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CANADA’S COURAGEOUS CUTTING OF IRANIAN TIES: MORAL LEADERSHIP SORELY LACKING ELSEWHERE
Volume XI, No. 2,904 • September 11, 2012
David M. Weinberg
Israel Hayom, September 9, 2012
President Shimon Peres was right to laud Canada as a “moral role model” for the nations of the world. Commenting on Ottawa’s Friday decision to cut diplomatic relations with Iran, Peres said, “Canada has proven once again that morals come before pragmatism, (and that) policy must reflect principles and values … I thank Canada for taking a stance based on the highest morals and hope that other nations will see Canada as a moral role model. The diplomatic isolation of Iran is an important step for the security and stability of the entire world.”
The Canadian decision was not surprising for those who have followed the brave new path in global affairs carved out by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird. Under their leadership, Canada has become arguably the most pro-Israel country in the world. They have led a conceptual revolution in how Canadians think about the world, and that includes a deep understanding of and appreciation for Israel’s security dilemmas.
From being the first world leader to cut off funds to the Palestinian Authority in 2006 when it was taken over by Hamas, to speaking out against growing global anti-Semitism, Harper has embraced Israel as no Canadian leader did before him. He blamed Hezbollah for the war and civilian deaths in Lebanon during the summer war of 2006, and rejected widespread calls for an immediate ceasefire. He led the boycott of the Durban II conference. He blocked a G-8 statement that would have called for a return to Israel’s 1967 borders, despite pressure from U.S. President Barack Obama and the Europeans.
Harper, Baird and colleagues also have consistently stood up for Israel, often as a lone voice, in the G-20, the U.N. Human Rights Council, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the U.N. General Assembly. Over the three years that it sat on the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Canada stood alone in defense of Israel — eight times casting the only “no” vote against unfair condemnations of Israel. Last fall, Canada changed its votes in favor of Israel on seven resolutions at the U.N., and signed new agreements for military, defense and intelligence cooperation with Israel.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay told then Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, during a 2011 visit to the Middle East, that “a threat to Israel is a threat to Canada.” McKay’s cabinet colleague Peter Kent stated that “an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada.”
Speaking to the Herzliya Conference earlier this year, John Baird said plainly that “Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada. You have no better friend in the world than Canada, no stronger ally who will stand up for you. We won’t stand behind you; we will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel. Canada will not remain silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory or people.”…
Harper and Baird also have explicitly adopted Natan Sharansky’s 3-D rubric for definition of the “new anti-Semitism.” They have slammed the “constant barrage of rhetorical demonization, double standards and de-legitimization” of Israel. Baird: “Harnessing disparate anti-Semitic, anti-American and anti-Western ideologies, it targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, Israel, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world, and uses, perversely, the language of human rights to do so. We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is.”
After Canada lost its bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, Harper suggested that the country’s stalwart defense of Israel was a contributing factor. For the prime minister, however, it was a small price to pay. Admitting that there is a diplomatic price to be paid for such moral probity, Harper said that he remains undeterred.
“The easy thing to do,” he told the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism in Ottawa in 2010, “is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of ‘honest broker’. [But] Canada will take a stand [in support of Israel], whatever the cost. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are, in the longer term, a threat to all of us.”
“As long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the U.N. or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take a stand, whatever the cost.”…
Israelis feel very much isolated in today’s world community, which often appears to be increasingly hypocritical, cynical and indifferent to Israel’s existential dilemmas….Canada’s bold words and actions give us Israelis hope that there are indeed many decent people, some of them in positions of power, who will not bow to demonization or to the Orwellian twisting of history and language that often pertains to Israel these days. And they will stand in defense of Israel. (Top)
Jerusalem Post, September 9, 2012
The Canadian government’s decision to close its embassy in Iran and expel Iranian diplomats from Canada is as important for the reasons underlying the decision as for the decision itself. In a word, Iran has emerged as a clear and present danger to international peace and security. The Iranian threat is fourfold.
Iran is in standing violation of international law prohibiting nuclear weaponization; Iran has already committed the crime of incitement to genocide prohibited under the Genocide Convention; Iran is a leading state-sponsor of international terrorism; and finally, Iran is engaged in the massive domestic repression of the rights of its own people.
Certainly three other considerations underpinned the Canadian decision: Iran’s complicity in Syria’s atrocities; Iran’s complicity in assaults upon diplomats from Central Asia to Central America; and the intimidation of Canadian-Iranians living in Canada. The decision highlights – and indeed calls for – a set of initiatives to combat these Iranian threats, including:
• Listing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist entity under Canadian law – something the federal government has yet to do;
• Enhancing sanctions for Iran’s defiance of international law in its nuclear weaponization program;
• Sanctioning major human rights violators in the Iranian political and juridical leadership for their criminal violations of the human rights of the Iranian people; and
• Undertaking mandated legal remedies under international law to hold the Iranian leadership accountable for its state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, which has intensified dramatically of late.
In this last regard, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon has, yet again, issued a statement condemning the recent “offensive and inflammatory statements” of the Iranian leadership. Curiously, while the statement also cited international law as the authority for the condemnation – that “in accordance with the United Nations Charter, all members must refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” – it failed to appreciate that international law requires juridical action to sanction such incitement, not just issue mere statements of disapproval….
What is missing in statements expressing disapproval of Iran’s words and actions – including those from the EU, US, Canada, France, Germany and others – is a commitment to action. And let me be clear up front: action in this regard need not be military; indeed, the remedy is juridical.
In a word, the Genocide Convention – framed in 1948, in the wake of the Holocaust – prohibits the crime of “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” Incitement itself is the crime, whether or not genocide follows. The objective is to prevent genocides before they occur, by sounding the alarm on this type of state-sanctioned incendiary incitement that has in the past led us down the road to horrific tragedy and atrocity, as it did in Rwanda, Srebrenica and Darfur.
The Iranian regime’s criminal incitement has been long documented. An all-party report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Canadian Parliament found that “Iran has already committed the crime of incitement to genocide prohibited under the Genocide Convention.” Yet not one state party to the convention has undertaken any of its mandated responsibilities to prevent and punish such incitement – an appalling example of the international community as bystander that reminds us also that genocide occurred not only because of cultures of hate, but because of crimes of indifference.
Closing our embassy will not stop this incendiary incitement. Neither will it sanction it; that is something that can only happen by exercising the required juridical remedies provided in international law.
Such remedies include: Initiating an inter-state complaint against Iran – which is a state party to the Genocide Convention – before the International Court of Justice, for its standing violation of the convention; referring this genocidal incitement to the UN Security Council for accountability and sanction; calling upon the UN secretary-general to refer the situation to the Security Council as one that threatens international peace and security, pursuant to Article 99 of the UN Charter; and requesting that the Security Council itself refer the matter to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who can indict Iranian leaders as it has others.
Simply put, this panoply of juridical remedies – which have brought about the indictment of seemingly immune dictatorial leaders – should be added to the existing political, diplomatic and economic initiatives invoked to sanction Iran’s nuclear weaponization program, where such state-sanctioned incitement to genocide is the terrifying and vilifying context in which Iran’s nuclear weaponization is being accelerated….
[Irwin Cotler is chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran and International chairman of the Responsibility to Prevent Coalition. He is a member of the International Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran and co-chairman of the Global Iranian Political Prisoner Advocacy Project. He has written extensively on Iran.] (Top)
Toronto Star, September 10, 2012
Canada’s recent decision to close its embassy in Tehran and call home its diplomatic corps stationed there has been decried by critics, among them, Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News, writing in the Saturday Star.
To critical pundits, the closure of our embassy in Tehran and the expulsion of Iranian diplomats in Ottawa was intemperate and inopportune, a meaningless provocation. Canada, they suggest, should have continued to participate in the “international discussion” to influence Iran to be more accepting of oversight of its nuclear program — which is widely believed to be flourishing and military in nature.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a showman with a tenuous grasp on reality and historical fact, has spearheaded the Holocaust denial movement since taking office seven years ago and has a habit of lacing his fiery rhetoric with the sort of language that is evocative of former German chancellor Adolf Hitler.
He refers to “Zionists” — a political term used to describe those of the Jewish faith who live in the nation-state known as Israel — as “the most detested people in all humanity” and “an insult to all humanity.” The “Zionist regime and Zionism are a cancerous tumour” which “will soon be destroyed.”…
His raison d’être is the destruction of Israel. He regularly pledges his nation to achieving this goal. For years, he has refused to co-operate with international agencies that oversee nuclear development. He is not known for his co-operative and reasonable diplomatic style….
Media reports indicate that for almost a year Canadian diplomatic staff based in Tehran have been prevented from fulfilling simple tasks. They do not have the necessary access to the Iranian government that one would expect. Canadians have been and continue to be egregiously mistreated in what passes for the judicial system in Iran.
Our minister of foreign affairs, John Baird, made the bold decision that appeasing such a regime is not advisable. Baird chose the path of principle, one that too many leaders forego. He has concluded that dialogue with a madman with his finger on the button may not be terribly effective.
A mere nine months ago, the heavily fortified British Embassy in Tehran was stormed by “students.” Iran officially explained this incident as the handiwork of “a few” extremists. Interestingly, neither the military nor the police intervened to stop the “extremists.” Civil liberties are very carefully controlled in Iran, as we saw in the brutal suppression of civil rights demonstrations there in 2009. It is difficult to believe that a small band of rogue extremists storming the heavily guarded U.K. embassy could not be managed by the Iranian authorities.
The British, a stiff upper-lip crowd, recalled their diplomats and shuttered up the office. Why? Well, one can assume that the British Foreign Office, one of the most highly regarded shops in the world, determined the environment to be too dangerous, unpredictable and felt it could not guarantee the safety of its staff. Perhaps principle played a part in their decision as well….
Make no mistake. If Iran attacks Israel with nuclear weapons, there will be other countries to follow. The destruction of the state of Israel may not disturb Baird’s critics, but I expect they would be apoplectic if Dubai, Kuwait or the U.A.E. — easy targets for Ahmadinejad — were threatened. After all, they have oil. Kudos to Foreign Minister Baird for emulating Churchill and not Chamberlain. (Top) (Vivian Bercovici is a Toronto lawyer.)
National Post, Sep 8, 2012
Why now? On Friday, Canada severed its last remaining diplomatic relations with Iran, withdrawing all Canadian representatives from Tehran and expelling all remaining Iranian diplomats from Ottawa.
Relations between the two countries have been bad since the 2003 detention, torture, rape and murder of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi. The Harper government has supported economic sanctions against Iran and spoken out vigorously against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
But this final step, what explains it? The official reasons are studiously vague.
Traveling in Vladivostock, Russia, Foreign Minister John Baird gave this statement to reporters:
“Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today. Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Tehran.… There’s just a long list of reasons why we’re coming to this decision.”…
Canada has led the way to forcing the isolation of Iran – and a new round of sanctions may soon be coming, this time targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The risk is real that when the Iranian regime is pressed, it will lash out at anyone within its reach. Iran does not respect Canadian passports or the new citizenship rights of Iranian-Canadians, not in 2003 and not now. An Iranian-Canadian, Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, has been sentenced to death in Iran on charges of espionage. Hamid’s brother Alborz died in Iranian police custody in 2010. The regime scooped up the two brothers when they visited their sick mother in Iran and refused to allow the Canadian government contact with these prisoners.
Nor will the Iranian embassy in Ottawa be much missed. Iranian embassies in other countries have a long history of acting as bases of espionage and terrorism against their host nations. Iran has carried out assassinations inside Germany (the Mykonos restaurant killings of 1992), France (the murder of former Iranian prime minister Shahpour Bakhtiar and his secretary in 1991) and the United States (the slaying of a prominent Iranian-born critic in 1980).
The U.S. government accused Iran of attempting to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington just this past year. Iran instigated (happily unsuccessfully) attempts to kill British author Salman Rushdie in the 1980s, and it is implicated in terror attacks against Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia this year.
Argentina froze diplomatic relations with Iran in 1994, after a pair of terrorist attacks first on the Israeli embassy in 1992 and then against Buenos Aires’ Jewish community centre, the latter a crime that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds more.
At the Huffington Post, David Harris has described efforts by Iran’s Ottawa embassy to insert extremist literature into the curricula of Canadian Islamic schools. “Iranian embassy sympathizers and collaborators shaped and influenced a weekend Iranian language and culture course offered by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), on the premises of the board’s publicly-funded Lady Evelyn Alternative School. The course was attended mainly by children of Iranian background. The school describes itself as ‘a nurturing environment’ and prides itself on its ‘diverse, multicultural population.’
“Several of the course’s Farsi language textbooks … feature prominent photographs of Ayatollah Khomeini, one showing Khomeini giving a grandfatherly cuddle to a young boy.… A Grade 3 Iranian text used on site at Lady Evelyn glorifies child soldiery and suicide-martyrdom operations.… Meanwhile, a cartoon with racist overtones depicts hunched, ogre-like brown-faced Israeli soldiers — dead-ringers for the common Islamist description of Jews as ‘sons of apes’ — menacing with bayonets a diminutive, light-skinned Palestinian child.”
There’s the Iranian diplomatic service in action. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. (Top)
Elder of Ziyon Blog, September 09, 2012
Top Ten Iranian Insults to Canada
The Globe and Mail, September 10, 2012
Canada's Last Iran ambassador:
Cutting off Tehran Looks Like a Mistake
Toronto Star, September 07, 2012
What Has Prompted Canada’s Move Against Iran?
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)
Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)
Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Ber Lazarus (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)