Category Archives: Anti-War

Justice for Palestine!

Statement of the NDP Socialist Caucus delivered to NDP MP Craig Scott during sit in at constituency office:

 

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NDP Leader’s policy is Neither Balanced Nor Just

Lift the Siege of Gaza! Boycott Israeli Apartheid! Justice for Palestine!

Members of the New Democratic Party Socialist Caucus, joined by anti-war, labour, human rights and community activists, are here today to say: We stand with the people of Gaza. We are on the side of Palestine in the present conflict.

We call on NDP MP Craig Scott (Toronto Danforth) to stand up for justice, human rights, self-determination for Palestine, and the prosecution of Israeli war crimes. Statements by the NDP Leader, which MP Scott has echoed, fall far short of a ‘balanced’ or just approach to the war waged against the people of Gaza, in which the Israeli war machine has killed nearly 2,000, the vast majority of whom are civilians, including hundreds of children.

In the Toronto Star, Thomas Mulcair wrote: “New Democrats have long been committed to a policy of supporting peaceful coexistence in viable, independent states with agreed-upon borders, an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and an end to violence targeting civilians.”

This policy is wrong on many counts. The ‘two state’ solution is neither viable nor just. It would reduce Palestine to a few disconnected, impoverished Bantustans. The Oslo Accords failed even to slow, let alone halt the proliferation of Zionist settlements across the West Bank. Israeli jails are full of Palestinians never convicted of any crime. With the ‘separation’ wall, the Zionist state illegally seized Palestinian land and crippled the commerce of Arab cities and towns. Mulcair proposes lifting the blockade, but only after Gazans halt their justified armed resistance. He urges aid for reconstruction, and bringing injured Gazan children to Canada for treatment. The latter are fine sentiments, but grossly inadequate. Totally missing is a clear and unequivocal denunciation of the crimes committed by the dominant power. There is no moral equivalence between, on the one hand, brutal and devastating forms of collective punishment, using the most sophisticated weaponry, against an imprisoned people, and on the other hand, the firing of homemade ‘bottle rockets’ incapable of hitting a target. Mulcair’s stance blames victims and victimizers equally. This is an infernal ‘balance’. He says ‘end the occupation’, but robs it of any clear meaning.

NDP members across the country, alongside millions of working people from coast to coast to coast, want the labour-based party and its parliamentary caucus, to advance NDP adopted policy. ‘End the Occupation’ must be more than a tag-on phrase. It must be linked to: Dismantle the settlements. Tear down the Wall. For the Right of Return of all refugees. End the shipment of arms to Israel. Free the political prisoners. Prosecute Israeli war criminals, starting with Benjamin Netanyahu. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel. Abrogate the special trade arrangements between Ottawa and Tel Aviv. For a single, secular, democratic state, based on full equality of rights for Jews, Muslims, Christians and non-believers, for Arabs and all others, in a unitary, free Palestine/Israel.

In solidarity,

Barry Weisleder,

chair, NDP Socialist Caucus

www.ndpsocialists.ca barryaw@rogers.com

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Huge rallies for Palestine in Toronto


by Barry Weisleder

Thousands demanded ‘Israel Out of Gaza’, ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ against the Zionist state, and cried ‘Free, Free Palestine’ on the streets of downtown Toronto on July 30. A boisterous rally at Dundas Square heard Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan and other speakers denounce the Conservative federal government for complicity with the Israeli military onslaught in Gaza that has seen over 1,300 Palestinians killed, chiefly by the bombardment of residential areas, including schools and health clinics.

Spokespersons for the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, and some of the 40 other sponsors of the event, also sharply criticized Thomas Mulcair, New Democratic Party head and Leader of the Official Opposition in Ottawa, for his strident and uncritical support of the Zionist state.

The rally fed a massive march of about 4,000 to the Israeli Consulate, across from the Royal Ontario Museum at Bloor and Avenue Road.

En route, protesters staged a ‘die-in’ at the Bed Bath and Beyond store at Yonge and Gerrard, chanting: ‘1, 2, 3, 4, SodaStream Out the Door!’ SodaStream supplies products to make carbonated drinks. Its main production facility is on an illegal Israeli settlement, Ma’ale Adumim, in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. CAIA urges a boycott of Israeli products and services, and those of international companies involved in Israel’s human rights violations. The most common Israeli exports include fresh fruit and vegetables (such as Jaffa citrus fruits and Israeli Medjoul Dates), Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream drinks machines, Golan Heights Wineries and other Israeli wines.

On July 26 an even larger gathering was held in connection with the annual Al Quds (Jerusalem Day) Muslim celebration. Official spokespersons claimed, at the concluding rally held across from the U.S. Consulate on University Ave., that it was the largest pro-Palestine, anti-Zionist gathering in North America that day, with over 25,000 participating.

Socialist Action participated with a banner, a contingent, and by setting up its display table at both ends of the protest. SA members sold $302 in literature, press and buttons. Twenty-five people signed up for more information.

Despite the huge crowd, many of whom came by bus from Mississauga, north-west of the city, there was a scarcity of union banners/flags. However, people carried a wide variety of placards, both professionally produced and home-made. The most common ones stated ‘Freedom for Palestine’, ‘Boycott Apartheid Israel’ and ‘No War on Gaza’. A huge hand-made sign read ‘Guatemala Supports Palestine’, and others stated ‘Stop Killing Children’ and ‘Zionism=Racism’.

Organizers at the concluding rally released over a hundred balloons, each representing a child killed by the Israeli military.

Rival gatherings contended for attention at Queen’s Park on July 26. A Toronto Star article reported that “critics of Israel’s military assaults, and defenders” of the Zionist state, stood opposed to each other, which was true.

But the article failed to mention that there were well over 20,000 in the pro-Palestinian rally, and its march down University Avenue, while less than 800 participated in the Zionist assembly. A posted video recording, taken from high above the crowds by a drone helicopter-mounted camera, as well as thousands of ground-level photographs, prove the point.

The ratio was 20:1 in favor of the supporters of the beleaguered residents of Gaza.

Was omission of the facts concerning the huge disproportion between the two sides that gathered in front of the Ontario Legislature, merely an oversight? Or was it a reflection of editorial policy?

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Running Orders

by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

They call us now.
Before they drop the bombs.
The phone rings
and someone who knows my first name
calls and says in perfect Arabic
“This is David.”
And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass shattering symphonies
still smashing around in my head
I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?”
They call us now to say
Run.
You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house is next.
They think of it as some kind of
war time courtesy.
It doesn’t matter that
there is nowhere to run to.
It means nothing that the borders are closed
and your papers are worthless
and mark you only for a life sentence
in this prison by the sea
and the alleyways are narrow
and there are more human lives
packed one against the other
more than any other place on earth
Just run.
We aren’t trying to kill you.
It doesn’t matter that
you can’t call us back to tell us
the people we claim to want aren’t in your house
that there’s no one here
except you and your children
who were cheering for Argentina
sharing the last loaf of bread for this week
counting candles left in case the power goes out.
It doesn’t matter that you have children.
You live in the wrong place
and now is your chance to run
to nowhere.
It doesn’t matter
that 58 seconds isn’t long enough
to find your wedding album
or your son’s favorite blanket
or your daughter’s almost completed college application
or your shoes
or to gather everyone in the house.
It doesn’t matter what you had planned.
It doesn’t matter who you are
Prove you’re human.
Prove you stand on two legs.
Run.

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Israel out of Gaza! Justice for Palestine!

Aug. 2014 Gaza

By MICHAEL SCHREIBER

As we go to press on July 17, Israel has undertaken a ground invasion of the beleaguered Palestinian enclave of Gaza. Naval gunships, drones, helicopters, and F-16 fighters have kept up a constant bombardment of the territory to accompany the assault by infantry and tanks. Israel has called up at least 50,000 soldiers for the operation.

Three days earlier, Israel had dropped thousands of leaflets on some parts of Gaza, warning residents to evacuate since an attack was imminent. But few people left the area; they had nowhere to go.

Airstrikes at the start of the land invasion killed at least four Palestinian children playing on a rooftop, while several nurses were injured when Israeli tanks barraged the al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital. The hospital had also been hit by airstrikes a week earlier, destroying the holding tanks that supply water to patients.

Since July 8, when Israel began air and missile strikes on Gaza, numerous incidents have taken place that demonstrate the Zionist government’s wanton disregard for civilian casualties. On July 9, for example, a popular seaside café was bombed, killing nine Palestinian men who were watching a World Cup match on television. Nearby on the same day, eight members of a family were killed when their house was bombed. Also on July 9, a Palestinian journalist, Hamed Shebab, was mangled and burned to death when an Israeli missile struck his vehicle—clearly marked “TV” in large red letters.

Israeli officials have admitted targeting mosques, schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings with air strikes. Although such atrocities can never be morally justified, Israel has arrogantly claimed that it has a “right” to destroy civilian facilities when it believes that members of Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, are hiding there.

Especially egregious has been Israel’s policy of employing collective punishment against families of people whom it suspects of having a political connection to Hamas or other Islamic groups. In this way, several families have seen their homes destroyed and many of their loved ones murdered. The Kaware family, for example, got a phone call from the Israelis warning that their house would be bombed. A number of neighbors stood on the roof of the building with them, in a clear signal to Israeli airplanes that it was full of civilians. Nevertheless, the jets struck—killing eight people, including six children under 13 years old. Twenty-five others were injured.

Immediately prior to the Israeli land invasion, health officials in Gaza reported that over 1500 Palestinians had been injured in the conflict and at least 233 killed. A few days earlier, a Human Rights Watch report cited UN data showing that close to 80 percent of the deaths were civilians. In addition, said the report, about 7500 residents of Gaza had been displaced or rendered homeless because of Israel’s demolition of 1255 houses.

These statistics registering death and destruction will undoubtedly escalate as a consequence of the Israeli ground assault. Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories in the world; many civilians will be unable to escape the volleys from tanks, artillery, and aircraft—let alone the crossfire of close fighting in the streets.

The Israeli government cynically chose the very day that it invaded Gaza, July 17, to indict three Israeli settlers who had tortured and murdered a Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The accused people (one adult and two minors) had acted in retaliation for the earlier kidnapping and murder of three young Israelis. The Israeli government blamed the earlier incident on Hamas—although no evidence of a culprit has yet come to light—and initiated a drive in which hundreds of alleged Hamas members were arrested.

Simultaneously, Israeli authorities and the press whipped up a campaign of mass hysteria against Palestinians, a witch-hunting atmosphere that was geared for incidents like the murder of young Abu Khdeir to take place. Protests by Palestinians were attacked by Israeli police, which in turn helped provoke rocket attacks by Hamas and led to the massive Israeli bombing campaign and ground invasion.

It must be remembered, of course, that although the kidnappings and deaths of the youths provided a spark for the current conflict, Israel has systematically repressed the Palestinian people for generations, jailing or killing anyone who resists. Palestinians—those who are not refugees living in other countries—have been relegated to apartheid conditions, while Israel seizes more and more Palestinian land for its settlements.

In particular, Israel has reduced Gaza into a poverty-stricken prison house, in which it has carried out bombings and assassinations with impunity. After Hamas came to power in Gaza, the Zionist regime tightened its economic blockade of the territory, which it had first imposed following the capture of an Israeli soldier. The Israelis hoped that the descent into utter poverty and degradation would force Gazans to reject Hamas in favor of a regime that might be more apt to accept onerous concessions. More recently, the accession to power of the military-backed al-Sisi regime in Egypt, which is hostile to Hamas, has meant that even the small lifeline of smuggling through tunnels straddling the Egyptian border has been blocked.

Israel has undertaken the current war against Gaza with the expectation that it will, as always, be backed to the hilt by the United States—which gives $3.15 billion a year to prop up the Zionist state. While Obama has affirmed that he is “heartbroken by the violence,” he also piously declared, “Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks.” The fact that Israel has been the prime aggressor in the region, and that its sham claims of “defense” have resulted in untold death and suffering for civilian populations in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, obviously does not bother Obama sufficiently for him to cease support of Israel’s military—let alone to back the cause of self-determination for the Palestinian people.

People around the world who care about justice for oppressed peoples and the continuing plight of the Palestinians should join the growing campaign for BDS—boycott, divestment, and sanctions on Israel. A mass BDS campaign can be instrumental in forcing the Israeli government to desist from its murderous policies.

At the same time, it is essential that antiwar and social justice forces pour into the streets to protest Israeli aggression and U.S. support for the Zionist regime. The United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) is calling for mass street protests throughout the United States. Even before the land invasion of Gaza, Israel’s bombing attacks sparked outrage around the world. Protests took place in many U.S. cities—including 1500 people who rallied in San Francisco and 1000 in Chicago.

We must demand an end to the slaughter! Israel: Withdraw all troops from Gaza! Stop the bombing! End the blockade of Gaza! No U.S. aid to apartheid Israel! Free Palestine!

Harper’s Hypocrisy on Ukraine

by Evan Engering

It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. But in the dark days of late capitalism we have learned one more thing. From the tall tales about murdered “incubator babies” and alleged “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, we know that even before a war is declared, the truth comes under withering assault.As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sends fighter jets and troops to NATO bases in Poland, this becomes evident. After over 80% of the people in Crimea voted to rejoin Russia, western media and politicians went on a propaganda rampage, posing any argument they could imagine to de-legitimize the referendum. While Putin’s actions were heavy-handed, Russia was not alone in recognizing the validity of the vote. Many countries in the global South did. But the Western media played its usual role in trumpeting the claims that the election was held at “gunpoint”, ignoring the fact that Russian soldiers were already legally stationed in the region, by treaty, as they had been for years.

The most brazen display of Western hypocrisy came courtesy of political leaders after the vote in Crimea. Prime Minister Harper flew to Ukraine in March for the purpose of expressing support for the new Ukrainian government and to shake his fist at Russia. Even after flying there and back, Canadian politicians and media were silent on the ultra-nationalist character of the new regime in Kiyiv.

Taking advantage of folks with a short memory, Harper did a double about-face. Late last year he visited Israel. Even writers at the right wing Sun newspapers and the National Post expressed their loathing to hear the tired old argument that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. Of course, the ongoing illegal and expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank were not mentioned. Fast forward to Harper’s recent visit to Ukraine. Suddenly his viewpoint is reversed: annexation of another country or region is instantly outrageous, whereas anti-Semitism (this time not from the dark crevices, but from the junior partner in the ruling coalition government in Kijiv) is ignored. If Harper were a man of democratic principles, such cognitive dissonance would make him dizzy!

The Ukrainian Jewish community was shamelessly used by US Secretary of State John Kerry. A distributed leaflet, purportedly from the “pro-Russian” group, the Donetsk People’s Republic, ordered all Jews in the area to surrender their money and register themselves. But the document was a fraud. Despite Kerry’s fast and furious condemnation of the document, nobody claimed authorship for this supposedly public edict.

Again, Kerry has no known history of speaking out against the actual proven racism of Svoboda or any other pro-Maidan fascists. He does, however, have a history of speaking out against a foreign adventure that was started and waged under a US president from the Democratic Party. Kerry served in the Vietnam war under US President Lyndon B Johnson and, upon his return to the US, joined the anti-war movement as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Now that he is in a position of influence and power, like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, he has metamorphosed from anti-war activist to imperialist war hawk.Fortunately for Harper and Kerry, they can maintain these positions and contradict them freely, for it is clear as day that their actions are not motivated by principle or respect for international law at all, but by crude geo-political strivings for power and profit abroad. Unfortunately for Canada, the media’s rabid focus on Putin’s wrongdoings have blown the situation out of proportion. While condemnation of his oligarchical regime is justified, it is no reason to take our own government’s sabre-rattling rhetoric at face value.

Canadians who are outraged Russia’s actions, but were not so opposed to Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, or who don’t mind Ottawa’s role in NATO, should be mindful of the narrative they are being sold by politicians and media. Canada just happens to be on one side of the geo-political divide. Russia is on the other. Considering that this whole situation started with protests against the refusal of Yanukovich to accept a deal with the EU, and that the US (which is no objective party to any conflict in the world) has picked a side, there is no reason to believe this is anything other then an inter-imperialist conflict. We should be calling for NATO to pull back; and for the US to stop funding the ultra-nationalist, rightist regime in Kiyiv. Neither intervention from Russia or Western forces is needed, but for Ukraine to exercise its sovereignty through democratic elections – and to allow its regions more autonomy, outright independence, or if they wish, to choose merger with Russia.

Harper claims Afghanistan ‘better off today’ What’s the truth?

by Evan Engering
The Stephen Harper-led Conservative federal government announced the end of Canada’s large armed presence in Afghanistan on March 12. Harper told returning Canadian troops that “you fought to loosen the grip of terror and repression.” He added, “the people of Afghanistan are better off today because of Canada’s investments.” 

The occasion, at least officially, marked the end of 12 years of Canadian military intervention in the country. The war aligned Canada closer to American foreign policy. It claimed the lives of 158 Canadians, along with those of many thousands of Afghani civilians. 

But how true are Harper’s claims?
Former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In the wake of massive protests across Canada against joining the US war in Iraq in 2003, Chretien instead began ramping up the Afghanistan ‘mission’. Despite the Taliban’s initial willingness to co-operate in pursuing Al Quaeda, NATO forces occupied the country and waged the conflict themselves, only to have Taliban fighters retreat to mountainous regions to pursue a painfully protracted war.

Canada’s participation stirred domestic political unrest. A majority of Canadians opposed the intervention from the start, and through most of the 12 years of the debacle. In 2009, Prime Minister Harper prorogued Parliament for a second time, then to shield his government from mounting allegations of handing over prisoners to Afghan authorities for torture – a war crime in violation of the Third Geneva Convention. In 2006, New Democratic Party convention delegates, led by the Socialist Caucus, debated and passed a resolution calling for an end to Canada’s role in the war. Anti-war opposition was visible in the streets, where large demonstrations took place at least annually.

Canada’s many years of involvement in Bush’s jingoist ‘crusade’, indifferent to the lessons learned by Stalinists during the ten year Soviet Union occupation, failed to win over many Afghani hearts and minds. In fact, it only retarded Afghani political progress, and fuelled religious fanatics in their jihad against the West.

So what is the ‘success’ that Harper and the business media are touting? Decades of conflict driven by foreign powers have left Afghanistan one of the poorest countries on Earth. Over one third of the population is unemployed and living below the poverty line. Even with all the foreign aid, the country is ranked last, or in the bottom ten for every category in the Human Development Index. The only industry in which Afghanistan leads the world is the production of addictive drugs. The opium industry has accounted for over a third of the country’s GDP, with 10% of the population working in the poppy fields to generate almost all of Asia’s supply of heroine. No solution to the problem of poverty is here though, as most of the profits go to drug lords.

Perhaps the most tragic failure is insecurity – still a major problem, underscored by the March 20 attack on Kabul’s luxury Serena Hotel which left nine dead, including two Canadian aid workers.

The Taliban is hardly gone, and given the country’s stagnation and rampant corruption, Afghanistan is doomed to the same cruel fate of countries devastated by foreign intervention – until the menace of imperialism is ended. Foreign powers, whether Russian, Pakistani or Western, can drop bombs and kill people, but only democratic grassroots organizing by the Afghani people themselves can make their country self-governing and prosperous.
Fight Imperialism! Canada out of NATO!