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Foreign Affairs

March 5-”Canada’s Enigmatic Foreign Policy” by Rick Salutin

There’s something enigmatic in Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. Since he decided to cut and run from Afghanistan, it seems to have only one pillar: total support for whatever Israel’s government does.

It kicks in almost before Israel acts – as when he called the 2006 attack on Lebanon “measured,” before there was time to get out a tape. Or against Israel’s own position – as when he rebuked Canada’s delegates for not leaving an anti-racism conference though Israelhad asked them to stay. It extends to NGOs such as Rights & Democracy, where Harper appointees created chaos over issues concerning Israel, like a tiny grant to a human-rights group that even Israel’s attorney-general praised.

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February 24-”What happened to Ahmad Abou-Elmaati ?” The Honourable Frank Iacobucci

This supplement to the public report of the Internal Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin should be read together with the Inquiry’s public report,  released in October 2008. It contains information that could not be disclosed at the time the public report was released because of government concerns that disclosure of the information in the manner then proposed would be injurious to national defence, national security or international relations. As a result of subsequent consultations and discussions, I am now in a position to provide to the public further information relating to my mandate and my findings, without jeopardizing legitimate national security confidentiality concerns.

I am satisfied that this supplement to my public report conveys to the public further important information relating to my mandate and my findings, without jeopardizing legitimate national security confidentiality concerns.

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February 5 “Tony Blair gets a prize ?” by Avi Shlaim

The savage attack Israel ­unleashed against Gaza on 27 December 2008 was both immoral and unjustified. Immoral in the use of force against civilians for political purposes. Unjustified because Israel had a political alternative to the use of force.

The home-made Qassam rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza on Israeli towns were only the ­excuse, not the reason for Operation Cast Lead. In June 2008, Egypt had ­brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement. ­Contrary to Israeli propaganda, this was a success: the average number of rockets fired monthly from Gaza dropped from 179 to three. Yet on 4 November Israel violated the ceasefire by launching a raid into Gaza, killing six Hamas fighters. When Hamas ­retaliated, Israel seized the renewed rocket attacks as the ­excuse for launching its insane offensive. If all Israel wanted was to protect its citizens from Qassam rockets, it only needed to ­observe the ceasefire.

While the war failed in its primary aim of regime change in Gaza, it left ­behind a trail of death, devastation, ­destruction and indescribable human suffering. Israel lost 13 people, three in so-called friendly fire. The Palestinian death toll was 1,387, including 773 civilians (115 women and 300 children), and more than 5,300 people were injured. The ­entire population of 1.5 million was left traumatised.

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January 20, “US Government Lifts Ban on Tariq Ramadan”

PRESS RELEASE

London, January 20 2010

After more than five years of waiting, the American State Department has decided, in a document signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to lift the ban that prohibited me (as well as Professor Adam Habib from South Africa) from entering the United States.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—which, along with the American Academy for Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center had taken legal action against the American government—has hailed the decision is “a major victory for civil liberties” in the United States. Under the Bush administration, academics and intellectuals were frequently excluded on the false pretext of security. Today’s decision reflects the Obama administration’s willingness to reopen the United States to the rest of the world, and to permit critical debate.

Coming after nearly six years of inquiry and investigation, Secretary Clinton’s order confirms what I have affirmed and reaffirmed from day one: the first accusations of terrorist connections (subsequently dropped), then donations to Palestinian solidarity groups, were nothing more than a pretense to prohibit me from speaking critically about American government policy on American soil.

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January 14-”Making sense of the suffering in Haiti” by Dr. Ingrid Mattson

It has been reported that a prominent Christian leader, Pat Robertson, has said that Haiti has been “cursed” by a “pact with the devil.” Fortunately, this is not the mainstream Christian position and my friend, the Reverend Paul Raushenbush, has rejected Robertson’s “blaming the victims” theology. Religious leaders must take a stance against extremist voices in their community, and I am glad to see Rev. Raushenbush respond to Robertson’s ridiculous and offensive suggestions.

As Muslims, we believe that human suffering is not always explainable or understandable. We do know that innocent people suffer all the time, from sickness and natural disaster, and that in such cases, we are required to do two things: First, pray and remember, as the Qur’an says that “to God we belong and to Him we return.” Second, we must help those who are suffering.  The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, reported in a Sacred Hadith that if we want to be close to God, we should visit the sick and feed the needy.  On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will say, “O son of Adam, I fell ill and you did not visit me.” The person will say, “O Lord, how could I visit you when You are the Lord of the worlds?” He will say, “Did you not know that So-and-so fell ill and you did not visit him?  If you had visited him, you would have found Me with him [the hadith continues].”

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January 8, “We Need More Radical Muslims” by Mark Levine

eas014.jpg image by prislam2009Most Western leaders, pundits and policymakers are frantically searching for the “moderate Muslims” who can save Islam from itself and improve relations with the West.

The problem is that there’s no such thing as a moderate Muslim, at least the way these decision makers define the term. Look at whom they call moderate: President Bush often cites Jordan’s King Abdullah and Morocco’s King Muhammad as the epitome of modern, moderate Muslim leaders. But a glance at the Amnesty International reports on their countries, or those of other so-called moderate regimes, reveals them to be anything but moderate in the way they treat their citizens. In fact, their level of repression and censorship for the most part is equal to or greater than at any time since 9/11.

Searching for “moderate Islam” is an equally problematic enterprise. President Bush famously argued that “Islam means peace” after 9/11 as a way of signaling support for it.

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September 15-”If The Shoe Fits” by Mutadhar al-Zaidi

Here I am, free. But my country is still a prisoner of war.

Firstly, I give my thanks and my regards to everyone who stood beside me, whether inside my country, in the Islamic world, in the free world. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act.

But, simply, I answer: What compelled me to confront is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.

And how it wanted to crush the skulls of (the homeland’s) sons under its boots, whether sheikhs, women, children or men. And during the past few years, more than a million martyrs fell by the bullets of the occupation and the country is now filled with more than 5 million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. And many millions of homeless because of displacement inside and outside the country.

We used to be a nation in which the Arab would share with the Turkman and the Kurd and the Assyrian and the Sabean and the Yazid his daily bread. And the Shiite would pray with the Sunni in one line. And the Muslim would celebrate with the Christian the birthday of Christ, may peace be upon him. And despite the fact that we shared hunger under sanctions for more than 10 years, for more than a decade.

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June 30-”Where peaceful protest begets jail” by David Shulman

Untitled1Bad 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.

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June 29-”A statement to my fellow Canadian Citizens” by Abousfian Abdelrazik

no-torture-7-inchI 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.

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June 22-”Seeing through all the propaganda about Iran” by Eric Margolis

IranElection1Iran’s political crisis continues to blaze. It’s still impossible to say which leaders or factions will emerge victorious, but one thing is certain: the earthquake in the Islamic Republic is shaking the Mideast and deeply confusing everyone, including the US government.

Highlighting the complexity of this crisis, Meir Dagan, the head of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, reportedly voiced his hope that Iran’s embattled president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would remain in office.  On the surface, that sounds absurd, since Ahmadinejad is Israel’s Great Satan.
But, according to Dagan, if Ahmadinejad’s supposedly `moderate’ rival, Mir Hossein  Mousavi,  came to power, it would be harder for Israel to keep up its propaganda war against Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Besides, added the Mossad chief, the devil you know is better.
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June 17-”Demonstrating 101″ by Aicha Lasfar

demonstration12‘They sat in front of the buses.’

‘What?’

‘They stopped the traffic and sat in front of the buses!’

Hearing our manager, I knew something big was going down and heard ‘protests’ and ‘tigers’-something about a rebel group causing trouble.

Sri Lanka is one of those parts of the world that no one cares about until something serious happens.

The protests wouldn’t last that long, probably just a day or two. Did I ever get that wrong.

On my way home, our bus had to change routes in order to avoid the protestors.

I saw hundreds of individuals brandishing flags, posters and banners passing by Parliament Hill, crying out about the killing of innocent civilians and asking the Canadian government to do something about it. They were boldly blocking traffic as automobilists watched on in frustration.

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June 12-”Suicide Bombers, A Palestinian Christian Perspective” by Naim Ateek

mondrianfractal2os2The 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.

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June 10-”The Tone and the Music” by Uri Avnery

music-note-pop-art-no-hope2One man spoke to the world, and the world listened.

He walked onto the stage in Cairo, alone, without hosts and without aides, and delivered a sermon to an audience of billions. Egyptians and Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, Sunnis and Shiites, Copts and Maronites – and they all listened attentively.

He unfolded before them the map of a new world, a different world, whose values and laws he spelled out in simple and clear language – a mixture of idealism and practical politics, vision and pragmatism.

Barack Hussein Obama – as he took pains to call himself – is the most powerful man on earth. Every word he utters is a political fact.

“A historic speech”, pronounced commentators in a hundred languages. I prefer another adjective:

The speech was right.

Every word was in its place, every sentence precise, every tone in harmony. The masterpiece of a man bringing a new message to the world.

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June 5-”President Barack Obama to the Muslims. Just a speech ?” by Tariq Ramadan

2311174232_38d16378c61We are used to nice words and many, in the Muslim majority countries as well as Western Muslims, have ended up not trusting the United States when it comes to political discourse. They want actions and they are right. This is indeed what our world needs. Yet, President Obama, who is very eloquent and good at using symbols, has provided us with his speech in Cairo with something that is more than simple words. It is altogether an attitude, a mindset, a vision.

In order to avoid shaping a binary vision of the world, Barack Obama referred to “America”, “Islam”, “the Muslims” and “the Muslim majority countries”: he never fell into the trap of speaking about “us” as different or opposed to “them” and he was quick to refer Islam as being an American reality, and to the American Muslims as being an asset to his own society. Talking about his own life, he went from personal to universal stating that he knows by experience that Islam is a religion whose message is about openness and tolerance. Both the wording and the substance of his speech were important and new: he managed to be humble, self-critical, open and demanding at the same time in a message targeting all of “us”, understood as “partners”.

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June 4-”Obama and Muslims:What should we expect from Obama’s speech?” by Tariq Ramadan

obama-and-muslim-women1The relationships between the United States and the Muslims have been so damaged after eight years of the Bush administration that the whole world is now wondering: What Barack Obama is going to say to the Muslims? What should he say that could restore confidence and trust? It might be necessary to analyse the main causes of the deep mistrust we find today, not only in the Muslim majority countries, but among the African, Asian and Western Muslims as well. For decades, and especially since the 11th September 2001, the Muslims around the world are getting disturbing messages from the States in both their substance and their form.

The former President George W. Bush was perceived as aggressive, often arrogant, narrow-minded and even deaf when he had to tackle Islamic issues and matters related to the Muslim majority countries or the Middle East.

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June 1-Obama Dims Hopes for a New Middle East Policy by Rachelle Marshall

dsc_0122If hopes were made of glass, the sound of their shattering since Jan. 20 would be deafening. In dealing with a worldwide depression President Barack Obama has adopted innovative solutions substantially different from those of his predecessors, but in dealing with the equally dire situation in the Middle East he seems committed to a policy that has consistently failed.

The change of American presidents will not mean a foreseeable end to the war in Afghanistan or even to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, where 50,000 U.S. troops will remain until 2011 and possibly later. Even more disappointing is the absence of any change in policy toward Israel. When pro-Israel zealots objected to the nomination of Ambassador Charles Freeman as head of the National Intelligence Council because he had criticized Israel, Obama scuttled his director of national intelligence’s nominee (see p. 10). Despite Amnesty International’s charge that Israel had committed “serious violations of international law and human rights abuses,” Obama renewed George W. Bush’s pledge to send Israel $30 billion for weapons over the next 10 years.

That pledge means continuing to send Israel the equipment it used to kill 1,434 Gazans between Dec. 27 and Jan. 19, weapons that included F-16 bombers, Hellfire missiles, attack helicopters, white phosphorous bombs, and an anti-personnel device known as “Defense Inert Metal Explosive” (DIME). The new missile is similar to but more lethal than cluster bombs. On explosion the DIME spreads micro shrapnel throughout the body, causing multiple fractures that can’t be dealt with surgically. A patient who survives is almost certain to suffer septicemia and a deadly form of cancer. Congress approved a $77 million sale of 1,000 DIMEs to Israel in 2008.

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