FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Ordeal of Hassan Diab

In December 2014, the former Carleton University sociology professor, husband to Rania, father of a lovely toddler daughter and one month before the birth of their delightful baby son, was whisked from his home by Canadian officials and extradited to France.  The reason:   suspicion that he was involved in the bombing of a Paris synagogue in 1980.  It did not seem to matter to Canadian and French authorities that he was in Beirut at the time of the bombing, that his fingerprints did not match the proffered evidence and that the handwriting analysis was flawed.  There was no personal history that could connect Hassan Diab in any way with this deed, and Canadian judge Maranger said that the evidence was “very problematic”, “convoluted”, “very confusing”, and “with conclusions that are suspect”.  Nor did it matter that Canadian extradition policy does not protect the rights of Canadian citizens.

Hassan Diab’s ordeal began in October 2007 when he noticed that unidentified agents were following him and when someone tried to break into his home. He reported these incidents to the Ottawa police, but the intimidating and intrusive surveillance persisted.  He was arrested in 2008, and after many legal appeals he was extradited to France in 2014.  He has now spent almost 1000 days in a French prison and is yet to be charged. To date, the Canadian government is silent.   Not a word from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Justice Minister Jodie Wilson-Raybould.  No mea culpa from the former Harper government.

On April 24, 2017 French investigative judges ordered Diab’s release for the sixth time, citing evidence that Mr. Diab was in Beirut during the Paris bombing.  All six release orders have been summarily overturned on appeal.  On June 15, 2017, Amnesty International issued a press release expressing concern about France’s “alleged use of anonymous, unsourced and uncircumstanced evidence that may have been obtained by torture.”  Hassan Diab’s defenders include Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, Independent Jewish Voices, Union Juive Francaise pour La Paix (France).  Counted among his many supporters are Noam Chomsky, Canadian filmmaker John Greyson, Monia Mazigh, and Hassan Yussuff (President of Canadian Labor Congress).

Canada is 150 and the French republic is 225, but innumerable injustices persist.    Hassan Diab is a case in point because what is happening to him eerily repeats the past.    Every person educated in France, and many Canadians, know about the Dreyfus Affair.   At the turn of the 20th century, the Jewish French soldier Alfred Dreyfus was charged with treason and given a life sentence at Devil’s Island.   The accusation was based on fraudulent handwriting analysis.  Emile Zola, the eminent French writer, wrote about the framing of Dreyfus in J’Accuse, a rallying cry against racism and state injustice: “…the ultimate slap in the face to any notion of truth or justice.  Dreyfus is innocent…. Hiding behind this odious anti-Semitism which will kill the great and liberal France –It is a crime to exploit patriotism for works of hate.”  The actual perpetrator was known to French authorities but was never charged. Dreyfus remained in prison and it took years for him to be exonerated.   Just like Dreyfus, Diab’s case rests on fraudulent handwriting analysis, and racism finds its current expression in Islamophobia.  French and Canadian authorities appear to ignore this history.

Not long after the Dreyfus Affair, Franz Kafka wrote about judicial secrecy and arbitrary detention in The Trial, a novel of psychological terror in which the prisoner is not even informed about the accusations or the identity of his accusers.  Hassan Diab wrote a poem called “The Trial”: “Kafka visited me…. I told him about my trial and he told me about his…It pained us very much That history keeps repeating itself…  Dreyfus was one hundred years ago.  Did we learn anything?  Did anything change?”  

In the great contemporary poem J’Accuse, the Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai writes that it takes a whole orchestra to perpetrate state crimes.   He cites: “the TV announcer and the professor, a long lineup of Men of Letters.  Each one of these authorities sees to his part in the plan: one’s in charge of liquidation, another of the daily harassment… the staged negotiations, the corporate politics…”     At the time of Hassan’s initial detention, there was a culture of indifference to state violence against civilians by the highest authorities in Canada.  Former Prime Minister Harper said that Israel’s hugely disproportionate attack on Gaza’s trapped, civilian population was “measured”.  Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff, recognized as a global authority on human rights, initially said that he “did not lose sleep” over Israel’s attack on civilians in Qana.  Ignatieff was instrumental in crafting the Responsibility to Protect and the “lesser evil” doctrines which justified torture, deportation, extrajudicial targeting of civilians, and wars in order to prevent worse violence.  Militarism insidiously infects everyday life.

Cui bono? Who benefits from contriving a villain? Hassan Diab is a gentle and thoughtful man, an academic, a family man who likes to cook.   In Canada, Diab’s incarceration, his suspension from his university position, and his extradition has a strong and powerful advocate in Avi Benlolo, CEO of the Friends of the Wiesenthal Centre.  Simon Wiesenthal was a Holocaust survivor who became a “Nazi hunter” after World War II.    The Wiesenthal Centre more recently hunts alleged Islamic terrorists.  The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Benlolo called Carleton University’s reinstatement of Hassan Diab  “shocking…. Inexplicable, outrageous” and that the university was treating “an accused terrorist mass murderer as if he was charged with drunk driving.”  Guilty until proven innocent?   Benlolo’s global network includes “senior officials in law enforcement” and “thought-leaders”, G.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Shimon Peres, Tony Blair, John Howard, Rudy Guiliani.   He accompanied former P.M. Stephen Harper to Israel along with a member of the violent and racist Jewish Defense League.  This year Benlolo is the honoree of the University of Haifa, “in recognition of his leadership as a prominent Canadian human rights activist promoting tolerance and democracy…” [1]

“Hunting” people allows victims to become perpetrators.  The orchestra of militarism permits all-out-war, incarceration of innocents, and petty banalities of evil like not even allowing Hassan Diab to say goodbye to his daughter when he was extradited.  For Canada at 150 and France at 225, many in power have yet to understand justice.

Notes.

[1] P. 8-9 in Eyal Weizman (2011). The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza.  Verso.    And Derrick O’Keefe (2011). Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil?  Verso.

More articles by:

Judith Deutsch is a member of the Socialist Project, Independent Jewish Voices, and  former president of Science for Peace. She is a psychoanalyst in Toronto. She can be reached at:   judithdeutsch0@gmail.com.

September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail