The conference brought together people representing 15 different groups, to form the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians. The United Jewish People’s Order is probably the oldest of the organizations, known for its promotion of Yiddish culture. Because of revelations of anti-Semitism, it dropped its support of the Soviet Union back in 1956. A number of organizations at the conference came into being specifically around the Palestinian struggles for justice, such as Montreal’s Palestinians and Jews United (PAJU) and Palestinians and Jews for a Just Peace, from Halifax. Supporters of the Jewish magazines Outlook and Tikkun also participated.
Speakers from Jewish organizations internationally also addressed the conference, with two from the United States and one each from Britain and France, as well as two international groups, the International Jewish Solidarity Network and European Jews for a Just Peace. Also present were representatives of organizations listed as allies — The Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the United Church of Canada, the Canadian Peace Alliance, and the Canadian Arab Federation.
Khaled Mouammar, President of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), told the conference that the new organization could be of help to the cause of Palestine if it could supply speakers for joint presentations, to show that there is Jewish support for justice for the Palestinians.
According to Diana Ralph, who serves as public spokesperson for the Alliance, the new group is needed to provide an alternative voice to that of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). The Alliance stands for human rights and opposition to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. It will form an advisory panel from allied bodies such as churches, unions, peace groups, and Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian organizations.
Structural issues remain to be resolved. At present, it is an organization of organizations, but in the future individual memberships may be possible.
Journalist for Canadian TV arrested
The U.S. military has had Jawed Ahmad in custody for four months at its military compound in Bagram, Afghanistan. He is a journalist for the Canadian television network CTV. Major Chris Belcher said that Ahmad is being held as “an unlawful enemy combatant,” but Belcher refused to say if he had had access to a lawyer.
According to New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall, the Afghan-based media have contacts with the Taliban whom they interview for their news stories. “Jawed had nothing more than the others in the way of contacts with the Taliban,” she said.
The Associated Press reports that most other journalists who are arrested by the U.S. military are quickly released. However, one of their own, Iraqi Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Bilal Hussein, has been in custody in Iraq for 22 months without charge.
|Marc Kielburger (L) and brother, Craig (R)|
They found that the drivers are lured to Kuwait with promises of work in Kuwait, When they arrive, their employer takes away their passports and sends them to make deliveries in Iraq for the Americans.
According to the Kielburgers, KBR, a U.S. company that has earned billions in supplying the U.S. army in Iraq, subcontracts to local firms who do much of the deliveries. American drivers hired directly by KBR have special trucks with heavy protection against attack, while the Third World drivers have ordinary 18-wheelers.
KBR, they say, pays American drivers at least $100,000 a year, while foreign drivers get as little as $3,000. The issue of promised insurance also arises. While they are promised insurance, it does not seem to materialize in case of death or injury.
KBR’s hands are supposedly clean. They may keep the rules for their employees but what happens to the employees of the subcontractors is another matter. As for the drivers, they can’t leave without their passports, and in any case they have a debt to pay off to their employer for the airfare to Kuwait.
Plot to bomb Canadian planes
A trial of eight men is under way in London. They are charged with taking part in a plan to bomb airplanes in flight en route to the U.S. and Canada. The eight are part of a group of 19 arrested in 2006. At the time, police raided a bomb-making lab.
The question arises as to why these would-be suicide bombers would target Canada. There are two possible views, each with its own policy implications. The approach to the matter which would undoubtedly be that of the Conservative Canadian government is that these Muslim fanatics hate everything Western and Christian. The policy implication from this perspective is that Canada needs to move closer to the U.S., in the struggle against this implacable enemy in the clash of civilizations.
An alternative analysis would understand this anger towards Canada as a by-product of Canada’s close support, politically and militarily, of the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. Canada is seen, from this perspective, as an American puppet. The implications of this view are that Canada should pull all of its forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan and adopt a more measured foreign policy, distancing itself from the United States.
If and when any of the men are found guilty, at that time perhaps someone can ask them their motive. My money would be on the alternative scenario.
Canada’s ethnic makeup
According to an analysis by Statistics Canada of the 2006 census, released on April 2, South Asians are now the largest visible minority group in the country. Between 2001 and 2006, 84% of all immigrants came from outside Europe. 75% of these were “visible minorities.” But here we come into a bit of confusion.
The category “visible minority” in the Canadian census includes Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, blacks, and Pacific Islanders. North American aboriginals are considered separately. However, included also are South Asians, Arabs, West Asians, and Latin Americans. This is all very arbitrary.
When I studied physical anthropology, lo many years ago, the races were listed in various ways, but one common categorization was Caucasian, Negro, Mongoloid, and Red, with sub-groups and a few small groups that did not fit in elsewhere, such as the Inuit and the Ainu. Arabs, West Asians, and South Asians were all considered Caucasian, with the South Asians being a racial subgroup called Hindu. (That’s not the religion.) Latin Americans could be of almost any of these groups. Remember Alberto Fujimori? Nevertheless, the census says Arabs are a visible minority and North American aboriginals are not.
In 2006, Arabs were 16% of the “visible minority” population. Of those who were foreign born, 24% came from Lebanon and 13% Egypt, the two most common countries of origin. In Quebec, where there has been all the fuss about “reasonable accommodation,” 27% were Canadian-born, with the largest number of immigrant Arabs coming from Morocco, Algeria, and Lebanon.
The Montreal census area, including the city, had the largest number of Arabs in 2006, 37% of all Canadian Arabs. They made up 3% of the population of the Montreal census area and 17% of the “visible minority” population of the area.