Dear Pierre Pettigrew

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister wrote an article in the National Post, a far-right daily pamphlet dressed up as a newspaper, about Canada’s new posture at the United Nations, on Dec 4. Given that the paper’s late owner, Israel Asper, publicly denounced the Canadian public media for being ‘anti-Israel’ (the evidence on the Canadian media points in the opposite direction) it is telling that Pettigrew would use the Post as the organ in which to write to the Canadian public. The article is telling in other ways as well. Here I paste the article and reply to it point-by point, as if I were writing an email to Mr. Pettigrew.

National Post
Saturday, December 4, 2004

Page A22
Canada’s role in the Middle East peace process
Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Recent weeks have witnessed rumours that Canada has a new Middle East policy, and that our government will change the way it votes on United Nations resolutions pertaining to that region. In the interests of dispelling confusion, I am eager to share with your readers the principles underlying our continuing policy.

Pierre, they were not ‘rumours’. They were statements by Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Allan Rock. Rock said that these resolutions – which are introduced into the general assembly year after year because any resolution that gets to the Security Council that might provide some protection for the Palestinians is instantly vetoed by the United States – are ‘unhelpful’ and that Canada will now be voting against them. There are usually only a handful of countries who vote against them – The US, Micronesia, Israel itself, and a handful of other islands utterly beholden to the US. With this change, Canada will be joining the US and Israel in international isolation. Your hope, and the hope of Israel and the US, is no doubt that this will break the international isolation of Israel and the US. It could happen. But while Israel and the US (and soon Canada) will be isolated in world opinion, it is the Palestinians who will be more isolated in real terms by Canada’s abandonment of any pretense of wanting justice in Israel/Palestine.

Canada’s Middle East policy is focused above all on the goal of peace and security for all peoples of the region. It is anchored in our support for international law and our desire to play a constructive role in the search for a lasting settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Surely, Pierre, you understand that if Canada had ‘support for international law’ it would have to get Israel to declare its borders? Surely it would support the UN resolutions 194 and 242 so that the general assembly wouldn’t have to keep introducing resolutions that are routinely violated and ignored? Do you know how many international laws Israel is currently violating? Do you realize that collective punishment is a daily reality in Israel, that hundreds of children have been killed, that 22% of children in Gaza were malnourished due to Israel’s closures policy as of last October according to the UN Special Rapporteur for food? If Canada ‘supported international law’, it would be doing the exact opposite of what it is doing.

Canada continues to oppose all actions in contravention of international law, in particular when they might prejudge the outcome of negotiations.

Do you have any specific actions in mind? Perhaps the high profile assassinations Israel engages in whenever there is any kind of ceasfire? The major bombings in Gaza that killed dozens of people in each assassination?

The core tenets of Canada’s Middle East policy can be summarized as follows:

In these tenets, and their order, you reveal a lot about Canada’s policy.

support for Israel and its security;

You mention this first, even though Israel is a massive military power with unconditional support from the world’s only superpower and faces no threats to its security. Israeli citizens face a threat to their security, but this threat is nowhere near close to the threat to that Palestinians face, on any scale and in any time period, and the only real way to deal with this threat is through an end to the occupation.

support for Palestinian aspirations to statehood to be achieved through negotiation;

This is also very telling. Palestinian security is not a tenet of Canadian Middle East policy, evidently. Only ‘aspirations to statehood’, and there qualified that these are to be achieved through negotiation. Israel’s statehood was not achieved through negotiation, but through war and ethnic cleansing. Likewise the United States, through war and genocide. Canada’s statehood was achieved through a combination of negotiation and dispossession of the indigenous peoples. Palestinian statehood will be achieved when Palestinians have enough power – mostly political power – to force Israel and the United States to stop the project of dispossessing and destroying them. Without a change in the power relation or in the US/Israel agenda, negotiation will mean nothing. It is interesting that Canada is willing to stand unconditionally to protect something that is already assured (Israel’s security) but only willing to support Palestinian aspirations if they are achieved through negotiation. This contribution makes an unbalanced situation less balanced.

support for the peace process as currently defined in the Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Crisis, which was endorsed by the international community in 2003;

But Pierre, the only meaningful and formal institution of the ‘international community’ is the United Nations itself. This ‘international community’ that endorsed the road map was a committee put together by the United States to circumvent the UN, and the resolutions that offer a basis for a really just solution. Making the road map, which Bush and Sharon have already scrapped, a ‘core tenet’ of Canadian policy, is turning your back on international law, on the world, on reality, and of course on the Palestinians.

an abhorrence for terrorism;

It might be helpful, Pierre, if you would offer a coherent definition of terrorism. If you define it like the US army does, ‘violence directed against civilians for political goals’, then Israel’s terrorism is far greater, more systematic, and more abhorrent than anything the Palestinians could do. What is more, Israel’s terrorism is that of a state, guided by a democratic (for some) system, and supported from the outside (by the US and by Canada), whereas Palestinian terrorism is that of an utterly hopeless, desperate people who are fighting against extermination. The former could be turned off with a simple decision. The latter, being a reaction to the former, would stop shortly afterwards. If you really ‘abhorred terrorism’, you would be changing Canada’s policy in the opposite direction.

our condemnation of incitement to hate;

This is odd, considering you are writing for the National Post, which ran a picture of a Palestinian militant shortly after 9/11, explicitly linking Palestinians with ‘terrorism’, when there were hate crimes going on against Muslims in Canada. Perhaps you should consider condemning the paper you are writing for. You could also consider condemning the Toronto Star’s Rosie Dimanno and the Globe’s Margaret Wente. They do frequent incitements to hate.

our support for democracy and human rights;

Do Foreign Ministers read? If so, can I recommend a few books for you? Start with Uri Davis, ‘Apartheid Israel’. That might tell you something about what you need to do to support ‘democracy’ in Israel. On human rights, try the Israeli human rights organization, Btselem. You might find that ‘support for democracy and human rights’ would entail a different change in Canada’s policy.

and our commitment to the fairness of international efforts to promote peace, notably at the United Nations.

But not UN resolutions on the conflict, including the crucial ones, 194 and 242?

These principles have been developed and upheld by successive Canadian governments over the past six decades. In expressing these principles, governments have always had to take into account the situation in the region.

This is true, though perhaps not in the way you mean. The situation in the region today is dire. Israel’s wall has turned the West Bank into a set of prisons. Gaza has long since been a prison. Palestinians are starving inside the walls, and it is Israel’s deliberate policy to starve them. There are 400,000 colonists in the Occupied Territories, who travel on Jewish-only roads and have many rights over Palestinians that Palestinians do not have. There are hundreds of children in Israeli prisons. There are hundreds of Palestinians being killed and injured each month by the occupying army. And more, the United States is unconditionally supporting all of this. Israel is deliberately trying to make life intolerable for Palestinians, and Palestinian society and infrastructure is collapsing under the strain. The need for the ‘international community’ to intervene somehow to protect Palestinians is urgent. And Canada is moving instead towards Israel.

In this regard, a conjunction of events has created a historic window of opportunity.

This is preposterous, and it is unfortunate that you think so. I assume this is code language for the idea that Arafat’s death now makes peace possible. The truth is that, as the 81-year old Gush Shalom founder Uri Avnery argued, Arafat was the one Palestinian figure who would actually have been able to concede a tremendous amount to Israel and make peace on terms very favourable to Israel. Now that he is gone, Israelis can celebrate in the streets and Canadian pundits can pontificate about opportunities, but Palestinians will not accept colonization. Israel won’t accept anything else unless it has to. Since Canada will be helping Israel, Canada will be supporting the further violent destruction of Palestinian society. And providing a cover for it.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has stated unequivocally that the international community must be prepared to act decisively to help the Palestinians and Israelis transform this opportunity into real progress. The Prime Minister has indicated that Canada will contribute actively to a revived peace process. Canada has long been associated with international monitoring and support for democracy and good governance. All of these will be highly relevant in the Middle East in months ahead.

They could be, if Israel were to end the occupation. But no one, not even you, believes that Israel has any intention of doing so. That means that Canada won’t have anything to ‘monitor’, and any ‘monitoring’ will actually be providing a sleazy political cover for an ongoing project of ethnic cleansing.

Each time I consider a United Nations General Assembly resolution pertaining to the Middle East conflict, I ask myself how it contributes to the overall objective of a just and lasting settlement. I aim to judge each resolution on its merits.

Perhaps then, in your reply, you could provide your assessment of the several dozen UN resolutions that Israel is in violation of. Your assessment of the key resolutions, mentioned several times now, would also be appreciated.

In reviewing the long history of the resolutions adopted every year at the General Assembly, I have concluded that some, including some that Canada supported, have contributed neither to strengthening dialogue nor enhancing trust between the parties. The scrutiny of the practices and responsibilities of only one of the parties undermines the likelihood of any implementation effort.

This is the most appalling section of your article, Pierre. There are not ‘two parties’ in this conflict that can be equated. The problem is not that they need to ‘dialogue’ and build trust. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of what is happening. There is a stateless, defenseless population on the one hand and one of the world’s most powerful states, backed by the world’s most powerful state, on the other. The Palestinians are trying to survive and Israel, with the support of the US, is trying to drive them out. There are no conditions for ‘dialogue’. Israel is the occupying power. Palestinians are the occupied. The idea that ‘scrutinizing’ the occupier is somehow unbalancing can only be interpreted as an unequivocal statement in favour of ongoing occupation and ethnic cleansing.

The responsibilities of both parties should be emphasized, consistent with their Roadmap obligations, and fair criticism should be applied on both sides when appropriate.

If that were the case, you should be applying a vast preponderance of criticism to the Israeli side and the Israeli party, since it is the most powerful, the most responsible, and by far the worse violator of human rights, principles of law, and justice.

For example, references to Israeli security needs are often overlooked in General Assembly resolutions.

This is ironic, since you couldn’t find it in yourself to say a word about security for Palestinians in your article. Nor would this specious argument about Israeli security hold up in the face of any facts (see for some such facts).

It is in light of such considerations that I recently decided that Canada must oppose two particularly unhelpful UN resolutions expressing support for the conclusions of the UN’s Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, and its Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

I want to stress that these votes do not mean that Canada is somehow opposed to Palestinian rights.

They do not mean that Canada is ‘somehow’ opposed, they mean that Canada is specifically opposed to international law as it pertains to Palestinian human rights. They mean that Canada has aligned itself with the US and Israel’s policies of occupation and invasion against the ideas that motivate the United Nations and the whole idea of international law.

Rather, they reflect our growing dissatisfaction with the work of the two UN Committees and the contents of the resolutions dealing with them.

Dissatisfaction, it’s worth repeating, based on the idea that the occupier is being scrutinized too much and the occupied too little.

At the same time, I decided to support the General Assembly’s resolution on
the Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East, which is consistent with the Canadian government’s nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation policy, and our ongoing non-proliferation efforts in the region.

Is this code language as well? Will you be making public statements against Israel’s nuclear arsenal the way Rock made public chastisements against the UN general assembly?

These decisions, taken together, reflect Canada’s policy and are a testament to our determination to make UN processes more relevant, fair and useful.

Again, Pierre, an interesting choice of words: ‘relevant’ and ‘useful’. You have accomplished both. It was George Bush, after all, who, last year, warned that if the UN didn’t ratify the Iraq invasion and occupation it would be ‘irrelevant’. This decision helps make the UN more ‘relevant’ in Bush’s sense: it makes the UN more subservient to US power. As for ‘useful’, you have made the UN more ‘useful’ to those who want to pursue the goals of ethnic cleansing and colonization.

We shall continue to align our votes with evolving conditions on the ground and our hopes for the region, and we hope others will do likewise.

And there, in the ‘we hope others will do likewise’, lies the key to the whole maneuver: to try to break the international consensus on justice for Palestinians.

While a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict can only come from a negotiated agreement between the parties, the international community can play a greater, more constructive role.

This is again true, though again not in the sense you mean.

Prime Minister Martin’s commitment to assist the parties on the ground is real, and will require us to consider a broad range of initiatives aimed at promoting peace and stability. We have offered to help with the coming Palestinian elections. We also want to support the Palestinian people in their efforts at building the capacities that are critical to a stable government. The seriousness of our commitment will be actively reflected in the extent of our engagement.

We look forward to working with other nations of the world to enhance the prospects for a true and lasting peace in the Middle East.

If you want to enhance those prospects, you shall have to not only reverse the course you are on, but go considerably farther in the other direction. You would have to find a way to say the word ‘occupation’ in your public statements. You would have to actually ‘support international law’. You would have to do some reading beyond the National Post – perhaps some literature by Israeli scholars and journalists would help, if you’re not ready to read Palestinians (your penchant for ‘both parties’, though, should mean you ought to be willing to do that). I could give you plenty of material. It might make you less ‘useful’ and ‘relevant’ in your chosen career path, though. On the other hand, it would be worth it if it could make you understand that everyone loses from this policy. Palestinians, because they lose another potentially neutral party and gain another powerful adversary. Israelis, because the path of ethnic cleansing they are on is ultimately suicidal. And Canadians, too, because even if you don’t, others understand that Canada has decided to fan the flames of destruction by supporting the vastly more powerful side at a crucial time.

American Empire and the Fourth World

Since the US election, I have been thinking more about North America. I’ve been thinking about what it means for those of us who focus on foreign policy and imperialism issues to focus on those parts of the world that are affected by these things. We try to present the voices of people there who never get heard, to present stories about the consequences of what ‘our’ governments and ‘our’ corporations are doing, to try to motivate people here to pressure those institutions to give people in the third world some breathing room.

Continue reading “American Empire and the Fourth World”

Dec 6 and massacre(s)

On this day 15 years ago a man named Marc Lepine walked into the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and murdered 14 women with a shotgun before killing himself. Lepine said: “You’re all a bunch of feminists!” as he did the killing.

On the one hand it was the act of a crazed individual. On the other it was a symptom of sexism, misogyny, and violence against women that plagues our society. The choice of an engineering school was deliberate. In a time when the models for sexual relations are those offered by theocracy and served up in movements of puritans and Christian fundamentalists on one side and the exploitative and dehumanizing world of commercial sex industry (and its lite versions on reality TV) it is a good day to reflect on how far we still have to go.

I also wanted to note a massacre that occurred on November 20, by landowners in Brazil against landless peasants. 5 peasants were murdered rancher gunmen (I am including the note from the MST, Brazil’s landless peasant’s movement, below). Because this blog so often discusses conflicts like those in Colombia, Palestine, or Iraq, it is worth noting that in this case there appears to be a chance that justice will be done. Paramilitarism might have arrived in Brazil, but there is still a chance that the battle against impunity could succeed.

URGENT ACTION NEEDED: Massacre of Landless Workers in Felizburgo – MG

So Paulo, November 23 2004.
From: MST Human Rights Sector of the MST

Dear friends,

By means of this letter we want to inform you of what happened in Minas Gerais, where five landless workers living in encampments were killed.

On November 20, around noon, about 200 families who were occupying the Nova Alegria Ranch since May 1, 2002, were surprised by a volley of bullets fired off by 18 gunmen, three of them hooded. The men, coordinated by Sr. Adriano Shafico and his cousin who were strongly armed, killed five workers. Four died on the spot and another died after being taken to the hospital.

The comrades slain were Iraguiar Ferreira da Silva (23), Miguel Jos dos Santos (56) Francisco Nascimento Rocha (62), Juvenal Jorge da Silva (between 65 and 70) and Joaquim Jos dos Santos, (between 65 and 70)

More than 13 workers were shot and three are in serious condition (transferred to the hospital in the municipality of Te filo Otoni/MG). Among the wounded there is a 12 year-old child. Besides the shootings, the gunmen set fire to all the shacks. The Nova Alegria Ranch is located in the municipality of Felizburgo, In the region of Vale do Jequitinhonha, state of Minas Gerais.

The Land Institute of Minas Gerais (ITER) has stated that the ranch is vacant and belongs to the state of Minas Gerais. But because of the slowness of the Judiciary, the process of settling the families has not been completed.

Aware of this situation, the rancher spent these past two years making every type of provocation and threats and even kidnapped teenagers, trying to do everything to drive the landless out of the area.

The solidarity pouring in to the encampment is great: many people, including workers, popular leaders, unionists, supporters and authorities from all over the country are arriving.

On Sunday the 21st Sunday, Miguel Rosseto (Minister of Agrarian Development), Holf Hackbart (President of the Institute for Colonization and Land Reform – INCRA) and Nilmario Miranda (Special Presidential Secretary for Human Rights) were there, promising to make an example of the punishment in this case.

The surviving victims testified and three gunmen are already jailed. Arrest warrants have been issued for Adriano Shafico and another nine people. Evidence against the rancher is substantial: he planned, contracted the gunmen, and personally participated in the massacre, according to the testimony of nearly all the victim witnesses.

The Landless Workers Movement (MST) hopes that Justice will be established, that all the gunmen and the rancher who hired them are immediately arrested. And that the government of the state of Minas Gerais take possession of the area to distribute the land to the workers.

The state government and the unproductive latifndio are responsible for this massacre. The state of Minas Gerais possesses 11 million hectares of vacant land and does nothing to speed up land reform in the state and the judiciary does not respond rapidly to the processes of expropriation.

While Land Reform remains on paper, the landless farmers continue being victimized.

We ask you to send messages to the authorities listed below, demanding the arrest of the gunmen and those who gave them orders, the immediate settlement of the families in the area and a speedy implementation of land reform:

Governor of Minas Gerais – A cio Neves
Praa da Liberdade S/n (Palacio da Liberdade) – Funcionarios Belo Horizonte – CEP: 30.140-912
Fax: (31) 3250 6339

Minister of Justice – Marcio Thomaz Bastos
Esplanada dos Ministrios – Bloco T – 4 Andar – Sala 400
CEP: 70064-900 – Bras lia/DF
Fax: 61 322 – 6817

Special Secretary for Human Rights – Nilmario Miranda
Esplanada dos Ministrios – Bloco T – 4 Andar – Sala 422
CEP: 70064-900 – Bras lia/DF
Fax: 61 223 – 2260
email: or

Please send a copy of the message to
Human Rights Sector of the MST
Alameda Baro de Limeira, 1232
Campos El seos, SP/SP
CEP: 01202-002
fax: (11) 3361-3866

Abuse, real and metaphorical

I know readers might be sick of hearing torture described as ‘abuse’, so let’s talk about a form of abuse that even the abused describe as abuse: domestic abuse.

I want to talk about two examples. First, is an article that came in the email. I’m not sure where it was published, so I’m posting it below as an appendix. It’s by Mel Gilles, who is an advocate for victims of domestic abuse, who makes the analogy between abuse and politics. It is an interesting piece on political psychology. I really don’t like analogies to domestic abuse or rape generally. I feel that some things ought not to be made analogies of. But this one, perhaps because it comes from someone who really understands abuse, isn’t like most of the superficial parallels that are drawn. All of it is quotable and it is a nice short piece, so read it. But I’ll just give you a flavor:

They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive.

Having recommended that, I want to tell you of a case of real abuse and its bizarre handling by the various immigration systems of the world. I heard of this case from OCAP and I am pasting their appeals on it below.

This is the story of a mother and an 11-year old boy, Daniel Isakov and his mom Irina. They tried to claim refugee status, coming here from Israel. They are Russian jews who came to Canada to flee from Daniel’s abusive father. They’ve been in Canada 6 years. Canada refused their claim and then their appeal. Meanwhile Israel, it turns out, has a policy of stripping people of citizenship if they apply for refugee status. This is obviously a policy designed to try to take citizenship away from Israeli Palestinians who might be fleeing persecution, but an automatic policy is an automatic policy and Israel has applied it to the Daniel and Irina. To quote OCAP’s appeal:

Being forced to return to Israel has always been Irina and Daniel’s greatest fear. When they arrive in Israel on December 1st, they will have no money and no place to live. They have no family or friends there and Irina has no prospects for employment. As well, Daniel has excelled in school here. The Israeli public school system caters strongly to Hebrew-speaking Jews. Daniel does not speak Hebrew and does not practice Judaism, given this, it will be very difficult for him to find appropriate public schooling. Irina has tried desperately to negotiate their return to Russia instead, where at least her mother and sister live and they have a home to move into. Immigration Canada refused to do even this.

It’s now December 3. Were Daniel and Irina deported? No:

Last night, December 1st, 11 year old Daniel and his mother were supposed to board a plane to be deported to Israel. They did not show up for their deportation. Instead, they joined the estimated 200 000 Immigrants living “underground” in Canada.

This is how people who are abused can be abused again by cold bureaucracies and racist policies. See Appendix 2 for details.

Appendix 1 : Mel Gilles’s article

Deride and Conquer
The Politics of Victimization

[By: Mel Gilles, who has worked for many years as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse, draws some parallels between her work and the reaction of many Democrats to the election.]

Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the new language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, ‘Why did they beat me?’
And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.

They will tell you, every single day.

The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.

As victims we can’t stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can’t seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.
Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won’t; we will never be worthy).

And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See them cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.

How to break free? Again, the answer is quite simple.

First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of affairs unacceptable. Next, you must promise to protect yourself and everyone around you that is being victimized. You don’t do this by responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You also don’t do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring its over faster and hurts less is you don’t resist and fight back. Instead, you walk away. You find other folks like yourself, 56 million of them, who are hurting, broken, and beating themselves up. You tell them what you’ve learned, and that you aren’t going to take it anymore. You stand tall, with 56 million people at your side and behind you, and you look right into the eyes of the abuser and you tell him to go to hell. Then you walk out the door, taking the kids and gays and minorities with you, and you start a new life. The new life is hard. But it’s better than the abuse.
We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 56 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying, because we are trying to break free and we don’t know how.

Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: stop responding to the abuser. Don’t let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (he’ll win, not because he’s right, but because force works). Sure, we can build a better grassroots campaign, cultivate and raise up better leaders, reform the election system to make it failproof, stick to our message, learn from the strategy of the other side. But we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, ‘loose’, irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.
Even if you do everything right, they’ll hit you anyway. Look at the poor souls who voted for this nonsense. They are working for six dollars an hour if they are working at all, their children are dying overseas and suffering from lack of health care and a depleted environment and a shoddy education. And they don’t even know they are being hit.

Mel Gilles at 07:31 PM on November 07, 2004


The Ukrainian crisis falls neatly into a long-standing mythology that a fraction of the left and a large majority of liberals in the West buy into each time the media decides to engage in a foreign policy morality tale. It is the same old story of the good – be it ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ or ‘self-determination’ – that ‘we’ bring to others. In fact this mythology is the dangerous product of a deep-seated racism in Western societies that still hasn’t come to terms with the legacy of colonialism, exploitation and genocide that ‘we’ have in reality imposed on ‘them.’

Ukrainian opposition poster shows a PORA jackboot stomping on an insect representing the current government and its supporters. Such racist dehumanization of opponents is a critical precursor to conflicts and is a hallmark of fascist movements.

US-backing for opposition forces in the Ukraine – which has already been exposed in some progressive and main-stream publications (see links below) – has been well documented. What hasn’t been addressed, however, is the way in which the reality of the situation on the ground has been obscured in the main-stream press in order to confirm old Cold War stereotypes and perpetuate the current mythologies of Empire globally. The ‘fairy tale’ of the Ukrainian elections is designed to legitimate attempts to reorder to post-Soviet space – through the agency of NATO, the IMF/World Bank, and civil society promotion outfits like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USAID, the Open Society Institute, etc. – in ways that serve the geostrategic and economic interests of Empire.

Thus, while opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko has been represented as a liberal reformer and his opponent Viktor Yanukovych as the incarnation of Soviet style authoritarianism, the reality is quite different. Yuschenko essentially represents the modern face of a conservative Ukrainian nationalism that has been progressively revived in the western portions of the country since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1990, while Yanukovych is little more than a typical post-Soviet petty-capitalist oligarch – of which there are dozens of examples of in the region (and that generally, although not in this case, enjoy the backing of Western policy makers).

In fact, the ‘reformer’ Yuschenko represents a social network that is closely tied to the interests of Western military geo-strategists, neo-liberal technocrats, Polish irredentists and Ukrainian conservative forces (including the Uniate church, which is closely aligned to the Vatican). The alliance of this constellation of forces with conservative tendencies in successive US administrations during the Cold War, and in its aftermath, is well documented. The ‘marriage’ of Yushchenko with this clique is actually literal in that his US-born wife, who is of Ukrainian decent, was a staffer in the Reagan White House. The general right-wing agenda of Yushchenko’s supporter base is illustrated by the prevalence of Bibles and crosses at opposition rallies, emphasis on the desire to purify ‘Ukraine’ from ‘filth’ and ‘corruption’ and Yuschenko’s own populist-nationalist-fundamentalist posturing when he swears himself in as the President of Ukraine with one hand on the Bible or when he insists that he will crush any moves towards regional autonomy by minorities in the country. John Laughland has done a remarkable job in highlighting the far-right wing and actually anti-semitic nature of much of Our Ukraine’s constituency.

Interestingly, Israel and pro-Israeli activists in the US administration – who denounce any criticism of Israel as anti-semitic – are turning a blind eye to the involvement of outright anti-Semites in the Yushchenko alliance. Yuliya Tymoshenko – the powerful gas baroness linked to Yushchenko – recently even ran an Op-Ed piece in Haaretz urging Israel’s support for ‘democratic’ forces in the Ukraine. Thus even in Israel silence has been nearly complete on the oppositions’ patchy track record with respect to Ukrainian anti-Semitism (thereby continuing a long-standing tradition among Israeli policy-makers in which the imperatives of realpolitik often trump the myth asserting that the Zionist project is an antidote to anti-Semitism). This also isn’t the first time that pro-Israeli figures in the US administration have turned a blind eye to allies in other parts of the world that openly professed anti-Semitic views. The pattern has already been well established throughout eastern Europe, the Balkans, in South America and among the former-apartheid regime in South Africa (going so far as lending US support to the regime of Croatia’s late president Franjo Tudjman, who was known for openly engaging in Holocaust denial in his book The Wastelands of History and reviving the projects and insignia of the fascist Ustasha regime from World War II).

The Yuschenko alliance in Ukraine, as Laughland and others have demonstrated, draws support from Rukh party activists, those of the Ukrainian National Defense Organization (UNSO), and the followers of Eduard Kovalenko. All of these forces reclaim the collaborationist past of Ukrainian fascists and SS soldiers who served in the Nazi-backed Galician Brigade during WWII and were implicated in mass-killings like those at Babi Yar. The Rukh Youth movement has agitated actively for the banning of the Ukrainian Communist Party – which is one of the largest Parliamentary forces in the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) – and has sought to impose a virulent right-wing agenda in Ukraine. Many followers of these movements have been found in the ranks of the NED funded Ukrainian ‘youth movement’ PORA that replicates the experience of OTPOR in Serbia and KMARA in Georgia (among others). This has been the general trend in Slovakia, Serbia, Belarus, and Georgia as well, where far-right wing and neo-Nazi youth formations were heavily implicated in the ‘pro-democracy student movements’ that our press continues to glorify (movements that enjoy a level of funding and official support that eclipses anything student activists here in North America could possibly imagine).

In fact, the principle dynamic that Yuschenko represents is that he favors the 100% incorporation of Ukraine into the Western military and strategic security apparatus that dominates Europe and 100% loyalty to the dictates of the IMF and World Bank (which he displayed while in charge of implementing the shock therapy that decimated living standards throughout country). This loyalty translates into the desire to see the complete eradication from Ukrainian soil of any tendencies and forces that favor a rapprochement with Russia, including restrictions on Russian language use, the Ukrainiazation of Russian names, the vilification of the Soviet past in its entirety, the substitution of Russia’s Black Sea fleet with a NATO force, and the construction of pipeline projects for Central Asian natural gas and oil that will by-pass Russia entirely.

Yuschenko, is also allied to former Defense Minister Yevyen Marchuk who was the architect of Ukraine’s involvement in the Iraq war and who was dismissed by Leonid Kuchma (the incumbent president) in September. Marchuk has since openly gone over to the side of the opposition, issuing a televised call to military units to refuse service and come on the side of the opposition in the aftermath of the elections. The dismissal of Marchuk may have been the straw that broke the proverbial ‘camel’s back’ in the relationship between US policy makers and the current Ukrainian administration since Kuchma’s initial ascension to the Ukrainian presidency in 1994.

US policy in the region was complicit in electoral fraud during the Clinton years, including turning a blind eye to the use of state media and police to secure Kuchma’s reelection in 1999 when the main challenger at the time was the head of the Ukrainian Communist Party Petro Symonenko (who campaigned on an openly anti-IMF and anti-NATO agenda). At the time Kuchma enjoyed full Western support, and serious election irregularities were simply ignored. Like many Western backed autocrats, after stealing elections in 1994 and 1999 Kuchma seems to have forgotten the hand that feeds him and got ahead of himself. In 2001 Kuchma signed an agreement to provide weapons to the Macedonian government – which was fighting a US-backed insurgency in the western portions of that country – and participated in the Parliament’s dismissal of then Prime Minister Yuschenko.

Since then the West has mobilized tremendous resources behind the Yuschenko-Tymoshenko-Moroz alignment in Ukrainian politics to dislodge Kuchma’s clan of oligarchs and impose a more pliant regime on the country. The fact that the 2004 presidential elections where much cleaner than the 1994 and 1999 presidential elections – see the British Helsinki Human Rights Group (BHHRG) reports included below – is only secondary to the imperative that while the West “respects Ukraine’s right to choose its leaders, the direction of reforms must be preserved” (a formula for Ukrainian democracy which was defined by IMF managing director Horst Kohler during Yushchenko’s dismissal by the Ukrainian parliament in the spring of 2001).

As other commentators have pointed out, the whole program is identical to the project of Western intervention in Serbia, Georgia, Belarus, Slovakia, and was also attempted two years ago in Moldova (where raging right-wing anti-semites and fascist apologists were also used, although this time they weren’t minor coalition partners but key figures in the oppositions protests against the Communist government).

The point is not about the promotion of democracy in the former Soviet bloc, but identifying which leader will best represent US strategic and economic interests in the region and offering their regime full ideological support. Thus while the political class in most former Soviet states is generally pliant to the dictates of NATO on the strategic front, the IMF/World Bank on the economic front, and USAID, the Open Society Institute, the NED and other ‘civil society’ promotion agencies at the societal level, the ‘problem’ remains that many of these governments also acknowledge Russia as an important strategic, political, economic and cultural partner with which there is a shared past, and an affinity that sometimes includes linguistic, religious and cultural ties as well.

What distinguishes the Clinton and Bush administration approaches to the region is that while both sought to ensure the hegemony of local elites that were primarily sensitive to Western strategic and military considerations, while both favored the expansion of NATO and the redefinition of its role regardless of legitimate Russian concerns, and while both favored further capital interpenetration of the Ukrainian economy and its ‘globalization’ through IMF backed ‘shock therapy’, the Clinton administration was willing to tolerate some links to Russia as well (including the shady activities of some local oligarchs that blocked up full Western capital interpenetration). On the other hand the Bush team seems to be narrowly committed to a very anti-Russian agenda in the region that is a hang-over from the Cold War. Essentially, this translates into a policy that demands 100% loyalty to Washington’s geo-strategic vision for the region and zero-tolerance for any cooperation between Russian peoples and their one time co-nationals (even if such cooperation doesn’t necessarily threaten Western interests).

The blind hatred of Russia among some neo-conservatives even includes open support for Chechen separatists among the same US intellectual class that was critical in defining the terms of Washington’s global War on Terror. As an example of this, one only needs to look to ‘The American Committee for Peace in Chechnya’ whose website can be found at: You can read about the committees activities here: and also peruse its membership list here: Notables include Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Perle, Richard Pipes, Morton Abramowitz, Caspar Weinberger and a ton of other names I’m sure American readers who’ve been following US foreign policy over the years will recognize. The existence of this Committee illustrates that the current expansionist militarism in Washington has little to do with a ‘clash of civilizations’ but more precisely involves an attempt to impose an ideological vision of a free market global order regardless of the consequences. This is essentially Naomi Klein’s ‘Year Zero’ analysis for Iraq applied to the former Soviet bloc countries since the fall of communism in the early 1990s.

Therefore the crisis in Ukraine has little to do with ‘democracy’ but needs to be viewed instead as an intensely geopolitical event. The sentiment in much of the former Soviet east, and in those portions of the Ukraine that voted for Yanukovych, is that US policy makers are seeking to continue the Cold War conservative project of seeking to impose the dominion of a morally superior ‘civilization’ over the peoples of the ‘Asiatic’ east. Thus the terms of the current struggle in the Ukraine are framed by the Western press in the same polarized language that characterized the Cold War and that currently defines the War on Terrorism. Recent articles in the Russian media, including RIA Novosti and Pravda, have castigated the West for reviving such polarized concepts of regional politics and imposing a false and racialized choice on Ukrainians between a ‘democratic’ West and an ‘authoritarian’ East, instead of offering a solution in which all interests and stakeholders are acknowledged and given a say.

Two days ago more than 2.5-million people throughout the Donetsk region of the Ukraine marched in support of the Yanukovych campaign, with 200,000 converging on Lenin Square in the regional capital of Donetsk (most of these people are miners and their families that fear the region will be neglected under Yuschenko). Needless to say, this display of ‘people power’ – which isn’t funded by CIA fronts like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), or sketchy philanthropic outfits like George Soros’ Open Society Institute – was completely omitted by the Western press. The regions people were simply erased from the global consciousness by a virtual ‘disappearing’ act that neatly compliments the physical ‘disappearances’ practiced by authoritarian pro-Western regimes against dissidents in a number of countries (including the dictatorships of Central Asia).

In fact, this is the standard treatment that our press reserves for democratic forces and tendencies that express preferences contradicting those of the ruling elites in the West. Thus the demonstrations of the Haitian poor demanding that the democratically elected Aristide government be returned, or the struggle of democratic forces in the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi demanding that the popular will be respected are routinely ignored. The model is repeated in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, the Gulf States, Colombia etc. where the opposition forces calling for democratic change don’t have the luxury of staging rock concerts in public squares but can instead often be found languishing in resistance units somewhere in tropical jungles or forced into urban clandestine activity (in the best of cases), if they aren’t actually being tortured and massacred in ways gleaned from US or NATO training manuals (including boiling dissidents alive as has been known to happen under the orders of President Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan or the killing of peasants with chainsaws as is often done by Colombia’s brutal paramilitary forces).

Of course the ‘fairy-tale’ reality being presented to us by the press about the situation in the Ukraine is old, but I’m surprised how each time a fraction of the left and a large majority of liberals buy into the time-worn fairytales of ‘democracy’ that ‘we’ bring to others. I can only conclude that this is the product of a deep-seated racism in Western societies that still hasn’t come to terms with the legacy of genocide and colonialism that ‘we’ have in reality imposed on ‘them.’ The notion that ‘our’ contribution to ‘them’ has always been benevolent is the worst form of holocaust denial, and ensures ‘our’ continued perpetuation of human rights abuses in discursive constructs like ‘the East’ (let alone here at home, where the rights of indigenous people are still ignored completely).

Ukraine was not only the victim of Stalinist state planning in the 1930s, Nazi depredations in the 1940s, but is also currently suffering from neo-liberal technocracy in the 1990s (as have all the peoples of Eastern Europe). In fact it could be argued that more people died prematurely as a result of neo-liberal structural adjustment in the former Soviet bloc in the last 15 years than were killed in the Stalinist famines of the 1930s. On a global scale the impact of neo-liberalism – where 30,000 children die from preventable causes each day – is devastating. It is high-time that ‘we’ take ownership of ‘our’ own crimes and authoritarian legacies before lecturing others on theirs. In the case of the Ukraine this means exposing the tremendous double-standards and distortions of reality that have become routine in the reporting of the corporate media. Anything short of that is complicity in the continued perpetuation of the anti-democratic logics of neo-liberalism on a global scale.


Ukraine’s Election Crisis (Lee Sustar – Socialist Worker, December 2)

Truth and Consequence in Ukraine (Katrine Vanden Heuvel – The Nation, November 29)

How the US and Britain are Intervening In Ukraine’s Elections (John Laughland – The Spectator, November 28)

IMF Sponsored “Democracy” in The Ukraine (Michel Chossudovsky – Global Research, November 28)

The Revolution Televised (John Laughland – The Guardian, November 27),3858,5072956-103677,00.html

Ukraine’s postmodern coup d’etat (Johanthan Steele – The Guardian, November 26),15569,1360297,00.html

US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev (Ian Traynor – The Guardian, November 26),15569,1360236,00.html

Ukrainian Crisis and Revival of Cold War Stereotypes (Vladimir Simonov – RIA Novosti, November 25)

I would also recommend that readers examine the following human-rights monitoring groups that follow the situation in the former Communist countries of eastern Europe very closely:

British Helsinki Human Rights Group –
OSCE Watch –


I got a curious email yesterday from a friend studying at Cambridge University who’s been involved in Palestine solidarity activism on UK campuses. Yesterday he got yet another job offer in his mailbox through the ‘Career Service’ listserve run by Cambridge (see the end of this blog entry for the full text of the offer). The position caught his eye because it related to Palestine. It seems like Adam Smith International, the spin off consultancy of the conservative Adam Smith Institute in the UK, is looking for a Refugee Policy Advisor to consult the Palestinian Authority on aspects of refugee policy. While the link between neo-liberal economics – with a Thatcherite accent – and Palestinian refugee rights may seem abstract, it makes perfect sense if we consider the actual objectives of the international community’s intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For those who have been following the Palestinian issue closely, this type of intervention and ‘advice’ on a crucial topic like refugee rights will come as no surprise. After all the ‘international community’ has been inching ever closer to an open endorsement of Sharon’s disengagement/annexationist plan since it was announced during the Likud party’s Herzaliya conference in December 2003. This last April, Sharon was invited to the White House and received full approval for ‘disengagement’ from the Bush Administration, including a willingness to overtake responsibility for the security situation in Gaza either directly or through regional proxies. This point was highlighted by Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, in a Washington Post article that he penned shortly after the Bush-Sharon summit. Indyk is a primary proponent of imposing an international trusteeship over the Palestinian ‘state’ (read Bantustan) that is scheduled to emerge sometime in the middle or near the end of the year 2005.

A key feature of the post-conflict nation building exercise that will be launched by the ‘international community’ in the newly created Bantustan – and whose first phase is the upcoming Palestinian ‘elections’, which are designed to legitimate Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) as the new Palestinian President – is the implementation of a radical free-market model on the Palestinian people and the restructuring of the security services in a manner that will bring all armed factions under the control of pro-Western operatives. The aim will be to ensure that Palestine develops in ways that are favorable to the penetration of transnational capital in the Middle East while ensuring that the only armed Palestinians in the streets are those whose objective is the internal repression of the insurrectionary logics of the intifada. Essentially, the ‘international community’ is seeking to resume the Bantustan formula of the Oslo years, although this time on the territorial terms defined by the Israeli right-wing as represented by Sharon.

On the economic front the assets of the new ‘state’ will largely be managed by the IMF and World Bank. In the summer, the World Bank already prepared a study on how the assets that Israel will leave behind in the Gaza Strip should be managed. Instead of directly transferring the assets to the Palestinians, the World Bank suggested that they be transferred to an interim body that would be managed by technocrats drawn from its own ranks. Thus the involvement of outfits like the Adam Smith Institute in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should come as no surprise as every post-conflict situation in which the ‘international community’ has intervened forcefully has featured the implementation of free-market logics on the colonized state as a central component of the new ‘peace-building.’ This was true in Bosnia – the first such massive intervention of the ‘international community’ in the post-Cold War era – and has been progressively refined in subsequent interventions in Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq (as well as in less publicized ‘peace agreements’ that the ‘international community’ has brokered or is trying to broker in places like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Solomon Islands, Somalia, etc.).

As I was researching Palestine related initiatives in Cambridge for this blog entry, I also came across ‘The Israel-Palestine Peacekeeping Forum’ which is a low-level initiative aimed at bringing together policy makers as well as security and intelligence officials from Israel, the PA, the US, UK, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the EU, the Arab League, NATO, the World Bank, the UN and a number of non-governmental organizations in order to examine the nature of third party involvement in any eventual settlement. The Forum is sponsored by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), the International Development Research Centre (Canada), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden. Essentially, the work of the Forum translates into a low-level mechanism for fleshing out the details of how the proposed Palestinian Bantustan will be governed once in emerges in 2005 (for its most recent report click here). Such ‘semi-secretive’ forums were the basis of the failed Oslo accords, and it seems likely they will again be used as the primary vehicle for hashing out an agreement that will fail to address the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people or to meet their most basics rights, including the Right of Return (which is a central feature of any eventual settlement).

The outlines of the future security situation are thus slowly emerging and seeing the light of day. While the ‘international community’ would ideally like to see regional proxies like Egypt and Jordan stepping-in on the heals of an Israeli withdrawal to impose order in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively – the fact of the matter is that the internal weakness of these regimes may necessitate the assistance of other actors. The possibility that a NATO, or some other type of intervention force, will take over ‘security’ in the areas that will be ceded to a pliant pro-Western Palestinian regime is real. In fact, it was recently announced that NATO would include Israeli military forces in upcoming exercises for the first time in its history. This marks a noticeable expansion of NATO into the Middle East and North Africa that began with the establishment of the Alliance’s ‘Mediterranean Dialogue’ in 1994. The upcoming exercises will be a crucial means of testing modalities for eventual multilateral cooperation in areas of the occupied territories that are ceded to the PA. The NATO umbrella will essentially be used to provide a cover for increased Egyptian-Israeli-Jordanian cooperation in the security field and could eventually translate into the means by which the trans-Atlantic rift created by the Iraq war can be healed. Within such a context, in which the Palestinian issue is being subcontracted to the ‘international community,’ it should come as no surprise that outfits like the Adam Smith Institute are seen as credible interlocutors for Palestinian refugees.


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: “Careers Service”
Subject: CLICK Dev/Research ADAM SMITH INTERNATIONAL Refugee Policy Adviser
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 2004 12:30:43 -0000

CLICK is NOT a vacancy list – don’t miss our full vacancy listings
FutureJobs & JobsNow published weekly in hard copy or via the website at


Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2004 17:23:39 +0000
From: Forced Migration List
Subject: Job announcement: Refugee policy adviser, Ramallah

Adam Smith International wishes to recruit an adviser on Refugees Policy to work at
its aid project in Ramallah, in the West Bank.

The purpose of the project is to provide expert professional advice to Palestinian
ministries and institutions on a range of issues related to the development of a
future Palestinian state.

Candidates must have:
– At least three years experience advising on, or analysing, the Palestinian Refugee
– Excellent academic qualifications in a relevant subject
– Very strong reading, writing and speaking skills in English and fluency in Arabic
– A detailed understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
– Substantial experience of working in teams, liaising with other organisations and
delivering work to tight deadlines.

Compensation will be above average for the development sector.

Please send a covering letter and CV to: