Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Plea for Gilad Shalit

To: Harper, Stephen (Right Hon.)
CC: Kenney, Jason (Hon.) , Kent, Peter (Hon.) , Cannon, Lawrence (Hon.) , MacKay, Peter Gordon (Hon.) , Ignatieff, Michael, Rae, Bob (Hon.) , Cotler, Irwin (Hon.) , Layton, Jack (Hon.), Chow, Olivia, Dewar, Paul

Right Hon. Prime Minister Harper,
I am a proud Canadian citizen that moved to Israel last year. A large factor in the move was the Ontario Government's decision that not all religions are equal when it comes to education. I still keep a close watch on the Canadian political scene. During the last Federal election, I received dozens of phone calls regarding eligibility and how to cast a ballot from over seas.

I am proud of the Canadian Government's record when it was a member of the United Nations Human Right Council. Consistantly Canada would try to focus on Human Rights issues from around the world, instead of the narrow minded focus often taken by the UNHRC. Canada was a leader in trying to focus attention on the crisis in Darfur. When the UNHRC stood up and voted against resolutions that were unfair or biased. Many countries preferred to abstain instead of standing up for what their beliefs. Sometimes this meant standing alone. Even at the very end of the mandate, Canada tried to stop Somalia from receiving immunity from human rights abuse investigations by the UNHRC.

With the lead of the new administration in the United States, the Israeli/Palestinian issue has become a front and centre issue on the world stage. There is one issue that casts a shadow over any efforts to find a long term solution. An issue that is sometimes mentioned in passing but never treated as of critical importance. That issue is the plight of Gilad Shalit.

Shalit is about to spend his 4th birthday in captivity. In that time he has been a victim of gross violations of the Geneva Convention designed to protect his basic human rights. He has been denied access to the Red Cross. He has been denied communication with his parents. To add to the cruelity Hamas frequently releases statements suggesting hemay or not be alive. Before Operation Cast Lead, Hamas held a play performed before thousands of cheering spectators. An actor playing Shalit pleaded to be returned home to his Mommy and Daddy. This summer Hamas had summer camps for children where they reenacted the kidnapping. The entire country feels pain for the suffering of Gilad and his family.

The terms of his release are designed to cause more pain and suffering to Israelis. Since Shalit was kidnapped they have been demanding a 1000 for 1 trade including 450 prisoners serving life sentences. Some of the prisoners they want make the likes of Paul Bernardo look like a petty criminal. They include Ahlam Tamimi. She is serving 16 life sentences for her roll in the Sbarros Restaurant bombing. That attack included 5 members of one family including children aged 14, 4, 2. She has never expressed any remorse for the families she has destroyed. Also on the list is Abdallah Barghouti who is serving 67 life sentences for his role in bomb making in various attacks. Marwan Barghouti is serving 5 life sentences. He is has used his time in jail to position himself as possibly becoming the next leader of the 'moderate' Fatah party.

I urge the Canadian Government to take a more visible and proactive role in bringing Gilad Shalit home. As long as he suffers, the nation of Israel suffers. Please help bring him home safely and unconditionally.

Thank you for your help in dealing with this issue.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Watering Down Terrorism Hits Pan Am Flight 103

It has been 20 years since Pan Am Flight 103 went down over Lockerbie, Scotland. 270 people lost there lives in the terror attack. To date Al-Megrahi isthe only person ever sentenced for the bombing. After serving 8 years of a life sentence, he will have the opportunity to spend the end of his life on his death bed at home with his family.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill gets full credit for taking responsibility for his decision. His simply applied of Scottish law that allows prisoners within 3 months of their death bed can be granted the chance to live out their lives at home with their families. He was addament that the decision to let him go had nothing to do with any considerations that he was wrongly convicted. He also denied any political considerations. The US Administration was against the decision. The fact the Muslim prisoner was released on the eve of Ramadan must have been purely coinicidental. Another important fact MacAskill pointed out was that there was some sort of custody arrangement. It sounded like he will have some form of house arrest enforced by Libyan officials.

Some people are outraged that comopassion is being shown to someone who's crime had none for others. Those who support the decision are buying into the compassionate grounds arguement or the belief that Al-Megrahi is the victim of miscarriage of justice. Has it reached the point where terrorism is scene as a form of political expression as opposed to one of the most despicable forms of murder.

When Karla Holmolka was let out of jail, there was outrage that she served out her entire 12 year sentence. Paul Bernardo is technically eligible to apply for probation next year. Any attempts to be released on bail would be met with equal outrage. This murderer/rapist would not recieve any compation to enjoy the end of his life even on his death bed.

Next week Gilad Shalit will spend his 4th birthday since being prisoner. He has been denied the most basic level of human rights under the Geneva Convention. He has been denied access by the Red Cross and communication with his family. Hamas frequently uses his captivity to taunt Israelis. World leaders have at most paid minimal lip service for his freedom.

The price for Shalit is well known and unchanged. Approximatly 1000 Palestinians serving various sentences for crimes against Israel. So far Israel has balked at including prisoners that have commiteted terrorist attacks similar to those of Al-Megrah. They are serving multiple life sentences in some case dozens for the number of Israelis they have been convicted of killing. Hamas is willing things out until they get the deal they want.

When Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up it was considered an unforgivable crime. The very notion that someone could kill 270 people and be released from jail was inconceivable. Now being a murderer does not have the same stigma, no matter how much damage was caused. They are subject to the same mercy as other who have commited much lesser crimes.

Justice Secretary MacAskill may sleep well tonight proud of his ability to show compassion to others. His decision just reaffirms that terrorism is no different than other serious crimes. Taking the stigma out of being a terrorist just makes it that much easier for the perpetrators of future attacks to not fear being brought to justice.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bibi is Master of the House

The challenge of any government is the ability to guide legislation through parliament into law. Government's that are unable to pass legislation becomes dysfunctional and useless. A government that can ram through any legislation they want with little to no opposition comes close to the brink of a dictatorship. The balance between the needs of the majority and caring for the minority fall somewhere in the middle .

Two weeks ago Benjamin Netanyahu fell into the embarrassing situation of being unable to pass key legislation. He has been trying to overhaul the entire system for land ownership and had to move some huge hurdles with different organizations such as JNF. When it came time for the key vote, members of the government were hiding in the lunch room to avoid voting against the government. The legislation had to be pulled in order to not be defeated on the Plenum floor. The political maneuvering used up time preventing the Mofaz Bill from being passed.

On Monday an extra session of Knesset gave Bibi a second chance to show he was in control of the Prime Minister's chair. He was able to get enough MKs on board to pass both pieces of legislation. Even the opposition parties gave up on taking full advantage of the time allocated for a full blown fillibuster.

The land transfer legislation is very complicated. The challenge is to correctly guess which of the unintended consequences are going materialize. There is plenty of reason to be concerned. Hopefully in practise this will turn out to be mostly an administrative change with little impact on Israeli society.

The Mofaz Bill is intended to give the Prime Minister more flexibility to hold power. Before this law was passed it took 1/3 of MKs from any party to cross the floor. The Mofaz Bill allows a minimum of 7 MKs to cross the floor for parties with 21 or more MKs. In a political system with little to no individual accountability to the voters this hurts the democratic process. It makes it easier for MKs to abandon those who voted for them. Placed high enough on the party list and they could keep their jobs despite political backlash. The unintended consequence of this law, that it is also easier for a faction to abandon the government. All coalitions are so fragile that such a move would collapse the government.

For better or for worse the legislation has passed. Bibi has once again shown he is a skilled politician. As Prime Minister he will take the country in the direction he sees fit, despite the opposition. Let's just hope he is taking it in the right direction.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Strike Aftermath. Will the Stench Dissapear with the Garbage

The 39 day Toronto inside and outside worker strike has been over for almost a week. The clean up has become as residents try to salvage the rest of the summer from services that were unavailable for the first part of the summer. When the garbage is all cleaned up and life is back tomorrow how long will the stench remain?

There are a number of interesting questions that will be forgotten in the next few weeks. At the start of the strike sources on both sides predicted a 6 week strike. The City found a way to allow the Gay Pride Parade to go on despite the strike. The strike was settled on the eve of Carribana. Both events are major money makers for the City. Did the strike really prove anything for either side or were workers and citizens just pawns in a game with a mostly predetermined outcome?

Voters will forget the stench of the strike when the garbage is gone. If they could only remember the frustration of the last 6 weeks, when it comes to election day. It would be great news for the City. History has shown that it is unlikely to happen. Perhaps that is what the major players in the strike were counting on.

Schreiber Finally Lands in German Jail

Karlheinz Schreiber is a master at deception. He is willing to spin any story with contradictory twist and turns to serve his own needs. By dragging others like Brian Mulroney into his legal troubles he has managed to avoid facing the consequences of his own actions. He avoided being sent to Germany for almost 2 years to build a case against Mulroney. He even managed to be allowed out on bail and enjoy the hospitality Canada has to offer.

Sometimes it is better late than never. The 75 year old has finally been extradited to Germany. This time the courts are not granting bail as they consider him to be a flight risk. The German Authorities have waited a long time to get their hands on him. They will not let him off the hook so easily. He will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Before he left, his lawyer Eddie Greenspan indicated that Schreiber plans on returning to Canada. He will either be cleared of the charges and return as a free man or will request spending the rest of his life in a Canadian jail cell.

Schreiber has manipulated the justice system for too long. It is time for justice to be served. He has already milked all he can out of Canada. Hopefully, German authorities will choose to keep him.