Appeal to Oppose Canadian Foreign Minister’s Visit to the Middle East

A Canadian tank operating within southern Afghanistan. (Canadian Armed Forces)

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter MacKay, who recently traveled to Afghanistan, is planning a larger visit to the Middle East region, with the stated aim of promoting “peace and dialogue”. Conservative Party Foreign Minister MacKay will arrive in Lebanon and Palestine in the coming days.

Tadamon! Montreal issues this appeal in an effort to highlight the Conservative government’s role and position as an imperialist player in the Middle East.

Canadian intervention in the region is best illustrated by the Conservative government’s open support for Israel’s brutal assault on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and by Canada’s ongoing military presence in Afghanistan.

Despite common mythology, Canadian policy has seldom been “balanced” or “neutral” concerning the Middle East. Successive Canadian governments have unconditionally supported Israel. History doesn’t substantiate Canada’s supposed role as the “neutral one”.

Canada’s position must be subject to critique in its entirety and in the context of broader Western intervention in the Middle East. The Canadian government openly supports the ongoing occupation of Iraq, despite world opinion having turned against U.S. policy. Canada was the first country in the world to withdraw all financial aid to the Palestinian people after the democratic election of Hamas in the Occupied Territories, sending millions of Palestinians into devastating poverty.

Within the context of Canadian policy in the region, Tadamon! calls on people in Montreal, Canada and in the Middle East to express their opposition to Canadian intervention in the Middle East.

Canada Supported the 2006 Israeli Attack on Lebanon:

Canada cannot claim to promote “peace” and “dialogue” in the Middle East after supporting the recent Israeli attack on Lebanon, which resulted in the death of over 1300 people, the displacement of 1 million and the massive destruction of Lebanon’s national infrastructure.

In light of the devastation unleashed upon Lebanon, the Conservative government of Canada declared that, “the response of Israel, given the circumstances, is measured.”

As Israel destroyed Lebanon, Canada refused to call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, projecting their diplomatic support for the Israeli attack under the pretext that “a ceasefire and return to the status quo would constitute a victory for Hezbollah.”

Amnesty International has published detailed accounts on multiple Israeli violations of international humanitarian law in Lebanon, indicating that Israel “carried out disproportionate attacks without distinction” and committed “war crimes” in the country.

Canada Chooses to not Condemn Israeli War Crimes in Lebanon:

Not only did Canada fail to condemn the massacres of civilians in Lebanon and Palestine, the government failed to hold Israel responsible for the death of Canadian citizens. Let us not forget that 11 members of the Al-Akhras family of Montreal, 4 of them children, lost their lives when their home in southern Lebanon was bombed by Israel on July 16th, 2006.

The Al-Akhras family of Montreal at a press conference in July 2006 after learning that 11 members of their family had been killed by Israel in south Lebanon. (Tadamon! Montreal)

The Canadian government offered “condolences” to the Al-Akhras family, but has never condemned the bombing, or called for an international investigation.

Israel’s use of millions of cluster bombs on civilian areas in Lebanon as well as the repeated violations of the ceasefire has been condemned by the United Nations.

Canada Considers the Lebanese Resistance Terrorist:

Political intervention in Lebanon by the Conservative government of Canada is divisive to internal Lebanese politics as long as it considers the Lebanese resistance “terrorist”.

To illustrate the current Canadian government position toward Lebanon, Tadamon! has compiled quotations from Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay, including the following:

“So for me it’s not a difficult choice between siding with a state, a democratically elected government, a democracy that’s being attacked by terrorists, and a group of cold-blooded killers.”

“Lebanon is being held hostage by Hezbollah. There can be no doubt about that. Hezbollah is a cancer on Lebanon, which is destroying stability and democracy within its boundaries.”

” … Hezbollah is deliberately putting innocent civilians in harm’s way, as a base from which they launch their rockets.”

“The Lebanese people should not be held hostage to the extremist actions of an organization designated by the United Nations as a terrorist group. Hezbollah and its supporters should respect the desire of ordinary Lebanese to lead normal, secure lives.”

Destruction from Israeli bombs in Haret Hreik, the south suburbs of Beirut. (Mohammed Shublaq, Samidoun Beirut)

Canadian Foreign Minister Peter Mackay, who will be visiting Lebanon in the coming days, has systematically accused Hezbollah of using civilians as “human shields” without any proof. This claim has been refuted by numerous international observers as well as the Lebanese government.

Tadamon! also draws attention to the fact that there is no U.N. resolution which qualifies Hezbollah as a “terrorist organization”, despite Peter MacKay’s claims.

The Foreign Minister’s statements are clear evidence of a willingness to misinform the people of Canada regarding the political realities of the Middle East region. The Canadian government’s effort to demonize Hezbollah ignores the history of Israeli aggression, while undermining the humanity of hundreds of thousands of people in Lebanon who support the national resistance.

Tadamon! also draws attention to the recent statements on the Middle East made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “we are not going to sit down with people [Hamas and Hezbollah] whose objectives are ultimately genocidal.”

Prime Minister Harper’s use of the term genocidal is unfounded and extremely irresponsible. Harper’s erroneous claim is misinformation and defamation directed toward the majority of the population of both Palestine and Lebanon.

Despite political opinion on the current situation in Lebanon, to claim that the Lebanese people are the hostages of Hezbollah is not only foolish but also criminalizes all those who supported and voted for Hezbollah, which the Lebanese government recognizes as a resistance movement as well as a political party with representatives in the Parliament of Lebanon.

Peter MacKay plans to visit Lebanon in a context of major demonstrations that continue to clog central Beirut. Since December 1st 2006, hundreds of thousands of people have been participating in a popular sit-in called by the Lebanese opposition, including Hezbollah, which is calling for democratic change in Lebanon.

Tadamon! Montreal opposes the Canadian government’s intervention in the internal affairs of Lebanon, exemplified, for instance, by Canada’s open support for the current government of Lebanon, headed by Fouad Siniora. Canada’s intervention ignores the popular political demands expressed by a large part of the Lebanese population and major political forces within the country who are demonstrating on the streets today.

Canada Supports the “War on Terror” in the Middle East:

Current Canadian intervention in the Middle East inherently supports the war waged against the people of Lebanon and the region.

Canada actively participated in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and it is currently planning on deploying additional troops, while the situation of the Afghan people continues to worsen.

Demonstration in Montreal at the hight of the Israeli attack on Lebanon. (Aaron Lakoff, ISM Montreal)

Canada supports the U.S.-led war on Iraq which has resulted in the death of an estimated 600 000 people, while destabilizing the entire region and devastating the entire country.

Canada overtly applauded the Israeli attack on Lebanon, continuing a long tradition of politically supporting Israel’s apartheid policies. As of today Canada has not condemned the apartheid wall, the military occupation or the crimes committed in recent months in Occupied Palestine.

Former Prime Minister, Paul Martin has stated that “Israel’s values are Canada’s values”. If former P.M. Martin was referring to the colonial nature of the Canadian state and its successive national policies of genocide against the indigenous people of the land, then in fact Canada’s values are Israel’s values.

Tadamon! finds it at best ironic, and, at worst, criminal that political officials in Ottawa claim to promote “peace” in the region through “dialogue”, while their Manichean vision of foreign policy is best highlighted by their continued support for the military, political and economic repression of indigenous struggles for emancipation in the Middle East.

This statement was issued by Tadamon! Montreal days prior to the Canadian Foreign Minister, Peter MacKay’s trip to the Middle East, with scheduled stops in Palestine and Lebanon.