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Canada - peacemaker or facilitator for Israel?
By Karamatullah K.Ghori

Canada recently put its foot in the door of ME diplomacy by offering to resettle the Palestinians in its territory if they would give up their ‘right of return’ to their homes usurped by the Israelis since 1948.

On the face of it, the Canadian initiative, the details of which were revealed by its Foreign Minister, John Manley, to the press in Ottawa on 10 January, has been motivated by a desire to take the sting out of the current logjam in the ME peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The impasse in the peace effort is due to two stumbling blocks: the status of Jerusalem, and the right of the Palestinian diaspora-3.7 million strong-to return to the land stolen from them by the Zionists. The Canadians think they can largely relieve the Palestinian angst-and pave the way to peace--by offering to take their `refugees` in and provide them with an alternative home in the vast expanses of this second largest country in the world, in terms of area, with only a minuscule population of less than 30 million. The nitty-gritty and the fine-print of the Canadian offer has been left murky, perhaps intentionally, at this stage. For instance, the most important question of how many of the 3.7 million Palestinian `refugees` Canada would accept for resettlement has not been focused on, and Manley refused to be drawn in on the details-obviously to give his government room to manoeuvre in the future parleys, if any, on the issue.

For understandable reason, the Canadian largess was hailed by the strong Jewish lobby in Canada, and lauded by Israel as a `generous` humanitarian gesture. Of course the Jews, inside and outside of Israel, should feel relieved by the Canadian initiative designed to take the pressure off them on an issue of such obvious sensitivity and nuance. What could be more munificent for Israel than a third country willing to open its portals for the Palestinians only to ensure that Israel's predominantly Jewish complexion should not be sullied by a large influx of non-Jewish Arabs.

For the same obvious reason, the Palestinians have not at all been enthralled or enthused by the Canadian spirit of good Samaritan. They welcomed the Canadian `charity offer` coolly and with understandable lack of warmth or enthusiasm. Any independent observer would fully empathise with the Palestinian reaction that the Canadians have not been moved by the plight and suffering of the Palestinian diaspora-now in its 53rd year-as much as by their concern to lend a helping hand to a friendly Israel that finds itself in a difficult bind on the right of the Palestinians to return to their ancestral and native land. Canada should have shown concern for the Palestinians a long time ago if their welfare was its primary motivation.

Little wonder, therefore, that the Palestinians have shown little inclination to take the Canadian bait.Reacting with great restraint and circumspection, the Palestinians guardedly welcomed the Canadian initiative but made it obvious that they were intelligent enough to see through it. Talking on behalf of the Palestinian diaspora in North America, Atif Kubursi, head of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, candidly observed : " This is one way of Canada and the West putting pressure on the Palestinians. Yes, we applaud the reaffirmation of Canada's commitment to help refugees by opening its door. But there are dangerous propositions here." He, then, put his finger on the pulse and posed the obvious question: " To what extent is Canada prejudging or putting pressure on the Palestinians?" Kubursi was unsparing in speaking his mind on the hidden Canadian agenda. He said Canada would obviously be helping Israel skirt and evade its obligation to the Palestinian refugees, and added: " I'm not happy with Canada whitewashing Israel's crimes against these people and carrying the burden that should be Israel's."

Jihad El-Awewi, executive director of the Canadian-Arab Federation was even more forthcoming and focused on the Canadian motive. He said Canada's naïve offer at this highly sensitive and crucial stage " plays into the hands of those who say Palestinian refugees have other options and should relinquish the right of return. It supports Israel's position of saying ` We can't take them, let the world figure it out`." Awewi was not off the point at all. The current front runner in the Israeli Prime Ministerial campaign-the ultra-hawk Ariel Sharon-has long maintained that the Palestinian state should be established across the river Jordan, thus consigning all of the West Bank in perpetuity to the Jewish state.

That a country apparently as non-committed as Canada should have seen fit to go out on a limb and tilt so openly-- and to some brazenly-- on the side of Israel and the Jews, may seem confounding to a lot many in the outside world, especially to those used to a pacifist Canada. Not so to diplomatic pundits who have long sensed the Jewish influence becoming increasingly strident and assertive on the northern side of the U.S.-Canadian border,too. Like their counterparts in the U.S., the Jews have wormed their way into the top echelons of the Canadian financial world, its news media, and its political and social strata. The mayor of Toronto, Canada's largest city and its throbbing nerve-centre, is a Jew who commands enormous influence and power. Recently, he became embroiled in an embarrassing scandal when one of his old mistresses, from whom he had sired two sons in the sixties, went to court and sued him for damages. However, the news media and the Jewish lobbies rose vocally to his defence and within no time the scandal virtually disappeared from the headlines. The Jewish power brokers flexed their muscles menacingly in another case when a popular Parti Quebecois politician, Yves Michaud, stirred a controversy because of an innocuous remark in which he said that the Jews thought they were the only people in the world who suffered. He was instantly branded as an anti-Semite and pilloried in the Jewish-controlled press and media. A shrill and vociferous call went out from all around for his head. These are but only a few examples of the powerful reach and extent of the Jewish hold over Canada. No surprise , therefore, that the phalanx of Jewish pressure groups and lobbyists has jumped on to the rolling Canadian bandwagon with alacrity and hailed the Canadian ` generosity` of throwing some crumbs of its largess to the disenfranchised and dispossessed Palestinians. Rob Ritter, executive director of the Canada-Israel Committee, has enthusiastically lionised the Canadian gesture as " part of a long-standing Canadian tradition." Which tradition-siding with the oppressor or with the under-dog-he did not elaborate. However, he added : " I think the refugees are entitled to some humanitarian action to improve their lot in life and I think refugees should have options."

Indeed nobody would argue the ineluctable need for the Palestinians to have as many options as possible. However, to Israel and the Jewish spokesmen and mouthpieces all over the world the option not available to the Palestinians is their right to return to those homes and lands from where they were brutally driven out at the founding of the Jewish state in Palestine. That is where Canada seems prepared to stick its neck out and become a willing accessory to the disingenuous and clever Israeli and Jewish scheme to dangle before the Palestinians, living in the squalid misery of refugees camps for 50 years, the prospect of living in the promising land of Canada. But Canada and its allies in the U.S. and Israel are dead wrong in assuming that the Palestinians would be mystified by the lure of Canada and agree to barter their right to return to their own land for the vague and ephemeral promise of putting down roots in an alien land where they would always be at a disadvantage. The whole motivation behind the Canadian generosity is to hoodwink the Palestinians and facilitate their own friends in Israel to acquire an alibi to dispossess and disinherit the Palestinians from the land that belongs to them, and has belonged to them for centuries.

But this is not a new ploy by any means. The western world, of which Canada is a pillar, has consistently and annoyingly pursued , single-mindedly, a policy to reduce the Palestinians to the abysmal status of nothing more than `refugees` over the last 50 years. They don't mind throwing just about enough coppers into the Palestinian begging-bowl to keep them from starving and dying of hunger; but nothing more than that. Both Israel and the west are not prepared, mentally, to accept the Palestinians as a people whose rights are as sacrosanct as of any others but have been savagely violated and abused by them for so long. Hence this yet another effort to perpetuate the insult and affront of Palestinians being continually treated as `refugees` for whom a refugee-friendly Canada is ready to make room out of `concern` for their `future`. That was also precisely the rationale behind the U.S. enthusiasm to foist the `humanitarian` programme of oil-for-food on the Iraqis-which has been in currency since the end of 1996. The tightly controlled and monitored scheme allows Iraq just enough leeway to import food and medicine for its beleaguered citizens so they may not starve, and continue to grind out a life of abject misery and penury. I recall the first UN administrator of the programme telling me in Baghdad, in December 1996, at its commencement, that the whole idea was conceived with the aim to convince the Iraqi people that the hand now feeding them was that of the UN and not Iraq's. It is another matter that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein saw through this design very early on , and hasn't allowed that feeling to sink in with the Iraqi people.

It can safely be said, on the basis of initial Palestinian reaction, that the thinly-sugar-coated Canadian ploy to beguile and derail the Palestinian struggle to regain their homeland will be disregarded, as it richly deserves to. After all, when the Zionists themselves were tilting at all the windmills in the sympathetic western world in their quest to carve out a home in the land of the Palestinians in the early half of the 20th century, they too contemptuously dismissed several offers to establish their ‘home’ in places other than Palestine. The Palestinians, hardened and experienced by decades of struggle and sacrifice, should not be expected to be naïve and gullible and dazzled by the misleading glitter of the Canadian offer of refuge.

The author is a retired Pakistani
diplomat, and served as ambassador
to Turkey, Macedonia, Iraq, Kuwait , Algeria, Mali and Mauritania. He now lives in Toronto, Canada.

q

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