It is no secret to anyone that in the United States, the people are governed by powerful lobby groups. The strength of the National Rifle Association (NRA) is so great that government officials are able to overlook the shooting deaths of countless innocent children, as young as 5 years old, along with their teachers in their own classrooms. The bloated defense budget, which comes at the expense of social services and infrastructure, is the result of powerful lobby groups. And violations of international law and human rights, along with war crimes, are ignored, because of the largess of the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its related groups.
For organizations supporting the apartheid regime of Israel, the U.S. may be the most important government to purchase, but is not the only one. Canada, too, has begun to offer its government officials to the high-bidding, pro-Israeli lobby.
Government representatives from any country can and should be allowed to visit other countries, to increase trade and learn about issues. However, if a representative is visiting to explore issues, it is necessary to view both sides. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) invites Canadian officials to visit Israel, at CIJA’s expense, and several such officials have taken advantage of the offer.
It must be remembered that Israel, in violation of international law, occupies the nation of Palestine, and has done so for decades. It continually violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian people by bulldozing their homes to make room for Israeli-only housing settlements, which are also in violation of international law. They arrest without charge Palestinians as young as twelve years old, and hold them for long periods of time without access to legal representation or even family members. They shoot and kill unarmed Palestinian men, women and children, and on the rare occasions that a settler or soldier is charged for the crime, they are either completely exonerated, or given a minor, suspended sentence. Yet if a Palestinian is charged with a crime, his home and the homes of his relatives are bulldozed.
Additionally, Israel is one of just three, nuclear-armed nations that is not a signatory to the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (India and Pakistan are the other two). Its government leaders will not allow any inspection of its nuclear facilities.
In the Gaza Strip, Israel is slowly choking the population of nearly 2,000,000 people to death. It prevents much needed supplies from being imported, and forbids most exports, thus crippling the economy. It forbids Gaza Strip residents from leaving even for much-needed, life-saving medical attention.
When United Nations organizations seek entrance to Palestine to investigate possible war crimes committed against the Palestinians by Israel, that apartheid regime refuses to allow them to enter. If Israel has nothing to hide, why does it not welcome such an investigation?
One would be naïve indeed if one believed that the CIJA was making Canadian members of Parliament aware of these crimes against humanity. CIJA does not publicize its itinerary for travelling members of Parliament. But MP Kelly McCaulay, in an August, 2017 report to his constituents, provided a day-by-day description of his activities on his CIJA-sponsored trip to Israel.
What was not included during his tour was any mention of Palestine. There were discussions and presentations on Israeli security concerns, dinners with various officials, and discussions of the ancient history of the Jewish people.
Would these same Canadian officials, in a different time, have been happy to visit Germany in the 1930s to see how efficiently the trains were running? Would they, today, visit Myanmar government officials, and be content with no mention whatsoever of the Rohingya people? Would they visit Afghanistan, and not expect any discussion of the nearly two-decade-long war waged by the U.S. against the people of that country?
Unfortunately, there is no powerful pro-Palestinian lobby, able to purchase the loyalty, and therefore the votes, of elected officials.
In the absence of such an organization, the national security of Palestine is threatened, while Israel declares to all its invited guests, and the rest of the world, that it is the nation whose very existence is at risk. Palestine, with no army, navy or air force, occupied and completely blockaded by Israel, is proclaimed by Israel to be a threat to its existence. Yet by continually stealing Palestinian land, with the government of Canada doing nothing to prevent it, Palestine is the country facing an existential threat.
Yet Canadian members of Parliament seem perfectly content to take lobby-sponsored trips to Israel, learning only one side of a brutal story, and ignoring the victims.
Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, in discussing Canadian government rules on conflict of interest, said this: “Federal ethics rules say it is illegal for lobbyists to do anything that puts an MP or government official in even an appearance of a conflict of interest, and paying for an MP’s trip that costs thousands of dollars definitely crosses that line.”
These trips are not designed to assist Canada’s elected representatives in better understanding the issues facing the Middle East; they are merely gifts, free trips provided to government officials, and sometimes to their families, to create both a pro-Israel bias and feeling of indebtedness on the part of the officials, so that these officials will vote to penalize boycotts of Israel, or otherwise work to strengthen that apartheid regime.
In an atmosphere where government transparency is almost non-existent, it is the responsibility of every resident of Canada to know how his or her so-called representative is voting, and to whom that representative owes allegiance. If their representative has accepted gifts of travel from rogue nations such as the Zionist entity called Israel, and if their votes indicate that they ignore the will of the people in favor of the demands of the lobby, they should be voted out of office at the next possible opportunity.
Survey after survey in the U.S. and Canada show increasing support for the Palestinians, and decreasing support for apartheid Israel. Free trips that paint a pretty picture, and hide the true ugliness of Israel, should not influence the votes of those elected to do the will of the people. It is up to the people to assure that their voices, and not the demands of lobbyists, are heard and respected.
Robert Fantina is an author and peace activist. His writing has appeared on Mondoweiss, Counterpunch and other sites. He authored Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy and Essays on Palestine.
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