The following is an open letter to Cypress Hills-Grasslands MP David Anderson
Dear Mr. Anderson:
Thank you for your years of public service as the Member of Parliament for Cypress Hills- Grasslands. You have demonstrated your commitment to the things you believe in and have worked hard to do what you believe to be best for your constituents. Among your accomplishments is the abolition of the Wheat Board, a move that you believed would create more freedom and prosperity for farmers as they sell their commodities. The Prime Minister has recognized your hard work and diligence and as a result has more recently appointed you as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This places you in a unique position to explain an aspect of Canada’s Foreign Policy to us, the people of Cypress Hills-Grasslands.
For a month now the reports in the media have been filled with images and stories of the carnage and slaughter of civilians, including children, in Gaza perpetrated by the Israeli Defence Force. As of this week the count is over 1,900 Palestinians killed, most of them civilians, 415 of them children. Prime Minister Harper, on behalf of you and your Conservative colleagues, has given his unqualified support to Israel’s actions. There seems to be a tragic irony about this given that in the past Canada has stood for the upholding of human rights and the respect of life and territorial boundaries, and has taken a clear and unequivocal stance against massacre and oppression. Recently your government has been quick to denounce Russia’s apparent invasion of Crimea even as it supports Israeli invasion of Palestine, the building of illegal settlements, and the slaughter of innocent civilians, the bombing of UN “safe shelters,” and the Israeli attempts at genocide and ethnic cleansing. The Conservative Government’s position and Mr. Harper’s public statements seem morally reprehensible and rationally indefensible. However, there may be something that we, your constituents are missing. Please explain your position and Mr. Harper’s statements to us. Please do not do so with some of the tired and inadequate statements that have come from Foreign Affairs in the past.
So, in your explanation, please take note of the following:
1. A common excuse for what Israel is doing is that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” My question is: Do Palestinians have the same right? If Israel’s killing of civilians is excused as an act of self defence, how is Hamas’ firing of rockets at Israel different? How can one people have the right to defend itself and the other side does not?
2. Hamas is a terrorist organization. Such labelling of those we do not like is easy. And it seems, if we apply the label, then we have the right to commit whatever atrocities we choose on the other side. What is a terrorist? My understanding it that it is someone who deliberately targets civilians in a war or international dispute. Hamas has done that and it is reprehensible. However, so has Israel, and yet PM Harper has given unqualified support to Israel’s actions. There are the current numbers given above. Are you aware that from 2003 to 2013 the Israeli Army killed, on average, one Palestinian child or teenager every three days? One Palestinian child or teenager killed by the IDF every three days. If anyone did that to Canadian children and teens, how might we respond? I doubt we would lay down our arms, abolish our army, and say that it is okay. And yet, you expect the Palestinians to do so and you support Israel in its killing of minors. Seems strange to say the least.
3. Hamas and the Palestinians must give up their weapons and renounce all violence. Why? The most militarized nation on earth is trying to wipe them out. Israel is allowed all the weapons it wants—is in fact supplied with weapons by the US—and uses these weapons to maim, kill and destroy in Gaza and the West Bank, yet the Palestinians are to renounce violence and give up all their weapons. If any nation were to kill Canadians at the rate Israel is killing Palestinians, would your government actually disband our army and submit to the slaughter? I don’t think so. Why should Palestine?
4. This Gaza invasion and massacre was started because Hamas allegedly kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers. Israel has now admitted that Hamas did not commit the kidnapping and murder. Yet the killing in Gaza continues. The plans for the Gaza invasion were in place well before the kidnapping happened. There is significant evidence that Israel manipulated the news so they could create some justification for the current slaughter and carnage in Gaza.Despite all this evidence, your government supports the deceit and killing. Why?
5. In spring PM Harper mocked the idea of Israel as an apartheid state. Yet, Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has said that the apartheid in Israel is worse than it ever was in South Africa at its worst. Who do you think has a better understanding of apartheid, Mr. Harper or Bishop Tutu? Why is it that your government simply ignores the facts on the ground and supports the evils perpetrated in Israel/Palestine?
6. I realize Canada has given some money to the Palestinians. I am not sure how giving some financial aid to Palestine offsets in any way your support of the carnage and massacre in Gaza. Are you saying if you give Palestine enough money then your partnership with Israel in killing Palestinian civilians, including children, is okay? That sounds all too much like rationalizations used by earlier generations when men would say they supported their wives financially and therefore they could beat them if they so chose. I understood that more recently your government has indicated they will not help the UNRWA with the rebuilding of Gaza. You are quick to support killing and destruction; reluctant to support the alleviation of suffering. That may be a Conservative value. It is not, I submit, a Canadian value.
7. Israel has placed 600,000 settlers in the West Bank, everyone one of them in violation of international law. Yet, you and your colleagues continue to support Israel’s actions. PM Benjamin Netanyahu has now said that Israel will never give up any land west of the Jordan River. Israel is there illegally. Former UN resolutions have called for Israel to vacate the land. Israel has refused. And you continue to support such criminal activity. Why?
8. When Palestine has asked the UN to act unilaterally to recognize Palestine as a state, your government has tried to block this, saying Palestinian recognition must come about by negotiation, not unilateral action. Why? You support Israeli unilateral action. For example:
• When the UN created the State of Israel, it did so by unilateral action. There were no negotiations with the Palestinians who were there and whose land this had been for 2000 years.
• When the Israeli Army, in 1948, proceeded to “clear the land” of Palestinians, creating 750,000 refugees and taking far more land than the UN had given them, there were no negotiations. Israel simply killed, took, and removed as they saw fit.
• In 1967 Israel acted unilaterally and invaded the West Bank and Gaza. There were no negotiations. Israel has stayed in these areas and now says they will never leave.
• Israel has confiscated thousands of acres of land and settled 600,000 people in the West Bank, unilaterally. There were no negotiations with the Palestinians whose land was taken.
Canada cannot support Israel’s unilateral actions and insist that Palestine negotiate if we want to be a country that supports fairness and justice. We cannot make one set of rules for one people and another set for another people and think ourselves an advocate for justice and peace.
9. Other countries are recognizing what is really happening in Gaza and the rest of Israel/Palestine and are beginning to act to hold Israel accountable. You continue to support what Israel is doing. That means you are a partner in each one of the civilian deaths in Gaza, in the killing of everyone of those 415 children, in the maiming of children and adults alike, in the destruction of an infrastructure and a society. Because of your support a whole generation of children and teens will grow up with PTSD.
Please help us, your constituents, understand why you are partnering with Israel in this immorality and injustice.
Ray Friesen - Swift Current