Monthly Archives: June 2009

The Toronto Star, "No option but to engage the Iranian regime"

This article appeared in the Toronto Star on June 25 2009. My letter to the editor, copied below, was published in the Star on June 28 2009.

Siddiqui strongly underestimates the severe threat Iran poses. Currently, Iran is pushing for greater control in the Middle East through a variety of mechanisms. Iran retains its strong alliance with Syria, the only remaining state fighting Israel (other than Lebanon). Iran funds Syrian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, an arrangement worth keeping for Syria, who is then able to maintain the Lebanese border as an active military front against Israel and ensure her presence in the Middle East security complex.

Iran has maintained its ties with the Shiites in Iraq, when the Hussein secular ba’ath ideology posed a threat to the religious Shiites and Iran uses these relations to threaten the American motives in Iraq.

This Iranian regime has been brutal. When Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2005, Iran filled in the gaps of the international community, who refused to recognize Hamas, and provided Hamas with military supplies and medical assistance, which it continues to do today. This fosters great instability in the region as Iranian arms allow Hamas and Hezbollah to carry out their destructive activities.

Iran’s hardline leaders shape her foreign policy and these hard-liners will never end their hatred for American interests, evident by the burning of American and European flags yesterday in Iran. Let’s not engage a regime that is responsible for the murder of innocent civilians.

Iran is heading towards a bomb and frankly, I’m scared for it to go off.

Embassy Magazine, "Time for a Sensible Policy Towards Hamas"

This article appeared in Embassy Magazine on June 24 2009. After reading it, I couldn’t help but think how the author had gotten the story wrong.

Davis’ support for negotiations with Hamas are truly alarming. Western nations have generally refused to negotiate with this terrorist organization, not only because Hamas has openly praised the murder of Israeli citizens through suicide bombings but also because Hamas robs its own population of basic human rights, such as the right to good governance and humanitarian aid, which Hamas terrorists take for themselves, upon reception from Israel. Hamas’ charitable societies provide monetary assistance to the families of those who have been killed in perpetrating acts of terror against Israeli citizens, which Davis neglects to mention. By refusing to negotiate with terrorists, Canada is upholding her democratic beliefs rather than negating them, as Davis suggests.

This approach has not undermined peace efforts but rather ensured that the peace process begins on a stable path. Recognizing Hamas would only credit their terrorist activities which deters the peace process.

Of course, no one is suggesting we should blatantly ignore Hamas. However, to suggest that decades of palestinian suffering have created, as Davis calls it, a “volatile mood of anger,” light words for terrorism, disregards the countless peace propositions Israel has offered the Palestinians. The complaints for statehood could have been alleviated had the Palestinians accepted peace in 1937, when they rejected the Peel Commission, in 1947, when they rejected the Partition Plan, in 1979 at Camp David, in 1993 when they rejected the Oslo Accords or most recently in 2005 when Israel evacuated Gaza and provided the Palestinians starting ground to choose their own leadership and establish their own state. This track record proves that Hamas leaders do not truly want to accept any peace plan at all, unless it involves wiping Israel off the map.

Israel’s recent invasion of Gaza suggest Israel is willing to do what Hamas refuses to do – protects her citizens. . To suggest Israel’s defensive attacks can be compared to Hamas’ terrorist activities is absurd and I wonder if Davis would find it more acceptable if Israel randomly launched rockets at Palestinian civilians, rather than risking the lives of her own soldiers to minimize the casualties.

Let’s not reward their violence – that strategy has only deterred peace and strengthened this sad cycle of violence.

Am I a Witness? Remembering the Genocides of our Past

Am I a witness? Remembering the genocides of our past

As four survivors of genocides that occurred in the 20th century stand before me, I find myself feeling uneasy. I seem to have let myself believe in the morality of my generation. Yet the Darfur survivor that speaks to me today demonstrates that this is a flawed assumption. So I sit here, ashamed. I believed I lived in a world where human rights are defended, where strict laws regarding crime and punishment are upheld, and where racism is slowly vanishing. But there is still a genocide occurring today – over 400,000 Darfurians have been murdered.

The conflict in Darfur is now approaching its sixth year; however, any substantial action to end the genocide has yet to be put into place. Conditions continue to deteriorate for civilians, and hundreds of thousands lack necessities and are being displaced or killed. International intervention in Darfur seems to be failing, largely due to the continued harassment by the Sudanese government and the fact that the government has ties to militia and criminals. New eyewitness accounts from Darfur report rapes, torture, and mutilation by government-backed militias. The U.N. Security Council has a responsibility to take urgent action to ensure that civilians are protected, and that the perpetrators are punished. Despite our claims to having made significant progress in dispelling hate, indifference, ignorance, and apathy, this atrocity is ongoing. Why is the centre of international affairs unable to combat this genocide?

These were the questions I asked myself at the “four Generations of Genocide” event two weeks ago. The keynote speaker, Honourable MP Irwin Cotler, stated that we need to understand the importance of devoir de memoire. In order to fight any war, specifically a war against hate, we must remember the consequences of forgetting the lessons we learned from the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, and Rwanda. But the fact that Ahmadinijad can have a podium at the UN instead of being indicted proves that these lessons have been forgotten.

In the 2005 elections, not one prime minister candidate even mentioned the word Darfur, and, aside from Stéphane Dion, this was still the case in the recent 2008 elections. Why is this issue seemingly off of the Canadian radar? We know how to make the person political, Cotler stated, but we should strive to make the political personal – these issues should be personal and political issues, for “if you kill one life it is as if you have killed an entire universe,” Cotler quoted from the Talmud and the Koran.

Irwin Cotler stated that “if the 20th century has been known as the age of genocide, four generations of genocide, that it has also been known as the age of impunity.”

Despite Cotler’s discouraging remarks, recent developments suggest a change from impunity: there have been warrants against the president of Sudan, and a recent ceasefire. Is it foolish to still have hope?

I can’t deny that I’m sitting here passively, as I advocate our government to change. How can I blame our leaders without acting myself? But I think there is something redeeming in the fact that I am here, listening to these figures of courage and strength. And as I look around at the audience, I am somewhat comforted. No, maybe we cannot all create UN resolutions or single-handedly campaign for change, but we can do something – we can listen. It is the transmission of stories that creates empathy, which leads to resolve and action. If we could have truly heard the voices of the survivors of all the past genocides, perhaps there would be no genocide occurring today.

Published in the McGill Daily, Dec 1 2008