Stephen Harper’s Mideast adventurism

Canada’s role in the service of U.S. imperialism

By NATHAN J FREEMAN

2007.06.10.TOPalDemo-03TML Weekly Information Project (Jan. 25) – THIS ARTICLE examines Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recently-completed Mideast tour January 20-25, 2014. Harper led an unprecedented entourage of more than 200 Canadian business and religious leaders, media representatives, failed Conservative Party candidates, current MPs and senators, with a phalanx of a half-dozen members of Harper’s current cabinet bringing up the rear. The latter included Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird; Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney; Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie Christian Paradis; Minister of Industry James Moore; Minister of International Trade Ed Fast; and Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver.[1]

Within this spectacle, Harper made two additional visits beyond the accepted borders of the State of Israel, accompanied only by key aides and/or ministers. The first was to the Ramallah headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Occupied Palestine, where he gave acting Palestine Authority (PA) president Abbas a $66 million cheque. This will continue Canada’s “contribution” to the annual budget of the PA, especially to the costs of the U.S.-commanded so-called “Presidential security force” of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)-trained Palestinian police. This is the force that a) does most of the day-to-day dirty work against the Palestinian population on behalf of the Israeli Occupation; and b) allegedly “protects” the PA president from possible coup or assassination attempts. The second trip outside Israel during this tour was Harper’s visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. There Canada promised a further $100 million financial aid allegedly for the “refugee camps” on Jordan’s border with Syria. These camps are theoretically for unarmed civilians – almost entirely women and children – fleeing the armed conflict in Syria. In practice, however, these camps have “also” been providing specialized medical care and a “rest stop” for Al-Qaeda-led, Saudi- or Qatari-financed and Turkish-equipped armed gangs, comprising religious fanatics from 53 countries (other than Syria) who follow what are known as Takfiri doctrines, i.e., interpretations of Islam that permit taking the lives of Muslims who are deemed “unclean.”

Neither the Canadian government itself nor the Canadian people have any direct stake in any of this: the guiding masterminds of this mission are the same masterminds that guide the fate of the U.S. Empire.[2]

This article considers this entire constellation of events – first as a whole, then broken out into its separate parts.

Part One: 
Why this trip, and why this entourage?

Calgary demonstration against Harper government’s support of Israeli war crimes, July 21, 2006. (T. Ford)

Calgary demonstration against Harper government’s support of Israeli war crimes, July 21, 2006. (T. Ford)

The first question Canadians have been asking is: Why this trip, and why this entourage?

Answering this question entails first investigating answers to another question, namely: what is the real context of these events?

Led by the publicly-owned CBC on the one hand and by the privately-owned, Thomson family-dominated media empire on the other (comprising the CTV Network, Bell Media, The Globe and Mail and Reuters News Agency), there was massive coverage of the Harper tour over the last week.

At the same time, this seemingly blanket coverage has been accompanied by a total, undisguised failure – nay: refusal – to situate the Harper tour (including the decision to undertake it) in any context that could possibly ring true with any thinking reader-observer-person. Such failure and/or refusal to keep the public properly informed as to the context of these events initiated in their name is an act of conscious disinformation inflicted on the Canadian polity by the Harper government.

Unfortunately, most of the criticism of this coverage on editorial pages and over the Internet has confined itself to picking out and attacking the Harper gang’s spin on events. The issue for activists and other progressive forces paying attention to these developments, however, is not to develop counter-spin against the biases of such coverage, but to acknowledge the existence of such a disinformation wall and tear it down and break through it.

There are a couple of key events that have shaped and defined much of that undiscussed context.

–  First and foremost, the Harper gang have been brazenly attacking the conscience of those Canadians who dare ask them directly: who did they think they were, attacking Palestine’s seeking statehood recognition in the UN General Assembly as a non-member and continuing to side uncritically with the Israeli gangster-like terrorizing of the Palestinian Arab civilian population in the Occupied Territories?!? In this connection, an article published January 23 by The Canadian Press provides a quantitative measure of this phenomenon with its remarkable disclosure of the fact that “more than 1,000 letters arrived over several weeks in late 2012 and early 2013 at the offices of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and several other Conservative MPs, the vast majority of them complaining that the government was not representing the balanced and fair-minded views of Canadian citizens on the divisive Middle East issue.”[3]

–  The second important piece of context emerges within the mafia-like squabble that has broken publicly over the filing of falsified expense claims by partisan Conservative enators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin – each with more than 20-year-long careers as top Canadian news media “stars” – with the at-least tacit consent and, in certain key details, the active connivance of the Prime Minister’s Office. The subsequent extremely public knock-down-drag-out has continued to date between Harper, Nigel Wright and Senator Duffy.

This battle has also become sufficiently frenzied to inflict collateral damage on the reputation of the Conservative Party’s chief fundraiser, Senator Irving Gerstein, founder and longtime CEO of People’s Jewellers, publicly prominent advocate of all things State-of-Israel, and – crucially – a key link to the Zionist section of the Canadian financial oligarchy for the Conservatives’ fundraising efforts across Greater Toronto

The Harper Conservative brand has hit the skids in the middle of Justin Trudeau’s rise, and the Liberal Party fundraising machine has been quick to take advantage. According to data publicized at the Liberal Party of Canada’s annual summer barbecue event last August in Prince Edward Island,

“…[t]he Liberals’ supporter class, created to increase flagging membership, has grown to 250,000, from 127,000 last April. As well, there are now 56,000 members, compared with fewer than 20,000 when Mr. Trudeau took over, according to one official.

“More importantly, for the first time in years, there were more Liberal donors than the Tories had contributing to their war chest.

“Elections Canada’s second-quarter results for 2013 show that the Tories had 30,437 individual donors and the Grits 38,014.

“The Conservatives collected $4.8-million in that second quarter compared with $2.9-million for the Liberals. However, the Grits are still pleased and are working to replicate the Tories’ consistent ability to raise funds through small amounts donated by many people.”

The architect of much of this turnaround, who was named the Liberal Party’s chief national fundraiser by Trudeau during the same summer barbecue event, is Stephen Bronfman.[4] Notwithstanding the popular appeal of the relatively new and untested Liberal leader, it is in the ever-more-unsettled condition of the Palestinians and increasing desperation over the global slippage in official government support for the State of Israel that the ultimate key to the sudden mysterious rise of the Liberal vote-gathering machinery at the Conservatives’ expense, is to be found. It is also the truest measure of the Conservatives’ desperation to stanch the bleeding of their own support as the result of self-inflicted wounds such as the Senate expenses scandal.

Part Two: 
What is Canada doing, propping up the Israeli Occupation from the Palestinian side?

Last week, Stephen Harper spent less than an afternoon at the PA’s capital Ramallah in the West Bank. The actual substance of the visit itself lasted literally only moments. It was long enough for a photo op with President Mahmoud Abbas marking the official announcement that Canada would continue contributions to the PA budget. Harper announced an immediate $66 million from the current year’s budget for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs.

This assistance began in 2004 during the Prime Ministership of Paul Martin Jr. The funds were earmarked to equip and pay for training of a Presidential Guard of up to 2,000 Palestinian men. They would also cover specialized training gigs by members of the RCMP in “advanced riot control.” There were also provisions for special training of Palestinian court personnel including judges. What went unremarked at the time was the fact that these Palestinian personnel would be trained to implement the administrative orders issued by the Israeli Occupation. In theory, the PA was fully operational in those Area A zones which the Israeli government agreed under the Oslo Accords were under exclusively PA authority. In fact, the so-called Presidential Guard, an entity provided for nowhere in the Oslo Accords was being trained by Canada, a third country not defined as a party to the Oslo Accords, to implement Israeli Occupation orders that should not be applied in Area A!

2009.01.10.TorontoGazaDemo-04crop

The first Harper minority government came to formal office at the end of January 2006. Its arrival in office followed only a few days the unprecedented outcome of the Palestinian elections. According to the elections result, a Hamas-led coalition should have come to power, with the Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization forced out of office and compelled to accept a secondary role as official Opposition. In line and in tune, however, with the hysterical Israel-led campaign of that time to starve and destroy the PA, Tel Aviv leaned hard on all governments that had recognized the PA to withdraw recognition unless and until Hamas quit. The Harper government’s immediate response was to cut off all aid to the PA – including every penny of what was at that time about $30 million a year earmarked as financial supports for the PA budget.

By June of the following year, Israel closed the Palestinian Parliament down and compelled Hamas to abandon any government offices it had in Ramallah. Hamas responded by installing itself in Gaza City, on the Gaza Strip, as government-in-exile of all Palestine. Crucially, they put to flight the Fatah officials claiming to be governing the Gaza Strip on behalf of the PA. Hamas uncovered documents disclosing CIA connections of some of these individuals, and declared them persona non grata. Israel retaliated by fastening a crippling siege on the Gaza Strip, allowing nothing in or out. This was supported by the Mubarak government in Cairo, which shared the only non-Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. The Harper government restored some funding to the PA in Ramallah, but pro-rated it to exclude that portion of the budget that would have covered the Palestinian population residing in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli refusal to accept the January 2006 election result and Canadian complicity and that of others in the subsequent siege imposed as revenge by Tel Aviv – backed by the U.S. – were all completely illegal under existing customary international humanitarian law spelled out in a number of provisions of the Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949. A large number of people chose to believe this was entirely or at least mainly due to the Harper government’s generally right-wing pro-U.S. tilt. But was that really the whole story, or even the most significant part of the story?

Part Three: 
Some unspoken home truths about who Canada is actually helping in Ramallah and about Canada’s “non-lethal” aid to “Syrian refugees”

Had the Martin Liberals survived the 2006 election, there is little or no credible evidence that Ottawa would have acted much differently than the Harper gang has done – either less openly pro-Israel or less violently anti-Palestinian. The main differences between the Conservative and Liberal Parties’ approaches to Palestine and the Israeli occupation have been matters of form. Thus, the Liberals tended up to now to act after making a show of some consultation with the United States in advance on these matters. The Conservatives on the other hand tended to dive in full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes, without any apparent advance consultation.

The craftiness in the Liberals’ approach was that, when something in this policy area blew up or otherwise failed, Ottawa could and would blame Washington for showing bad faith. The craftiness in the Harper Conservatives’ approach, on the other hand, lay and still lies in its capacity to manipulate the vast reservoir among the Canadian population of anti-U.S. imperialist sentiment and open distrust of anything “promised” by Washington.

This has been used to create the space for Stephen Harper’s government to pose as more pro-Israel than the Israelis, outflanking from the right any possible objections to Ottawa’s course in Washington. At the same time, such a pose also takes a lot of pressure off Washington for policies that the U.S. actually supports but that appear instead to be advocated or implemented only from Ottawa “unilaterally” as it were.

At the centre of Canadian foreign policy stand the interests of the U.S. Empire, not only in our own hemisphere but in certain distant locales where the U.S. writ has lost all respect. Canada’s defence and foreign policies are entirely 100 per cent annexed to the interests of the U.S. empire. The dust thrown in the Canadian people’s eyes by the monopoly media coverage afforded the Israel-visit/junket portion of what is looking more and more like Harper’s first and last Grand Tour has obscured this essential home truth.

People have been unconsciously brought to think about the purposes of Harper’s visits to Ramallah and Jordan principally in connection with Israel. It was, however, the hard and fast stance of the Bush Administration that propped up Israel through the 2006 elections and the determination to besiege the Gaza Strip. Israel’s own government was almost in paralysis at the time of the Palestinian elections, its Prime Minister Sharon felled by a stroke that left him comatose. The Bush Administration’s unconditional backing was the real insurance policy for Tel Aviv’s subsequent dealings with Hamas and the Gaza Strip. Canada’s roles in that same constellation of problems were similarly conditioned by the Harper government’s need for U.S. support of its minority posture.

It is the same story for the Harper governments’ involvements in Jordan, down to the latest visit last week. Canada is the third greatest financier – after the U.S. and the U.K – of so-called “aid” for Syrian civilians turned into refugees by the war ravaging their country. Since last year, Foreign Minister John Baird and Prime Minister Harper have together announced more than $200 million in aid to be distributed over the next four to five years to underwrite “refugee rescue and support” operations in the camps set up on the Jordanian border. What the monopoly media have suppressed reporting is the fact that large numbers of the personnel comprising the fascist murder-for-hire gangs from 53 countries attempting to infest and overwhelm the Syrian government and people regularly slip across the Syrian borders into camps like those in Jordan as well as Turkey and take over regular camp life at the expense of the real needs of the civilian refugees. The civilians can only start to fulfill their own needs after these gangsters have eaten and drunk their fill and made off with all the available pain-killing medicines, etc. In this connection it is especially revolting to hear British, U.S. and Canadian officialdom go on and on about how they are denying lethal aid to the non-Syrian forces prowling uncontrolled throughout the Syrian countryside and its border regions.

Conclusion

As the Prime Minister and his entourage return home, the question that springs to mind is: was it an adventure, or was it an adventurist act?

An incoherent “debate” has raged for some years now around the question as to why Canada has become more Israeli than the Israelis. While this debate continues to wax and wane, what is undeniable is that Canada’s defence and foreign policies have sunk the country and its future ever deeper into the mire of increasingly desperate schemes of the U.S. imperialists to somehow prevail over all other actual or potential rivals.

The presentation of the most relevant facts from this latest trip and its context point to one clear conclusion. The Harper tour has furnished adventure on the outside, so to speak, as cover. In territories like Occupied Palestine or the Jordanian border with Syria, people of all stations in life are known to be less than enthusiastic to encounter any official U.S. presence. Enter Stephen Harper & Co., prepped for a fanatically adventurist mission in the service of U.S. imperialism. Especially adventurist is Ottawa’s continued “support” for the PA, which is much as a rope is said to support a hanged man. Canadian government financial support and running of political interference that maintains cover for the Occupation-imposed “justice” of the PA sustains nothing. It serves only to mask rank injustice with an appearance of incoherence. Similarly, in the Syrian war theatre, providing “non-lethal aid” to those maintaining an all-consuming inferno in a part of the world where all normal and necessary social relations have become unhinged serves only one clear end. That end is to buy a diminishing margin of time before the inevitable regrouping and exfiltration of the present spectrum of “guerrilla” forces.

Endnotes

1. Harper’s retinue to Israel included “21 Jewish rabbis and more than 56 representatives from various Zionist lobbying groups and private Jewish schools.” In addition, there were 10 representatives from evangelical Christian groups “which unconditionally support the most extreme Israeli positions.” The delegation included members of the Christian Missionary Alliance of Canada, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Trinity Bible Church, Crossroads Christian Communications, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.

In addition to the six cabinet ministers and eight Tory MPs, the Prime Minister also took “more than 27 chief executives of Canadian corporations, lawyers and two Canadian university presidents.” It is reported that former Tory cabinet minister Stockwell Day and his wife Valorie had free seats. “Stockwell Day sits on the board of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the most prominent pro-Israel lobbying group in Canada.”

“The rear of the plane was reserved for members of the media. The cost – $8,000 for the flight, hotel and ground transportation for each reporter or photographer covering Harper’s trip…” (From article by Judy Haiven and Sid Schniad, Independent Jewish Voices – Canada.)

2. There was much hue and cry in Canadian media before and during this tour about the heavy presence of Jewish rabbis and Evangelical Christian preachers, including representatives of the Mission Church in Canada, the denomination to which Stephen Harper’s family belongs.

As every Canadian learns at some point, phrases such as “in Canada,” “of Canada” or “(Canada) Ltd” signal a parent or earlier founding organization in the United States.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the original Mission Church sent Presbyterian missionaries to China and Japan to “civilize” the natives. One of the notable missionary families associated with the Mission Church was the Dulles family, specifically the parents of John Foster Dulles – President Eisenhower’s future Secretary of State during the mid-1950s – and his brother Allen Dulles – the first individual named by President Truman in 1948 to head up the Central Intelligence Agency – who took the Christian gospel into imperial China near the end of the 19th century under the pretext of the so-called Open Door policy.

A little over a decade ago, the Mission Church was the first U.S. denomination to open a Christian church in Baghdad following its “liberation” from the Saddam Hussein regime.

3. Mike Blanchfield, “Canada’s Palestinian Statehood Stance Cost Tories Votes, Disclosed Letters Suggest,” moved at 4:28 pm Thursday afternoon, January 23, 2014, on the Huffington Post Canada website at http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/01/23/canada-palestinian-statehood-let ters_n_4654437.html)

4. Jane Taber, “Trudeau taps millionaire Stephen Bronfman to help fill Liberals’ war chest,” The Globe and Mail, August 28, 2013.

5. Stephen Bronfman is currently the most prominent member of that family in the Canadian financial world.

The Bronfman clan was launched by the Prohibition-era bootlegger and Capone Gang crony Samuel Bronfman. In exchange for well-funded Jewish community support in Montreal, the Liberals under Mackenzie King and with party machinery supervised by Paul Martin Sr., expunged any black marks against Samuel Bronfman and effectively parked Jewish community political contributions in the coffers of the Liberal Party for the next more than 50 years.

By the 1970s, the Bronfman legacy and leadership of the family in Canada was assumed by Samuel Bronfman’s eldest son Charles Bronfman, a key fundraiser for parts of the Canadian media coverage regarding Pierre Trudeau and major supporter of the so-called “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Following Charles Bronfman’s death in 2006, his place has been taken by his eldest son Stephen.

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