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Double Standards Be Damned

Canada’s One-Sided Israel Extremism

by YVES ENGLER

The one-sided extremism of the Conservative government’s support for Israel just keeps growing.

The latest example is Ottawa helping convince the European Union to list Hezbollah’s military wing as a “terrorist” organization. After that decision was taken, Foreign Minister John Baird declared, “We are thrilled that the European Union unanimously has agreed to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. We’ve been pushing for this.”

The National Post detailed Canada’s behind the scenes effort to get the EU to list Hezbollah as a “terrorist” organization. Despite opposition from the Lebanese government, a Foreign Affairs official told the paper that this was “a clear priority that was set out by the minister.” Canadian diplomats held bilateral talks with various European countries and also pushed for Hezbollah to be listed at numerous multilateral meetings. At both a recent United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime meeting and a UN conference on radicalization in Europe, Canadian officials pressed key EU officials to define Hezbollah as a “terrorist” group.

Canadian law enforcement and security officials were also part of the lobbying effort. Reportedly, they’ve been feeding their European counterparts information about the supposed threat Hezbollah poses to both Canada and Europe.

The Conservatives push to get the EU to list Hezbollah was given a boost when six Israelis were killed in Bulgaria last July. Within hours of the bus bombing Israel claimed Hezbollah was responsible, yet more than a year later it’s still unclear exactly who committed this crime.

With a Canadian passport holder allegedly implicated in the bombing, Ottawa jumped at the opportunity to get involved in the investigation. Presumably, Canadian investigators shared information with their Bulgarian counterparts designed to steer them towards the conclusion that Hezbollah was responsible.

In response to the EU listing Hezbollah’ s military wing as a terrorist group its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said: “Why are you not defining the State of Israel as a terrorist organization, why do not you define the military wing of Israel, ie. The IDF, as a terrorist organization, while you Europeans recognize that Israel occupies Arab land and has not implemented international resolutions for decades. The whole world is witness to the Israeli massacres.”

Nasrallah raises an important point that Canadian foreign affairs professionals must be familiar with. It’s a simple fact that the IDF and other branches of the Israeli government have killed far more civilians than the military wing of Hezbollah.

The Israeli military and its allies in Lebanon alone have killed thousands of civilians. In fact, Hezbollah was created in large part to fight the Israeli occupation of that country. Israel has also conducted scores of targeted assassinations (Google “list of Israel assassinations”) in many countries across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Certainly Canadian foreign affairs officials must remember Gerald Bull, a Canadian engineer and designer of the “supergun” who was shot dead, allegedly by the Mossad, outside his residence in Belgium. And what about members of the current Israeli government who support illegal settlers and their killing of dozens of Palestinian civilians?

But apparently none of this “terrorism” bothers Stephen Harper’s government. The Conservatives are either ignorant or relish their hypocrisy.

Allowed to support the IDF (it’s even subsidized), Canadians can go to jail for sending money to a group operating a school or medical clinic in Lebanon “directly or indirectly” associated with Hezbollah, which comprises an important part of the Lebanese governmental and social service structure.

Dozens of Canadian companies sell to the Israeli army and many groups with charitable status promote the IDF. The Canadian Jewish News is full of advertisements for such groups: “Express your Zionism by serving as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli army supply base”, reads one ad while another calls itself “[the Libi Fund] For Strengthening Israel’s Defense.” Established in 1971 the Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada (ASI) provides financial and moral support to active duty soldiers. A June 2009 Canadian Jewish News ad explained “the Association for the soldiers of Israel invites you to show your support for the brave youth of the IDF at our gala dinner.”

Prominent Toronto couple Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz, who own or control more than two thirds of Chapters/Indigo/Coles bookstores, created the “Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers”. Reisman and Schwartz provide up to $3 million per year for post-military scholarships to individuals without family in Israel who join the IDF. After completing their military service these non-Israeli “lone soldiers” gain access to this scholarship money. For the IDF high command — the Heseg Board has included a number of generals and a former head of Mossad — “lone soldiers” are of value beyond their military capacities. Foreigners volunteering to fight for Israel are a powerful symbol to pressure Israelis weary of IDF behaviour. Schwartz and Reisman’s support for Heseg has spurred a campaign to boycott Chapters/Indigo/ Coles, which controls 70% of Canada’s retail book trade.

The Harper government is plowing full steam ahead with its support for Israel. Double standards and morality be damned.

Yves Engler is co-author of Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay. His latest book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. For more information yvesengler.com