House of Commons Hansard #164 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was peace.


The Middle EastEmergency Debate

11:15 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Windsor--St. Clair.

First, I would like to thank the hon. member for Mercier for giving every member the opportunity to take part in this very important debate.

I returned yesterday from the Middle East, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the occupied territories. In the very few minutes that I have to speak in the House and through the House to Canadians I want to share both what I witnessed and some observations with respect to the future of this tragic part of the world.

There is a humanitarian disaster unfolding before our eyes in the occupied territories. I fear for the future of the people of the occupied territories, the Palestinians and indeed the future of Israel itself.

My colleague from Mount Royal has spoken of security, insecurity and self defence. It is very important that we look at the context of what is taking place today. The squalor, despair and hopelessness of an entire generation that has grown up in refugee camps without any hope for the future, the despair and anguish that those people are feeling today and the fear in cities throughout the occupied territories are a result of the brutality, violence and contempt for international law which the government of Israel is demonstrating in its current military assault on the occupied territories.

All innocent human life must be protected. My colleagues and I have condemned in the strongest possible terms the suicide bombers terrifying Israelis who are out for an evening in the town or celebrating a holy day. That is terror and we condemn it. However the terror of suicide bombers must not be responded to by the terror of Ariel Sharon's tanks, helicopter gunships and soldiers. That is what we are witnessing, the terrorism of the state in all its brutal, raw and violent reality.

I spoke in the Qalandiya refugee camp with those who were victims of this terror. There were young teachers watching television in their home in Ramallah who heard noise downstairs and gunshots ringing out. As they opened the door they saw two of their colleagues, fellow teachers, young Palestinians, innocent, with hopes for the future, who had been shot dead in cold blood by Israeli soldiers. As they looked down and cried out the soldiers kicked their bodies off the stairs and onto the floor below. They then proceeded upstairs, handcuffed these teachers, blindfolded them, beat them repeatedly and over the course of the next week engaged in what can only be described as torture before finally dumping them back at the checkpoint, because of course they were entirely innocent.

In a civilized society, a society which respects its obligations under international law, and my colleague from Mount Royal is well aware of the obligations under the fourth Geneva convention, this is an outrage and the international community cannot stand by and watch this happen.

We know all too well of what is happening in Jenin and throughout the occupied territories with this brutal and violent military assault, cutting off of food, water and electricity, stopping oxygen and medical supplies from entering, and stopping ambulances from rescuing the sick and the injured. This is inhumanity and the world cannot stand by and watch it happen.

The reality is that people are speaking out. I want to pay tribute tonight to those who in Israel and in the occupied territories have given me hope. I speak here of Canadians like Kevin Neish who is there in solidarity in a refugee camp in Bethlehem, volunteers from Oxfam Quebec, or those that I met with in Tel Aviv, 15,000 Israeli people, mainly Jews, rallying on Saturday night against Sharon's war.

The war widows, who for the first time have spoken out, said “No more”. They said “In these days of blood, violence and destruction, when women from both sides are widowed and children are orphaned, we call for an end to the cycle of bereavement. The control over another people is leading to unnecessary casualties on both sides and endangering our lives and the moral fabric of Israeli society”. They talked of the control.

We must recognize that the illegal occupation must end. Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories. The illegal settlements must be dismantled. Imagine what a young Palestinian must think as they see these settlements doubling since Oslo and at the same time homes being demolished.

What can this lead to? Only to despair and hopelessness.

I want to pay tribute as well to those brave soldiers and reservists who as well have said “No more”. I speak here of the group Ometz Lesarev. I speak of Yesh Gvul, Ometz Lesarev, the courage to refuse. Those reservists and a growing number have said they are not prepared to participate in the violence in the occupied territories, soldiers like Staff Sergeant Gil Nemesh who said:

Those terrible things happening in the territories have little to do with the security of Israel and stopping terror. It is all about the settlements. Choking and starving and humiliating millions of people, to provide safety to the settlements.

This must stop. Canada must speak out. I was ashamed and appalled that at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva our government almost alone among all members, only with Guatemala, opposed the sending of a human rights mission to that area. Shame on the Government of Canada.

What should Canada be doing? Canada should be calling, as the leader of my party has urged eloquently, for an international protection force. This would be an area in which Canada could show real leadership, not waiting but calling now for that protection force.

We would not be alone. Indeed, members of the Knesset, Yossi Sarid, the leader of the opposition from Meretz and others have called for that, as have the Jordanians and the Swedes. Where is Canada's voice in speaking out for an international protection force?

As I said, there must be a protection force. Israel must immediately withdraw. There must be emergency humanitarian relief. We have to consider, if the situation deteriorates, the possibility of re-evaluating our relations, both economic and diplomatic, with Israel.

I know my time is limited. I want to conclude by saying that certainly we in Canada condemn any acts of racism, of violence, the attack on a synagogue in Saskatoon for example.

I have been accused of taking sides in this tragic dispute. I want to say yes, I plead guilty. I have taken sides. I take the side of life over death. I take the side of peace over war. I take the side of the oppressed over the oppressor. I take the side of justice over dehumanization and tyranny.

There must be justice and peace for the Palestinian and Israeli people . The occupation and the violence must end. The world must not continue to turn a blind eye to this tragedy.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

11:25 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the motion brought forward by the member for Mercier and the ruling by the Speaker to allow us to have this emergency debate.

Given the lateness of the hour, it is worth noting this evening as opposed to a number of other occasions in the House and elsewhere in Canada, the measured tones we have heard from all members, with very few exceptions, and all parties. I congratulate members of the House for their approach to the debate because it is so urgent but also so important that we speak in those measured terms.

Before I go to the specific issues I would like to address around the Middle East and specifically Palestine, I would like to address some comments about democratic discourse in the country. I could not help but feel the pain of Michelle Landsberg. In her article in the Toronto Star this past weekend she expressed therein the feelings of a woman who has come out of the Jewish community but who in fact regularly has opposed positions taken by the Israeli government and equally and very strongly has taken positions against the Palestinian administration and some of the other Arab governments in the Middle East. She also reflected on the outright discrimination and the attacks that she has faced at times.

That is a bit of a microcosm of what happens in Canada. I have seen it happen in the last few weeks to those of us who have spoken out against the violence on both sides and then have been attacked by the other side. That is not acceptable in Canada.

Therefore, I try to reach out this evening to both the Jewish and Arab communities in Canada to tell them to strive for what is best in Canada as far as democratic discourse. Both those communities have a responsibility in Canada to provide leadership but also to reach out with a sense of co-operation to the other community to try to take a message back to the Middle East, back to Palestine, back to Israel to say that violence is not acceptable. It is not acceptable in Canada where, with every opportunity, we condemn it. Similarly violence in Israel and Palestine is to be condemned. It is not a methodology to resolve their differences.

The role Canada has to play is quite straightforward. We have to say to Israel, as I believe we have, that it is an absolute that we as a country will do whatever we have to do to guarantee its continued existence. Similarly, we have to say to the Palestinians that they have a right to their territory, to their sovereign nation and that we as a country will do whatever is necessary to see them achieve that goal.

The United Nations and the world promised that to both those communities in 1948. It is now in excess of 50 years and that still has not been accomplished. Earlier today I printed from the Internet a chronology of the history of Palestine since that proclamation in 1948 by the United Nations. It runs on for pages and pages.

What was so telling as I analyzed the history in more detail was how often steps were made to bring that area of the world to peace. It would seem every time those communities got close to that, something would happen.

Anwar Sadat reached out with Menachem Begin and said “We are going to take a step forward. We are going to try to resolve some of the problems”. Shortly thereafter Anwar Sadat was assassinated by people from his own community.

Yitzhak Rabin led what can only be described as the peace movement within his own government and made very significant strides toward resolving a number of the major issues. Within months, at a peace rally, he was assassinated by a member of his community.

We could stop and look at those two incidents and say that there is no hope, that every time there is a step forward, there is an assassination or violence breaks out. However, if we look at the whole history over the last 54 years, the reality is there have been steps forward.

I can remember when I was graduating from law school. At that time the PLO seemed to be a minor group on the world stage off fighting for its homeland. The reality 20-odd years later is that it was there, it was in its homeland. There have been very significant steps since the fighting that broke out in 1948. To say there is no hope is to be cynical and pessimistic.

There is a role that Canada needs to play at this time, right now, this week, this month. We need to say that we will do whatever we can to foster that hope, to continue the process, to achieve that security we promised, and I believe guaranteed, with all our support to Israel and to the Palestinians so that they can exist in secure settings and in peace.

I want to reiterate the importance of the things we have to do. Major reconstruction will be required. We have to provide all the facilities that we are capable of as a country around the negotiations that will have to be carried out.

I will finish by saying that as a country, we have to continue to say to Israel “You are wrong. We are supportive of you but you are wrong on this. Withdraw from the occupied territory”. Equally we have to say and say it forcefully “We condemn the use of suicide bombers”.

We have a role to play. Given our ability to do that, we can continue to foster at least some hope in that area of the world that is so troubled.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

11:35 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario


Elinor Caplan LiberalMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this important debate and I am proud to be part of a government that is working to help de-escalate one of the most dangerous situations the world has faced for many years. We, Canada, condemn the cowardly terror bombings of innocents. While we support Israel's right to defend itself we, like our American friends, have called upon Israel to withdraw from Palestinian cities.

Let us make no mistake. Canada is a friend to Israel. Canada was one of the first countries to recognize the state of Israel in 1948. We have been steadfast in our support for its legitimate right to exist within safe and secure borders, just as we have been supportive of the aspirations of the Palestinians to a viable, secure and democratic state.

Good friends need to talk straight to each other. Our foreign affairs minister has done just that and I congratulate him. Straight talk is what good friends are for.

There are people here and outside the Chamber who would have Canada take a stronger position, favouring one side or the other. Cheerleaders are not helpful. Canada is a player on the world stage. We should never be simply cheerleaders, particularly not in a situation filled with such horror, violence and despair. That is not the Canadian way. Nor are fire bombings of synagogues or defaced mosques. Such recurring acts around the world, and sadly even here in Canada, are reminders of hate and fear. Obviously and sadly we have not learned from the lessons of history.

There are those in this country who would use the events in the Middle East to spread hate and fear in Canada. We must never let those who carry hate in their hearts succeed. We believe that freedom from terror can only be brought about at the negotiating table. Peace has never entered a doorway with a pipe bomb or a room through the barrel of a gun.

In all the positions and actions we have taken Canada's goal has been to contribute to peace. Over many years Canada has had a balanced approach in the Middle East. That is why we helped remove the infamous Zionism equals racism resolution at the United Nations. That is why we spoke out against those who tried to dishonour history and smear the state of Israel at the recent Durban conference. That is why Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Peres and President Katzav have repeatedly thanked Canada for its support.

Even now Canada's delegation to the United Nations human rights convention in Geneva is working to ensure that Israel is not wrongly singled out in the international forum.

Canada has always tried to be helpful in the Middle East. We are a small country but we play an important role as peacekeeper and peacemaker. We are respected on the world stage. We are very often called upon to act as a go-between and a facilitator.

On a personal level I know that I and many Canadians are worried about the safety of our friends and family. I assure my constituents in the riding of Thornhill that their concerns and their hopes are understood, expressed and heard.

Canada believes and I believe that all people have a right to peace and security and should never have to live under a threat of terror. These are the principles that must guide us in these difficult days ahead.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

11:40 p.m.


Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, 52 years ago today, on April 9, 1948, the Deir Yassin massacre took place. During a whole day on April 9, 1948, Jewish soldiers killed a vast number of Palestinians in a cold and premeditated way.

This is what Israeli author Simha Flapan wrote in The Birth of Israel , and I quote:

Referring to the attackers, it read:

--lined men, women and children up against the walls and shot them...the ruthlessness of the attack on Deir Yassin shocked Jewish and world opinion alike, drove fear and panic into the Arab population, and led to the flight of unarmed civilians from their homes all over the country.

The Deir Yassin massacre, as scores of others that took place during the so-called Israeli War of Independence in Lydda, Ramley, Doueimah, Qibya, Kafr Kassem, all the expulsions, the destruction of homes, summary arrests, torture and mutilation, all these acts of violence perpetrated more than half a century ago against Palestinians by the founders of Israel, have they brought peace and security to Israel? No, they have not.

All the territories that have been confiscated and occupied by Israel since 1967, all the settlements built in the occupied territories over the past 30 years in blatant violation of international law, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 causing the death of tens of thousands of innocent victims and several billion dollars in damages, the Sabra and Shatila massacres under Sharon, all these illegal and criminal violent acts, have they brought peace and security to Israel? The answer is no.

We can rest assured that the terror campaign waged by Israel right now against scores of Palestinian town will not secure peace and security. On the contrary, Sharon and his army are sowing more hatred and determination among their victims.

By turning a deaf hear to the UN security council, the American government, the European Union, the Vatican and indeed the whole world, Sharon and his associates are turning Israel into a rogue state, a state that has no respect for friends or foes, a state that relies solely on the use of brutal force for its survival.

This strategy will lead nowhere and, unfortunately, it will backfire against its authors and its supporters in the Middle East and throughout the world. There will not be security for Israel and there will not be peace in the region until Israel withdraws from the territories it has occupied since 1967, until it recognizes the right of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees to return and until issues such as Jerusalem, the settlements, water and many more are solved in a fair and equitable manner through negotiation.

I invite those who are searching for the cause of the acts of desperation and violence committed by some Palestinians to look closely at the unbearable reality of the occupation that has been going on for decades and the terror it creates every day for these people.

We can and we must condemn acts of violence that make innocent civilian victims, but we must do it for both sides: for the Palestinian suicide bombers, but also for the Israeli troops and Israeli settlers who also kill Palestinian civilians.

But most importantly, we must do whatever we can to find a political solution to the problems that cause all this violence instead of making them worse.

On February 3 Chairman Arafat published his vision of peace in the New York Times . Let me quote him:

First let me be very clear. I condemn the attacks carried out by terrorist groups against Israeli civilians. These groups do not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations for freedom. They are terrorist organizations. I am determined to put an end to their activities. No degree of oppression and no level of desperation can justify the killing of innocent civilians.

What did Israel do in response to Arafat's condemnations and commitments? It isolated Arafat, it deprived him of all his means, it humiliated him and it confined him to Ramallah. Israel ignored the peace proposals put forward by the Saudi Arabians and adopted by the Arab summit in Beirut. Sharon challenged the whole world, he fired on ambulances, churches, mosques, to the point where one could believe that he is looking for some kind of final solution to the Palestinian issue.

According to today's Jerusalem Post , even Shimon Peres has said that the Israeli army's operations in the Jenin refugee camp were a massacre. Even Israel's dear friend and close ally, President Bush, has said “Enough is enough”.

Canada's official position is clear: the violence between the two sides must stop, and Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories. We support UN resolutions 1397 and 1402, the Tenet plan and the Mitchell report. We object to unilateral actions, such as the settlements, that could adversely affect future negotiations. In my opinion, we must consider, as additional measures, recalling of our ambassador to Israel for consultations, and suspending or reducing our economic and free trade activities with Israel.

We must also consider taking part in an international mission responsible for obtaining an immediate ceasefire, assessing the damage suffered by the parties and getting the negotiations back on track. We must consider strengthening our humanitarian assistance programs for the victims of these barbaric acts.

I will conclude by reminding the House that the day that is about to end in a few minutes is dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust, and I join all the hon. members who, in the course of this debate, have condemned recent acts of anti-semitism committed in Canada or elsewhere. In my opinion, it is not by targeting Jewish cemeteries, synagogues or people of Jewish origin that will make progress on this issue, quite the contrary.

I would also ask our friends of Jewish origin or religion to distance themselves from the current strategy of the Sharon government, which is based on brute force and fait accompli.

As Canadians, regardless of our political allegiance, our origin or our religion, we have something more important to do than to side with the Israelis or the Palestinians: we have to side with peace, with a just peace resulting from an honourable compromise between the parties. We must dare to act purposefully, with the support of the international community, to trigger a negotiated solution, a solution that will ensure the recognition, in a safe environment, of the Palestinian and Israeli states. We must do so before the situation degenerates into an international conflict, the consequences of which would be unpredictable.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

11:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting evening as members on all sides of the House have entered into the debate to discuss a very difficult and tragic set of circumstances occurring in the Middle East in and around Jerusalem, the Holy City, the city cherished by three of the world's largest religions.

As I have I have entered into the debate rather late, I think we have heard just about everything already. I see the minister agrees with me. I compliment the minister for staying through all these long hours of debate.

It has been an evening to consider the terrible events that are happening: the conflict and bloodshed, the bombs, the rockets, the bullets and the tanks. These are not pleasant things to describe and they are certainly horrors to live through.

We heard members describe the history of the Middle East beginning in 1948. We heard members describe the war in 1948. As Israel announced its declaration of independence it was attacked simultaneously by at least five surrounding nations. We heard about war in 1956 and again in 1967, the so-called six day war. We heard about 1973 when Israel was attacked on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, the day of atonement, when Israeli's are at home, buses are not running and transportation is down. It is the day when Israelis consider their eternal relationship with God and their future in the coming year.

We heard about the war in 1982 relating to the invasion, as it was called, into south Lebanon. I did not hear it tonight but it may have gone back even further to 1917 with the Lord Balfour declaration which talked about a Jewish homeland. A modern miracle took place in 1948 when a people, a nation, which had not been a nation on its own terrain for many centuries, even millennia, re-appeared.

We heard horrors tonight about suicide bombers, about desperate people and about a young, beautiful Palestinian girl strapping a bomb to herself to blow people up. One might not be able contemplate the kind of horror that would drive a person to do such a thing to themselves and to others. We heard descriptions of the horrible event that happened in Netanya. While people were celebrating passover, the day on which Jewish people gather to celebrate their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, as we read in the Bible, a suicide bomber blew them up. These are horrible things to contemplate.

I did not hear it tonight but it was also shocking to hear on the news just recently that during passover the ancient blood libel was still being perpetrated by some haters of Israel. Some Jewish members in the House tonight talked how they gather in their homes with their families during passover to remember events and to celebrate the season. I find it outrageous that others would portray this celebration as one where Jewish people actually kill the children of Christians or Muslims and drink their blood. It is outrageous to think that this kind of blood libel is still being spread, as it has been recently in the press, by some who have chosen to make enemies and will not be placated. This kind of hatred is hard to understand.

We heard reference to many of the leaders involved in this dispute, which has gone on for so many years, and references to Mr. Sharon, the prime minister. We heard one member call Mr. Sharon an expansionist for his incursions going back to the 1982 experience and now with what is happening in the territories.

We heard descriptions of our fight against terrorism that the world engaged in after the shocking events of September 11 that affected everyone certainly in this country and I think around the world. We can only contemplate the kind of minds that would consider commandeering an aircraft and slamming it into a building occupied by thousands of people and leading to thousands of deaths including the deaths of those who perpetrated the crimes.

Canada's response to September 11, as the United States mobilized for a war against terrorism, was to stand alongside our American neighbours and British colleagues to combat terrorism on an international scale and to bring this scourge of terrorism to an end. After all the months since September 11 and the mobilization that followed thereafter, that operation is still underway, chasing al-Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan and even the contemplated actions against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Yet when Israel responds to the terrorist and suicide bombings it is expected to deal with that in a matter of days and pull out. We heard some members equate that to a double standard but I think we can all agree that it is a horrible situation.

I do not think there are any easy answers. One of the solutions presented today was that Canada should call for everyone to just stop fighting, that Israel should pull out and that the Palestinians should stop bombing people. I also heard members suggest that we are respected internationally and that we have such respect on the international scene that some people actually think the fighting would stop if our Prime Minister would go over there. It is nice to contemplate these things and suggest it might be that way but I do not think the solutions will come that easily. This is a very complicated conflict that has gone on for a long time.

We heard reference to Oslo, to Mr. Rabin and to Mr. Arafat. We heard talk of 200,000 settlers since the Oslo process began. One member suggested that the solution would be for a multinational security force to go in and separate the parties. Another member suggested the solution would be to declare Jerusalem an international city. The member from Burnaby talked about his recent experiences in Ramallah as he tried to put himself between the fighting forces, somewhat naively thinking that might somehow bring about a resolution.

I want to share with members some of my own experiences over the last 20 years. It has been nearly 20 years since my first trip to Israel and the Middle East. I had the privilege of travelling numerous times to the Holy Land, to Egypt, to what we call Israel today. I have travelled through Jordan and into Lebanon. On one occasion I drove right through what some call the trouble areas of today in a rented Israeli car. I drove through Jenin, through Nablus, through Ramallah and up to Jerusalem from Galilee. I was glad to have had that experience in the early eighties. Although it was under Israeli control at the time, it was possible for me as a tourist in a rented car to drive safely through those cities.

I have been in Bethlehem many times with tour groups. I have led many tourists through the Middle East in my former life, another era when I lived back here in Ontario before moving to the west coast. I had time at that time in my career to take tourists to Israel and to the Middle East. We used to go regularly to Bethlehem. The shops were busy and people were employed. The shopkeepers were always trying to draw our members into their shops, and they were prosperous and drove Mercedes. The employees at the four and five star hotels we stayed in were mostly Arab people who came from the surrounding areas of Jerusalem, or what we would call today the West Bank area or Judea.

It was quite possible and peaceful to go to Bethlehem. Our tour buses loaded and unloaded around the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square where the bullets had been flying. We went through the very low door into that great and ancient church, probably one of the oldest surviving churches in the world. It survived the period of Suleiman the Magnificent and the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem. They did not destroy that one. Interestingly enough they found pictures of the Magi on the front of the church and it is believed that was the reason they did not destroy that church as were so many others during that period in history. This area of terrain has quite a history.

I come from Vancouver Island and the state we are talking about is smaller than the island I live on. It is hard to consider having enemies who would bomb, shoot or fly rockets living in such close proximity. It is one thing to sit in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver or the big cities in the west and talk about separating these people but it is another thing to realize the very close proximity, the small distances involved and the geographic challenges that presents.

The issue in the Middle East is very complicated. I can describe to members an experience I had in 1990 while visiting an Arab pastor whom I had met in North America. He invited me to share with his congregation on a Sunday evening. This was in 1990 during the period of the first intifada. While I was sharing with the congregation, which consisted of about 25 or 30 young people, in came three men wearing ski mask like hoods over their heads. One of them carried an olive branch, one carried the outlawed PLO flag at the time and the other one carried a picture of a slain man from the village who had been killed in an altercation with Israeli forces earlier that week.

They came in during the service while I was talking and the pastor was interpreting into Arabic. They placed these things in front of the pulpit, turned around, stood for a moment and then walked out. I waited and no one said anything so I went on with my remarks. Afterward I asked what this meant. It meant that if Israeli forces were to enter the church at that point and see the emblems placed there, they would assume it was a PLO meeting because PLO emblems were present. Since the soldiers would not know what was going on they could have shut the church down permanently. On the other hand, if the pastor had removed the emblems anyone in the church could have been an informer and the pastor would have been found later with his throat cut. I would say that this is the kind of difficulty and pressure that our Arab friends and brothers are under in this difficult conflict.

On another occasion I visited Jerusalem in 1996 during the bus bombings. One of the favourite targets at that time was the number 18 bus in Jerusalem. In Hebrew the numbers in the letters are also numbers. In Hebrew the number 18 spells chai , which is the word for life. The terrorists liked to target the number 18 bus as their depiction of what life should be for Israelis under those conditions.

During that time I was able to contact a teacher I had met on numerous occasions. She was very upset because one of the students in her class had lost family members in that bus bombing. I tried to arrange a meeting but because she was so upset she was not sure her and her husband could make it. A day or so later she invited me to speak to her class which I did shortly after the bombing. I did not know what I could say as a Canadian that would bring peace to these people except to say that we needed to see a change of heart on both sides as it was a spiritual conflict.

A lot has been said tonight. I do not believe that most Muslims are terrorists and I hope our friends and neighbours understand this. After the events of September 11 many members of the Muslim community have expressed their outrage and dismay at what some people who profess their religion have done. I do not believe most Muslims are terrorists and I do not believe most Israelis want to kill Arabs. I think most people really do want peace.

I heard one of my colleagues tonight describe the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem, stations I visited on the Via Dolorosa with my tour groups on numerous occasions as I went through the Arab souk or market. I have also visited the Arab souk in Hebron.

I will share a word with hon. members because sometimes there is good advice in ancient writings. This is from the ancient prophet Zachariah. It was written about 500 years before Christ. It says:

The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

That is a sobering scripture. There are no easy solutions to the conflict but we might caution all nations to handle the issue carefully and delicately. We might consider an ancient scripture in Genesis 12:3 which says:

And I will bless those that bless thee, and I will curse those that curse thee--

There is another scripture I like to remember. Psalm 122 says “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee.”

The battle will not be easily solved by natural means or politics. It is a spiritual battle. It is a conflict. We will need to see a change in heart. Only a change in heart will allow people to put aside hatred and again reach out to find a prospect of peace.

All hon. members would do well in our political considerations to heed the advice of the scriptures. I heard others mention tonight that we should pray for Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat. We should pray for all those caught in the conflict. We should pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

12:05 a.m.


Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West—Mississauga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it may be surprising but after nine years this is the first time I have participated in a debate. I was not sure if I had to stand.

I will begin by saying how proud I am of our Minister of Foreign Affairs for taking a firm position. He has expressed our disgust and contempt for the cowards who strap bombs to young men and women and send them to their deaths, taking innocent Israelis with them. I am also proud that he has stood firm in demanding Mr. Sharon withdraw from the illegally occupied territories and immediately implement a ceasefire.

Everyone has started by talking about history. I am a generic Canadian. I was not very old when a movie called Judgment at Nuremberg came out. What it did to my sensitivities as a human being is something I have gone forward with in the past.

When we hear about human rights abuses the first feeling we have is a terrible pity for the victims. Then comes anger for those who perpetrated the crimes. However when that is gone, in the end we feel shame. We feel shame that we are a species who can do these kinds of things to each other.

No one in the world, not one race or religion, has a monopoly on everything that is good or everything that is bad. When we are looking to blame one side more than the other we are mistaken. Israelis, Palestinians, Canadians, Christians, Jews and Muslims are all the same. None of us have a monopoly on goodness. None of us have a monopoly on evil.

My experience in Palestine began in the elections for the Palestinian Authority. We walked among Palestinians in Gaza for 15 days. There was no infrastructure. There were no street lights. There was no proper sewage. There was no fresh water. People lived in cement buildings that were almost like army barracks.

At 11 o'clock at night, by the light of the moon only, we walked alone among these people. They were very trusting people. They were devastated by the loss of Prime Minister Rabin. They had put a great deal of faith and hope in Mr. Rabin for a future in an independent Palestine. They were cynical about their choices in the election. However all in all there was a sense of optimism. Mr. Arafat was elected. In spite of the numbers I am not sure he was elected with a great deal of enthusiasm because he had been a violator of his own people's human rights.

We visited the mental health centres that were supported by Canada. The doctors there explained to us that if suspected Palestinian terrorists were arrested, taken to Israeli prisons and abused or tortured they still had a sense of pride when they came out. They had a sense they had done it for a cause. However when Arafat arrested his own people on mere suspicion and executed them without trial there was no pride. Those arrested did not understand why their own people would do it to them.

When we left Palestine I sensed that people there believed we cared. They believed we would follow through after observing the elections to see that it was a continuous democratic process. They believed laws and systems of justice like we have in our country would be set up.

However we ignored the situation and let it continue. We let them down. I say we generically meaning we the western world, those of us who proclaim that we care so much. We did not follow through. We did not pressure Israel to cease building in the new settlement centres. We did not insist that settlers be moved out of the Palestinian territory, and the frustration grew.

The children involved in the first intifada skeptically accepted that there was something better in the future for them. Can members imagine what it would be like to live in a Palestinian refugee camp and have a new settlement centre down the street not less than walking distance away? Let us imagine our children playing in backed up sewers when it rained because the infrastructure was not there and the fresh water went to settlement centres.

This is not a criticism. It is perhaps an insight into the frustration Palestinians have felt. There has been no justice for them and no guarantee of education. Their trade and businesses all depend on accessibility and being able to get across the borders. However we have let it go. I do not think there is a person in the Chamber who does not absolutely insist on security for the Israelis. However we must look at the same thing for the Palestinians.

We are going to Palestine and the source of our trip has been criticized. Now more than ever it is necessary for us to go. Saddam Hussein has made a token offer that seems to strike at the west. It will not hurt the west but it will create another false hero and false hope for young Palestinians. They need to know people in the west and in Europe are there to offer support and guidance for a peaceful solution.

I am not sure Arafat or Sharon can deliver peace. We will need to have international observers. However as in every situation where governments are behaving badly, we must first separate governments from people. It is the people who are suffering for the ambitions of a few.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

12:10 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, this conflict is 4,000 years old. It is really a battle between two aboriginal peoples over the same piece of real estate. If we want a fresh perspective on this conflict, my suggestion is that we read I or II Kings or Ezra or Chronicles in the Old Testament. The ebb and flow of ancient battles read something similar to the headlines of the Globe and Mail . These ancient foes have had claims over these lands which stretch back into antiquity and defy equitable or logical allocation. Each group points to various scriptures which justify their claim and drive them to actions and reactions which perpetuate this cycle of violence.

This violence has never fully abated. About 2,000 years ago the Israeli tribes, the Benjamites and the Judites were exiled by the forces of the Roman Empire. The Diaspora spread throughout the civilized world where Jewish communities lived as smaller entities in larger societies. They then start to return after an absence of almost 2,000 years at the beginning of the 20th century, with migration at its peak immediate post World War II. Their neighbours and ancient foes were somewhat less than welcoming and fought pitched battles against the exiles.

Fierce determination, western acquiescence and a powerful patron in the form of the United States allowed this group of desperate peoples to re-establish a Jewish state over the objections of its residents. It has not been a peaceful or harmonious 50 years of Israeli statehood. The current round of conflict is merely a particularly virulent expression of this ancient cycle of violence.

No one outside the protagonists would particularly care about this latest expression of violence except that it is unique and that it has the ability to draw the rest of the world into its vicious orbit. I had the privilege of travelling there last year. One can readily see that an attractive life can be fashioned out of these ancient hills and why this land holy to many religions acts as a powerful magnet to many. However my first and overwhelming impression was that it was a very tiny nation, an insignificant nation of no real consequence to anyone.

Possibly I am used to the wide open spaces of Canada, but it struck me how this small, little country, not much bigger than a trip from Ottawa to Toronto, divided among six million people plus millions of displaced Palestinians, should be so sought after. It seemed strange. It is a tiny, insignificant spit of land which should be of no consequence to anybody. Yet through ancient forces barely comprehensible to the modern mind it has the capacity to draw the world into its orbit of conflict like no other place of conflict on the face of the earth. If a similar conflict were located anywhere else no one would really care, but this conflict is located in Israel and the conflict threatens to unleash much larger spheres of tension around the world.

The west is confronted by Islamism. Terrorism connects societies to each other which would ordinarily have a much more limited connection. We saw this past week where the Iraqi nation says it will no longer ship oil. Everyone keeps an eye on this conflict because they will be drawn into it against their own will.

What is Canada to do? To be candid, Canada will necessarily be a bit player. I am sure there are those, even those within our government, who say otherwise, but the brutal truth of the matter is that Canada has virtually limited influence over the protagonists.

We saw the bizarre spectacle of President Bush virtually ordering Prime Minister Sharon out of the occupied territories yesterday and getting virtually nothing for his troubles or, more accurate, partial pullouts from two small towns. It is clear that Mr. Arafat listens to no one, least of all Canada. One has to wonder whether it crosses Mr. Arafat's mind these days that the peace deal engineered between he and Ehud Barak a couple of years ago does not look particularly good right now. The Israelis have a cynical saying about Mr. Arafat. He never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The land for peace deal certainly must look a lot better than huddling in a bunker.

What can Canada do that is meaningful? If there were a peace process certainly Canada would support it, but the sad fact is that while suicide bombers do their deadly work and while Israeli forces attack Palestine cities and towns there is no peace, let alone a peace process. It is very difficult to see how Canada can make a meaningful contribution about a peace process other than to plead with the parties such as in debates like the one tonight.

When we were there last May we met Palestinians and Israelis alike. The irony was that the first three paragraphs of any briefing, be it a Palestinian or an Israeli briefing, sounded exactly the same. Then at some mysterious point the briefing went 180 degrees in the opposite direction. One wondered whether they were talking about the same conflict.

Two issues seem to preclude peace in the short and medium term. The first is the persistent indoctrination of Palestinian children that Jews are inherently evil. We were provided with documentation that showed Jews in a racist light. It was part of the school curriculum. It is pretty hard to see how peace will emerge from systemic hatred where children are taught to hate.

The second issue was Jewish settlements on disputed lands. There can be no more visible symbol of one's impotence than living in a refugee camp in a valley and looking up at one's ancestral home being bulldozed and replaced by a modern subdivision and occupied by people from California or wherever.

The settlers we talked to were not interested in peace. In fact they wanted a fight with the winner take all. I cannot image how that attitude will contribute to peace.

Canada stands for peace. It speaks forcefully in a variety of forums in favour of peace and stands ready to contribute to peace if asked. However Canada's voice seems to be lost in the cacophony of war. Peace is the only solution. No one will win this conflict. The protagonists will lose. The so-called winners will lose. The losers will lose. We will all lose. Mr. Sharon should pull back from the precipice. Mr. Arafat should get some control over his people before it is too late for us all.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

April 9th, 2002 / 12:20 a.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who seems quite happy to do so, as he has a lot of things to say about this conflict.

I thank my colleague from Mercier for this opportunity to comment the terrible human tragedy unfolding in the Middle East, the occupied territories, Palestine. I would like to provide a brief historical overview. It is important to understand why the Palestinian people is so desperate, and how the actions of men, women and young girls who are blowing themselves up may be justifiable. These actions are called terrorism, but they may also be called desperate acts. This despair has historical roots. History shows how this people has been humiliated over the years. These things must be known .

I do not have much time and I know that I cannot give a detailed historical overview of the situation, but I would like to mention a few significant dates and events.

In 1920, there were 180,000 people living in Palestine, of which 58,000 were Jews. The issue for the Jews in those days was essentially one of numbers. This is why today there is such a move in favour of massive settlements. The Zionist organization is in charge of allocating land. By law Jewish settlers are prohibited from hiring non-Jewish farm workers.

Such a practice could be likened to apartheid. Cohabitation between Palestinians and Jewish immigrants was very difficult. Already in 1920 there was violence, and riots broke out. Resentment started building among Palestinian Arabs. Their efforts towards self-determination were consistently turned down. This was in 1920.

Today we realize that the Palestinians are facing the same difficult situation, which is even more difficult to solve. Aa a result of riots and escalating violence over the years, Great Britain decided in 1939 to carry out its own policy on its own. It changed a few things, including the immigration policy regarding Israelis. Immigration was capped at 18,000 a year.

This was the turn of the Jews to be unhappy. In 1939, the World War II broke out, and Great Britain pulled out its troops from Palestine. They were to be replaced by Jewish troops. The Jewish agency, an Israeli division of the Zionist organization, became a state within a state. It was the embryo of the future state of Israel.

At this time, a number of terrorist organizations were formed and they would be responsible for numerous attacks designed to weaken British control until it proclaimed Israel's independence. Official spokespersons from the Jewish community condemned these organizations, but no measures were taken to prevent them from operating.

Today the same criticisms can be heard. Israelis reproach Arafat today for the same thing. They demand that he denounce the acts of terrorism that are currently taking place.

Following this, Great Britain's position is untenable. Terrorist activity increases. British troops are expected to withdraw on August 1, 1948, and Palestine is to be divided into eight zones; 56% of the Palestinian territory is to go to the Jews, but they make up only 32% of the population.

History has demonstrated that there is an imbalance. Jews tried to destabilize the Palestinian population. The UN has not yet formed its armed forces at this time and must content itself with sitting by and watching.

The moment the British army leaves the territory, the Israeli army occupies it. Palestinians flee the Israeli army, civilians are killed. In 1949, Israel is admitted into the UN, but must comply with certain UN resolutions, including the refugees' right to return and the division of the territory according to the 1947 partition plan; Palestine is then said to have yet to be established.

Israel did not comply with the UN resolutions regarding its territory and the refugees' right to return, and has not to this day. In 1948, Israel adopted the Area of Jurisdiction and Power Ordinance, which decreed that all Israeli laws would also apply in Palestinian territories deemed occupied by the Defence army.

The reason that I have provided some historical context is to better explain how the Palestinian people have been trapped and oppressed over the years by a massive occupation, and by a lack of any ability to develop as a people.

The immigration policy continued until quite recently, even post-Oslo, when the Palestinians were supposed to be allowed certain powers and there was supposed to be a gradual implementation of independence for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel continued its settlement policy, and huge building projects were undertaken, in contravention of international law and UN resolutions.

I could give figures to demonstrate how the Jewish settlements began to take root just about everywhere in the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza. This settlement policy put one of the fundamental principles of the peace negotiations on shaky ground.

Today we might be able to understand how the Palestinians feel they have their backs to the wall, with no financial resources. What is happening now is that the international community will get involved. We have seen how prevalent the demonstrations have become. In invading the occupied territories now, in the way this is being done, human rights are being trampled upon.

As we have seen, people everywhere, people in Montreal, Quebec City, here in Ottawa, and elsewhere in Canada, cannot accept the destruction of infrastructures, the destruction of human lives, the trampling on human rights in this way.

The Palestinian people must be given some signs of hope. They cannot be left as they are, without resources. There are some hopeful signs, because there are also Jews who understand what the Palestinians are going through. I am thinking of the reservists who are serving in the Army. I am thinking of some Jewish intellectuals. I am also thinking of the Arab community, which has provided the Palestinian population with support. This daily provocation must stop. The Palestinians must regain their dignity. Their suffering must stop. Their rights and freedoms must no longer be flouted.

We must all work together in this. What we are asking is for Canada to send this occupation force to Palestine so that it may help both parties to resume negotiations in order to rebuild bridges.

In a few weeks, a mission will be going to Palestine, and I will be a member of it. We will then be able to see the situation. I know that the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas has seen what was happening in Palestine. What is going on there is totally unacceptable.

My reason for this historical overview is that we must understand how the people of Israel have developed at the expense of another people. This was not the initial intention of the agreement; there was no intention to trample on the rights of the Palestinians. I believe that all the resolutions on the table have not been fully respected. We will therefore have to start from square one if these peoples are to finally come to experience peace, and this applies to Jews and Palestinians alike.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

12:30 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech. I wish her the best of luck in her not entirely parliamentary mission. There will be MPs, but I understand that it is an NGO mission with the Canadian Palestine House in Toronto.

This evening, I wish to say how sorry I am that we are forced to address this in the House. This is not the first time that we have talked about foreign policy. One cannot sit in a parliament such as this and not address such things. However, it is, I believe, the first time we have done so with a feeling of urgency and, goodness knows, indignation.

The party to which I belong has chosen not to engage in a policy of assigning blame. As a caucus, we have decided to recognize that the Palestinian state must be viable and have secure borders, and to say that the State of Israel has the same right.

However, some distinctions must be made about events. First of all, it should be clear from history that while we now recognize the right of the Palestinian and Israeli communities to have viable states, the fact remains that historically the Palestinians have suffered injustices.

I am grateful to the hon. member for Québec for reminding us of this. I simply wish to remind the House of two facts. The first is that, in the 19th century, when Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, spoke about a national homeland for the Jews, he had two possible scenarios in mind. The first was for this homeland to be created in Argentina; the second was for it to be created in Palestine, sacred and historic land of the Israelis. Palestine was, at that time, an integral part of the Ottoman Empire. What must be said, and kept in mind, is that there was a policy of massive immigration. The hon. member for Québec pointed this out.

What I wish to point out is that between 1920 and 1929, there were 90,000 Israeli immigrants. Between 1930 and 1939, in the troubled context before World War II, there were 2,320,000. We must continue to bear in mind that, despite the decision of the international community to allow and to encourage the co-existence of these two states, the fact remains that historically the Palestinians have, to varying degrees, been driven out of their homeland.

I also wish to point out that the United Nations remain the best forum for multilateralism, the best forum for dialogue. Over the past two years, three UN resolutions have asked the Israelis to withdraw from the occupied territories, and not just the way it was done in 1967. In March of last year and twice this year, the Israelis were asked to leave Ramallah; they were asked to remove their tanks; they were asked to stop keeping Yasser Arafat in custody and in quarantine.

How would we react if we learned that this is happening, in any other context, to a head of state? The Palestinian authority is a state. The 1993 Oslo accords recognized the right of Palestinians to this authority. These accords delegated to the Palestinians a number of powers regarding customs, taxation, education and social affairs.

The Palestinian state does exist. It is based on democratic structures. Yasser Arafat is an authorized spokesperson for the Palestinians. How could we accept that, in any other state recognized by the United Nations, the head of that state, the legitimate spokesperson of that community would be kept in custody, in quarantine, and would be openly threatened physically?

We must recognize that we wish to maintain a dialogue. We are parliamentarians, and I reiterate that the Bloc Quebecois has chosen to avoid assigning blame. It is not a question of attributing 80% of the blame to Israel, or 70% or 65%, or saying that the Palestinians are 5% at blame, or 10% or 15%. We must promote dialogue and put an end to the tensions generated in this region for more than 50 years now.

But there are prerequisite conditions, which include recognizing the fact the Israel has committed acts of aggression and that this aggression must come to an end. This means withdrawing from the occupied territories and the city of Ramallah and stopping attacks against targets that are of strategic importance to the viability of the Palestinian state.

We also recognize that suicide attacks do not help with the dialogue. However, it is important to note that the Israeli state, the Israeli army and the Israeli secret service have the means to destabilize the Palestinian sate, and that this must be stopped.

The Bloc Quebecois, through the member for Mercier, and through all of our critics who have spoken tonight, has outlined the five principles on which our position is based. I listened, from the gym, where I was training, to the speech by the member for Mount Royal, and I know that he is hoping for peace, as is the member for Burnaby--Douglas, just like all members of parliament.

Allow me to repeat these principles: the inalienable right of the State of Israel and Israelis to exist and to exist in peace, in a world where peace, tranquility and civility exist. We also believe in the same right for Palestinians, as well as the right to a viable state in equally peaceful conditions. We urge them to resume dialogue.

In the past, we have come very close to conditions that would allow a peace agreement to be signed. We spoke of the Oslo accords. We know how extremely important these accords were. We spoke of the Wye Plantation deal and we could also mention the Camp David II accords, which the member for Charlesbourg--Jacques-Cartier referred to earlier.

We do not believe that a military confrontation will allow a sustained dialogue and we call for an immediate end to the military approach.

Again, terrorism, whether on the part of the Palestinians or on the part of the Israelis, is unacceptable. We have said it many times and we stand by that statement.

We are also asking all parliamentarians in the House to recognize Yasser Arafat as just as legitimate a head of state as the Prime Minister of this country, Lionel Jospin or Tony Blair. As long as the integrity of Yasser Arafat continues to be challenged, it will not be acceptable. As parliamentarians, we cannot forget that Yasser Arafat is being confined and that open threats have been made with regard to his safety. This is unacceptable.

I think that what happens in the future will depend heavily on Israeli leaders. The goodwill of civilian populations is what gives us hope.

Three years ago, mothers and grandmothers took to the streets in Israel. There is no doubt that they are willing to do it again. It is mostly the leaders, at least in the case of Israel, that have committed acts of aggression, but the civilian population is there to remind them that peace is crucial if this situation is to be resolved.

I am not speaking with the voice of despair, but with the voice of reality because I am convinced that the mission on which the member for Quebec and other parliamentarians will embark, combined with what the international community may do, can bring peace to a world that has been so unfairly deprived of it.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

12:40 a.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Algoma--Manitoulin.

I just have a few things to add to the debate. I do not want to cover the points that were covered by other members, but I think a few words about the media war in the Middle East might be appropriate given that in my previous life I was a senior journalist with the Toronto Star , the Globe and Mail and other newspapers.

In my view, Israel has lost probably one of the most important battles of all and that is the battle for respect from the world. It is not the battle for media attention. It is not that all. It really boils down to the fact that Israel took a very serious step backward in its own interests in this current conflict by banning TV coverage of the war on the West Bank. This sends an unequivocal message to the international media that when a state does that it means that it does not want its military actions covered by the world press. It does not want its military actions to come under the scrutiny of the world.

The media know how to interpret that. The media always interpret that as the country having something to hide. In the case of the incursions into the West Bank, in my own view the Israeli government and Mr. Sharon desperately needed to have that world coverage, to have those TV cameras and reporters go with them into the West Bank if he is going to have any pretensions of justifying taking the war against terror into the Palestinian villages and towns neighbouring Israel.

He did not do that. There is no explanation, really, because what we see now is that the Israeli government gives us video footage from the Israeli defence force of bomb caches and it shows some shooting and fighting, but the world media will inevitably interpret that as propaganda. The difficulty there is that even if it is true, even if the Israeli government is giving us a true picture through its military video coverage of its own fighting on the West Bank, it will not be believed. It shows a catastrophic naiveté on the part of the Israeli government with respect to how the world needs to perceive this kind of conflict.

This naiveté goes back a long time. One of the reasons that I wanted to speak is to draw the attention of those who are following this debate to the fact that Israel has had a long history of controlling the media and trying to control the story that comes out of Israel vis-à-vis its relationships with the Palestinians.

I was the features editor at the Toronto Star in 1979. I had just taken over the job. It was a brand new job for me. The Toronto Star is a very large, world class newspaper organization. It was world class then and it is world class now. Consequently we received a lot of wire copy from around the world and we prided ourselves on our international coverage. It was quite remarkable in those days because it turned out that one could not get a story out of Israel that was not previously vetted by the Israeli government. If the Israeli government, the authorities of the day, did not like the story, then the privileges were withdrawn from the journalist. This would be journalists from Germany, from the United States, from Canada, from wherever. The stories that we got that gave us a picture of what was happening in Israel at the time usually were a result of journalists deliberately going from Israel to Cyprus and filing their stories, or else they would write a story when they were done with their tour of duty in Israel and did not expect to go back.

The irony at that time was that the world press, certainly as I saw it from the Toronto Star, was very sympathetic to Israel's position, because it was not so many years after the six day war in which certainly the sympathy of the world was toward Israel, which seemed about to be overwhelmed by a much more powerful foe, but it is from that time in 1979 to this that the opinion in the international media has more and more gone against Israel as there has been a liberalization of media coverage and we have had more opportunity to see that there are genuine stresses from the Palestinian point of view in the state of Israel.

Now we are getting into a situation where the Israeli government is engaged in what is essentially a civil conflict with people it has lived side by side with for many, many years. As I understand from the television tonight, there is extreme fighting in Jenin but the media is not allowed to attend. The media is not allowed to see it.

The difficulty is that after this is all over, after Israel has withdrawn its troops and has gone back to the normal frontiers of Israel, I am afraid that there will be terrible stories coming out of the West Bank, because I think another thing that perhaps the Israeli government has not appreciated is that times have changed since 1979. Even though we can go into the media headquarters of one of the Palestinian media outlets in Ramallah, as we saw in the National Post today, and destroy all the equipment, and we know why one wants to do that, one wants to limit the story that is coming out while one is engaged in conflict in Ramallah, but this is the age of the camcorder. I think it is extremely naive if the Israeli government, the government of Mr. Sharon, does not think that what is going on in the West Bank right now in Jenin or wherever else is not being recorded.

I am terribly afraid that after Israel withdraws from the West Bank Israelis will see a picture of conflict that will not sit well on world opinion and will reflect badly not only on the Israeli government but on its principal ally, the United States. It is something that I think the Israeli authorities should have thought of more carefully, because it is a cost of engaging in this particular conflict. I should add, just to make sure there is no misunderstanding, that normally during a war certainly the military, the authorities, do attempt to control some of the media distribution. That is primarily so information is not given to the enemy, but in this case there is no enemy there to take advantage of any information that might be released by media coverage because we are dealing with a civil conflict, not an organized enemy state.

Finally, I would like to touch very briefly on this, because I am also very, very concerned about what is happening to the prisoners being taken by the Israelis. There is almost no coverage of this. Where are they going? Are names being taken? Are they being subjected to torture? Are there appropriate NGOs and world organizations overseeing those prisoners or are they being held in some sort of situation like Guantanamo Bay in the United States where they are outside the law? Will we have a situation where, after this is over, after the incursions into the West Bank are completed, people will never come back? Is there any record of the people who have been taken? These are things that are terribly important, regardless of the justification of the Israeli response. I do respect it. It is a terrible horror, these suicide bombings, but if retaliation is not carefully measured in terms of the type of reaction and the opinion it will create from those on the sidelines who want to believe that the cause is justified and that the force is only enough force as required, the reputation of Israel, not just tomorrow but for decades, is at stake here.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

12:50 a.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity both in my office and in the lobby to listen to a number of speeches this evening on this very important subject, including that of my colleague just in front of me. Without exception I have learned something from each of the speeches. Even while within our 10 minute or 20 minute speeches each of us has not been able to cover all the things we wanted to cover or to express all the solutions we think are appropriate, the sum total of what has been said and will be said this evening and into the night will express in a very full way the feelings of Canadians toward this very terrible situation in the Middle East.

I try to imagine the typical constituents in my riding, whether they are retired senior couples or high school students or young families, observing through the media and the news what is going on and trying to make some sense of it all. They hear the reasons from one side for certain activities and actions and they hear the reasons from the other side for that side's actions and responses. None of us, even if we were born there and live in Canada now or whether we visit there a lot or whether we are experts in political science, can really get our heads fully around the depth and despair of this situation. It is far from a simple situation. Whether complex solutions are required or whether it is one simple solution that is required, only time will tell.

The purpose of having a chance to debate this issue in the House is really not so much to disagree on one side or the other about who is right or wrong, because there are rights and wrongs on both sides of the issue. It is like looking at the situation in Northern Ireland. Although it is a very different history, there are still two sides fighting over age-old issues of which most of us have little understanding.

It is my feeling that we and the protagonists tend to spend too much time on the past, on what brought the players to the present situation. Not enough time and consideration are being given to the future, the future being young families, their children and their grandchildren who will inherit this relatively small but important area of the planet, an area that in fact carries within it the roots of three of the world's great religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. We are all related in many ways, but most important, we are related in that way. Our roots are really in the very same small part of the world.

It really is puzzling and mysterious why a place which one would assume would be a beacon of peace in the world, a paradise, a place of religious understanding and tolerance and give and take, is instead a place of seemingly endless fighting. If there is nothing else we can do at this time, then let us bring hope to the present and future generations. I have a strong belief that all the principal protagonists in place right now should leave, not just Mr. Arafat or Mr. Sharon. They both should leave as they are key players and new teams should take over, new teams of leaders who will maybe listen to the people more closely.

I am sure that if we could get a real sense of what the people wanted, it would be peace. While both sides claim a willingness to compromise and come to some kind of a solution, it seems that every time they are brought to the table some reasons on one side or the other are brought to bear and cause such agreements to collapse.

I do not have any magic answers. I just wanted to try to express that for many Canadians, while this is far away and in an area of the world they may not have or may never visit, that this issue is very important. It deals with not only the economic stability of the world when it comes to capitalistic things such as oil, a necessary thing, but a situation like that can too often as we have seen in the past lead to a worse conflict and a spreading of that conflict. That is the last thing any of us want to see happen.

There would be a collective sigh of relief if they all decided to come to terms with the problems. It may be naive for me and others in the House to suggest that because nothing we say will have an impact on the key players in Israel and Palestine. Canada has a history as a peaceful nation and a country willing to help keep the peace. I know our Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister have indicated Canada's willingness to do whatever is reasonable and possible in the circumstances to help bring about peace and hope for the children of Israel and Palestine.

It is tragic, sad and totally unnecessary that young Palestinians have become suicide bombers. It is unacceptable, just as unacceptable in some ways is the disproportionate response of the IDF. I am not nor will I lay blame on one side or the other. I lay blame on all sides. Both sides and the neighbouring countries have the greatest stake in and say about what should happen. I appreciate, and we all should appreciate, the efforts of the United States to bring the parties together but I really cannot imagine a solution being brought in from the outside. We have seen this tried in other places in the world in the past but ultimately it has to be resolved locally. However I agree that monitors and peacekeepers from around the world could help the local players in this tragic situation to come to a solution.

I was impressed with the efforts of some of my parliamentary colleagues who attempted to bring Israeli and Palestinian parliamentarians together at a meeting in Halifax. I thought that was a wonderful initiative. I was pleased it was brought forward by an opposition member. It was warmly received by our foreign affairs minister. Things like that, while they may seem small in the grand scheme of things, can have an impact.

The protagonists need to see that it is possible to run a country where a parliament is made up of people who were born in the Middle East, maybe of Arab descent or of Jewish descent, a parliament made up of people from all kinds of backgrounds who can debate and deal with issues in a parliament that allows for the consideration of other points of view. We really need to see democracy working in a real way, on both sides of the fence, in Israel and Palestine.

As I said earlier, both sides have their guilty ones but both sides have many innocents who deserve much better leadership than they are getting now. Messrs. Sharon and Arafat have been protagonists for a long time. I know it is naive on my part, but that is why I suggested that if they put ego aside, agreed to step down simultaneously with their key supporters and let a new leadership take over, it would be a grand step in the right direction.

I did not make this speech to offer any great solutions, but I do want to add my support to this government's efforts to beseech the Israeli army to be pulled out as soon as is practical from the occupied areas and that Mr. Arafat speak clearly to his people in their language that terrorism through suicide bombings must stop. We must not let the terrorists dictate the agenda there or anywhere else in the world.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

1 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, to start with, I would like to thank my colleague from Mercier for requesting this emergency debate, and the Chair for allowing it to happen. Today we are witnessing a spectacular escalation of the bloody conflict which has been dragging on for months in the Middle East and which is threatening to set the whole area ablaze.

We are directly involved, especially as this conflict seems to be spreading here in the repugnant form of unfortunate acts of hatred and intolerance. It was incumbent on us as parliamentarians to debate this sensitive issue in order to identify the kind of action we would like Canada to undertake in support of the international community's efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiating table and resume the peace process without delay .

In 1818, when Franz Gruber composed the popular Christmas carol Silent Night, Holy Night , a solemn and gentle hymn, little did he know that the little peaceful village of Bethlehem he was referring too would one day become the scene of a bloody conflict pitting brother against brother: the descendants, according to the traditions of the Bible and the Koran, of Isaac and Ishmael, both sons of the same patriarch Abraham. However, according to the prophet Micah, in Bethlehem was to be born a son to the illustrious house of King David, who, with his message of love, was going to finally change the course of the history of mankind.

The Holy Land, the birthplace of the three great monotheistic religions in the world, was torn by violence under the combined influence of mistrust, century old hatred and escalating provocation set on a background of seemly incompatible territorial claims. This tiny territory one can cross from north to south as rapidly as one can go from Quebec City to Ottawa, is the subject of competing claims on the part of the Israelis and the Palestinians, who both base their claims on historical and traditional grounds.

Indeed, it is true that Palestine's history is inextricably tied to that of Judaism, but also to that of Islam. After leaving Egypt and settling in the land of Canaan, more than 3,000 years ago, the Hebrews conquered Palestine and occupied it until they were dispersed by the Romans, around the year 135, as a reprisal following the second revolt against Rome. Around the year 630, Palestine fell under Muslim domination. Except for a few short periods during which it changed hands as a result of rare victories by the crusaders, Palestine remained firmly Muslim until 1919, when the British mandate was created.

With the growing number of Jewish immigrants, the political will to create a Jewish state in Palestine began to take form and the tensions between the two communities began to surface, before culminating in 1948 with the proclamation of the state of Israel.

The creation of the state of Israel was made possible through the combined effect of an international community that was embarrassed by the inertia and the passive complacency that it had shown when the nazi regime was committing innumerable crimes against Europe's Jewish communities—the international community was clearly trying to redeem itself—and the weariness of the British authorities responsible for implementing the mandate in Palestine, because they were constantly harassed by Zionist terrorist organizations.

The proclamation of the state of Israel was a painful process, since the Palestinian territory was dismembered. Incidentally, this was a solution proposed by Canada, but that the Arab populations who had been living there for centuries categorically refused to accept. As soon as it was created, the state of Israel had to fight for its survival by facing the combined and simultaneous attack of all the neighbouring Arab states.

Since then, Israel has invoked the need to ensure its security to keep extending and increasing its control over all the territories of the former Palestine, this in violation of the will of the international community. Such will was in fact expressed repeatedly in a series of resolutions adopted by the United Nations and asking for the withdrawal of Israel from what is now known as the occupied territories.

This is what created the fertile ground that would lead this region to the deadly spiral of violence that we are currently witnessing. Given the power of the state of Israel and the blatant injustices resulting from the occupation, young disillusioned and fanatic Palestinian activists reach the point where they feel that they have no other option but to commit terrorist acts involving the sacrifice of their own lives, in an attempt to change the situation. This in turn triggers a swift and brutal response on the part of Israel.

Today's international context, with its focus on fighting terrorism, obviously serves as a justification of Israel's harder line.

I want to make something perfectly clear. I have already had the pleasure and privilege of visiting Israel and Palestine on two occasions. Israel is an absolutely fascinating country. Despite its tiny size, its climate and scenery are amazingly diversified and full of contrast, as indeed are its people.

While there I had an opportunity to observe the most noble and also the most base parts of human nature. I had the opportunity to visit the Deganya kibbutz, which is on Lake Galilee. In addition to being the birthplace and childhood home of the redoubtable General Moshe Dayan, it is important to point out that this was the very first kibbutz in Israel.

When we visited the modest kibbutz museum, I was struck by how very young the Russian emigres were who left everything behind in the very early years of the last century to come and found this tiny agricultural co-operative community, which was to serve as a model of development for the country and which shaped the soul of an entire people.

I was in awe to think back to how very little I had accomplished in my carefree and frivolous days at the polyvalente De Montagne, at the same young age at which these young people, probably quite unwittingly, were laying the foundations of the State of Israel.

I was equally in awe during my visit to another of the kibbutzim at the point where the road from Tel Aviv to Gaza along the Mediterranean crosses the road to Beersheba, when I was told that its members had successfully held off the Egyptian army for close to six days before the Israeli army finally managed to drive back the invaders.

What a fine, eloquent example of determination, courage and devotion to country by these farm folk who turned themselves into soldiers to defend their cause.

I am in awe as well at the endurance and determination of this people who, despite the vicissitudes of history and the persecution they have undergone for centuries, have always been able to join forces, remaining faithful to the God of their forefathers, and even reviving the language of those forefathers, which had almost completely disappeared by 1948.

However, I also observed the proliferation of Jewish settlements that literally encircled Palestinian communities and choked them by preventing any expansion and development. For Palestinians, they constitute the hated and blatant symbol of Israeli occupation and the robbing of their lands.

I also observed the hurried construction of Israeli freeways, which disfigure the countryside in the occupied territories and which cut across them in a brutal manner, the only purpose being to allow Jewish settlers to travel between Israel and their settlements without having to go through Palestinian communities.

I saw the border checkpoints Palestinians have to go through in order to travel from one zone to another in their own country, provided, of course, that they have the right permit. This is why most Palestinians cannot visit Islam's third holy site, Haram as-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, in Jerusalem, while tourists from around the world can visit it freely.

I also saw Israel, a constitutional state, a modern democracy, discriminate against its own citizens. While military service is mandatory for Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, with a few exceptions, are officially prohibited.

I was also disheartened to see that a people who have faced so many challenges in building their own state could turn such a blind eye to the most basic aspirations and misfortunes of the Palestinians. If there is one people that should understand better than others the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, it should be the Israelis.

It is important to point out that we would not want to attribute the decisions and actions of a government to all of its citizens. There are people on both sides who hope for peace more than anything else. The hope that the parties will one day reach a lasting peace rests on these people of goodwill.

In the meantime, the situation continues to deteriorate. It is only normal that the State of Israel should wish to ensure its continued existence and its security. However the disproportionate means used, initially a source of consternation, have now become quite simply indecent and intolerable.

Any loss of human life is regrettable, but it must be admitted that the toll is considerably higher on the Palestinian side. The Torah says that he who saves a life saves humanity. Do those who take the lives of so many innocent civilians on both sides commit crimes against humanity? Well might one wonder.

The belligerents are now engaged in a spiral of violence from which they seem unable to extricate themselves and which seems to have as its source the rhetoric used and the strategy put forward by Israel in response to the terrorist attacks.

Rather than going after the terrorist organizations, which are obviously working to undermine the peace efforts and which are beyond the control of the Palestinian Authority, Israel has systematically attacked the latter, expressly calling on it to rein in the terrorists while, at the same time, destroying all its infrastructure and thus limiting its capacity for real action. The effect of this has been to provide the Jewish state with a convenient excuse for further tightening the noose around the occupied territories.

In so doing, Israel has exacerbated the reaction of terrorist organizations, which have renewed the macabre round of attacks with a vengeance, thus setting themselves up for increasingly brutal military reprisals. “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”, said Moses. This seems to have become “eyes for an eye, and teeth for a tooth”.

Israel's customary promptness in protesting vigorously any Palestinian terrorist attack contrasts sharply with the apparent indifference and apathy shown by the Israeli authorities following a bomb attack by an extremist Jewish group in the yard of an Arab school in East Jerusalem. What was the Jewish state's response in this case? “Anti-terrorist terrorism”, coldly concluded the Israeli authorities. Israel has imperturbably pursued its punitive operations in the occupied territories.

But the worst thing of all in this whole business is that Israel's policy has the effect of violating, one after another, all the provisions of the peace accords patiently negotiated between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which had held out the possibility of lasting peace in the region.

The events in recent weeks can lead us to only one conclusion: violence breeds violence. There can therefore be no question of either side trying to resolve this conflict through any sort of violence.

All solutions must begin with political negotiation. Although only the belligerents can achieve the final resolution of the conflict, we must do everything in our power to bring them back to the negotiating table.

We are therefore duty bound to speak out against any behaviour by either party that is contrary to the spirit or the letter of the peace accords and to support the idea of deploying international observers, and possibly an interposition force, to the region.

We must resolutely uphold the provisions of resolutions 1402 and 1397, recently passed by the Security Council of the United Nations. The parties must reach a ceasefire agreement promptly. Israel must withdraw its troops without delay from the occupied territories. President Arafat, who in our opinion cannot be excluded from any process to get the peace process back on track, must reiterate absolutely unequivocally that he condemns any act of terrorism targeting innocent civilians. Perhaps thought needs to be given to creating a buffer zone for a certain set length of time in order to ensure the safety and security of the populations of Israel and of Palestine.

Once these preliminary steps have been taken, it will be the appropriate time to ensure that the parties resume the negotiations that will finally lead to lasting peace in the region.

This being said, we believe that there cannot be any lasting peace without an end to military occupation and to settlement of the occupied territories. There cannot be any lasting peace without a satisfactory agreement on the status of Jerusalem and on the issue of refugees. There cannot be any lasting peace without the creation of a politically and economically viable Palestinian state. There cannot be any lasting peace without the formal recognition of the right of Israel to exist within secure and established frontiers.

That is why we applaud the peace plan established by Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, which was endorsed during the last meeting of the League of Arab States held in Beirut last March 28. For the first time, all the Arab states agreed to officially recognize the State of Israel and to establish formal relations with it, provided that the new state accepts to hand over the territories occupied since 1967 to a future Palestinian state, except of course the Golan Heights, which would be returned to Syria.

It will be very important that the international community, particularly Canada, substantially increase the level of the assistance given to the Palestinian Authority. Everything has to be rebuilt, the highway infrastructure, utilities, social services, and so on.

The international community will have to stand in solidarity with the populations affected by this conflict because, as we said with great insistence in the wake of the events of September 11 when we joined the ranks of nations determined to fight terrorism, we must not only target its effects, but also its root causes, that is poverty, injustice and exclusion.

Also, in the wake of the events of September 11, we have witnessed the emergence of hate motivated behaviours directed toward the Arab community. The government acted promptly to counter this wave of intolerance that seemed to associate Islam and Arab communities with terrorism, a simple but inappropriate association that had to be denounced.

Similarly, some people seem to want to transpose in our communities the conflict that exists in the Middle East. We were dumbfounded as we witnessed hate motivated acts against the Jewish community and we must denounce these acts with the same energy.

Therefore, we must expect this government to take measures to prevent, as much as possible, similar acts from being committed in our communities.

In these circumstances, I will conclude by saying that only an unconditional return to the negotiating table could prevent this situation from deteriorating even further and from making even more victims. The parties must break free of the vicious circle of violence in which they are becoming more and more entangled every day. They must truly believe that a solution is possible. For the rest, all we can do is pray Allah and Yahweh and hope for the best.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

1:20 a.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Paul's.

It is with a heavy heart that I rise in the House today to join in the debate on the escalating conflict between the Palestinian and Israeli people in the Middle East. This conflict has spanned some six decades and taken or destroyed the lives of many thousands of mostly innocent people from both communities, people who are simply trying to live normal lives in very abnormal circumstances.

There are some commonly accepted reasons that explain how the ongoing cycle of violence began and why it continues today. From the perspective of the Israelis, for whom the spectre of the Holocaust and hostile Arab armies bent on their destruction lies within living memory, this conflict represents a struggle to survive.

Despite their military power they still feel isolated, vulnerable and surrounded by a sea of enemies. Terrorist attacks on Israel harden the hearts of those who want peace now and strengthen the resolve and cause of those who do not.

For Palestinian people who have been disenfranchised by the events of history and international political forces beyond their control, this is a struggle to regain their homeland, their pride and dignity as an independent nation.

The creation of Israeli settlements and incursions of the Israeli military into their communities on the West Bank and Gaza Strip engenders feelings of resentment and hopelessness for a peaceful resolution in those who pray for peace and adds fodder to the fires of anger of those who do not.

This undertaking gives no solace to those who have been caught up in the fear and horror of living through a lifetime of war. The inability of the people who share the region of Palestine to come to a peaceful resolution to their conflict, despite the assistance and intervention of the world's great powers, represents one of the great tragedies of modern history and one of the most significant failures in the realm of diplomacy. It reflects a stubborn unwillingness born from suffering on both sides to let go of past injustices, real or perceived, and to live and let live. In a real sense it is a failure of all humanity.

Both communities contain opposing factions with conflicting political agendas. Each contains people who believe that encouraging or facilitating the ongoing conflict is advantageous to fulfilling their agendas. They do not want resolution and peace but rather support an armed confrontation whose final outcome is the total eradication of the other. While I believe that they represent the small percentage of the people in the area, their radical actions have had a destabilizing impact that is out of proportion to their numbers.

There are many more people in these communities who yearn for peace. Their voices are being heard less and less these days. Events such as terrorist attacks like suicide bombings by Palestinians and political assassinations by the Israeli military have the effect of both creating and perpetuating anger, fear and hatred in many people who would otherwise genuinely seek peace.

It is with a sense of irony that I take part in this debate tonight. My life has in a strange twist of fate crossed paths with the conflict in the Middle East once before.

The Hungarian revolution exploded on October 23, 1956. The heroes of the Hungarian revolution, with its freedom fighters, teenagers and pre-teenagers, had many martyrs who used molotov cocktails or whatever they could find to fight Soviet armour.

The Israeli attack backed by France and England on October 29, 1956 against Egypt to gain control over the Suez Canal diverted world attention from the tragic Hungarian struggle and allowed the Soviet destruction of the Hungarian revolution. The Suez crisis brought the world to the brink of a world war.

This tragic time spawned one of Canada's finest hours. Under the leadership of Lester B. Pearson, then Canadian secretary of state for external affairs, Canada helped to put together an international peacekeeping force under the United Nations flag to defuse the Suez crisis. Ironically, Hungary is free and at peace while the Middle East conflict once again threatens world peace.

It is ironic that I who was a ten year old Hungarian boy at the time of the Hungarian revolution and the Suez crisis in 1956, one who became one of 200,000 refugees, one who lived in a Jewish refugee camp in Austria, now as a Canadian member of parliament partake in this debate on a Middle East crisis that once again threatens the peace of the world.

I fully support the idea that there should be an immediate resolution to the Middle East conflict and note that Canada has publicly called for the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian controlled areas viewing these actions as helpful to the peace process. We have also called for the cessation of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks by Palestinian militants.

Further, I support the fundamental tenet of the Canadian Middle East policy which is to encourage both parties to work toward peace through a negotiated settlement. We have called upon both sides to immediately move to a meaningful ceasefire and to work toward implementing the Tenet plan and the Mitchell recommendations with the aim of resuming negotiations for a political settlement as set out in United Nations Security Council resolution 1402.

Our efforts in this realm are well meant and need to become a reality. However, considering the escalation of hostilities in the region over the past 18 months, the status quo is definitely no longer an acceptable option.

The time has come for Canada to step forward and actively promote the creation of a peacekeeping force for the region. This is an absolute necessity to ensure the security of both communities until such time as they develop a history of peaceful co-existence. The protection of this force will allow for the resumption of normal life in Israel and the establishment of a civic and national leadership and administration whose objectives are the promotion of economic and social well-being in the Palestinian controlled areas.

Canada has had a long and proud history as peacekeepers. Our reputation in this realm can go a long way in convincing both parties involved that it is in their best interests to co-operate with this effort. They must be convinced that the cycle of conflict can be broken through their collective efforts.

Along with the military protection of a UN peacekeeping force, the Palestinian people will need our assurances of financial support for economic development and rebuilding their infrastructure, and the political support of the west for the creation of good governance and democratization.

Accommodating the security needs of Israel involves the elimination of terrorism. In my speech to the House on October 2 I said that to eliminate terrorism, we must ultimately address the need to change the conditions that breed terrorists. Nowhere can the truth of that statement be seen more clearly than in the Middle East.

The Israelis need to accept that their safety and well-being lie in the elimination of the root causes of terrorism, causes that they have inadvertently contributed to over the years. We must try to convince them that the creation and support of sustainable political and social conditions and institutions in Palestine that provide for human development will ultimately provide their best possible security.

There is one significant factor that must be addressed if we hope to see a secure and permanent peace in the region, and this is a change in the foreign policy of the countries in the region that call for the destruction of Israel. I support elements of the Saudi Arabian peace plan that called for the establishment of a Palestinian state secure within its own borders. In return, Israel would be guaranteed normalization of relations with its neighbouring Arab states, their recognition of the legitimacy of the existence of the state of Israel and their guarantee that Israel will be safe from terrorist attacks.

The conflict in that region is decades old and will take patience and fairness to resolve. No matter how strong our reassurances, or how many guarantees we offer, or how many mechanisms we put in place to provide a sense of security for the people living there, ultimately what they will need to make the leap of faith to peacefully co-exist in Palestine is an extended period of time living without day to day threats to their families.

We must pray for the strength of character and courage in the leaders of both sides in the conflict that will allow them to put aside their fear and hatreds and take the first steps toward a permanent peace, for the sake of their children and their children's children.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

1:30 a.m.


Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, tonight's debate is about the Middle East. For many of the people in my riding, this is not a debate about Canadian foreign policy; this is about family. Like the member for Mount Royal, many of the citizens of St. Paul's every day watch the news, listen for a phone call with the thoughts of their family members who live there, study there, work there.

As a little girl growing up in Toronto, I knew only one Hebrew word, shalom. It means peace. We sang about peace in the song Shalom Haverim . We knew it was about peace and about friends hopefully coming back. I do not think that at any time we could have even remotely contemplated what the absence of peace could feel like, what the worry about friends that might not come home would mean.

When I first started knocking on the doors of St. Paul's in 1997 I remember being surprised at how often I was asked if I had ever been to Israel. I did not really understand why that would be so important to so many. I do know now. It is about the families, their histories and today, on Holocaust remembrance day, it is about making sure that the atrocities chronicled in Yad Vashem must never happen again.

I believe it is about eliminating hatred and moving from the tolerance that we usually enjoy here in Canada to try to reach real respect and dignity worldwide.

As September 11 taught us so clearly, this is a very small planet and the costs of hatred and its byproduct terrorism are intolerable.

As Thomas Friedman quoted in his March 10 article in the New York Times , the Middle East analyst Stephen Cohen said:

The question is whether Palestinian extremists will do what bin Laden could not: civilizational war. If you are willing to give up your own life and that of thousands of your own people, the overwhelming of America and Israel does not deter you any more. We are now on the cusp of the extremists' realizing this destructive power, before the majority is mobilized for an alternative. That's why this Israeli-Palestinian war is not just a local ethnic conflict that we can ignore. It resonates with too many millions of people, connected by too many TV's, with too many dangerous weapons.

As the member for St. Paul's, I have travelled to Israel and the Palestinian territories three times; in 1999 with my eldest son, Jack; in 2000 with the Prime Minister and my friend and brilliant colleague, the member for Mount Royal and with many other parliamentarians with strong relationships to the Middle East; and last year I went with my youngest son, Ben.

It was indeed travelling with my sons that was the most poignant. As I looked at the soldiers, some younger than my own boys, I could only think what their mothers must feel and how they must hope and want to work toward peace.

As we sat in the town hall in Metullah last year I felt an insecurity that was palpable, that as the clock showed 8 p.m. the counsellors kept glancing at their watches. It was at that time that they had come to expect the Katushka rockets over the border from Lebanon. As we sat in a cafe in Ben Yehuda, everyone of us was aware of the previous bombings there. Would tonight be safe? We were no longer able to take our Canadian homeland security for granted.

We went to meet with Saeb Ereket in Jericho by bulletproof van. We heard his personal narrative. With his Ph.D. in peace and conflict studies he was worried for his son, worried that his father's preoccupation with the peace process would make his son a target, worried that his son might decide to act out by going and throwing stones and getting into harm's way.

This is no way to live. Too many have lost their lives.

Out of these darkest times we must look forward to a way out. I believe that the way out is a way that we already have through an agreement. The political process must resume as a matter of extreme emergency. We must look forward to the commitments that have been made to the longstanding Canadian policy in the Middle East, Israel and Palestine living side by side within secure and recognized borders.

We must work to implement the Tenet security work plan as a first step toward the implementation of the Mitchell committee recommendations with the aim of resuming negotiations on this political settlement.

Last Sunday night in St. Paul's I met with some of my constituents who are very concerned. I think at some level they are feeling abandoned by their Canadian government. We talked and it was a very constructive conversation. They feel that as Canadians we should not be taking a them and us, teeter-totter path. They feel that we should continue to make decisions based on our Canadian values.

Professor Dewitt of York University thought we must begin with an absolute campaign against incitement, that we must find ways to audit it and that we must act to eliminate it. We must continue to earn the gavel that the UN working group gave us on Palestinian refugees. It is extraordinarily important that Canada keep that gavel and keep the moral authority to be able to be fair in the region. It is extraordinarily important that we continue to build democracy and that we use all the skills of public servants and all people we could mobilize to help in the region.

On the incitement file I have to say following my trips to the Middle East I feel there is a disparity between what we witnessed in Israel and what we saw in the fantastic museum demonstration which showed the effects of hatred in Northern Ireland and in Bosnia. They brought school groups to see the quotations of peacemakers and peacebuilders from around the world.

I am concerned that we do not have evidence of that happening on the Palestinian side. I am concerned that there are still maps without Israel, that hatred is being portrayed against Israelis. The kinds of pamphlets that were turned in by our Canadian delegates from the Durban conference would bear that out.

I do not believe that suicide bombers just happen. They are created and encouraged. As Thomas Friedman said in his April 7 article, a normal state cannot be built on the backs of suicide bombers. We as Canadians should insist that everyone must declare the right of both states to exist.

We must take our audit and gather evidence of incitement. We must work hard in our truly Canadian tradition based on Lester Pearson and George Ignatieff to strengthen the rule of law that can only happen in an institution such as the United Nations. It is not perfect. We have a responsibility to make it even better.

We must support the efforts of people such as Arnold Noyak who are working in Jordan and in the Palestinian territories with Jewish doctors, showing that they can actually work on the ground.

This is a difficult time for Canadians. We have many friends affected by this horrible situation in the Middle East. We understand it is not clear. This weekend we had the Jews for Peace vigil, the Israel solidarity rally and many e-mails saying that we should stop pandering to the Jews.

It is imperative as parliamentarians that we stay the course in sticking to our Canadian values and make our decisions in that way. On a personal note, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has done an admirable job in keeping that fine line and the corrections that are necessary to keep this complex situation on the rails to peace. We must work toward the peace process. We must make sure there is a political solution that will end terrorism.

It is extraordinarily important as we move forward that we look back at one of the most brilliant people we have known, Albert Einstein, as a constituent from the Ontario Cancer Institute reminded me, who said that peace could not be achieved through violence, that it could only be attained through understanding.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

1:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House to debate the tragic situation in the Middle East, mindful that yesterday was the day of mourning and remembrance for the victims of the Shoah, the terrible Holocaust of the last century where six million Jews were systematically exterminated in what became the most unfathomable act of evil in the many sad centuries of human history.

In contemplating that terrible evil we have learned to respond with the simple rallying cry of Eli Wiessel “never again”. Never again will those who believe in human dignity allow an entire race to be targeted for extermination. Never again will the free world stand by as an ideology of hate takes root and grows strong enough to destroy an entire people. In particular, never again will free nations allow the cancer of anti-Semitism to metastasize into a mortal threat to the Jewish people.

I fear that as the horror of the Holocaust begins to fade in our collective memory after five decades the promise “never again” becomes a hollow one, an empty cliché for too many of us in the liberal west.

That is why the Jewish democratic state of Israel is a pearl of such great price. It is the concrete manifestation of the promise “never again”. The free world can best discharge that promise and honour its very serious moral debt to the Jewish people by guaranteeing the security of Israel as a beacon of hope and self-determination and democracy for the Jewish people.

When addressing complex issues such as the conflict in the Holy Land I try to start by identifying principles. For me this is the first operative principle: if given a chance Israel's enemies would not think twice about destroying it and launching the world on a second Jewish Holocaust.

Some 4.8 million Jews, fewer than were murdered in the European Holocaust, live in a democratic state on a tiny parcel of land smaller than any of our Great Lakes and only nine miles across at its narrowest point. Israel is surrounded by 23 Arab or Islamic states, almost all of which are dictatorships with combined populations of more than 300 million and standing armies that outnumber Israel's by more than fifteen to one.

These Arab states have repeatedly tried to destroy Israel: first at its inception in 1948 by attempting to override the international mandate for separate Jewish and Palestinian states and then again in 1956, 1967 and 1973. Many of these belligerent states remain formally committed to the annihilation of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants and as a matter of policy deny the very right of Israel to exist.

As they have done for three decades many of Israel's enemies are again using the Palestinian people and their struggle for self-determination as a surrogate battleground against the so-called Zionist aggressor.

Syria continues to sponsor Hezbollah's attacks against northern Israel through Lebanon. Iraq has upped the ante for its blood money payments to Yasser Arafat's martyrs at a rate of $25,000 per family.

On top of financing the murderous terrorism of Hamas, Iran was caught red-handed sending a shipment of a 50 tonne armory of weapons, explosives and rockets to the Palestinian authority's so-called security police aboard the Karine A earlier this year, a shipment which was clearly authorized and approved by Yasser Arafat but of which he has so ridiculously and disingenuously denied knowledge.

All this has contributed to the vicious wave of suicide bombings that over the past 18 months have taken the lives of hundreds of innocent Israeli citizens, proportionately far more than the 3,000 innocent civilians killed in the United States by Islamic terrorists on September 11. Innocent Israelis in prayer, in leisure, in the midst of ordinary life were mauled and murdered by bombers raised in the cult of the shahid or martyrdom.

However what frightens me most is that the enemies of Israel are willing the moment they obtain the means to prosecute a second Holocaust using weapons of mass destruction.

Just last month former Iranian President Rafsanjani explicitly threatened Israel with the use of nuclear weapons should Iran obtain them. Of course Iraq continued to develop its biological weapons program and has the power to deploy such weapons to Israel using mid-range Scud missiles. For a country the size of Israel a major first strike with weapons of mass destruction would in fact be a last strike.

All this flows from a virulent and growing strain of anti-Semitism in the Middle East and increasingly in western democracies. If one listens to the voices of many Islamist and Arab nationalist political, religious and media institutions in the Middle East, one hears a hatred for Jews in general and Israel in particular far more clearly than one hears a genuine sense of solidarity for the plight of Palestinian refugees.

Let me quote Ahmad Abu Halablya, an Arafat appointed and funded mufti, broadcasting live earlier this year on Palestinian authority official television. He stated:

The Jews must be butchered and killed, as Allah the Almighty said: “fight them”: Allah will torture them at your hands...Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Whenever you meet them, kill them.

That was broadcast on Yasser Arafat's Palestinian authority television, a broadcast from a mufti appointed and financed by the Palestinian authority.

A serious review of official Palestinian media broadcasts over the past year will demonstrate that this kind of incitement is increasingly the norm, as will a review of Palestinian school textbooks as has been mentioned in debate earlier tonight. In the words of the Washington Post Pulitzer prize winning columnist Charles Krauthammer:

During the past eights years...Arafat had complete control of all the organs of Palestinian media and propaganda. It takes an unspeakable hatred for people to send their children to commit Columbine-like murder-suicide. Arafat taught it. His television, his newspapers, his clerics have inculcated an anti-Semitism unmatched since Nazi Germany.

That is moral background of the situation which we face in the Middle East. I heard people in the debate tonight and over the preceding weeks talking about the need for even-handedness and balance, the need for both sides to give a little in order to gain peace. I certainly appreciate that sentiment. It is a sensible one and it is a typically Canadian one, but I am not sure whether those who somewhat blithely advocate that approach really understand the intricacies and the recent history of developments in the Middle East.

We could probably all agree in Canada, with very little dissent, on the basic principle of solving the crisis in Israel through land for peace and the implementation of certain of the recent United Nations resolutions.

Israel has given land and has not received peace in return. Israel has extended its hand and in return has been the recipient of violence, murder and mayhem directed at innocent civilians. Israel removed itself from 95% of Judea and Sumaria, the so-called occupied territories. Israel offered virtually everything ever asked by the Palestinian leadership at the Camp David and Taba negotiations, including joint sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem and a limited return of original refugees.

Everything has been put on the table and Israel has already vacated 95% of the territories. It has already given that land, but it expected and demanded in return a guarantee of peace. It expected that by recognizing a sovereign political authority in the Palestinian authority as led by Yasser Arafat that political authority would be able to enforce the rule of law and would be able to eliminate the cancer of terrorism directed at innocent civilians.

However, the Palestinian authority under Mr. Arafat's leadership has failed abysmally to deliver on that commitment. To the contrary, over the past 18 months and, some would argue, ever since the Oslo process began eight and a half years ago, Chairman Arafat has incited violence and increasingly, the evidence is quite clear, has used violence as a negotiating tool. Most of the recent suicide attacks in Israel in the past three or four months were in fact not carried out by Mr. Arafat's rivals in Hamas or Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad but in fact by his Fatah faction's own al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. In other words, Yasser Arafat has become not just incapable of controlling violence from extraneous terrorist groups that challenge his authority but he has become a direct perpetrator in that terrorism.

At the early stages of this intifada, his Tanzim militia were involved in certain skirmishes with Israeli defence forces, but now we actually have officials in the political organization of Yasser Arafat who are legitimizing and providing infrastructure, support, training, supplies, equipment, funding, military expertise and intelligence and, most odiously, perverse moral instruction to young Palestinian Muslims to go and kill themselves and to savage innocent Israeli civilians simply for the crime of being Jews.

I am all in favour of the idea of evenhandedness, of trying to bring both parties to the table. I support the idea of the Tenet process and the Mitchell report and I hope that perhaps some day we can see the parties there achieve a settlement which looks something like the Camp David accord, where there is a legitimate exchange for land and peace. I think that would be nearly a unanimous sentiment in the House.

However, I am not blinded by desire. To achieve that kind of peace does not blind me to the reality that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian authority have lost all moral and political authority to be responsible interlocutors in this process today. We cannot negotiate with terrorists and Yasser Arafat and his leadership have opted for terrorism as a tactic. They have opted to use killing civilians in order to generate a crisis which would force the United States and the European Union to intervene to place pressure on Israel to back up.

I must say that I simply do not believe, and I do not think anybody who looks at the evidence ought to believe, in the sincerity of Chairman Arafat any longer. In fact, before his death last year, Faisal Husseini, who was a leading Palestinian so-called moderate, said that “Oslo was a Trojan horse...just a temporary procedure...just a step toward something bigger”. That something bigger was “Palestine from the river”, the Jordan, “to the sea”, the Mediterranean. He said Oslo was “a way of ambushing the Israelis and cheating them”.

Ever since Yasser Arafat began his Fatah faction in the early 1960s, prior to the so-called Israeli occupation of Judea and Samaria, he was an advocate of elimination of the Jewish state. There is no compelling evidence to believe that he has changed his fundamental objective.

As we have seen, not only the actions of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade but recently the incursions by the Israeli defence forces into Palestinian headquarters in Ramallah have found hard, concrete evidence that Arafat himself has authorized financing of some of these death brigades and invoices to finance the acquisition of bombs.

This goes back even to 1974, when the PLO adopted a phased plan for obtaining the Palestinian state. The first phase was to accept any territory, whatever size, offered within Palestine. The second was to make it the forward base for the war to destroy Israel.

It is within this context that the government and the people of Israel are responding to these attacks. This is where I must take sincere exception to some of the moralizing from the Minister of Foreign Affairs who has said that the Israeli response of the past 10 days has been disproportionate.

As a student of Catholic moral philosophy, I have a fairly good sense of what proportionality means. I appreciate it as one of the principles that ought to govern moral considerations of what constitutes a just war. However I fail to see the disproportionate response between a duly elected sovereign government conducting counterterrorism measures, arresting or killing known terrorists, seizing illegal weapons, armaments and explosives and destroying the financial and military infrastructure of terrorists and a deliberate campaign targeting the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians.

To be perfectly absurd, if the Minister of Foreign Affairs is looking for proportionality perhaps the Israelis should dispatch suicide bombers into Palestinian communities.

I think, and some columnists have remarked on this, that perhaps the Minister of Foreign Affairs should consider a little Canadian history. In 1972 two public officials were kidnapped in the province of Quebec. A Liberal government's response to that was to declare martial law and to send tanks into the streets of Montreal. Heaven forbid, if the FLQ had been killing, proportionately to the size Israel's population, thousands of innocent Canadian civilians, what would our proportionate response have been?

I simply ask the government, in asking for all parties to be restrained and pushing them toward the peace process and Tenet and Mitchell land for peace, not to be blinded by the urgent imperative for Israel to put an end to this immediate threat to the security of its people. That is what Israel is seeking to do in its current military presence in the West Bank.

Because I am something of a pessimist about the opportunities for peace, given what I believe to be the moral corruption of the Palestinian leadership, at least the leadership that we currently know, perhaps we will not end up with a settled negotiated land for peace arrangement.

I wish Colin Powell and the American administration all the best in their interventions. However, if the leadership of Chairman Arafat of the Palestinian authority does not have a fundamental sea change in the coming weeks, I imagine that the Israel government will have to begin looking very seriously at the option of unilateral separation, of erecting an enormous high tech expensive wall unilaterally between areas of a protected Israel and the Palestinian territories. What a terrible result that would be, to end the possibility of these two peoples living together, working together and benefiting from each other's commerce and trade and infrastructure, but that is the direction in which this headed.

In closing, I want to say that if “never again” is more than a slogan, then we must not be too quick to criticize Israel for doing what it little can to defend its sovereignty and security. The Jewish people in the past century have learned what it is to be vulnerable to the ugliness of when violence meets anti-Semitism. They are fighting against that evil today and I submit that we should support them.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

1:55 a.m.

Mississauga South Ontario


Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Eglinton--Lawrence.

Today we buried Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. It was a tremendous day of celebration of a person who lived a very fascinating life through some of the worst that humanity could demonstrate, as well as some of the best. There were a number of religious groups represented at the church ceremony today. They all spoke of peace in the world and the contribution that the Queen Mother made, helping us all have her as a symbol of a peaceful person.

When I became a member of parliament, one of the issues before parliamentarians was the Young Offenders Act. It was a piece of legislation that had been worked and reworked many times over. It conjured up for some people a lot of terrible memories because of personal experiences of family or friends.

I can remember receiving a phone call one day from a gentleman who wanted me to tell parliament immediately that it had to crack down on these young offenders. This person's son had been raped and killed by some people. He was very distraught and desperate that something had to be done to correct it. In this phone conversation he actually asked me how I would like it if he came and got my daughter and did the same things. That incident came to mind as I listened to some of the debate in the House over the last several hours. I found it very enlightening.

The point is that there are people who, because of personal experiences, have become personally, emotionally and totally involved and preoccupied with an event or with a series of events. It means that sometimes it does not matter what is going on, their focus is very clear. We see that as well now in the Middle East.

Imagine this dispute has its genesis I believe right back in 1947 when the UN resolution proposed a partition for a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. Ever since then there have been similar incidents over and over. That means that over the last 50 years we have been developing in the Middle East generations of children who value hate. They have grown up to be young adults harbouring that hate on all sides. They have lost their respect for life as we would know it. Canadians talk about respecting life.

I find it very disturbing because in this global village in which we live there are people who do migrate throughout the world. We saw it with the events of September 11 where ultimately it was found that many of the terrorists had found their way into the United States. They were there legally. Their families had no idea of their involvement but when the time came and they were told to do their jobs, they executed their terrorist acts.

It concerns me that those kinds of things are happening. Canadians have to be fearful as well that these things happen. We see it in our own country. We now have anti-terrorism legislation to safeguard Canadians even more than we thought we ever had to. We have more legislation with regard to security and safety on airlines and at airports because of these terrorist acts.

The impact of terrorist activities, whether they be by terrorists in the Middle East or by the Taliban terrorists, they have affected the entire world and have affected virtually everything we do. We look at things through the lens of terrorism to find out if there are things we should be doing to combat terrorism because we no longer can trust.

This is very disturbing from the standpoint that one would conclude without too much argument that the terrorists are winning this battle. I believe the terrorists are winning. I am not sure whether Canadians at large have a good idea of what the realities are in the Middle East right now. I do know they get some fairly dramatic coverage from some of the media networks. It is hard for us as Canadians to understand how someone could blow himself or herself up, take other lives with them and it is celebrated. It is perverse. It is hard to understand but it happens again and again. The very next day, in the same locales where people have been slaughtered, people are in the streets again carrying on with their lives almost as if nothing has happened.

I ask children from time to time what they think and what they understand about some of these issues. I have a difficult time trying to explain to them the conflict in Ireland between the Catholics and the Protestants, a conflict that went on for so very long and cost so many lives. It is still not clear in my own mind how the hatred even in that country could have gone on so long and why it could not have been arrested by a reasonable people. We do not have reasonable people in the Middle East now.

I wanted to raise those points because they are of concern. Canadians are concerned and fearful. They want to be comforted in the fact that the Government of Canada is doing what it can to allay those fears and to be part of the solution.

It is a complex problem and there is no simple solution. It will not be over soon but we do need a ceasefire. I know that those who are working on behalf of a peace process want to have a ceasefire. We also need to have a clear denunciation of terrorism in all its forms. That has to be a prerequisite to any lasting solution.

We also need to sit down and negotiate a political settlement. I do not think there is win-win solution but, as one member described it, there is a position of least injustice. It will take a great deal of strength, leadership and negotiation on behalf of not only the Palestinians and the Israelis but also of those who are helping to negotiate peace under the auspices of the UN and our allies.

I share the concerns of the people in Canada. We value life and we want to send our best hopes to the leaders of the world to bring this terrible conflict to a path that will ultimately lead to peace.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

2:05 a.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Mississauga South and other colleagues who have preceded me for their thoughtful and measured observations on what is clearly a most disagreeable set of circumstances in another part of the world.

When I think of the intervention made by my hon. colleague I am thankful that many here have resisted the opportunity to cast blame and aspersions on people, places, circumstances and entire societies. There is blame enough to go around. This is not one of those circumstances where those who want to will not be able to find someone to blame.

Tonight's debate was not designed to give people an opportunity to do anything other than examine the issues and facts that pertain specifically to Canada. It pertains not merely to what Canada has done in the Middle East to promote peace and the betterment of society whether it be Palestinian, Israeli or other. It pertains not merely to the development of a political process in a far away place that has enormous implications for us all. The debate is designed to give us an opportunity to recall that ours is a society that hopes for, works for and breeds peace, acceptance and harmony everywhere.

These values are at great risk today not just in the Middle East but here in Canada. The events there are spilling over into our own society. Inhabitants of our own country which has been the lighthouse of these values are witnessing great acts of intolerance verging on despair, disdain and a lack of respect for the position of others. It has become an opportunity for Canadians to witness intolerance in our own midst. We have seen the emergence of acts of violence, vandalism and intolerance in our midst. Intolerance is the word that best fits as we become completely immersed in the lives, history and destiny of people in the Middle East.

We need to condemn without equivocation any transgressions of Canadian values not only here on Canadian soil but everywhere. Everywhere is an easy thing to condemn because we do not think of the problem as being our own. It is someone else. It is another place that is not as capable as our own society of dealing with the concept of working co-operatively and collaboratively with other people.

Canadians value diversity. We value co-operation. We cannot do without it. I dare say most other people cannot either, but each place in the world has its own history and development. I will not speak from a position of moral superiority because we do not have that. However we need to be able to say some things cannot be accepted in our own society. Outrageous behaviour on our own part, even by people like myself in parliament, cannot be accepted by us, by this place or by our colleagues because of the implications for the rest of society. When Canadians expect parliament to be a place that reflects Canadian values we should exemplify those values.

People ask us as members of parliament what can be done to resolve situations in places like the Middle East. It can be done by example. Some colleagues who spoke before me enumerated Canadian contributions in the Middle East. They demonstrated the way Canadians have gone to the assistance of Palestinians and Israelis.

My hon. colleagues are right. The Canadian position has always been proactive. We try to accomplish what we can by our actions and not just our words. However we need the words. We need to be able to say the right things. We need to be able to lay the groundwork for what our actions must demonstrate more vividly.

We have been doing that. To establish that kind of groundwork and understand what is going on someplace else we need to understand what the impact will be on Canadians, the people who have done their utmost to develop the country to ensure our society is the hallmark of the values I indicated earlier.

Sadly, citizens of Canada and in my own constituency in Toronto feel more isolated now than ever before. It is probably a reflection of the connection so many Canadians feel to the Middle East and in particular to Israel. Why? It is not because Canada is taking one side or another. It is because so many Canadian citizens have friends and family in the Middle East. Israel has become a spiritual and cultural metropolis for all of them. It is where they see their ancestry, history, destiny and lives develop. It does not make them any less Canadian. They enrich our society. They express their views. We are thankful for that. We owe them what we owe all Canadians: the respect associated with appreciating their position.

People have talked in the House about terrorism. They have talked about what is right. They have talked about Israel's right to exist. These are all valuable and valid points of view. We must unequivocally make a decision. Do we accept Israel's right to exist behind safe, secure and recognized borders? If we believe that and urge everyone else to believe it, and if other people in the Middle East including the Palestinians accept it, discussions of peace can make sense.

As a Canadian 8,000 miles away I am not in a position to make judgments. All I know is that like all states we as a country stand behind those with whom we have an agenda to go forward. Canada's agenda is to promote the rule of law, democracy and respect. We have those interests. We have commercial interests as well but I do not want to be crass. We protect our interests and stand by those who move along the same agenda. We call those people our friends.

For this member of parliament, this is a time to stand beside those in a moment of trouble, extreme violence and uncertainty. They need to know that those who have proclaimed the words of friendship, rule of law and democracy are with them even though the times are tough.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

2:15 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, tonight we are debating a very difficult issue, perhaps one of the most difficult issues in the world; how to achieve peace in the Middle East, not just for the sake of the people in that region but for the peace and security of the world, a world threatened by the potential for wider conflict which is always present whenever violence flares in that part of the world.

As I see it, we are dealing with a situation in which both Israelis and Palestinians are victims of history and of each other. They are caught in a vicious cycle of blame and recrimination that has brought them to the abyss.

One must begin with first things first. As one who has visited Yad Vashem, I begin by considering the recent history of the Jews and the horror of the Holocaust which is the backdrop for the creation of Israel even though Zionism preceded the holocaust.

The Jewish people needed a homeland in which they could be safe and in which they could build a Jewish state and a Jewish society, which indeed they did. Unfortunately, within years of the Holocaust, the brand new state of Israel upon its creation was faced with a united Arab effort to destroy it. What had been recommended by the United Nations, a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, an idea now revived by the Saudis, was rejected in 1948 by the Arab world. The rejection of Israel's right to exist within secure and recognized boundaries took the form of war in 1948, 1967 and in 1973.

This is also the backdrop for the current situation. Israelis have a right to ask that this history of trying to eliminate them be repudiated. If they are going to give up land which they acquired in wars of self-defence, the land in the West Bank and Gaza that we refer to as the occupied territories and much of which was already ceded in recent years from various aspects of the peace process, then they have a right to ask that there be zero tolerance for rejection of Israel's right to exist and zero tolerance for the promotion of hatred against Israel and against Jews.

It cannot be a question of land for false peace or tactical or temporary peace. It has to be a question of real peace being offered for the return of land by a people who have a right to fear the consequences of returning to pre-1967 boundaries without a peace in which they can have confidence.

The Palestinian people are victims also. They are victims of the original miscalculation by the Arab world when Israel was created, especially those who left what was Israel on the basis that they would soon return after the elimination of Israel. Those who are refugees because of what happened at that time and who have lived as refugees for generations now have a right to be depressed, distraught and distressed about the situation. I can try to understand their feelings toward Israel which appears to be the immediate cause of their miserable historical fate, but, I hasten to add, as I said some 20 years ago in the House, I think Palestinians are also victims of the Arab world.

They have been used as a political football and little care has been demonstrated for their well-being by many with the power and the money to make a difference for the ordinary Palestinian.

Palestinians are victims of despair, a despair made much worse by the ongoing construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. I believe this Israeli policy to be one of the most serious mistakes Israel has made, a political and moral mistake that will have to be repudiated if peace is to be achieved. This will not be easy, but an occupied territory after all is an occupied territory. That is to say, it is not a conquered territory. It is a territory that has to be seen to be ready to be given back. If it looks like they intend to keep it, it hardly helps to build confidence or trust.

Having said this, I further believe that the Palestinian people are victims of the decision by Yasser Arafat to reject the agreement reached between him and Ehud Barak.

The willingness to negotiate that Mr. Arafat displayed in the 1990s, all the possibilities for hope and peace that were created by that process, and the progress that was created by that process, seemed to be thrown away at the last moment for reasons, whatever they were, that can only seem insufficient given what has followed from that decision.

History may yet judge Mr. Arafat harshly for this, either for missing peace through bad judgment or missing peace deliberately because things were getting too close to a real acceptance of Israel. Mr. Barak on the other hand is to be commended for that historical moment. Mr. Sharon, whose visit to the Temple Mount at a deliberately provocative moment, is not to be commended for what he did then or for what he has done since.

I believe that both the Palestinian people and the Israeli people are victims of elements within their own ranks who have no interest in peace and who go out of their way to sabotage peace whenever it gets close. We know this to be true of Hamas and Hezbollah on the Palestinian side. We know there are elements on the Israeli right, including arguably Mr. Sharon himself, who are not interested in any real peace with the Palestinians.

The real question is whether Mr. Arafat is to be judged to be in this category, whether he is serious about real peace, whether he really deplores and did all he could to eliminate terrorism, and whether he is willing once again to come to the negotiating table and stay even after peace is in sight. Time will tell and I hope we have the opportunity to make that judgment.

As to what is happening in the occupied territories at the moment, I share the view that while Israeli rage at suicide bombings is more than understandable, the response has been ill-advised in its scope and in strategic terms.

One can be a friend of Israel, as I consider myself to be, and still criticize it. One can be a friend of Israel and still wonder whether certain strategies are counterproductive and whether they will only lead to more violence. One can be a critic of Israel and not be anti-Semitic, although I would share the concern expressed by some that the boundary between criticism of Israeli government policy and anti-Semitism is blurred when attacks on synagogues in western countries accompany criticism of Israel.

I do not want to be part of a critique of Israeli government policy that is tolerant of hatred of Jews, nor do I want to be a friend of an Israel that looks the other way when something wrong is being done. For my part Mr. Arafat clearly should reject terrorism, reject the rejectionists in his own camp, and reject hatred of Jews and its promotion.

As for the phenomena of suicide bombings, even if they are promoted and organized, and surely if they are, this is a reprehensible strategy. This strategy could still only be successfully achieved because there exists a bottomless pit of despair to exploit, exacerbated by hatred and violence.

When young women start blowing themselves up, when teenagers at nightclubs enjoying themselves are bombed, when families are killed at Passover, when a powerful army finds itself arrayed against the relatively powerless, whether they be civilians or combatants, the world should take note. It is time for reflection but it is also time for action.

I urge the government to consider support for strong international action. There will be people on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict who do not like it but they have had their way for too long already. Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve a safe, secure, just and democratic homeland. There were to be two states in the beginning. Let the world now make it so. In the meantime friends of Israel should not shrink from holding it to a high standard, even a higher standard, just as we do with the United States and with other friends of ours.

I know this is frustrating sometimes but it is necessary. It is a compliment because it is a sign of a shared value system. It is a sign that we share a value system when such demands are made.

In conclusion if I might appeal to the scriptures that as a Christian I look to in common with the Jewish people. This is not the time to scorn the reality, that there is always room for the prophetic perspective, that perspective which does not uncritically accept that when we are wronged that we therefore can do no wrong in responding to that wrong.

The prophetic tradition was one of calling for a trust in God and for trust in doing justice. In the same vein I call on religious leaders in the Palestinian community, out of the same shared scriptures to condemn those who would counsel and equip young Palestinians to take their God given lives through suicide bombing.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

2:30 a.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this critically important debate on the ever worsening crisis in the Middle East. It has been a night of much emotion, some deeply held views and some very constructive and thoughtful proposals.

Whatever our differences in this House, after this dialogue, it is clear that we are all here in the pursuit of peace. We are here as the member for Mount Royal has said, out of reverence for life and we are here with the determination to make a difference.

Many have said tonight, particularly the member for Winnipeg South Centre, there are no easy answers. The history of conflict in the Middle East is complex, long-standing and difficult. As we search together for an appropriate role for Canada to pursue the cause of peace in the Middle East there are clearly no quick fixes or easy, simple solutions.

How then do we make a difference? We begin by understanding, not judging. We begin by condemning all violence not assigning blame. As others have said tonight there is enough blame to go around. What we need to do is talk about stopping the violence, the retaliation and the suicide bombing.

We respond tonight on an emergency basis not to one singular development but to a sequence of events that has seen violence on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a reaction to the Israeli army in the territories and the acts of violence against innocent Palestinians in refugee camps, but just as much, it is about the suicide bombings, the terrorist attacks by Palestinians against citizens of Israel, against innocent women, children and civilians in that nation. It is about people living in fear, scared out of their minds, suffering untold horrors and loss of loved ones.

Our response as Canadians flows from this knowledge and understanding about the deteriorating situation between Israel and Palestine and how it is taking such a horrible human toll on all sides in all parts of the region. It is that understanding combined with a realization of the historical context in which current events take place that perhaps direct our action.

Let us remember as others have done tonight that the state of Israel was established to provide a secure national home for the persecuted Jewish people following the horrors of the Holocaust and the long history of discrimination, the anti-Semitism which continues to the present day.

Today of all days when we mark Holocaust remembrance day it is time to remember the horror of genocide and to resolve again to combat all forms of racism, prejudice and injustice. Any historical overview also reminds us of the millions of Palestinians who are left without a homeland and at present live as refugees in military occupation for insecure territories governed by the Palestinian authority. We are acutely aware that the situation has left both sides without security or the means of enjoying their inalienable human rights.

The pursuit of peace must reflect this history. It must recognize the need for secure borders on both sides. It must support the idea, the dream of a Jewish homeland and secure borders for the state of Israel. It must also recognize the need for the economic and political security for Palestinians in the camps and support an independent Palestinian state. It means not only calling for Israel to pull out of the territories but also recognizing the support and compensation for resettlement must come not just from Israel, but from Arab nations as well and from the broader international community.

It means a proactive role for the Canadian government in the cause of peace, a role in terms of political pressure, a role as impartial observers, a role as peacekeeping forces, a role in terms of humanitarian aid, a role in terms of support for resettlement and a role in terms of ongoing monitoring of any peace proposal that is arrived at. Far better for Canada to try, perhaps to fail and perhaps to make mistakes, than to do nothing.

As Canadian author Margaret Laurence wrote just before her death in 1983:

I would agree that despair is rightly placed as one of the deadly sins. The problems of our world will not go away if we ignore them. It is not all happening on TV, it is happening on our earth, and we, humankind, are the custodians of that earth. We cannot afford passivity. We must take on responsibility for our lives and our world and we must be prepared to make our government listen to and hear us. Our aim must be no less than human and caring justice and peace...for all people that on earth do dwell.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

2:35 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank the hon. member for Mercier for bringing forward the motion we are debating tonight which has allowed us the opportunity to take part in an emergency debate on the Middle East.

I hope to be part of a parliamentary delegation that will visit the West Bank and Gaza in the coming months. In preparing for that trip I have tried to comprehend and even imagine how I and my neighbours would feel if we were under occupation. I have tried to imagine what it would be like if ambulances could not get through. I have tried to imagine what it would be like if people were bleeding to death and could not get to the hospital. I have tried to think about what it would mean if my son could not go to school or was rounded up because he was over 18 and Christian. I have tried to imagine how I would feel if I were not allowed to work or my home were taken from me and the world did not care. I know I would feel angry and desperate and feel that there was no hope.

However those are the realities for the world's largest refugee population and for a people who have been dispossessed.

I have tried to educate myself to have an understanding of what it means when a whole population has been held hostage and stripped of every human and democratic right as we are seeing today. It is ironic and horrifying to me that the state of Israel, which prides itself on being a democratic country, has nothing left now but a campaign of brutality and militarism against civilians. Let us not forget that this is also a state with nuclear weapons and nuclear capability but somehow that is always overlooked in favour of other demons close by.

It is so easy to fall prey to the question of sides as though this were a situation of equals battling it out, but it is not. If we look at any map of the area we will see the highways that have been deliberately constructed to link illegal settlements and isolate Palestinian communities. We can see the geographically divided Palestinian territories now held captive by illegal occupation. We can see the refugee camps where temporary has become permanent and life becomes a struggle with death.

I attended my colleague's press conference this morning, the member for Burnaby--Douglas. I want to voice my support and show my respect for his courage to speak out and to bear witness firsthand to the activities and the brutality that are taking place. During his press conference he talked about attending a huge rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night of 15,000 Israelis protesting Sharon's horrible war. This rally received no coverage here because that would confuse our understanding of what is manufactured for public consumption.

I know many Canadian Palestinians and Canadian Jews find it difficult to carry on with their Canadian lives when their relatives, friends and home communities are under threat of violence and destruction. How can any community survive and be intact when suicide bombings are taking place? Surely there must be a recognition that the retaliation of brutal violence by Israeli defence forces is creating a poisoned environment and devastation that is the antithesis of justice and peace. Sharon may continue his personal war but we are complicit if we stand by and do nothing.

I also know that Canadian NGOs, both here and in the occupied territories, as evidenced by Oxfam-Québec, are seeing their efforts, their services and their carefully built infrastructure literally blown to bits. What utter waste, what sense of hopelessness and what new form of state terror has been unleashed in the name of democracy delivered through the shells of a tank.

Earlier this evening the leader of the NDP spoke passionately when she called on our government to have the courage to stand with the international community and to be unequivocal in condemning the illegal reoccupation of Palestinian lands and people. I have heard many fine speeches tonight and I am sure that we all want the same thing.

Yet there is this feeling, and it has even been echoed by some members on the government side, that Canada has become impotent, misguided at best and cowardly at worst. If there is anything that comes of this debate tonight it must be a commitment that we will use our democratic rights to insist that a just political settlement be found. It must be a settlement that recognizes the sovereign lands of both Palestinian and Israeli states, but it will only happen if the illegal military occupation ends forthwith and the right of refugees to return is also recognized.

I cannot believe that the Canadian government voted against the resolution in Geneva last week mandating the UN human rights commissioner to investigate and observe the situation, basically to do her job. Tonight the government has heard from all sides of the House and now our government must act. I ask government members to please not be their usual wimpy selves. They should act to defend international law. They should act to end the military occupation by Israel. They should act to create the social and political environment from which peace can evolve.

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

2:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am satisfied that the debate has now been concluded and therefore declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

The Middle EastEmergency Debate

2:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Accordingly the House stands adjourned until 2 p.m. later this day pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 2.44 a.m.)