Buzz Hargrove and Terrorism

ZNet just posted an exchange between a unionist from the Canadian Auto Workers’ union and the union’s president, Buzz Hargrove. Given the amount of democracy in Canadian unions, it wasn’t exactly an “exchange”, so much as the unionist’s reaction to the Official Position laid down by the President, who also spends an awful lot of his time cavorting with Canada’s wealthiest and most powerful people. Joe Emersberger, who has appeared in this blog in the past and who I respect a lot for his letters, is the unionist in question. And while I thought his letter was good, I felt a point-by-point response to Hargrove’s letter is in order. Here it is, below. My comments are in bold.

Dear Prime Minister,

The crisis in the Middle East cannot be allowed to escalate and I believe Canada can take a leadership role in finding a diplomatic resolution.

Unfortunately, Harper has already squandered Canada’s diplomatic credibility by his pronouncements of unconditional support for Israel and for the United States, and his military operations in Afghanistan. While the Martin liberals were headed in this direction, Harper has accelerated matters to the point where Canada’s credibility is close to zero.

The potential of provoking a much wider conflict, plummeting the entire region into chaos, is a real danger. Up to 200 people in Gaza and Lebanon have been killed and thousands more may die because of the destruction by Israeli bombings of power plants, homes and hospitals.

At least Israel’s agency in the bombings has been acknowledged here. But the passive voice appears in this letter “Up to 200 people… have been killed…” as it does throughout the media, when Israel is doing the killing.

Hamas and Hezbollah must assume responsibility for this latest crisis, but this does not give Israel the license to kill innocent citizens and destroy the infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon.

Hamas: the elected government of the Palestinians, who had held a unilateral ceasefire for months while Israel attacked and provoked, while Canada, the US, Israel, and the rest of the world imposed tremendous suffering on the Palestinian population by embargo – an embargo that has over 1/4 of the children of Gaza starving, while Israel dropped bombs and sent death squads to assassinate Palestinians, must assume responsibility for the latest crisis. Hizbollah: the political movement with elected members in the Lebanese government, that didn’t want to disarm, arguing that they needed to maintain their arms in the event of an Israeli invasion, and has no arms that are any match for the US/Israel military machine, after constant low-level incursions and conflict with Israel on the border, must assume responsibility.

The continuing killing of Israeli soldiers and over 25 innocent citizens alike cannot be ignored by the world community.

Although the world community can, and has, ignored the continuing killing of Palestinian civilians. As Hargrove has, in his letter. Palestinians are not qualified as “innocent citizens”. They simply do not exist in Hargrove’s world.

We are extremely concerned about the recent killing of 7 Canadians in the bombing of Lebanon.

Hargrove here follows the media in using the passive voice, referring to the Canadians as if they were killed by a natural disaster. Israel bombed the place they were vacationing in, as it has bombed so many civilian areas over the past several months (years) and killed so many civilians – thousands, since 2006.

Certainly Israel has the right to defend itself against attacks on its citizens by extremist forces such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

But the Lebanese and Palestinians do not have such reciprocal rights. The Palestinians do not have the right because, in Hargrove’s world and Hargrove’s letter, they do not exist. The Lebanese, perhaps, because in Hargrove’s world and his racist calculus, because to exercise a right of self-defense against Israel is the same as “terrorism”.

Countries like Lebanon, Syria and Iran that harbour extremist forces must expect that there will be consequences to their complicity in the attacks on Israel.

This is the most interesting aspect of the letter. Read this carefully. This seems to me to be tantamount to a military threat from the President of a Canadian union to the “countries” (NOT merely the governments) of Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The words “harbour extremist forces” and “consequences”. This is pure Bush-language.

And the world knows very well what these “consequences” are – tremendous violence, against defenceless civilians, from the air. It is hard for me to see how this section of this letter is not supportive of terrorism. It amounts to a threat of violence against civilians, and Hargrove knows it. This is kind of posturing is unworthy and frightening from the president of the United States. From the president of a worker’s union in a small country, it is utterly revolting.

Finally, if these COUNTRIES are to face some dark and unknown “consequences” for their “complicity”, what “consequences” are WE going to face for ours, since theirs is a matter of speculation and ours a matter of public record?

However, Israel’s military response has been brutal and disproportionate to the provocation by Hezbollah and Hamas.

Emphasizing again the inversion of provoker and provoked, and removing the Palestinians from the equation.

The killing of innocent civilians and destruction of the infrastructure destabilizes the region and impedes advancing the goals of democracy and peace for Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people.

Ah, I was wrong. The Palestinians have finally appeared, as a people who need democracy. But what was Canada’s response to their democratic election? To cut aid to a starving, besieged people and then to describe their being bombed as a “measured response”. What does Hargrove say to Harper, the man who cut this aid and made this description, about it, in a letter to him? Nothing.

The CAW calls for:

the immediate return, unharmed, of captured Israeli soldiers. an end to the shelling of Israeli cities by Hamas militants. an end to the shelling of Israeli cities by the Hezbollah militants.

The demands of Hamas and Hizbullah in this are clear: Hamas wants, of the 9,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, most of whom are there on “evidence” taken under torture, the 1,000 “administrative detainees” who have not been charged, plus the 400 children, plus the 100 women, returned, in exchange for the tank gunner they captured. Hizbullah wants the Lebanese prisoners and an end to Israeli attacks. These would be easy for Israel to grant, and easy for Canada to ask Israel to grant as part of a negotiated solution. But nothing on this from Hargrove.

Another interesting question is why Hargrove sees fit to make his first demand in a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister a demand to Hizbullah and Hamas, a demand Harper agrees with, and over which Harper (and now Hargrove) has absolutely no influence or credibility.

-an end to Israeli bombing of Lebanon and Gaza and all military operations including the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and Lebanon.

This section at least acknowledges that Israel is bombing Gaza, for the first time in the letter. Withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, while it would be a good thing, would not lift the siege. And Hargrove, who doesn’t acknowledge the siege, doesn’t acknowledge this need either.

-the release of the Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians arrested by the Israelis

But not the 400 children, 100 women, and 1000 administrative detainees, plus the Lebanese prisoners, who, if they were released, would lead immediately to the release of the Israeli soldiers.

-the immediate reinstatement of international aid to the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Abbas.

No mention of the elected government?

-expedite the evacuation of all Canadians who are caught in the war zone in Lebanon.

Canada must take a leadership role in bringing the parties to the table to find a resolution to this crisis, which has cost too many innocent lives.

In order for Canada to take a credible leadership role, the federal government must end its unsavoury attempts to mirror George Bush’s policies during this crisis and instead, reflect the strongly held Canadian values of fairness and justice – and to uphold our obligations to international law.

We propose the Canadian government withdraw our troops from Afghanistan and further propose they be reassigned to a peacekeeping role in the Middle East.

The last few paragraphs clash strongly with the previous content, so much so that they suggest a different writer. If Harper does what Hargrove suggests, Canada will be precisely doing “unsavoury attempts to mirror George Bush” and will have lost all hope of a “credible leadership role”.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

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