Saturday, June 20, 2015

10 Reasons to Vote NDP if You’re from the Middle East

I am not a partisan New Democrat although I was a member of the NDP when I was much younger.  More recently I have preferred the centrist Liberals, and I was considering voting Conservative in the coming federal election; however, under the leadership of Tom Mulcair, I think that the NDP offers the best choice for Canadians, especially if one happens to be an immigrant from the Middle East.  Here are ten reasons:

1. Support for Palestinians.  Like the two other major parties, the NDP supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.  In addition, the NDP specifically opposes “Israeli occupation of Palestinian land”.  Tom Mulcair responded sympathetically to the Palestinian request for statehood status at the UN in 2012 while Prime Minister Stephen Harper vehemently opposed it.

2. Support for Israel.  Mulcair supports Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, even when a political cost must be paid.  He has successfully sidelined a small but vocal anti-Israel element within his party.  Harper is often cited as a strong ally of Israel, but I have my doubts as I explained in the Times of Israel.  I think that the mature and dignified approach of Mulcair is more valuable to Israel and to peace.

3. Balanced on the Middle East.  Mulcair’s response to the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014 showed a deep concern for Palestinian casualties but at the same time, he did not waver in his support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorists.  Being pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel at the same time is a significant challenge in a conflict that is very polarized, but Mulcair is in a better position than either of the two other leaders to meet that challenge.  Canada is not a major player in the Middle East, but if we can ever help mediate between the two sides, Mulcair would be more credible than Harper.

4. Cautious about military interventions.  I have argued in the past that the NDP erred in not supporting military action against Daesh (ISIS), but the NDP has supported other military actions, such as the Canadian mission in Libya under a UN mandate to protect civilians.  The NDP makes these decisions on a case-by-case basis, but it is clear that they are less keen on military interventions than Harper who had supported the disastrous U.S. intervention against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

5. Bill C-51.  Bill C-51 has been denounced by a long list of legal experts who wrote that it “vastly expands the scope of covert state activity when that activity will be subject to poor or even non-existent democratic oversight or review”, and by the privacy commissioner of Canada who said that “measures in the bill to protect against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient”. The NDP is the only major party to oppose bill C-51.

6. Mulcair’s experience and capability.  Those who do not support Harper’s policies, particularly on the environment and on scientific research, will look for an alternative, and Tom Mulcair, who has experience in government and who is knowledgeable on many issues, is a more credible choice than Justin Trudeau.  Trudeau has never been elected to any post, not even as a school board trustee, before he was elected MP in 2008.  Since then, Trudeau has shown poor political judgement, making several gaffes that embarrassed his party, including an inappropriate sexual joke during a debate about the very serious topic of Daesh.

7. Support for manufacturing sector and small businesses.  Mulcair has pledged to support Canada’s manufacturing industry and small businesses.  These sectors provide good jobs and business opportunities to new immigrants.

8. Support for minority rights.  Mulcair took a bold stand against the “charter of values” that was proposed by the Parti Quebecois in 2013, despite the potential electoral cost to the NDP in Quebec.  He declared, “What we have today is an attempt to impose state-mandated discrimination against minorities in the Quebec civil service. That for us is an absolute non-starter.”

9. Strong social policies while fiscally conservative.  The NDP is notorious for its concern for the working class and the disadvantaged, but the NDP also has had an excellent record of fiscal conservatism during its tenures in provincial governments.  This dual approach helps new immigrants who are struggling to find jobs and make ends meet.

10. Support for immigrants and refugees.  New Democrats support immigrants and refugees, not only in theory, but also in practice.  In the case of gay Palestinian John Calvin who is seeking refugee status, I have personally contacted all three parties, but three weeks later, only the NDP MPs have taken the time to respond, ask questions, and try to help.


The Conservative government is increasingly arrogant, secretive, and unimaginative.  The Liberal party failed to rebuild itself and is instead attempting to rely on a glamourous name in order to seduce what they believe is a na├»ve electorate.  I do not expect miracles from any government, but I believe that under the pragmatic and experienced leadership of Tom Mulcair, now is finally the right time to give the New Democrats a chance.

This article was also published in New Canadian Media at http://www.newcanadianmedia.ca/item/28449-10-reasons-to-vote-ndp-if-you-re-from-the-middle-east

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Calling for an awakening of conscience: Palestinians are real people

Co-authored by Bassem Eid and Fred Maroun
Israel is accused by “pro-Palestinian” activists of having little care for Palestinian civilians, of dehumanizing them, but reality is quite different.  Although there is extensive dehumanizing of the Palestinians, the guilty party is not who you might think.
Israel is accused of humiliating Palestinians at security checkpoints, and she is accused of not taking enough care in attacks against Hamas to avoid civilian casualties.  Some even go as far as accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians.
The truth is quite different.  Although Palestinians do indeed experience humiliation in some cases at checkpoints, and although there are too many civilian casualties during Israeli attacks on terrorists (even one is too many), there is extensive evidence that Israel applies standards of care that are at least as good as any Liberal democracy would apply in similar circumstances.  And there is certainly no genocide.
The dehumanizing of the Palestinians does indeed happen among overzealous pro-Zionist activists.  Some of these activists, especially the ones who do not live in Israel, tend to think of Palestinians in abstract terms.  They use arguments such as “there is no such thing as Palestinians”, and they insensitively dismiss real Palestinian tragedies (such as the destruction caused by wars in Gaza, or the dire situation of refugees in Arab countries) as unimportant since Israel is legitimately defending itself.
The dehumanizing of the Palestinians is also widespread among Arab regimes.  They used the Palestinians as pawns from the moment Israel’s independence was declared, and they continue to do so today.  The fact that Arab regimes do not offer citizenship to the Palestinian refugees that they have hosted for decades is a neglect that would be vilified in the strongest terms if it were taking place in Europe or North America, but because the offenders are Arabs and the victims are Arabs, the world ignores the crime and even encourages it by funding it through a specially-formed UN agency (the UNRWA).
The all-time champions in dehumanizing Palestinians, however, are the inappropriately named “pro-Palestinian” activists.  While some Zionists unfairly ignore any deaths in Gaza, “pro-Palestinian” activists use Palestinian deaths for propaganda purposes and in the same breath refuse to demand an end to terrorist attacks from Gaza.  Yet stopping terrorist attacks from Gaza is the only way to prevent civilians from being caught in the crossfire of retaliations by Israel.  While some Zionists see the defense of Israel as an objective that overrides any Palestinian interests, “pro-Palestinian” activists see the destruction of Israel as an objective that can only be achieved through Palestinian deaths.
In the West Bank too, “pro-Palestinian” activists use Palestinians as pawns.  They are engaged in a campaign to de-legitimize Israeli businesses that operate in the West Bank regardless of the fact that those businesses typically provide good employment opportunities to Palestinians.  “Pro-Palestinian” activists see the loss of jobs by Palestinians as a reasonable price to pay for the greater goal of weakening Israel.
The “pro-Palestinian” activists have therefore entirely completed the switch from supposedly being pro-Palestinian to being fully anti-Palestinian.  While they claim to defend the interests of Palestinians, they in fact thrive on the deaths and unemployment of Palestinians.
Palestinians are real.  They are not abstractions, and each Palestinian life matters.  John Calvin is a Palestinian refugee in Canada who is in danger of being deported back to the Palestinian territories where his life would be at risk due to his homosexuality, his conversion to Christianity, and his support for Israel.  We have yet to see a single “pro-Palestinian” group come to the defense of Calvin.  There is no doubt that if Calvin was a supporter of Hamas and in danger of being jailed by Israel, “pro-Palestinian” groups would have sprung to his defense, but because he supports Israel, they do not see him as a Palestinian worth defending.  It is not Palestinian lives that “pro-Palestinian” activists value; it is the propaganda value of Palestinian lives and deaths that they value.
Of course for anti-Zionists, it all starts with dehumanizing Israelis.  If they realized that Israelis are real people, they would be more likely to realize that Palestinians too are real people.  Anti-Zionists, however, see Israelis as an abstract imperialist blob.  Besides the fact that Israel is not an imperialist enterprise but a native enterprise, no two Israelis are exactly the same, but to anti-Zionists, all Israelis must be denounced, boycotted, isolated, and ultimately made to disappear.
Is it important that the IDF see Palestinians as people?  Yes of course it is, but the IDF is reminded of this fact 24 hours a day, every day of the year, by hordes of people, even Israelis themselves, but in reality the IDF does a decent job of it and does not need to be reminded so often.  Those hordes of people do not however look in the mirror and see that they, more than anyone else, routinely and thoughtlessly dehumanize Palestinians.
Whenever they are told that their actions hurt the Palestinians far more than they hurt Israel, “pro-Palestinian” activists plug their ears and start shouting “la la la la, I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you”, then they go back to their mantra about the Israelis having stolen land and needing to be punished and being all-around evil people and so on.  It would be funny if it were not real.
It is appalling but somewhat expected (given over 67 years of violence against Israel) that some Zionists would dehumanize Palestinians, but it is quite a tragedy that “pro-Palestinian” activists are even worse offenders.  The compulsive and fanatical nature of anti-Zionism is the problem.  It prevents its adherents from seeing the trees while they obsess about a forest that mostly exists in their imaginations.  The hateful nature of anti-Zionism burns everything around it, and the Palestinians are its main victims.
We therefore call for an awakening of conscience among the ranks of those who call themselves pro-Palestinian.  If they truly are pro-Palestinian, and not simply anti-Israel, then we expect them to strongly condemn Hamas terrorism and Fatah corruption which are the main causes of Palestinian suffering, rather than demonize Israel while ignoring the consequences of that demonization on the lives of real Palestinians.

Note: For further writings by Bassem Eid, see bassemeidhumanrights.com.  For further writings by Fred Maroun, see Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post.  The parts of their writings that are most relevant to this blog are referenced within the blog.