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Monday, 18 December 2017 11:14

Trump Dims the Lights in Jerusalem

By: Ashoke Dasgupta in Winnipeg, MB

President Donald Trump announced on December 6 that the US would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel unilaterally, triggering global protests and rejection of the US as a peace broker.

About 60 Winnipeggers protested on December 10 on Portage Avenue, near the Polo Park Shopping Mall. That day happened to be International Human Rights Day as well.

Many vehicles honked enthusiastically while passing along Portage Avenue, one of Winnipeg’s main thoroughfares.

Rana Abdulla, a Palestinian-Canadian organizer, said, “The protest was diverse, and full of positive energy. It included many community and social justice organizations.”

The event was organized by:

· The Canadian-Arab Association of Manitoba

· The Canada-Palestine Association of Manitoba

· The Canada-Palestine Support Network (Winnipeg)

· Independent Jewish Voices (Winnipeg)

· Peace Alliance Winnipeg

· The Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid

“The first objective of our public leafleting and rally action was to condemn and rail against United States President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — this, alongside, his fatuous declaration of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel,” said Krishna Lalbiharie, Event co-organizer and member of the Canada-Palestine Support Network (Winnipeg): “The second objective of our action was to educate Winnipeg shoppers, media and the larger Manitoba citizenry as to the illegality of Trump’s decision, and the resistance to it — commensurate with International Human Rights Day.”

“I would say the objective was achieved. There was a good turnout, the action received some accurate media attention, and the public response was generally positive,” said Harold Shuster of Independent Jewish Voices.

“We received an overwhelmingly positive response from receptive, kind Polo Park patrons and drivers along Portage Avenue,” continues Lalbiharie: “There was widespread, favourable media coverage too.” 

It’s important to recognize, according to Lalbiharie, that President Trump’s ill-conceived decision may be to distract from the hot issue of  Russian collusion during his election, and his need to prove his gratitude to Zionist contributors and lobbyists in the US and Israel.


Ashoke Dasgupta is a member of the NCM Collective based out of Winnipeg. As a journalist, he has won three awards in Canada and Nepal.

Published in Top Stories
Thursday, 17 December 2015 09:04

Our Huge Cultural Blindspot

Commentary by Hadani Ditmars in Vancouver, British Columbia

Donald Trump is the bogeyman. I get it. He’s also the Grinch, Darth Vader and Hitler.

In fact, he was once on an episode of the Simpsons as an imagined future president in a dystopian America.

But in a world of bogeymen, he may just be the most televisual and carnivalesque, not to mention social media friendly.  I wonder what Hitler would have done with all the social and other media currently at demagogues' disposal? Somehow, I think, he wouldn't have been as slick and televisual as Trump — likely more awkward and sweaty like U.S. President Richard Nixon was.

Trump is the id of the American people; the comments section come to life.  He says things openly that other politicians think but dare not speak. He epitomizes the American tradition of waves of immigrants arriving only to demonize the next wave.

In the same way that ISIS (Islamic State) is a very modern horror (as opposed to a recreation of historical Islam), Trump is also the perfect conflation of American obsessions with wealth, race and "security"— and a simplistic worldview. His is a fascism writ large for the Internet age where opinions are formed by memes, sound bites and hysteria rather than historical precedent and analysis. And, he finds fertile ground in America’s growing underclass of the disaffected, uneducated and underemployed, for whom the American dream will never be a reality.

[H]e finds fertile ground in America’s growing underclass of the disaffected, uneducated and underemployed, for whom the American dream will never be a reality.

Banning Muslims

And yet, mainstream Republicans are quick to distance themselves from him. A Rasmussen Reports survey says that 66 per cent of Republicans favour Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from America.  And his ideas about walling off Mexico and racially profiling Muslims, are mere knock offs of American ally Israel’s own policies. Hearing the likes of Dick Cheney and Benjamin Netanyahu call Trump a racist were rather unconvincing exercises in the kettle calling the pot black. Perhaps they are afraid Trump — or one of his outrageous outbursts — will give away the game.

While Trump may be somewhat confused about the actual way the internet functions, his Republican colleagues seem to have a limited grasp of the concept of international law and what constitutes a war crime.  Besides, Trump’s recent suggestion about shutting down ISIS by blocking its internet access would be right at home in many Middle Eastern police states (and U.S. allies) who have tried — with limited success — to stop various groups from disseminating information via social media.

And Trump is certainly not the first politician to favour showmanship over substance (he is, after all, channeling the ghost of Ronald Regan with his populist, Hollywood ways).

Our Canadian blindspot

And even though we Canadians love to point a collective finger at our neighbours to the South as being the exclusive purveyors of racism, the fact that we have a “mosaic” while they have a “melting pot” is no excuse for a huge cultural blindspot. We just express it “differently’, like say, via forced sterilization of native women in Saskatchewan, or ongoing incarceration of refugee claimants.

There are many different ways of “banning” people from entering a country. Canada has a proud history of doing just that — from anti-Asian exclusion laws, to turning away boatloads of Sikh migrants, Jewish refugees in WW2 or more recently criminalization of Tamil “terrorists.”

Were past Conservative Minister’s like Jason Kenney and John Baird really that different than Trump?

[T]he fact that we have a “mosaic” while they [America] have a “melting pot” is no excuse for a huge cultural blindspot.

While their rhetoric may have differed, their intention was the same. They manifested their Islamophobic policies that mirrored the most right-wing of Israeli policies in a variety of ways.

The previous government’s unprecedented support for Israel began as soon as Prime Minister Stephen Harper was elected but swelled when the government cut funding to KAIROS — a well regarded NGO deemed too “pro-Palestinian” —in 2009, and reached a peak in 2012 when, alone among G8 leaders, Harper refused to embrace Obama’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan based on pre-1967 borders.

Canada’s vote against a Palestinian bid for statehood later that year (contrary to the wishes of a majority of Canadians, according to polls) further damaged its status at the UN and its international reputation.

Indeed many Canadians are still shocked and embarrassed by Canada’s loss of the UN Security council seat in 2010, which was widely attributed to its pro-Israel Middle East policy — and was often held up by the Harper government as a badge of honour.

Refugee policy

Harper’s policies on refugees were criticized by everyone from Amnesty International, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, and No One is Illegal. Just because we have a new photogenic Prime Minister who is bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees does not mean that endemic issues with Canada’s refugee and immigration system will magically disappear, along with all the racist trolls who grace the comments sections of our national dailies.

This Christmas, let’s look beyond the pantomime villains we love to boo and hiss at and unmask the ones hiding behind masks of “respectability.” And let us remember that every pantomime fool reveals uncomfortable truths, even if they arrive via outright lies and outrageous statements.

In a way Trump’s opera buffo shines light onto some rather darker stories we’d rather not dwell on — ones we ignore at our peril. In our zeal to demonize him, let’s not forget that what he reveals — the de facto complicity of more “mainstream” politicos and the deep racism inherent in North American history — may be more important than what he says.


Hadani Ditmars is the author of Dancing in the No-Fly Zone: a Woman's Journey Through Iraq, was a past editor at New Internationalist, and has been reporting from Africa and the Middle East for two decades.Hadani is also a musician who believes that world music can be a powerful vehicle for peace.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

by Fred Maroun (@Fred_Maroun) in Ottawa, Ontario

Let me start by saying, I am not a partisan New Democrat, although I was a member of the New Democratic Party (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 10 reasons why:

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.” Mulcair responded sympathetically to the Palestinian request for statehood status at the United Nations (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.

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.

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 it is less keen on military interventions than Harper who had supported the disastrous U.S. intervention against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

The new anti-terrorism legislation has been denounced by a long list of legal experts ... The NDP is the only major party to oppose the bill.

5. Bill C-51.The new anti-terrorism legislation 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 the bill.

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 Mulcair, who has experience in government and who is knowledgeable on many issues, is a more credible choice than the Liberals' Justin Trudeau. Trudeau has never been elected to any post, not even as a school board trustee, before he was elected Member of Parliament 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 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.

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.

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 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 glamorous name in order to seduce what it appears to believe is a naïve electorate. I do not expect miracles from any government, but I believe that under the pragmatic and experienced leadership of Mulcair, now is finally the right time to give the New Democrats a chance.


Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin. He lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at http://www.jpost.com/Blogger/Fred-Maroun and http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/fred-maroun/.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 14:00

Duplicitous Abbas comes out of the closet

Even the few delusional apologists who maintain that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a genuine partner for peace must have been stunned by his...

Jewish Tribune

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Published in Israel

The Israeli based civil rights organization, Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Centre – has filed a war crimes complaint against Hamas leader Khaled Mashal only days after he oversaw the execution of Palestinian civilians in Gaza while concurrently advocating for Palestinian membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

The complaint alleges that Mashal implemented the Islamic terrorist organization’s brutal execution of 38 Palestinians suspected of anti-Hamas protests and collaborating with Israel.

Killing civilians without trial constitutes a war crime under international law.

Jewish Tribune

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Published in International

 

My NDP colleagues and I welcome the announcement of a long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Millions of innocent civilians were caught in the line of fire in the Middle East, and more than two thousand have been killed since July.  I am deeply concerned about the situation. New Democrats have been urging the Government 

The Philippine Reporter

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Published in Commentary

by Dennis Gruending (@dennisgruending) in Ottawa

Although I have attended Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa in the past, in 2009 I decided to support a smaller event whose theme was peace and reconciliation. I was one of about 300 people who heard an agonizingly sad but ultimately hopeful speech by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. He is a Palestinian pediatric physician and peace advocate whose house in Gaza was struck by an Israeli tank shell on January 16, 2009.

Abuelaish, a widower, was home that day with his eight children and other family members and was scheduled to give an interview on Israeli television via cell phone. A shell fired from a tank hit his house and killed three of his daughters, aged 14, 15 and 21, along with a seventeen-year-old niece. Another daughter, Shada, and a second niece were injured. The journalist who called moments after the attack found the doctor sobbing inconsolably. “My girls, O God, they are dead,” he said. The video clip was broadcast around the world. Abuelaish and his family became the face of the human suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. A ceasefire was declared two days later.

A “rarity”

The New York Times describes Abuelaish as “a rarity, a Gazan at home among Israelis.” He told his Ottawa audience that he practiced medicine in both Gaza and Israel and that he has delivered as many Jewish babies as Palestinian ones. His says tragedy has not deflected him from the path of peace and reconciliation. “I am Muslim but we have to go beyond that to think about humanity and what brings us, Muslims and Jews, together,” he said. “I believe that God is good and even tragedy is good. I assure you I am looking forward. I believe that everything is possible other than having my daughters back.” 

Ed Broadbent, former leader of the New Democratic Party and a human rights campaigner, was the evening’s moderator. “As a Canadian, a father and grandfather,” Broadbent said to Abuelaish, “it is almost impossible for me to conceive of losing these children as you have lost your daughters.” Broadbent then said to the audience: “It would be easier to understand if Dr. Abuelaish came through that with dreams of vengeance. He continues to reach out to those who might be considered his enemies, but he does not see them as such.” Abuelaish was nominated for the 2009 and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Potlucks for Peace

He was in Ottawa as the guest of Potlucks for Peace, a group of Jewish and Arab people who gather monthly to share food and talk about how to pursue peace in the Middle East. The group’s members do not always agree on solutions — whether, for example, there should be one state or two states in the region, or whether Israeli settlements pushed into the Palestinian West Bank are justified in the name of security. I have, at their previous events, sensed tensions over the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands on the one hand and anxiety about Israeli security on the other. The potluck group appears to hold it all together through mutual respect and discipline. “We believe that out of the willingness to engage in dialogue, solutions can arise,” the group says on its website. “We hope that our very existence sends a positive message.”

Abuelaish’s story has a Canadian twist. He had been invited to the University of Toronto to undertake a three-year medical residency and was making plans to move his family to Canada when his home in Gaza was shelled and three of his daughters killed. Abuelaish did come to Toronto in March 2009. His seventeen-year-old daughter, who was injured in the attack, spent four months in hospital and is now studying computer engineering in Canada.

Medical analogies

Abuelaish draws many of his peace analogies from his practice of medicine. “As a physician, I am not allowed ever to give up hope on a patient. We must act and we must forgive each other,” he said. “No one is perfect. We make mistakes. Forgiveness allows us to move forward.” He also said: “As a doctor, I know that hatred is a toxin. The path of light in the long run is the more efficient choice than to live with hate and be consumed with revenge”

He is an inspirational speaker in the best sense, but his response to questions indicated that he is not a politician or diplomat and is unlikely to be one of those negotiating land for peace or the future of Israeli settlements. When asked during the question-answer period if he was in favour of an economic boycott of Israel similar to that against South Africa in years past, he did not answer, but spoke about his high hopes for peace initiatives driven by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. Asked whether he favours a one-state or two-state solution for the region, he fell back on a medical metaphor. “Survival is most important at the moment. The first action is to stabilize the patient. One state or two states is theoretical. There is a Palestinian nation and an Israeli nation, and they must live together in peace.”

Remembrance Day

I did not attend the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial that year but I did watch it on television. It is always moving to see the veterans but less so the fly-bys, march bys, and the firing of canons. As I watched and heard the television commentary, it was all about us: our freedom, our sacrifice, our families, and our heroes.

Even the armed forces chaplain who spoke could invoke God’s caring and sympathy only for us. In this ceremony, there was no compassion for the other — for example, the bride and groom and their guests in an Afghan wedding procession, for example, who were bombed to bits in 2008 by an air strike called in by NATO soldiers. No one on Remembrance Day recalls the deadly mess of war that remains for others to clean up after the troops have withdrawn — the unexploded land mines, the buildings and fields in ruins, the shrapnel embedded in flesh, and the body burns from white phosphorous.

Potlucks for Peace and Dr. Abuelaish attempt to reach across a divide of fear and hatred to acknowledge and embrace the other. Our officially planned and sanctioned Remembrance Day ceremonies do not.

This piece was originally published on the blog Pulpit and Politics, and is being re-published with permission from the author in the context of Dr. Abuelaish's latest campaign to medically treat wounded children from the Israel-Gaza conflict. Read a preview of the campaign in our NCM Newsfeed of Aug. 8 under Back Pocket.

Published in Commentary

 MONTREAL — Palestinian doctor Wafiq Othman told a Montreal audience he went to Israel with great trepidation, unsure he could ever trust his...

The Canadian Jewish News

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Published in Israel
Monday, 04 November 2013 19:46

Pulse: Arab and Middle East

by Mourad Haroutunian

The following were the top stories in the Canadian-Arab media during October:             

Canadian Copts join forces to influence Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs) to support Egypt's current secular government - Egyptian-Canadians eyeing their first seat in the Canadian parliament - Palestinian-Canadian activist to discuss how the Canadian-Arab identity affects the Palestinian cause - Omani-Canadian scientist appointed to UN advisory board - Calgary’s first Muslim mayor re-elected - Saudi Arabia's national airline begins direct flights to Toronto.

 

COPTS LOBBYING

Three Canadian-Coptic organizations are combining their efforts to persuade the legislative branch of the federal government to increase support for Egypt, at a conference scheduled to be held on Nov. 19 under the auspices of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Al-Ahram Elgdeed reported on Nov. 3.

The Canadian Coptic Association, the Canadian Coptic Activists Federation and Al-Ahram Elgdeed non-profit organization are expected to urge Canada to recognize what happened in the summer in Egypt as a revolution, not a military coup.

These organizations cancelled a protest originally scheduled for Nov. 3 outside Parliament in order to focus on the Nov. 19 event, the bi-weekly newspaper run by Egyptian Copts said.  They will call on Canada to help Egypt’s secular government in its war on terror and its route to democracy, it added.

Egyptian activists are expected to request that Members of Parliament designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, like Palestinian hate-group Hamas, and to boost Canada's financial assistance to the North African country.

The event will be attended by the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney; the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander; and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bob Dechert, the organizations said.

On July 3, Egypt’s military ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi after millions of Egyptians flooded the streets countrywide calling for his resignation. The Arab world's most populous country has been experiencing political and economic instability since President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February 2011 following 18 days of massive protests. 

FIRST EGYPTIAN-CANADIAN MP?

Al-Ahram Elgdeed's deputy editor-in-chief, Medhat Eweeda, urged readers to endorse Coptic activist Sheref Sabawy to become the first Egyptian-Canadian to be elected a member of the Canadian Parliament.

Mr. Sabawy is required first to win the nomination of the Liberal Party for the Mississauga-Streetsville federal electoral district in Ontario, before running for the House of Commons seat. The district is heavily populated by Egyptians and others of Arab descent, Mr. Eweeda wrote.

Mr. Eweeda, himself a Conservative, called on fellow Egyptian-Canadians to renounce their differences and back up Sabawy. "Successful communities consider their interests. They take from [political] parties whatever serves the interests of the community and their home countries," he said.

"Unlike [successful communities], we have not yet taken care of our common interests; rather, personal conflicts have ruled our behaviour."

IDENTITY CRISIS

Palestinian activist Issam Al-Yamani is slated to discuss how the Canadian-Arab identity affects the Palestinian struggle at a gathering on Nov. 8, at Palestine House in Mississauga, Ontario, according to Aljalia monthly newspaper.

Mr. Al-Yamani, who was born and raised in a refugee camp in Lebanon, will ask participants whether they have ever faced difficulties as an Arab in Canada, and what they can do, as  a minority, to ensure they are a positive force in Canadian society.

The event is co-hosted by Palestine House, a not-for-profit organization established in 1992, and the Canadian Arab Federation, formed in 1967 to represent the interests of Arab Canadians.

OMANI SCIENTIST

Al-Bilad monthly newspaper reported that an Omani-Canadian scientist was appointed to the newly-created United Nations Scientific Advisory Board.

Prof. Abdallah Daar, a professor of Public Health at the University of Toronto, is the only Canadian appointed in the 26-member board, the London, Ontario-based paper said in its November issue.

The board was formed to provide advice on science, technology and innovation for sustainable development to the UN Secretary-General and to executive heads of UN organizations.

DIRECT FLIGHTS

On Oct. 28, Saudi Arabia's national carrier began direct flights to Toronto, Aljalia reported.

Saudia will have three direct flights to Toronto each week, the paper said, without citing sources. The Toronto flights will serve different groups of passengers, including Saudi students in Canada and Canadians who travel to the kingdom each year for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.

With the launch of the Toronto service, Saudia has become the fourth Gulf airline operating flights to Canada after Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

MUSLIM MAYOR RE-ELECTED

Arab News, a biweekly newspaper established in 1974, trumpeted the re-election of Calgary's first Muslim mayor Naheed Nenshi.

The 41-year-old Harvard graduate won 74 per cent of the vote against eight opponents, the Toronto-based paper reported, citing Reuters.

The left-leaning leader obtained a national profile for his response to the floods that swamped large parts of the city of 1.1 million in Canada's costliest natural disaster.

CANADA-EU PACT

In an editorial, Arab News praised a free-trade deal clinched between Canada and the European Union as “one of the legacies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.”  

"This is a big victory for Canadian exporters, who will see lucrative business in Europe," wrote Salah Allam, the newspaper's publisher-editor, "though farmers and cheese-makers will be hurt by the deal."

However, Mr. Allam called for lifting the secrecy surrounding the details of the pact as part of the right of Canadians for freedom of information and transparency.

"The Harper government should understand that Canadian citizens are key players, not just extras on the stage!" wrote Mr. Allam.

The agreement was announced by Mr. Harper and EU President Jose Manuel Barroso at a joint press conference in Brussels on Oct. 18.

ADHA GREETINGS

Al-Bilad paper highlighted a statement delivered by the leader of the National Democratic Party Tom Mulcair, who greeted Muslim-Canadians on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, or Greater Bairam.

"For over a century, Muslim-Canadians have been playing a vital role in building this country, in areas from business and science to politics and culture. We understand that it’s this diversity that helps make Canada strong," he said in the letter.

“So on this special occasion, I would like to renew our commitment to you to fight for the important Canadian values of diversity and multiculturalism,” he concluded.

AVNERY ARTICLE

Al-Bilad, which has been run by Iraqi journalists since 2002, published an article titled "Why are so many Jews leaving Israel?" by Uri Avnery, an Israeli writer and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement.

In the article, originally published on counterpunch.org, Mr. Avnery suggests a Crusader connection. “Israel declares itself to be “the State of the Jewish People.” Jews all over the world are considered de facto Israeli nationals. But if there is no basic difference between a Jew in Haifa and a Jew in Hamburg, why stay in Haifa when life in Hamburg seems to be so much better?” Mr. Avnery wondered in the article.

Ninety-year-old Mr. Avnery is famous for crossing the lines during the siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on July 3, 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli.

Mourad Haroutunian is an Egyptian media professional based in Toronto. He has worked in Egypt, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and the United States, for Bloomberg News, CNBC Arabiya, Alhurra TV, Forbes Arabia and Nile TV International. He holds an M.A. in journalism and mass communication from the American University in Cairo. He currently works a senior equities journalist at Proactive Investors, in Toronto. 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories

by Marika Washchyshyn

Even before its planned opening in 2014, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba has had its share of critics. They insist that the museum fails to adequately address certain aspects of its avowed aim to educate, promote awareness and increase dialogue about human rights.

One of the issues raised is that the Holocaust is being given undue prominence in deference to the Aspers, a wealthy Jewish family whose late patriarch Israel [Izzy] Asper launched the CMHR in 2003 as a private initiative. In 2008, an act of Parliament made it a national museum. At the centre of this controversy are the “genocide” galleries, which include information on the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Armenian massacre and the Ukrainian Holodomor famine of 1932-33 during which millions died.

A section of the Ukrainian community has been the most vocal on the issue, garnering major media attention and critical analysis of the museum’s contents. Roman Zakaluzny, chairman of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA), said Canadians will not get to see a fair representation of all such atrocities in the museum despite the fact that their tax dollars are now largely funding the project. [As of December 2011, Global News reported the total budget for the building and its exhibits was $351 million, with approximately $200 million of that coming from taxpayers.]

“This isn’t a private museum. Donations shouldn’t reflect content in a national museum,” said Zakaluzny. “No one community should have pride of place over another. The museum hasn’t provided enough evidence that all genocides will be treated equally. This isn’t just about the Ukrainian community.” To emphasize this, the UCCLA launched a postcard campaign showing people of various ethnic backgrounds fleeing the museum.

‘No hierarchy of genocides’

Angela Cassie, the director of communications and external relations at the CMHR, was quick to shoot down the accusation.

“There is no hierarchy [of genocides] here, and any suggestions of that is a gross misrepresentation of our intentions at the CMHR,” Cassie said. “Those comments divide, when our goal is to bring people together to recognize the humanity in others and take action for human rights.”

Cassie stressed that human rights violations and “reliving the past” were not the focus of the museum, but that the CMHR serves as an educational vehicle to promote understanding of human rights issues and draw lessons. She also said violations are not emphasized, and the museum is not a memorial or institution for comparing genocides.

“Even in our examination of the Holocaust, we’re looking at that broader concept, at all groups who were affected by the Nazi regime,” said Cassie. “We’re looking at what we can learn from these stages of genocide, and there are some very relevant stories for us to learn.”

New Canadian experience

The museum is much more than a display of crimes against humanity, and also contains content examining the experience of New Canadians, contends Cassie. The internment of Canadians during the First World War, including the Italians, Ukrainians, Poles and the Japanese, are some of the galleries the museum is commissioning to show Canadians these black marks in their nation’s history and how far removed they are today from those shameful episodes.

Cassie also noted the museum has worked with the Ukrainian community in bringing special guest lecturers from Ukraine to the museum, resulting in a memorandum of understanding between the CMHR and Ukraine’s National Holodomor Museum in Kiev last July.

“We are moving things forward in a very positive fashion with the Ukrainian community,” she said. “It’s about working in collaboration with these communities to make sure their stories are properly represented, and to make sure they understand exactly what a human rights museum is.”

Cassie highlighted the different ways Ukrainian content was integrated into the museum, including an inaugural feature film on the Holodomor. First World War internment, an interactive study table containing primary-source information on the Holodomor, the struggle by the Ukrainian-Canadian community to gain parliamentary recognition for the mass deaths and an analysis of Stalin’s “techniques of genocide” are among at least seven other exhibits displaying Ukrainian stories.

Not just Ukrainians

The Museum’s PR offensive has borne some fruit. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) decided to work with the CMHR after it resolved with the museum apprehensions about how the Holodomor was going to be covered. The UCCLA, however, remains unconvinced.

Other Canadian immigrant groups are also calling for more inclusive action by the CMHR. The CBC reported on March 4 that the Palestinian-Canadian community has become the newest group to take up issue with the museum.

“This proves that it’s not just Ukrainians who are unhappy with the museum’s content and layout, but Canadians across the country,” UCCLA’s Zakaluzny said. He cited a July 2012 Nanos Research poll (paid for by Canadians for Genocide Education and UCCLA) which showed 60 per cent of the approximately 1,200 people polled were in favour of a “one exhibit/all genocides” approach versus a “one gallery highlighting a particular genocide permanently” approach.

The UCCLA, in the meantime, has won another of its battles by securing a deal with the Government of Canada, Parks Canada and the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition fund for a permanent exhibit in the immediate vicinity of an internment camp for Ukrainians in Banff from 1914-1917. This recognition came after around 25 years of lobbying, when Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney acknowledged the need for restitution in 2008. - New Canadian Media

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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