Israeli aggression, arms control, Huawei ban, Ukraine update and more
THE MURDER OF AL JAZEERA JOURNALIST SHIREEN ABU AKLEH
Further to our 14 May blog post discussion of the murder by Israeli forces of beloved and respected Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the subsequent brutal attack by Israeli police on peaceful mourners, including pallbearers, in her funeral procession, we now highlight a comprehensive and insightful analysis by Ayman Mohyeldin, MSNBC Opinion Columnist.
It is entitled Shireen Abu Akleh was a voice for Palestine. Israeli police didn’t let them mourn in peace (msnbc.com, 14 May 2022):
Even when mourning their dead, Palestinians can’t be Palestinian.
This is the second time that we have posted an MSNBC Opinion piece, in each case because the article demonstrates a welcome, and much-needed independence from what is often otherwise knee-jerk support for mainstream Democratic Party positions.
Author Ayman Mohyeldin cites Reporters without Borders, which places Israel in the bottom half of its ranking for press freedom — 86th out of 180 countries:
Palestinian journalists are systematically subjected to violence as a result of their coverage of events in the West Bank.
He also references a 2019 report by the UN Human Rights Council — with respect to the 2018 protests along the border of the Gaza Strip and Israel — that stated:
The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot journalists intentionally despite seeing that they were clearly marked as such….
Please ponder that UN finding for a moment and then consider reading this non-paywalled article in its entirety.
New video adds further proof Israeli forces shot Abu Akleh
A new video, beginning moments before Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed, has emerged showing relative calm and quiet, contrary to claims by Israeli officials that fighting was taking place in the area.
In the meantime the Israel Defense Forces released a statement on 19 May that Abu Akleh was killed in an “active combat situation” and an “immediate criminal investigation” would not be launched.
Canadian perspectives on the murder and aftermath
Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English, and of CBC News, wrote a 13 May column in the Toronto Star entitled The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank spotlights danger faced by both journalists and Palestinians.
The subhead offers a hopeful note:
Outrage over the shooting may very well trigger a degree of accountability on Israel’s military forces that they have managed to evade for years.
For a Canada Talks Israel Palestine interview with Tony Burman on the ongoing campaign by Israel to prevent journalists from properly covering Israel’s harsh repression of Palestinians, click on the arrow below.
Behind the paywalled Hill Times, see: Backbench Liberals shift from government in push for tougher response to Israel (Neil Moss, 18 May 2022).
Neil Moss writes:
A growing list of Canadian MPs are calling on the federal government to condemn the actions of Israel’s security services more forcefully.
This group includes Liberal MP Salma Zahid (Scarborough Centre, Ont.), chair of the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group, who tweeted on 13 May:
My statement on the actions of Israeli police today during the funeral procession for Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. pic.twitter.com/q5cFV8uxPi
— Salma Zahid (@SalmaZahid15) May 14, 2022
Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, for her part, has tweeted:
Canada calls for a thorough investigation into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh. We must ensure that rights of journalists are upheld globally and that they are free and safe to bring their work to light.
Notably absent from this tweet is any reference to an independent review of the killing.
CTV reports that Joly also condemned “as appalling” images of Israeli police pushing and hitting mourners at the funeral of Abu Akleh, but made no mention of the need to hold them in any way to account.
Israel police conduct at funeral abhorrent – Heather McPherson
NDP Foreign Affairs critic Heather McPherson, according to CTV, described the Israeli police conduct at the funeral as “abhorrent” and called for an independent international investigation into the journalist’s death.
No change will come in official Liberal policy without pressure from Canadian public
The Hill Times article also considered the lack of impact on official Liberal policy of these recent MP critiques, quoting Mount Royal University sociology professor Mark Ayyash, an expert on Israel and Palestine:
I don’t see, on the near horizon, a change in Canadian policy on this issue because it is strongly allied with Israel and is not interested in [a] change in policy…
Nonetheless, he believes that it is pressure from constituents that has helped move some MPs to speak “to the reality on the ground” and to start to “talk to action”.
Ultimately, however, he believes Canada will not act without a change in policy by the US government.
Michael Bueckert, vice-president at Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, welcomes the stronger response by the NDP, including a call last year for an arms embargo against Israel.
He too underscores the importance of public pressure if we are to see an end to Israeli impunity for repeated attacks on Palestinians and other human rights violations:
If there is a change in Canadian policy, it will occur due to constituency demand.
Balfour Project: Britain’s duty to advance equal rights in Palestine/Israel
Moving back to the international stage, an important statement was recently issued by the Balfour Project, supporting Palestinian human rights and critiquing the UK’s historical and ongoing role in the Israel–Palestine conflict:
While we take concrete measures to support Ukraine in its wish to maintain its independence and to secure its territorial integrity, we take no such concrete measures with regard to Palestine and the Palestinians.
The entrenched injustice and inequality in the Holy Land threaten the security of us all.
The Balfour Project has a prestigious sponsor list, including MPs and titled nobility, which lends added weight to the statement.
In our reporting on Canadian action to refer possible war crimes in Ukraine to the ICC, we have drawn attention to the blatant double standard when it comes to Israeli non-accountability for war crimes.
Miloud Chennoufi, chair of the Department of Defence Studies at the Canadian Forces College, speaking in his personal capacity on a panel at the Middle East Strategy Forum 2022, trenchantly sums up the problem:
At the end of the day, what you’re doing here is just weaponizing human rights in order to serve your interests unless you also denounce the violations of human rights committed by your friends and allies.
We reiterate our longstanding call for Canada to end the unconscionable gap between its professed championing of human rights and international law on the one hand and its lack of action to help end Israeli impunity for gross and ongoing breaches of Palestinian human rights, on the other.
Past blog posts on Ukraine have examined potential elements of a negotiated settlement of the Ukraine conflict. Two new briefing notes written by Martin A. Smith for NATO WATCH add fresh analysis to this ongoing effort.
The first briefing note looks at the issues of territory and sovereignty, while the second tackles security status and guarantees.
See: Key challenges in settling the Ukraine conflict: Territorial disposition and Sovereignty, NATO WATCH Briefing Paper No. 92 (4 May 2022); and Key challenges in settling the Ukraine conflict: Security status, neutrality and security guarantees, NATO WATCH, Briefing Paper No. 94 (17 May 2022).
Professor Martin Smith writes in the final section of the second briefing note:
It should be readily apparent from this brief that there are no easy or clear answers for Ukraine’s security status following the current conflict. There are, however, interesting and potentially viable options.
Different understandings and practices of neutrality have evolved in the European security context and examining which of them offer useful precedents could form the basis of a bespoke package providing necessary guarantees of Ukraine’s sovereignty and security and a means to engage Russia and NATO members in a constructive and mutually-reinforcing framework to underpin it.
At the time of writing any such agreed package seems a long way off. But it is not impossible to conceive.
Post script: the infamous legacy of George W. Bush
We end this section with an excellent analysis of an extraordinary moment, on Wednesday night, while George W. Bush was delivering a speech at his presidential centre at Southern Methodist University.
Jeet Heer, writing in the Nation, describes it thus:
Making a critique of the regime of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Bush said: “The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.”
He then paused, scrunched his beady eyes tight like a child working out a difficult math problem, and corrected himself, “I mean of Ukraine.”
Still looking confused Bush muttered: “Iraq, too—anyway.“
Journalist Jeet Heer observes:
Comparisons between the invasion of Iraq and the invasion of Ukraine are frowned on in the more respectable precincts of American politics. But they have an undeniable aptness.
For the full article, see George W. Bush Stumbles Into a Moment of Truth (Jeet Heer, thenation.com, 20 May 2022).
AMERICA, GUNS AND MASS SHOOTINGS: A CAUTIONARY TALE
According to CNN:
So far this year, there have been 201 mass shootings in the United States, and it’s only May. CNN and the Gun Violence Archive define a mass shooting as one that injures or kills four or more people.
Note that the USA leads the world in the number of civilian-held guns per population, nearly double that of the next highest. It leads advanced economies in gun deaths, with a 25 times higher gun homicide rate and an overall firearm death rate (including suicide and accidents) ten times higher than other advanced economies.
For more evidence — if needed — of the importance of effective gun regulation, see the New York Times article entitled What do Most Mass Shooters Have in Common? They Bought Their Guns Legally (Glenn Thrush, 16 May 2022).
The article cites a comprehensive survey of law enforcement and other data that found:
From 1966 to 2019, 77 percent of mass shooters obtained the weapons they used in their crimes through legal purchases.
Author Glenn Thrush writes of the federal response:
The Biden administration renewed its calls to ban semiautomatic weapons and expand national background checks in the wake of the attack in Buffalo on Saturday, as it has done time and again after mass shootings.
But their legislative efforts have little chance of success, and the situation as the state level is even “bleaker”:
One by one, Republican-controlled state legislatures have enacted laws to undo existing gun regulations that place restrictions on the purchase and carrying of firearms.
As if that were not a grim enough picture, a further gun control threat looms:
Over the next month or two, the Supreme Court is expected to strike down all or part of a New York State law that curtails the concealed possession of a gun without a special permit, a case seen as a potential landmark decision that could invalidate dozens of similar laws in liberal-leaning states.
Strengthening Canadian gun regulation
Despite the ongoing efforts of the well-financed and industry-based Canadian gun lobby, shamefully aided and abetted by the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal government is not only committed to measures to encourage provinces to ban handguns but also to legislatively assist municipalities who wish to do so.
Moreover, John Ivison, in a column entitled Trudeau government ponders national handgun ban (nationalpost.com, 29 April 2022) writes:
The idea of a nationwide ban would solve the problem of a patchwork of rules emerging across the country, a situation that could see guns flow from unregulated to regulated jurisdictions.
He elaborates, referencing a well-placed, but unnamed, source:
There is a robust debate about taking action (on handguns) from coast-to-coast.
Coalition for Gun Control, for example, notes that Canada has nothing to be complacent about:
While Canada has a much lower rate of firearm death and injury than the USA, it has a much higher rate than the UK, Australia and Japan. We are fourth in the rate of firearm death among 22 industrialized OECD countries.
They further note that gun homicides, intimate partner and gender violence using a firearm and firearm suicides are all on the increase in Canada.
Assault rifle ban needs to be comprehensive
Further legislation is required to ban models that were not covered by the regulations and to prevent manufacturers from introducing new models into the market.
We call on the federal government to act expeditiously, ideally in cooperation with the provinces, but unilaterally, if necessary, to enact a nationwide handgun ban. We further call on them to finalize the assault-style gun buyback program and to enact legislation to ban all models of assault-style weapons.
UPDATE ON CANADA AND THE U.S. MISSILE DEFENCE PROGRAM
In October 2021 we comprehensively reviewed the legion of arguments against Canada joining the American ballistic missile defence program in a blog post entitled Even more reasons for Canada to stay out of American ballistic missile defence.
We revisited this issue again in the context of the defence budget and NORAD modernization, commenting on the soundness of a Canadian policy focused on an upgraded North Warning [radar] System:
This would be the sensible, prudent approach. It does not involve wasting untold billions seeking futilely to “deter and defeat” cruise and ballistic missile attacks for which there is no defence but nuclear deterrence — which in turn means prevention of any military engagement between nuclear-armed adversaries.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it seems military options — no matter how costly and unproductive — are being examined anew. Thus, CTV news reported on 10 May that
Defence Minister Anita Anand says the federal government is weighing whether Canada should join the U.S. in actively defending against intercontinental ballistic missiles.
For a succinct review, again, of why this is a monumentally bad idea, see Joining the U.S. missile defence program would be a big mistake (Matt Korda, thestar.com, 20 May 2022).
Matt Korda writes:
Canada was correct to opt out of the U.S. missile defence program in 2005, and would be correct to do so again today.
In his view, and we concur, a “more productive pathway towards reducing nuclear risk” would be for Canada to prioritize diplomatic rather than military initiatives, including:
addressing the proliferation risks of emerging military technologies, helping to expand dual-use export control regimes, and broadly promoting arms control between the nuclear-armed states.
The article concludes:
Efforts like these would do much more to ensure the safety of Canadians than participating in a program that doesn’t work as designed, isn’t worth the cost, and pushes the arms race in the wrong direction.
UPDATE ON HUAWEI: CANADA FINALLY FOLDS
On Thursday, 19 May, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne told a news conference that Canada was banning Chinese tech giant Huawei from working on Canada’s fifth-generation telecommunications networks over “security concerns”.
In the long interregnum before Canada finally reached a decision, Rogers, Bell Canada and Telus Corporations were already shifting away from using Huawei products, and partnering with Ericsson to build their 5G networks, despite Bell and Telus earlier choosing Huawei for their 4G operations. (Note there are no viable American options.)
In the view of the Rideau Institute:
Canada caves, like the rest of the Five Eyes (minus New Zealand maybe), without a shred of evidence ever being produced by the USA that Huawei posed a specific security threat. The US wins big in further limiting a leader in the field while Canada loses its hitherto key place in 5G.
We remind readers of a Globe and Mail commentary written by Professor Wesley Wark, an expert on national security and intelligence, back in July 2020, after the British government yielded to American pressure:
Canada’s effort to advance an independent policy on dealing with the Chinese company Huawei always involved a leap of faith….
This past week, we lost our last close ally in the fight to resist the U.S. trade war against the Chinese company, when the British government made a dramatic U-turn.
As for the reasons behind the British decision, Wark writes:
Let’s be clear: The recent British decision was not based on any embrace of a spy-threat theory. It was a technical decision prompted by the market realities of a U.S. export ban. The same goes for Canada.
Just so no one misses the point, Wark also states:
To put things in a nutshell, the United States has won its all-in war against Huawei.
As for the real security issue — security and privacy standards for all providers of 5G — Wark states:
It will still be incumbent on the federal government to come up with regulations enforcing security and privacy standards for 5G, which will be extremely difficult.
The Huawei case is a stark demonstration of the limits of Canadian sovereignty and the lack of any strategy for economic security as the U.S.-China geopolitical battle heats up.
One thing is for sure: America will continue to look after its own economic interests, not Canada’s.
Recordings are now available on YouTube for the entire two-day Middle East Strategy Forum 2022.
Click HERE for the full list of session recordings.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Gaza, West Bank)