Dr Zayid writes a letter

Letter to Mr. Stephane Dion, MP

Letter to Mr. Stephane Dion, MP
Canada Palestine Association,
P.O.Box, 1085,
Halifax, NS. B3J 2X1

Dec. 3, 2006

The Hon. Mr. Stephane Dion, MP.
The House of Commons.

Dear Mr. Dion:

I was in the process of writing to congratulate you on your election as the leader of the Liberal Party.

In this context, I have just heard a recording of your interview with Mr. Jason Caron of the CJPAC and Canada Israel Committee (see below - editor). I was surprised and alarmed at some of the statements you made in the interview. Thus, I feel, as a Canadian, that it is my responsibility to bring to your attention some of the facts you appear to overlook and which you, as the future prime minister of Canada, ought to be aware of.

You express praise for Israel and describe it as a true democracy. The facts on the ground are contrary to that, as affirmed by prominent Israeli human rights workers and thinkers. Unfortunately, Israeli democracy and human rights practices are selective. The noted Israeli author, Maxime Ghilan, stated in an editorial in the Feb. 1983 issue of the Paris-based magazine, Israel and Palestine, : "Israel is a Western-type democracy for Jews only......Arabs, who are citizens of the state of Israel are less fortunate...They are not granted equal economic privileges, are prevented from access to public housing and loans given only 'to those who served in the IDF and allied services', bodies into which most Israeli Arabs are not admitted. Finally, Israeli Arab workers are economically discriminated against, receiving lower pay than their Jewish counterparts.....Arabs in the territories, conquered by Israel since 1967, have no rights whatsoever. Their children are shot. beaten up, jailed; their young men assassinated. Their women are brutalised. Their cars are wantonly destroyed by hammer and bomb. Their elected mayors and leaders are deposed......Their politicians are often deported. Foreign settlers jeer at them, provoke them, squat in their homes and on their lands. International law, concerning the behaviour of conquerors in conquered land, is opely flouted."

The late Professor Israel Shahak, a Holocaust survivor and chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, summed it up accurately in his statement: "It is my considered opinion that the state of Israel is a racist state in the full meaning of this term. In this state, people are discriminated against, in the most permanent and legal way and in the most important areas of life, only because of their origin. This racist discrimination began in Zionism and is carried today mainly in co-operation with the institutions of the Zionist movement." (Quote taken from The Racist Nature of Zionism and of the Zionist State of Israel, an article published in Pi-Ha'aton, the weekly newspaper of the students of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Nov. 5, 1975.)

Derek Tozer, an Israeli thinker, stated: "The official policy of the government (of Israel) is unequivocal. Arabs, like the Jews in Nazi Germany, are officially Class B' citizens, a fact which is recorded on their identity cards."

The predicament of Israel's roughly 1.2 million Arab citizens is evident, as the 2003 Israeli State Committee of Inquiry made clear: "They suffer systemic discrimination in employment, housing and education, and lack of equal access to state resources."

Israel's "Nationality and Entering to Israel Law", passed by the cabinet in 2002, and reaffirmed annually by the Knesset, and recently, May 2006, reaffirmed by a wide margin in the Knesset, denies any Arab Israeli citizen the right to reside in Israel with his/her spouse if they marry a Palestinian. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the law as racist, and Israel-based B'Tselem human rights group, claims that it contravenes the Israeli Basic Law.

You go on to describe Hezbollah as a "terrorist militia." It is relevant to bring to your attention that Hezbollah came into being in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and occupation of South Lebanon, in 1982, that brought about the killing of 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. It was the national military resistance by Hezbollah that forced Israel to withdraw from Lebanon in May 2000, after 22 years of illegal occupation, that followed the first war of aggression against Lebanon in March 1978, and remained in defiance of international law and Security Council resolution #425, of March 19, 1978.

The recent Israeli attack on Lebanon is claimed to be in response to the capture by Hezbollah, on July 12, of 2 Israeli soldiers in a military encounter. Nothing is mentioned of the fact that Israel has kidnapped and continues to hold for decades over 10,000 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners. However, the facts, as reported by the noted journalist Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, Aug. 21, 2006, indicate that this attack on Lebanon was planned and approved by the White House many months before the capture of the Israeli soldiers. The shelling by Hezbollah came after the indiscriminate Israeli bombardment and invasion of South Lebanon that brought about the killing of 1,200 civilians and the destruction of the infrastructure of South Lebanon and demolition of many towns and villages and thousands of homes. Israeli war crimes included the firing of four million cluster bombs. UN reports indicate that one million of these bombs have failed to explode and continue to kill innocent civilians. As well, they have severely injured two international bomb experts who were working to dismantle these criminal weapons. This is confirmed by the Israeli daily, Haaretz, Nov. 24, 2006. This is what our current prime minister, Mr. Harper, called "proportionate response."

You go on to describe the democratically-elected Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Similarly, Hamas came into being as a natural national resistance movement against an illegal brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory that has been allowed to stand for 39 years, in defiance of international law and repeated Security Council and UNGA resolutions. The brutal actions of this illegal occupation include extra-judicial assassination, torture of prisoners and detention of prisoners without charge or trial, demolition of thousands of homes and expropriation of property for the creation of illegal colonies [settlements]. All these practices are in violation of virtually every article of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and are war crimes, as defined by international law, and have been condemned by all international human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israeli human rights groups, including B'Tselem.

Do I need to remind you that the UN Charter and international law entitles all peoples, under foreign occupation, to resist the occupation. We all applauded French and other European resistance movements in their action against the illegal Nazi occupation of their land.

It may be of interest to you that terrorism was introduced in the Middle East by leaders of the Zionist movement, and continues to be practiced by Israel. I will forward to you separately an article that outlines briefly some of the documented acts of Israeli terrorism.

You criticise the actions of the UN Human Rights Council and its resolutions against Israel. The repeated condemnation by the overwhelming majority of the Council members is a direct result of the continuing Israeli violation of the human rights of Palestinians, which I referred to above.

Finally, Mr. Dion, it is our hope that our government and political leaders take note of the facts on the ground in the Middle East and begin to abide by the UN Charter and international law that Canada claims to uphold. Israel must not be allowed to remain above international, regardless of the power of its lobbies.

Thank you for your attention and I look forward to hearing your response to my message, and hope you will listen to the Palestinian side of this conflict and truly understand the essence of this human tragedy that the Palestinian people have been subjected to.

Yours sincerely,
Ismail Zayid, MD.
President, Canada Palestine Association

* * *

Following is the MP3 recording of a conference call between CJPAC and Stephane Dion. Best if you read the text pasted below while listening to it. Approx. 10 mins.


Jason Caron Moderator
The Honourable Stephane Dion Guest Speaker


Operator: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the CJPAC conference call. I would now like to turn the meeting over to Mr. Jason Caron. Please go ahead, Mr. Caron.

Jason Caron: Thank you, Christopher. Good afternoon, everyone. I'd like to begin by welcoming you to this CJPAC conference call with the Honourable Stephane Dion. This call is actually the second of a series of interviews that CJPAC will be conducting over the course of theŠ of the next coupleŠ coming weeks with various leadership candidates of the Liberal Party of Canada.

I'm Jason Caron. I'm a member of CJPAC. I'm on the board of directors of the Canada Israel Committee, the Quebec Israel Committee, and Jewish National Fund of Montreal.

With us today are CJPAC members listening in, including CJPAC board members and leaders of the Jewish and pro-Israel community from across the country, including some who IŠ I suspect will actually be delegates at the upcoming Liberal convention.

Monsieur Dion, bienvenue. Merci d'avoir pris le temps d'ętre parmis nous aujourd'hui.

Honourable Stephane Dion: Merci, Jason.

Jason Caron

You're a person who especially needs no introduction. And since our time is short, I hope you'll forgive me if I takeŠ

Honourable Stephane Dion: No. Go ahead.

Jason Caron: Š(inaudible) toŠ to skip over a more formal introduction.

Honourable Stephane Dion: Yes.

Jason Caron: During this call I'd like to ask you a few questions on topics of particular interest to our community. Some of these questions were actually submitted from among the thousands of members of CJPAC from across the country, and many of whom are on today's call. So I'll beŠ let me begin, ifŠ if you permit me, with a few questions on Israel and the Middle East.

Honourable Stephane Dion: Yes.

Jason Caron: This past summer's unprovoked attack on Israel, the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers followed by the war in Lebanon caused tremendous pain and concern for all people who care about Israel, Lebanon and the Middle East. Monsieur Dion, you were among certain Liberals who called for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire. In an article you wrote, which was published in The Globe and Mail on August sixth of this past summer, and which appears on the CJPAC website, incidentally, you stated the following: "Some members of Canada's Jewish community, including some prominent Liberals, are reportedly unhappy with the Liberal Party's position on the Middle East." You continue to say that when one believes a friend to be mistaken, one should say so. And then you conclude in the same article by stating in part, "If in a few months it already appears that the current crisis has made possible real progress for the security of both Lebanon and Israel, I will be overjoyed, and will gladly recognize that we were mistaken in our analysis."

Monsieur Dion, now that we have the benefit of a few months since the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and the conditional ceasefire by Israel and Hezbollah, I have the following question for you. How do you evaluate your own analysis provided during the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah? And as a follow-up to that, if you don't mind, how would you evaluate the current government's handling of the crisis this past summer? And finally, what would you have done differently if you were Prime Minister?

Honourable Stephane Dion: Well, thank you, Jason. And thank you to have taken seriously my writing. So many of your journalist colleagues ask questions without toŠ to read anything. I'mŠ I'm really, really appreciating that.

Jason Caron: OK.

Honourable Stephane Dion: I thinkŠ I think unfortunately I would not change a comma of this paper that I wrote last summer. I think the ceasefire should haveŠ should have come right away. A lot of casualties would have been avoided, a lot of destruction, and the result would be about the same than now. That means that -- and maybe it would have been better inŠ in addition to the fact that we would avoid casualties and disruption. Because the Hezbollah is stronger now than ever. I don't think that the government of Lebanon is able to really to play a role as important as Hezbollah in the south ofŠ of Lebanon. The soldiers are not back. The kidnapped soldiers areŠ are still not back. And the legitimate institutions of Lebanon that don't seem to me very (inaudible) they may have been weakened. So for all these reasons, I think I was right, among many others, to request a ceasefire right away.

And I think Canada should do much more than what Mr. Harper is doing in order to help Israel in helping (inaudible) in helping Lebanon. We have aŠ the capacity to do that. WeŠ each time that Lebanon had a crisis in the past, Canada has been very helpful. Because we know a lot of the communities there, we are welcomed by them. We don'tŠ we are not the formalŠ the former colonial power, like France, so there is less resentment about us than France. We are welcome. And we know what it is to build a country through differences between communities because it's what we are doing in Canada. And in Lebanon they are doing it in the context much more difficult than us.

So I think the good thing for Israel is to have (inaudible) another well-established democracy in the region. And if it's not Lebanon, I don't know which other country in theŠ may in the foreseen future to become this well-established democracy. And Canada must do its best toŠ to do it, in recognizing obviously the fact that Hezbollah is a terrorist group and a militia that has behaviours that we cannot accept in any way.

Jason Caron: Thank you. I guess we'll all wait for theŠ for the review by the Israeli government commission set up toŠ to review the conduct of the war in this matter.

Now, if you don't mindŠ

Honourable Stephane Dion: I know that many experts in Israel are questioning very seriously the conduct of the war. The fact that the bomb through aerian (ph) attack Hezbollah at the beginning give to Hezbollah the time to hide in the communities everywhere. And when the attack on the ground came, it was very difficult then forŠ for the Israelian (ph) army toŠ to engage Hezbollah. Because as a democracy, Israel, as you know, is very reluctant toŠ to kill civilian populations. And Hezbollah, being a terrorist militia, theirŠ their aim is toŠ to hide themselves in theŠ in the communities. And in someŠ some ways they are hoping that Israel will come withŠ with killings in the communities in order to strengthen theŠ the resentment against Israel. So there is a trap there that, as a democracy, Israel should try to avoid.

Jason Caron: Yeah. I certainly agree with you.

If you don't mind, if I could change the focus ever so slightly to Hamas. What is your position on the proposition that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and therefore should not benefit from Canadian aid or recognition by Canadian officials?

Honourable Stephane Dion: Yeah, this is the basicŠ I mean, Israel is a democratic state, has the right to exist and toŠ and to defend itself. Hamas is a terrorist group. So weŠ we cannot consider Hamas an interlocutor like Israel is. And so as long as Hamas doesŠ does not change what it is, we cannot use taxpayers' money in Canada directly to a government led by Hamas.

What I have asked to the government to do, though, is to help the third parties in order to help the population of Palestine as much as possible. And my understanding is that it is exactly what the government of Israel asked us to do.

Jason Caron: Perfect. Thank you.

If you don't mind, now I'd like to focus just a little bit on the United Nations. In recognition of the need for reform of the United Nations, the Canadian government had supported the replacement of the discredited UN Commission on Human Rights with a new body called the UN Human Rights Council. Unfortunately the new council, as we saw recently, after only one sitting, seems to be as dysfunctional as its predecessor. Mr. Dion, how would you as Prime Minister direct our UN mission in New York to push for a meaningful reform, especially as it relates to the disproportionate amount of attention that isŠ we see so often being focused on Israel, to the detriment of all other issues and countries?

Honourable Stephane Dion: Yes, Jason. IŠ I was so disappointed when this new body, the UN Human Rights Council, decided to investigate only one side: the destructions in Lebanon, and not the one in Israel. I don't understand the decision. I think it's completely unfair, and I would have protested strongly. I'm sure Madame Arbour is not comfortable with it at all.

Now, the role of Canada is always the same; it must be always the same. It is through our declarations and gestures to try to encourage the cause of security and peace and, when it's possible, democracy everywhere in the world. So it's what I would ask our mission in the UN to do about the Middle East.

I'm not an expert in all these resolutions about the Middle East. I think they are far too numerous, and too many of them are targeted Israel while there are other issues in the world that are not monitored as they should. And as aŠ as a government I think Canada should encourage to see the monitoring of the other issues, not only the Middle East, as it is too often the case.

Jason Caron: Thank you very much.

Let me turn now to another troubling area, and that is terrorism.

Le terrorisme, la menace qui est la présence constitue un danger vers elle. Ton pays (inaudible) sous contexte, pouvez-vous nous expliquer Monsieur Dion l'approche du partie Libéral vis ŕ vis la loi, anti-terrorisme, la legislation (inaudible) et compris les (inaudible) de Sécurité?

Honourable Stephane Dion: Yes. I think we need always -- all the countries has to haveŠ to find the right balance between individual rights and collective security. And we have worked on that very, very hard with Madame Anne McLellan. WeŠ weŠ I think at Canada, to compare with other countries, find a very good balance between the two. But everything is always questionable, and lead to difficult debates, and some of them are facing the court now. So weŠ we are fortunate to be in a country where you have a lot of check and balance toŠ to be sure that we strike the good decision between different needed goals like security and rights. And I'm very proud that very shameful mistake like the Maher Arar has been possible to beŠ to be investigated in Canada very deeply, and it should help us, if we follow the recommendation of the O'Brien report, to be sure that the mistakes will not be repeated.

And about the terrorist act, as you know, justŠ a judge just struck down a portion of it because it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So I'm veryŠ as a Prime Minister, I will certainly follow the view of the courts, follow the view of the experts, and of Canadians, to be sure that we'll always strike the good balance and we will achieve our two goals: to protect rights and to protect security of the people.

Jason Caron: Thank you. There's a Private Member's bill currently before the House and Senate which would lift state immunity from civil claims in Canada against states that sponsor international terrorist groups. Monsieur Dion, would you support such a bill, whichŠ which would essentially enable families of Canadian terror victims to launch civil suits against foreign states and Canadian organizations that have supported such groups?

Honourable Stephane Dion: I will be careful on that, Jason. I don't know the file enough. I will certainly listen the experts like Irwin Cotler. How doŠ would you feel when some families in Canada will claim that Israel is guilty of something against them? It may come with confused definitions. So we need to be careful. I will certainly take the time to study the bill very carefully, and I will try to avoid situations where you will have abuse of definitions andŠ and situations that will not help the cause.

Jason Caron: Mm-hmm. OK, soŠ

Honourable Stephane Dion: You see what I mean?

Jason Caron: Yes. Thank you very much.

Honourable Stephane Dion: Because when you are not careful with these kind of things, you may end up with other results than the one you are looking for.

Jason Caron: That's very much appreciated.

Please let me change the focus to Sudan. As you know, the situation in Darfur has captured much of our community's attention. Perhaps this is motivated by our historical experience in the Holocaust. But nevertheless, the Jewish community has advocated for maximum Canadian involvement and full mobilization of all possible resources, be it political, diplomatic, financial and military, to stop the tragic suffering (inaudible) was becoming a Rwandan-like catastrophe. Canada has done much, but more needs to be done to ensure that the security of victims andŠ and the humanitarian disaster in this region of Sudan. More specifically, Mr. Dion, what wouldŠ what would the Liberal Party do under your leadership?

Honourable Stephane Dion: I think we may be very proud of what Canada did under Paul Martin and Irwin Cotler especially. Irwin has been so strong on this. We are one of the countries -- if not the country -- who did the most in order to help theŠ the people inŠ in Darfur in a very, very awful situation. We need to push the United Nations to be as strong as possible in the region. We should not underestimate, though, what it would mean to intervene against the will of the government of Sudan, especially when you think that theŠ the place for us to start such a military operation would be Chad, and the infrastructures are not really existing there.

So it'sŠ it would not be the case, the same situation than what we had in Iraq, whereŠ when we wereŠ we were able to start -- well, not us, but the United States were able to start the intervention through Qatar, whereŠ with very, very strong infrastructures to do that. The same in fact we were there too with the firstŠ the first Gulf War. We had strong basis to start. It will not be the case in Darfur, so we should not underestimate what would mean to have a military intervention. And at the same time, we need to be the country who's pushing the most to help the people of Darfur.

Jason Caron: Thank you. Our last subject of today's call, Monsieur Dion, involves citizenship revocation for Nazi war criminals or Nazi enablers. What would be the position of the Liberal Party under your leadership with respect to relocation of citizenship for individuals who are or were complicit in war crimes, crimes against humanity and terrorism, who entered Canada and attained Canadian citizenship by false representation, fraud, or concealment of material circumstances?

Honourable Stephane Dion: As you know, for me, the Canadian citizenship has very high value. I'm fighting to keep it as a Quebecer forŠ for myself, my children, my child and future generation of Quebecers. So it's not something that I'mŠ I'm prepared to remove lightly. So revokeŠ revoking the citizenship of any Canadian must be a last resort. There must be certainly a clear process for determining what a Canadian citizen is accused of in a foreign country; their guilt or innocence; and what punishment is appropriate, here in Canada or in the country where the crime allegedly took place. But a crime like the one you just described is a very, very heavy one, very, very serious one, one of the most serious one we have. And if somebody was guilty of that, very, very clearly, certainly that the Canadian citizenship would be at risk for this person.

Jason Caron: Well, Monsieur Dion, this concludes our questions. You've been close to our community for so many years, and are certainly familiar with our issues and concerns. Before we wrap up, though, do you have anything else that you'd like to say or emphasize?

Honourable Stephane Dion: Oh, thank you to give me this opportunity, Jason, because as the Member of St-Laurent-Cartierville, I have a strong Jewish community, both (inaudible) English and French speakers, and I'm very close toŠ to my Jewish communities. To me, it's a kind of barometer. When my communities are secure, confident, I know that the other communities will be also secure and confident. IŠ I includeŠ I include like that myŠ in that my Lebanese communities and Muslim communities. In Canada, when one community is unsecure(?), it's usually the other one is too. So there is a strong necessity to show in theŠ everywhere in the world that we in Canada are able to make sure that communities thatŠ that elsewhere in the world are fighting together, here they are working together. And we have been able to achieve that in St-Laurent-Cartierville, and I want to do the same for the whole of Canada.

You may know that it is in my riding that a library burned.

Jason Caron: Mm-hmm.

Honourable Stephane Dion: Šin aŠ in a school.

Jason Caron: Mm-hmm. The (inaudible) bombing.

Honourable Stephane Dion: Yeah. And to me, this was if it would have been my own children. And I never miss an opportunity to care about this school and to meetŠ to meet the people and to go to their annual golf tournament. It will be like this, I hope, as long as I am in politics. Because what happened in this riding once, I don't want that to happenŠ never anymore. I want St-Laurent and Cartierville to be a model for Canada, and Canada a model for the world.

Jason Caron: Merci. Monsieur Dion, on behalf of CJPAC and the Jewish and pro-Israel community listening in,

Un gros merci. Merci beaucoup d'avoir pris le temps de parler avec nous aujourd'hui et d'avoir répondu ŕ tout nos questions d'une maničre honnęte et ouverte. Bonne chance avec le reste de la campagne.

Honourable Stephane Dion: Merci beaucoup, Jason. Good-bye to everyone.

Jason Caron: And before we wrap up, I'd just like to take a moment to remind everyone that there'll be an audio recording of this session. A transcript will be made available on CJPAC's website at www.cjpac,ca. Please watch for your e-mail notations to calls with other Liberal leadership candidates. And if you'd like to get involved with the Liberal leadership race, you are invited to e-mail or call CJPAC, and they'll be sure to help you get involved. This ends our call. Thank you so much.

Operator: Thank you. The conference has now ended. Please disconnect your lines at this time. We thank you for your participation. Have a great day.

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