Martin Government’s unacceptable stand on Lebanon and Syria – Letters to MP Alexa McDonough

We are posting below two letters to NDP MP Alexa McDonough following remarks she made in support of the Martin’s government’s unacceptable stand concerning Lebanon and Syria. While in Beirut last month, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew stated: “We believe that Lebanon and Syria should contribute to … security, in order not to undermine [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas but on the contrary to reinforce him.” Pointing to “elements” he claimed are determined to undo the peace process such as the resistance organization Hezbollah, he issued threats to Syria and Lebanon to “rein in Hezbollah militants.” Such statements are aimed at covering up that it is the criminal Zionist Israeli state backed by the US imperialists which is undermining security in the region with its continued occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territories.

* * *

February 18, 2005

Dear Ms. McDonough:

Dr. Ismail Zayid

Dr. Ismail Zayid

We read, in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Feb.17, with extreme surprise, quotations of your statements related to your recent visit to the Middle East and the recent tragic terrorist action in Lebanon.

You are quoted as having said: “Peace in Palestine cannot be maintained unless Syria pulls back from both its open and clandestine activities.” Do I need to remind you that the lack of peace in Palestine is a direct outcome of Israeli policies, including the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland, the illegal oppresive Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, associated with violation of virtually every article of the Fourth Geneva Convention including detention of thousands without charge or trial, torture, extra-judicial assassination, demolition of thousands of homes and expropriation of Palestinian territory for the creation of illegal Jewish settlents. All these acts are war crimes, as defined by international law.

You state: “I really felt Pettigrew showed a lot of diplomatic skill as well as a lot of guts, in having stated very strongly the case for the Syrian presence in Lebanon to recede if in fact, the real concern was for peace in Palestine and Israel.” Mr. Pettigrew and the rest of our Canadian distinguished politicians are calling aloud for Syria to comply with last year’s Security Council resolution # 1553 and withdraw its troops from Lebanon. However, why did we not hear Mr. Pettigrew make the more relevant call in Israel to withdraw its troops from Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territory, that has been allowed to stand for over 37 years, in defiance of international law and repeated Security Council resolutions? Furthermore, whatever the merits, or otherwise, of the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon, do I need to remind you that the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon is at the invitation of the Lebanese government? Surely, it is for the elected Lebanese government, and not Messrs Bush, Chirac or Pettigrew, to decide whether the Syrian troops leave or stay in Lebanon. And do I need to remind all these distinguished politicians that the Israeli troops are uninvited in their illegal occupation of Palestinian or Syrian territory?

Finally, if you and our politicians truly care for peace and security in Palestine and Israel, you should use your guts to call on Israel to terminate completely, immediately and unconditionally its illegal occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory. The call should also go to Israel to comply with scores of Security Council resolutions related to illegal Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as well as scores of UN resolutions calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed from their homeland by Israel. The call should also call on the US government to cease its unquestioning support for all the crimes and policies of Israel, which the US automatically vetoes.

I am also surprised to see that, in relation to the charges that Syria is responsible for the killing of Mr. Hariri, you state: “I don’t think there’s any doubt in anybody’s mind.” For you to make this statement is surprising, when, in fact, no one in the world knows who perpetrated this crime. Others have listed the major beneficiaries from this crime, but those must also be dismissed until the facts are obtained.

Yours sincerely,

Ismail Zayid, MD. President, Canada Palestine Association

* * *

February 19, 2005

Dear Ms. McDonough:

According to what I read of your recent remarks in the 17 Feb 2005 editions of the Halifax Herald newspapers, in regards to the Martin government’s recent diplomatic activity in Lebanon and Israel inter alia, you state that:

“I really felt Pettigrew showed a lot of diplomatic skill as well as a lot of guts, in having stated very strongly the case for the Syrian presence in Lebanon to recede if in fact, the real concern was for peace in Palestine and Israel”

and that:

“Peace in Palestine cannot be maintained unless Syria pulls back from both its open and clandestine activities.”

Dossier-on-Palestine.coverIt is well-known that, as part of making it possible to prevent a reversion to the open civil war that racked Lebanon between 1975 and 1990, the Syrian presence originated with and has been retained at the invitation of the Lebanese government. Nevertheless, using the pretext of UN Security Council resolution #1553 (??!!), giving itself the right to interfere in the internal affairs of a fellow member-state of the UN General Assembly, the Canadian government advocates, and you applaud, this interference on behalf of whom I am not exactly sure.

At one level, what we have here appears to be a consistent pattern. Regarding the Canadian decision not to send troops to Iraq, the government argued – and the NDP applauded – the stand of refusing to send troops without Security Council authorisation. So, in general, it would appear that, as far as your party is concerned, UN calls to intervene in the internal affairs of sovereign member states are fine as long as they’re “multilateral.”

On the other hand, consider what happened back in September 2001, when the United States, acting on the pretext of the article of the NATO charter concerning collective self-defence from aggression against a member state, convoked a special meeting at Brussels headquarters to prepare military intervention in Afghanistan. Not only did the Canadian government immediately put the wheels in motion to join planning and implementing this attack, on a state that had no role whatever in the 9-11 attacks and also no army or other means to defend itself from attack. Your party said not a word against this blatant subversion of international law led by the US in which Canada and Britain eagerly cooperated. This behaviour appears to cast serious doubt on the frequent claim from your party that US calls for blatant acts of aggression are unacceptable. The line I heard you give at a rally in Victoria Park in downtown Halifax on 7 Oct 2001 – and repeat subsequently – was that such actions were unacceptable insofar as they seemed clearly unilateral. So just what was it that made you feel it necessary to hold your tongue over the conspirings at NATO headquarters? Perhaps it was the “multilateral” stampede of the other NATO member-states siding with this US assault on the keystone principle of international law since 1945 defining aggression as “the supreme crime”? Or, perhaps this could prove somewhat embarrassing in light of the call issued during the federal elections last June by NDP leader Jack Layton – your successor – to “reform NATO” (as opposed to denouncing and leaving it)?

It would seem that, when the State Department yells: “Jump!”, certain so-called major parties within the Canadian parliamentary political spectrum respond as follows:

  • the Liberals in government, regardless of what this or that spokesman may say at any moment, go immediately to work at finding ways to help the US succeed
  • the Conservatives yell back: “How high?”
  • the New Democrats insist in all earnestness: “Not too high.”

Have you no shame? In the past, without taking any explicit stand against the Israeli aggression of June 1967 that illegally severed that territory from Syria in the first place, Canada has had troops on Syrian territory – the Golan Heights – under the authority of United Nations ceasefire observer missions. Could this be why today the NDP can pretend this government is a disinterested participant, and that its positions therefore have enough of a modicum of justice on their side to merit weighing in with a statement of support? You applaud the Foreign Minister’s “guts,” but as one of your constituents, I can tell you his position and your support for it made my guts turn.

Either one starts and ends with upholding self-determination and non-interference in others’ internal affairs as living principles, not to be dismissed as “mantras” when it looks like it will require summoning some courage to uphold them, or else one operates as a witting stooge of darkest reaction. Here one must choose: it just will not do to try to maintain a position “in the middle.”

In this connection, I remember your call, after a tour of Israel and the West Bank in early 2003, to “humanise” the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Everyone in that part of the world knows very well that one of the reasons the Israelis maintain that occupation with such concentrated brutality is precisely to heighten the general instability in Lebanon. Yet your party seems to catch laryngitis when it comes to defending the territorial integrity of Lebanon while the Israeli “Defence” Forces hold a knife to its throat.

You dare to speak of humanising an occupation, but the greatest single act of recent times both for re-stabilising the Lebanese state and territory and for lifting some of the yoke of the Israelis’ utterly brutal occupation, by their South Lebanese Army puppets, of Lebanon’s territory south of the Litani River, was Hezbollah’s expulsion of Israeli troops in 1990 (??!!). About this truly humane act, you remain silent. Are you terrified Justice Minister Cotler might become incited to issue a warrant for your arrest as a supporter of a “banned terrorist organization,” or is it simply that you agree with him?

Whether you acknowledge it or not, every honest and serious observer knows about the unslaked thirst of the ruling Israeli junta to avenge that outstanding military defeat. Their interest is to thoroughly destabilise Lebanon and prepare conditions to go after Syria in order to “get Hezbollah.” On the one hand, Canada wants nothing to happen to SNC-Lavalin’s multi-billion-dollar contract with Canada Post (??!!) and the postal service of the Lebanese government – a government in which Hezbollah is an important participant – to completely replace and modernise that country’s entire postal and telecommunications system. (Could this be why Prime Minister Paul Martin assured the House of Commons earlier this week that the presence of Syria’s troops in Lebanon has a legitimate basis?) On the other hand, some parts of the Canadian government want to leave no stone unturned in satisfying every whim of the Tel-Aviv junta, while you stand (and/or your party stands) in awe of the Foreign Minister’s guts.

Part of the context for all these developments is the US quagmire in Iraq and its schemes to expand aggression to engulf Iran. In addition, these days, it seems the Bush and Blair administrations, the European Union, then the Canadian government, and now the NDP want one and all to board the great “Arab-Israeli peace” caravan that is supposedly a-building over the dead body of Yasser Arafat. Frankly I have to tell you: the only light I see at the moment at the end of this tunnel – a tunnel that the US and its allies, including the Canadian and Israeli governments, have been digging for the world’s people – is this very train wreck coming from the other direction.

But to leave matters there would be the most impotent counsel of despair. Instead of scurrying for cover behind the latest statement of the Foreign Minister, Canadians would do far better to face the truth about the designs of the US and the Tel-Aviv junta and demand a review of that junta’s continued presence in the UN General Assembly. Canadians need an anti-war government that tells the truth about Israel’s failure to fulfill the conditions of its membership in the General Assembly and the cover up of this fact by subsequent Canadian governments. Canadians need a foreign policy that repudiates the utter contempt for the international community demonstrated repeatedly and ceaselessly by the State of Israel. Canadians need a government that has the guts to denounce the outrageous advice proferred by the Israeli Foreign minister during the Canadian foreign minister’s recent visit (reported in such Israeli media as Ha’aretz but scarcely mentioned anywhere in this country), that Canada use its position as gavel since 1991 of the Madrid Conference panel on Palestinian refugee questions to tell Palestinians to give up and forget about their right of return.

It is only just to demand suspension of Israel’s membership in the General Assembly and all its committees until the Tel Aviv junta stops blocking the Palestinians from returning to the lands and homes that the Israeli armies ravaged and stole in 1947-48 and ravaged and stole yet further in June 1967. A Canadian anti-war government would suspend participation in the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement until such time as the illegal colonies built by Israel in the West Bank are dismantled. A Canadian anti-war government would take its responsibilities under the Rome Statute seriously, identify those who defend and promote these “settlements” as persons aiding and abetting a “serious breach” of the Fourth Geneva Convention, i.e., a war crime, and prepare prosecutions under our own Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Yours sincerely,

Gary Zatzman

Co-editor, Dossier on Palestine

Halifax, NS

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