which have brought about the surge in military spending—all paid for by the people of this country—have created fortunes for their cronies. We are, unfortunately, not finished paying the price for Mr. Bush’s costly—in terms of human lives and of money—puerile adventures of the past eight years. We will be, for a long time, reaping the hatred and the violence caused by their wars, in addition to reaping the economic fallout resulting from their policies of greed and corruption. And we have not yet counted the kinds of misery and poverty and corruption these two heroes have spawned as a result of the Iraq war.

The cowardice of our presidents and of our Congress keeps Israel in the driver’s seat so far as continuing its occupation. Brutality is the natural product of an occupation that is necessary to keep the land they’ve stolen from the Palestinians. We are in desperate need of “change,” and we hope and we pray that Mr. Obama will have the courage to bring it about. Without that kind of commitment, there is no hope for a return to civilization.

James G. Abourezk is a former U.S. senator (D-SD) and founder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He currently practices law in Sioux Falls, SD.

kenneyandGalloway.jpg image by aidanski Pretty soon psychiatrists will be the only people qualified to report the news.

As the planet goes slowly insane, we were treated this week to a sorry vignette from the lunatic villas of our own country. George Galloway was finally and officially refused entry into Canada. The bureaucratic reason was that the British MP is a security threat.-What was he planning to do, kick a Mountie in the shins, sneak into a hockey game without a ticket?-

The real reason is that he opposes this country’s one-sided policy with respect to Palestine and the war in Afghanistan.-

Galloway did have a few supporters though, including Conrad Black, who now covers the Inmate Beat for the National Post. Black wrote that although Galloway was “a magnificent absurdity” he would provide good “entertainment” value if allowed in.-

Now that Conrad has made such a fine contribution to the Post, readers are wondering: Are theatre reviews from Garth Drabinsky next, perhaps investment tips from Bernie Madoff? Maybe Martha Stewart could do a nice behind-the-bars feature after taking the boys some home-made cookies?

While we were denying free speech to a five-times elected British MP, we were extending it to a convicted felon who renounced his Canadian citizenship before being caught with his entire body in the corporate cookie jar.And there is this little item for those who think Galloway really is a security threat. We gave security clearance and a job to a guy at one of our airports who was straight out of the Sopranos. As Auditor General Sheila Fraser pointed out, this choirboy was being investigated for a murder related to drug smuggling at a major airport! But rest easy. We would surely have weeded him out if he had planned on giving a speech.

No, George was just too much of an embarrassment to Canada’s shameful behaviour toward the Palestinian people. After 1,453 of them were slaughtered in Gaza by the Israeli Defence Forces, including more than 400 women and children, Canada had nothing to say about it.

We had nothing to say about it when the United Nations condemned Israel for its super-violent Gaza operation, noting the verified reports of Israeli abuses were “too numerous to list.”

We had nothing to say when Israeli newspapers published accounts of IDF soldiers who reported that there was a “permissive” attitude toward killing civilians during the assault. As one IDF squad commander put it in the New York Times, “What I felt was, there was a lot of thirst for blood.”

We had nothing to say about it when the Israeli military was forced to condemn as “unacceptable” shocking images printed on T-shirts ordered by some IDF recruits to commemorate the end of basic training.- As was reported at the time, “One of them bore the image of a pregnant Arab woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, along with the slogan, ’1 shot, 2 kills.’ “-

The Israeli army condemned the practice, sort of: “This type of humour is unacceptable. Commanders are instructed to use disciplinary tools against those who produce T-shirts of this type.”- Humour?

As for Afghanistan, where our soldiers are dying so that certain sectors of that society may legally rape their wives, George might have had a few things to say about the kind of democracy we are spreading so sanctimoniously.

I look forward to that great champion of free speech, Jason Kenney, demolishing this troublesome fellow in a public debate.


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