Date: April 16, 2012
Source: Globe & Mail
Abstract: This Monday morning it will be all eyes on New York
City when an American al-Qaeda suspect goes on trial to face charges of
plotting to bomb that city’s subway system. Publicity will surround the case,
the United States of America v. Adis Medunjanin, given that it promises to
yield insights into how the fading terror group still manages to recruit
“homegrown” terrorists in the West.
Scant attention, however, will be paid to a co-accused whose name is also on the docket in the case. This suspect has yet to face any trial, and he’ll probably never get one.
Ferid Imam, a Canadian citizen who once studied biochemistry at the University of Manitoba, is indicted as a co-conspirator in the subway plot. But he won’t likely be coming to the Brooklyn courtroom any time soon. In fact, it’s a safer bet that Mr. Imam -- never arrested -- lies dead under mounds of rubble somewhere in mountainous regions of northwest Pakistan.
There would have been no judges and no juries involved in this, even if a U.S. Predator drone plane might have served as an executioner. The American Constitution guarantees due process for suspected criminals -- but today Washington also upholds that its terrorist kill lists, which are devised and executed with Star-chamber-like secrecy, can amount to rough justice for terrorists.
In 2010, a Globe and Mail investigative team first reported on a secret global manhunt for Mr. Imam and other young men in their 20s. They were suspected of being radical Islamists who left Winnipeg to try to join al-Qaeda in 2007. All we could report at the time was that the search by authorities went cold in Pakistan.
Not long after the Globe story was published, I paid my way onto a Caribbean cruise ship where a recently retired CIA director was giving a speech to tourists. General Michael Hayden was the featured speaker in what had been dubbed a “Spy Cruise.”
In that ridiculous setting I struck up a very serious conversation with the spymaster. When he was running the CIA, had he ever hear of Ferid Imam? The other missing Canadians?
I was surprised by the answer.
“I broadly know the case. I know the issue,” the retired four-star general replied. He said the CIA had been swapping information about the suspects with Canadian intelligence agencies. “It was part of our general appreciation of ‘We got people who know the West, who are now being trained to come back at the West.’ “
I asked what had happened next. General Hayden didn’t answer the question -- not directly.
“One of the big issues that I was briefing to George Bush as 07 turned to 08 was the number of Westerners – broadly defined – who were showing up in the tribal regions of Pakistan,” he said. He added that he had told the president that “this is a safe haven that’s being used to prepare people to come attack us. And therefore we recommended – and this is the best I can give you on this – stronger courses of action.”
Those words, which have profound legal and ethical implications for the Canadian and U.S. governments, have been rattling around in my head ever since.
You don’t need to be a genius to figure out what the ex-CIA boss was alluding to. The CIA-led “targeted killing” program remains an official state secret, however poorly kept. No American official can speak to it directly, or publicly acknowledge that “We use drone-fired missiles to blow up suspected terrorists in countries where we are not at war.”
Yet it is safe to say that CIA-targeted killings in Pakistan have taken off like a rocket ship in 2008, as president Bush lowered the bar on the thresholds needed for the CIA to initiate lethal action. In that period, hundreds of bombs began dropping annually in Pakistan, where only dozens had been dropped before.
There were justifications for this activity.
In 2009 an Afghan-American hot dog vendor named Najibullah Zazi was arrested in Manhattan. It was a huge bust, especially given how alarming the charges were -- Mr. Zazi, then 20, stood accused of being part of a plot to bomb the New York after first training with al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan.
He had allegedly ventured abroad for training with two of his high school classmates. One of them was allegedly Adis Medunjanin, the New Yorker whose trial begins Monday.
Mr. Zazi, the better-known suspect in the subway plot, has pleaded guilty and is now co-operating with American authorities in a bid to reduce his sentence. His testimony should amount to an illuminating tale of how a group of young Muslims from New York embarked to Waziristan, Pakistan in hopes of getting terrorist tutelage from al-Qaeda figures.
It’s an increasingly small world -- one of those terrorist training camp instructors is, allegedly, Ferid Imam. The Canadian biochemistry student is thought to have first journeyed to Waziristan the previous year. Mr. Imam stands accused of rapidly graduating from an al-Qaeda recruit to an al-Qaeda small-arms instructor. According to a U.S. indictment, he was known by the nom de guerre “Yousef” and was instrumental in turning terrorist wannabes from New York into the genuine thing.
“Ferid Imam helped them get that training,” a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation official said as charges were unsealed.
Canadian authorities, who have their own outstanding warrant for Mr. Imam, are on the record saying that they haven’t heard of any signs of life from the suspect in more than two years. This may be telling, given the surveillance dragnet that surrounds Pakistan these days.
The Medunjanin trial that starts Monday will presided over by a no-nonsense judge who will want to move things along quickly. It’s anticipated that key witnesses will be called -- including, possibly, some admitted terrorists-turned-FBI-informants -- as early as Monday afternoon.
Mr. Medunjanin, of course, remains presumed innocent pending the outcome of his trial. Whether he’s guilty or innocent, the testimony that’s to come in the weeks ahead will be very much worth listening to. It should tell observers much about Najibullah Zazi, Ferid Imam and suspects like them, people who stand accused of being seduced by a jihadist call to arms and turning against the societies they were raised in.In other words, the trial testimony should tell us how “homegrown” terrorism suspects live these days. But what it won’t tell us is how such suspects die these days. Because that’s a story that no U.S. government official will speak to and that no U.S. courtroom is allowed to hear (Globe & Mail, 2012).
Among U.S. Politicians, Claim That Terrorists Use Canada As Base Dies Hard
Date: October 19, 2010
Source: Globe & Mail
Abstract: Ottawa can't seem to persuade Americans that it's a myth that terrorists lurk in Canada posing a grave threat because of a porous border.
In the latest
brouhaha, Ambassador Gary Doer upbraided Sharron Angle, the Republican with a
solid chance of unseating Nevada Senator Harry Reid, after the outspoken
Tea-Party-backed candidate suggested that Islamic jihadists have entered the
United States from Canada.
"We do not have a 'porous border,' but rather one of the more secure borders in the world," Mr. Doer insisted in a letter he fired off to Ms. Angle, as well as posting it on the embassy's website. "Canada takes border security very seriously and [I]trust you will see fit to set the record straight," he added.
So far she has not done so, and she may see no need.
Ms. Angle didn't say the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide hijackers came from Canada, although that remains a persistent belief among Americans. What Ms. Angle said was that the northern border is America's "most porous" and that terrorists have come from Canada.
That's more or less what Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said as recently as a year ago. When outraged Canadian officials took her to task, the unrepentant Ms. Napolitano held her ground. "I know that the Sept. 11 hijackers did not come through Canada to the United States" she said, adding pointedly: "There are other instances, however, when suspected terrorists have attempted to enter our country from Canada.''
Ahmed Ressam, the Millennium Bomber, is perhaps the best known. Carrying a genuine Canadian passport, he packed a rental car full of bomb-making equipment and took a ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Wash., where he was intercepted by an alert U.S. Customs agent.
Unimpressed by Mr. Doer's reprimand, Ms. Angle's spokesman Jarrod Agen pointed to the Ressam plot.
Although Canada and the United States have spent billions turning the 6,000-kilometre frontier, once billed as the world's longest undefended border, into a maze of concrete, cameras and radiation detectors, it may still be too porous for many Americans.
"The fact of the matter is that Canada allows people into its country that we do not allow into ours," Ms. Napolitano has said.
In fact, porosity may be a problem in both directions.
Najibullah Zazi, who plotted to bomb New York's subway system, crossed into Canada to visit relatives in Mississauga. He went back and forth across the border apparently without triggering alerts on either side. Two members of the so-called Toronto 18, who plotted to build huge vehicle bombs, bought handguns in the United States before heading home to Toronto.
An alleged pair of terrorists from Atlanta, Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, took the bus to Canada in 2005 to consult with jihadists in the Toronto 18.
Ms. Napolitano has suggested that the scale of the threat and the number of extremists who slip in and out of the United States is considerably greater than the instances that are known because of arrests. "Some of these are well-known to the public - such as the Millennium Bomber - while others are not due to security reasons."
That's more or less
what the Tea Party's would-be senator from Nevada is saying too (Globe
& Mail, 2010).
CIA Director Knew Of Canada's 'Lost Boys'
Date: November 19, 2010
Source: Globe & Mail
Abstract: A former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency says his spy service was well aware of the case of three radicalized Canadians from Winnipeg who are believed to have disappeared in Pakistan.
Michael Hayden told The Globe and Mail in an interview that he viewed the Canadians' travels as part of an "alarming" trend - one that led him to urge former U.S. president George W. Bush to step up covert CIA actions against individuals from the West who were seeking terrorist training overseas.
"I broadly know the case. I know the issue," he said. "… It was part of our general appreciation of 'We got people who know the West, who are now being trained to come back at the West.' "
Mr. Hayden would not say whether the men in question were ever targeted directly by CIA agents or CIA drone planes.
His remarks amount to the first time that a counterterrorism official has openly acknowledged the sensitive case of the missing Canadians, a behind-the-scenes global manhunt that was revealed last month in a lengthy article by The Globe and Mail.
In 2007, the three Winnipeggers ventured abroad after first undergoing conversions to radical Islam. The disappearance of the three men in their 20s - Muhannad al-Farekh, Miawand Yar and Ferid Imam - has been a mystery to friends and family, as well as to counterterrorism agencies who have traced a trail running from Winnipeg to Waziristan, Pakistan.
A retired four-star general who left the CIA last year, Mr. Hayden was featured as a speaker this week at a national-security conference being held aboard a cruise ship. After a presentation, he was asked by The Globe about the Canadian case and the CIA's clandestine drone-strike program.
But Mr. Hayden would not even confirm the existence of that program, though it is by now one of the world's worst-kept secrets. For several years, the CIA has been increasing its use of missile-equipped unmanned aerial vehicles (known as drones) in hot spots where the U.S. is not technically at war. The counterterrorism strategy is highly controversial, given that extra-judicial state-sponsored killings sit in a legal grey area.
One credible Web site, known as The Long War journal, says that more than 600 suspected terrorists in Pakistan have been killed so far this year in more than 100 CIA drone strikes. That's compared with fewer than 300 individuals killed in an estimated 35 strikes in 2008, according to the site.
While not speaking directly to the strategy, Mr. Hayden did give some insights into a more aggressive mindset that may be driving drone attacks.
"One of the big issues that I was briefing to George Bush as 07 turned to 08 was the number of Westerners - broadly defined - who were showing up in the tribal regions of Pakistan," he said.
He said he told the president that "this is a safe haven that's being used to prepare people to come attack us. And therefore we recommended - and this is the best I can give you on this - stronger courses of action."
The CIA has been frequently assailed by critics for allegedly engaging in major rights violations. Senior judges in Canada have, in recent years, faulted the RCMP and CSIS for improperly sharing information with CIA officials - exchanges that led to the CIA-facilitated jailing of Canadian citizens in brutal prisons overseas.
Even so, Mr. Hayden said he always retained warm relations with his Canadian counterparts, so cordial that Canadian spy chiefs would sometimes dine at his house in the United States.
Before joining the CIA in 2006, Mr. Hayden spent years running the National Security Agency, the secretive U.S. "signals intelligence" body. While heading the NSA, he took political flak for pioneering what has become known as "warrantless wiretapping."
He makes no apologies for acting aggressively - spy services, he said, always ought to be at the precise line between what is legal and what isn't.
"You want them playing fairly close to the line," he said."... Playing back from the line protects me. Playing close to the line protects America" (Globe & Mail, 2010).
Terrorists See Canada As Safe Haven: Expert
Date: September 30, 2012
Abstract: Terrorists have spared Canada from a major attack because they see the country as a place to raise money and as a safe haven for their families, says a topIsraeli anti-terror cop.
“Terror groups don’t want to cause a problem here,” Yoav Lorbert, the security manager of El Al Israel Airlines. “These groups attack for a reason and Canada is not an attractive target.”
Lorbert said cell members send their families to live or attend school in Canada and don’t want to cause problems.
“Canada is not involved in any (volatile) political situations abroad,” he said at an International Airport Investigators’ Training Symposium which wrapped up in Toronto last week.
He showed dramatic El Al security video of suicide bombers and how they can be detected. There was stunning footage of a man blowing himself up with such a blast that it shook buildings.
Investigators said many fugitives and terrorists “park” their families in Canada for safe keeping.
They highlighted the case of Khadiga Gurhan, aka “Madam Aidid”, the second wife of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The woman had been living and collecting welfare in London, Ont., in the early 1990s with four children, as her husband was on the run from UN forces in Somalia. He was killed in 1996.
Lorbert was head of El Al security when the airline was targeted several times, including a 2002 ticket counter attack at Los Angeles Airport which left two people dead and three others wounded. Airline personnel killed the gunman.
He was present during a 1985 attack in Rome when terrorists threw grenades and opened fire at an El Al counter killing 17 people an wounding more than 100.
Lorbert said all ground workers entering El Al aircraft must show identification and are accompanied by security officials.
Investigators were also updated on a police probe at Pearson Airport on
the theft of items from skids of name-brand goods being imported by
“Sometimes the entire middle section from a skid of goods can be missing,” said Det. Stephen Rowland, of Peel Regional Police Airport Division. “In general, stolen goods are smuggled out of the airport by workers.”
Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner said his 23 Division handles calls for help at Pearson and a federal immigration detention centre, on Rexdale Blvd.
“We are the closest division in proximity to the airport,” Taverner said.
“There are a lot of
cases that involve Toronto” (CNews, 2012).
Title: Out of Guantanamo And Into A Canadian Prison
Date: October 1, 2012
Abstract: Two years ago this month, a Guantanamo Bay military jury sentenced a Canadian-born al Qaeda terrorist to 40 years in prison. Omar Khadr was convicted of war crimes in Afghanistan, including the killing, during an ambush, of a 28-year-old U.S. Special Forces medic named Christopher Speer, the father of two young children.
But what the jury didn't know was that, even as they were deliberating the charges of "murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying," Pentagon prosecutors had already struck a plea-bargain deal with Khadr, at the direction of Obama administration officials.
No public explanation for the deal has ever been given. But regardless of what the jury decided, Khadr would receive a sentence of just eight years. And he would have to serve only a single year of that sentence in U.S. custody before applying, with Washington's blessing, to transfer to Canada. The application process took time, but eventually was complete.
So on Saturday morning, Khadr was flown from the U.S. naval base at
Guantanamo Bay to a Canadian air force base in Trenton, Ontario, and then
driven to a civilian prison an hour away. His lawyers are reportedly likely to
press for his parole next year.
Canada's minister of public safety, Vic Toews, was reluctant to approve the transfer and had requested more information from the Pentagon about Khadr's dangerousness. According to stories in the Toronto Star over the weekend, Mr. Toews's hesitancy had incensed senior Obama administration officials, who had warned that a refusal to take Khadr would jeopardize Canada-U.S. relations.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper directed Mr. Toews to approve the transfer. Within hours of Khadr's arrival in Canada, Mr. Toews held a press conference and distanced himself from speculation in the Canadian press that Khadr could gain parole as early as next year. "Any decisions related to his future will be determined by the independent Parole Board of Canada," Mr. Toews said.
Omar Khadr is different from many terrorists who have been detained in Guantanamo Bay. He committed his murder, in July 2002, a few weeks shy of his 16th birthday. But he was not kidnapped from his family and forced to take up arms as a child soldier, in the way that some conflicts in Africa are waged. Khadr was born in Canada and attended school there. He went to Pakistan and Afghanistan with his family to seek out the jihad. He willingly trained as an al Qaeda terrorist, recruited by his father, Ahmed, an associate of Osama bin Laden.
In 1995, Ahmed was arrested in connection with the terrorist bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan. But during a state visit to Pakistan that year, the Canadian prime minister of the day, Jean Chrétien, agreed to intercede on Ahmed's behalf. He was released a few months later, only to go back to his terrorist activities, until his death in a shootout with Pakistani soldiers in 2003.
Even at 15, Ahmed's son Omar was sophisticated. In his confession, he said he speaks five languages, acted as an al Qaeda interpreter and was trained in poisons, surveillance and bomb making. Videos found by U.S. soldiers at the Afghan compound where Khadr was captured show him assembling improvised explosive devices and posing with an AK-47.
He was no reluctant terrorist. After he threw the grenade that killed Sgt. Speer, his first words to U.S. forces who shot and captured him were in English, cursing the soldiers and calling on them to shoot him again—and thus make him a martyr.
In a 2003 interview with the Toronto Star, Sgt. Layne Morris, who was partially blinded during the ambush that killed Sgt. Speer, said that Khadr "wasn't a panicky teenager we encountered that day. That was a trained al Qaeda agent who wanted to make his last act on earth the killing of an American."
In the years since his capture, Khadr has hardly repented of his terrorist past. His detainee assessment, prepared by Pentagon officials at Guantanamo Bay, describes him as "high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests or its allies," and it notes that he has grown more belligerent in custody.
Hundreds of lower-risk detainees at Guantanamo Bay have been released by the Bush and Obama administrations, a policy that continues despite evidence (such as a March report by the office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence) that nearly 28% of those released are either known or believed to have returned to terrorism. But Khadr, with his "high risk" assessment, was always among the terrorists for whom release presumably was deemed too dangerous.
One of the factors that led the military jury to issue a 40-year sentence was the testimony of Dr. Michael Welner, an American forensic psychiatrist. Dr. Welner reviewed Khadr's complete file, interviewed prison guards and then sat down with Khadr for an eight-hour conversation, recorded on videotape. Dr. Welner's conclusion: Khadr is highly dangerous. He has "said that he had nothing to regret" and "has a family that is not only jihadist but is invested, not only in his jihadism, but his leading them because others can't."
According to Dr. Welner's testimony, Khadr boasted that the "proudest moment of his life" had been planting the roadside bombs known as IEDs. When his guards weighed him—to demonstrate his good health to the Red Cross—Khadr screamed: "Sooner or later, God will take our revenge and he's going to send on you people who will torture you." Dr. Welner's written forensic-psychiatry assessment of Khadr notes that Khadr bragged to guards about how many Americans he had killed.
Khadr's lawyers also retained psychiatrists and psychologists, but they never released videos of their interviews or even their notes, and these experts did not testify at the trial. The defense team, though, has waged a media campaign to rebrand Khadr as not a threat to the world—"Guantanamo's Child," to quote the title of a best-selling book in Canada.Guantanamo Bay guards told Dr. Welner that Khadr was treated like a "rock star" by other detainees. That rock star may one day be touring the Canadian mosque circuit—just like his father did before him (WSJ, 2012).
Title: Palestinian And Arab Struggles In The Face
Of Canada’s ‘War On Terror’
Date: November 12, 2012
Abstract: The following speech, on the topic “Organizing in solidarity with Palestinian and Arab struggles in the face of Canada’s ‘War on Terror’” was delivered by Palestinian writer and activist Khaled Barakat of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in Toronto, Canada on Friday, November 9, 2012 at the Right to Resist, Right to Exist conference sponsored by the International League of People’s Struggles, which brought together organizers and activists working in a wide variety of international movements, in communities targeted by heavy policing, in indigenous nations, and in labour unions and workers’ centres together to combat the “war on resistance, working people, communities, land defenders and the environment.” Barakat’s speech was part of the Friday night opening plenary of the conference, held at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE):
I would like to thank the organizers of the International League of People’s Struggles conference, “Right to Exist, Right to Resist,” for bringing us here today to connect struggles around the world, in particular those in the forefront of the struggle against imperialism, hegemony, dictatorship, plunder, military and economic intervention, and for liberation and sovereignty.
In Canada, the oppressed communities are engaged in an extension of the struggle in our homelands for liberation; at the heart of our struggles here is the Native and Indigenous struggle, which has been taking place for hundreds of years, confronting the colonial settler state of Canada. I want to begin by saluting the martyrs, wounded and prisoners of the Indigenous native struggle on this land, who have sacrificed so much to defend their land against settler colonialism. If you understand the Palestinian struggle, then you understand the indigenous struggle here – we resist the same enemy and system of oppression.
When we speak about Palestine, we are discussing a nation that was placed under a brutal system of colonization, particularly since the beginning of the last century when Palestine fell under the colonial control of Britain (the same colonial power that colonized this land). On November 2, only a few days ago, we marked the 95th year of the infamous Balfour Declaration, when Sir Arthur Balfour, British Foreign Secretary, promised the Zionist movement leadership to establish a “national home for the Jewish people” in the land of Palestine – land that was not his to give or concede – at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian people. Palestine is a land that has been inhabited for thousands of years by its own native people, with our own culture, history, language, values and symbols, without any interruption, on our homeland. Most Palestinians, particularly at that time were farmers, connected to their land as the only source of livelihood, resources and sustenance.
Palestinians always resisted colonial control. Throughout the years of colonization from 1917 up until 1948, British imperialism through the British army and then the Zionist army suppressed Palestinians in three major revolts: the revolt of 1919; the revolt of 1936-39; and revolution and resistance in 1947-1948. And the criminalization of the Palestinian resistance dated from the first Palestinian protest against British rule and has continued since that day. Resistance is the natural human response to occupation and racism; Palestinians face two choices – to resist and struggle by all means, or to surrender and accept the slavery of apartheid, racism, and subjugation.
In the early part of the 20th century, imperialist powers wanted to establish a state in the heart of the Arab world, supporting this state with all means – weapons, financial support, military support, and most importantly, by directing Jews around the world to go to Palestine and become settlers, in order to “solve” through colonization what was then labelled the “Jewish question” in Europe while simultaneously further dividing, in order to control, Arab peoples. In order to do that, the Zionist movement displaced and uprooted the vast majority of Palestinians in the Nakba of 1947-1948, who found themselves living in refugee camps and in tents provided by the United Nations on a promise that this will not continue for more than a few days or weeks, and that they would be able to return soon to their homes, once the fighting stopped – but this did not happen and still has not yet happened today, 65 years later.
Now there are over 6 million Palestinian refugees in the world, who suffer daily hardships, economic and social deprivation, and siege, were subject to massacres, and are still prevented from returning to their homes. Those Palestinians who remained in Palestine were placed under a brutal military occupation, a unique form of military apartheid that has never before been witnessed in human history – an occupation that extended and grew nineteen years later to encompass all of Palestine’s soil.
This is a bit of history and an introduction to the struggle in Palestine, which has become a global symbol of resistance to imperialism, occupation, and colonialism.
Palestinians today would find themselves almost alone – if it were not for Arab popular solidarity and international solidarity and international struggle, as expressed in the work that all of you do here. The camp that Palestinians fought – the powerful imperialist camp, including the British, the Zionist movement, the US, and their collaborator regimes – is the same camp today. It is also true that the camp of allies and friends of our people is the same today – the camp of people’s movements and liberation movements for sovereignty, self-determination, freedom and liberation everywhere in the world.
We mourn and demand justice together for the same atrocities, and we celebrate together our victories: people around the world celebrated the results of the recent elections in Venezuela, seeing that the Bolivarian revolution would continue; and celebrated the January 25 uprising of the Egyptian people when the longtime dictator, and servant of the US, Hosni Mubarak fell before the united people.
And despite all of the efforts by the Zionists to redefine the meaning of our struggle, it is still today, just as it was yesterday, and just as it was 65 years ago, a struggle for refugees to return to their homes and for a nation to practice their self-determination on their national soil.
Our struggle is not about establishing a state in part of Palestine, nor is it a struggle to establish a political entity or Authority, but it is a struggle whose final aim is to defeat the racist rotten colonialist system in our homeland, to liberate our land and people and to establish a democratic Palestine on the entire land of Palestine where all live in equality and enjoy freedom and justice.
We must also examine Canada’s role. Canada is, almost, a greater state of Israel. It is similar in its settler colonial nature, in its past, and in the subjugation of its indigenous people. Today, as a Palestinian, when I look at the struggle of the indigenous native people in Canada and how it is being consciously suppressed by the state, and how indigenous people here are deprived of their rights to the land and instead are living in ghettoes and reserves, it only strengthens my conviction that despite the power and the means of imperialism for hundreds of years in the Canadian state, the struggle of indigenous people must be taken very seriously by all movements and organizations who struggle on this land.
Yesterday at this conference, there was discussion about armed struggle for liberation in many places around the world. The armed struggle that indigenous people engaged in, when indigenous people took up arms, was suppressed, and many were killed, because of the balance of power and the lack of broader support that they received – but resistance continues. Any political analysis that rules out armed struggle as a possible future for any indigenous nation struggling against settler colonialism is only a short term analysis at best.
We believe that it is the right of a people and a nation to determine how they will struggle and choose the methods and means of that struggle. It is also our duty to support national liberation movements around the world and to elevate the relationship between the various revolutionary trends from rhetoric and political statements to actually joining forces – financially, militarily, socially, and politically.
From 1965 through 1990, Palestinian refugee camps were always a welcoming space for national liberation movements and Palestinian movements provided support and training to the strugglers and fighters of our brothers in South Africa (including military and financial support) and today we see how the movement to develop Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and isolate Israel as an apartheid, racist, settler colonial, illegitimate state on the land of Palestine has been led to a large extent by South African activists, regardless of all reservations about the current situation in South Africa, showing once more that history does not disappear.
What we do today, we will see the impact tomorrow. What you plan today, you will harvest in the future.
The British called the Palestinian struggle in the 1920s and 1930s “terror,” they called our writings and studies “incitement,” they called our freedom fighters “savages” and they called our military operations “barbaric acts.” It should be noted that all settler colonial states, including Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand, all of which arose under British auspices, engaged in the same process of criminalization and labelling of indigenous resistance – as did South African apartheid settler colonialism. This is still the language of imperialism and colonialism today – it has not changed. For Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney and John Baird, Sir Arthur Balfour’s faithful grandsons, Palestinians are still committing barbaric acts when we resist and we remain savages when we struggle for equality.
These are the same words used to describe the struggle of indigenous people here and of revolutionaries around the world – in Colombia, the Philippines, Nepal, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Vietnam, and elsewhere. To throw a one ton bomb on a refugee camp in Gaza, or in Pakistan, or in Afghanistan, is not barbaric, when it destroys a neighbourhood of children and civilians. When NATO armies massacre civilians in Afghanistan, women and men in their homes, this is “collateral damage,” not “terrorism.” When Canadian mining companies exploit the resources and devastate the land of people in the Philippines, this is called “economic cooperation,” not “plunder.” On the other hand, to capture an Israeli soldier engaged in the military occupation of Palestinian land and seek to exchange him to liberate Palestinian political prisoners is labelled “terrorism” and that soldier’s name is known everywhere, while the hundreds and thousands of victims of their atrocities remain nameless. They give their acts names that are the opposite of reality, and they give us names that are the opposite of the true nature of our struggle.
It is from this political discourse that the “War on Terror” emerged, in order to justify all of the atrocities committed against people. This is the same thing that we saw in Latin America in the so-called “War on Drugs” – a phrase that obscures the very real and very violent war on peasants and popular movements in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America. But what we’ve seen from the results of these so-called wars – the “War on Terror,” “War on Drugs,” War on Extremism” – is that they create a climate of fear, and this fear and terror is a form of collective punishment to the people of the world.
It drives oppressed communities into silence and isolation and political activists find themselves battling alone in courts, in prisons, and in the battlefield. Therefore, one of the most important goals and objectives of our struggle is to break fear and break silence. Because when that happens, unjust power and authority are going to face the people and not only the minority of political activists; instead, they will face the majority, mobilized and active. I do not know of a political system that faced the people – an entire nation – and did not collapse.
Palestinian communities in North America are beginning to break the chains of fear and silence. They have been organizing popular conferences to mobilize, organize and activate community institutions in Chicago led by the US Palestinian Community Network, conferences to support refugees’ right to return in California, led by Al-Awda, the Right to Return Coalition and this May, Palestinians from North America and the diaspora will be convening a conference of the Shatat – Palestinians in exile and diaspora - in Vancouver, Canada.
My final comments: I want to reaffirm what Leila Khaled said yesterday in her speech, that we call upon our comrades in ILPS to adopt a campaign for the freedom of almost 5000 Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons, including Palestinian national leader Ahmad Sa’adat, the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Our political prisoners are the heart of the Palestinian national movement. They are the leaders of women’s organizations, labour unions, student movements, political parties, and the military branches of the resistance.
I also call upon you to be part of a campaign to lift the shameful designations of Palestinian political parties and movements as so-called “terrorist organizations” by the Canadian government (and the US and the EU) as part of their campaign of fear and suppression. We must defend the right to resist and break the wall of silence these lists attempt to impose against us.
I would like to end by saying that our struggle is connected not because we say these words, but because it is our reality. And just like our enemy camp is connected, and has common interests, works together, and supports each other for its own economic and political gains and for maintaining their hegemony, our struggle is connected for an alternative world, an alternative society, and alternative laws that guide human relationships, a society built on justice, peace, and equality.
Long live Palestine!
Long live international solidarity! (VMC,