Exporting Terrorism: Exposing the disgusting double standard of our government's stance on foreign fighters
As published in The Leveller: Spring 2015
The Harper government recently announced sweeping new “anti-terrorism” powers for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), expanded no-fly lists and extensions of preventative detention. The grave danger of such policies is that after their passage into law; it is very difficult to amend or remove policies that appeal to governing party’s political base.
One of the most disturbing security developments is the hypocrisy of a new policy designed to prevent Canadians from travelling overseas to engage in military activities defined as terrorism by the government. The Economist noted, “As Western democracies struggle with how to deal with homegrown terrorists fighting abroad, the Conservative government of Canada has begun revoking the passports of its foreign fighters as well as people still in Canada planning to join them.”
Conversely, the Harper government heartily approves of Canadian citizens serving in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). According to Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) media relations officer Francois Lasalle:
Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel, the only liberal democratic state in the region. We are fully aware that there are, from time to time, Canadian citizens serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. In some instances this will involve dual nationals living in Israel doing their compulsory military service in accordance with Israeli law.
Ironically, DFAIT first stated that they saw no reason to offer an opinion on matters concerning Canada and Israel. Perhaps they had forgotten about former Minister John Baird’s rhetorical flourishes in defense of Israeli conduct.
Unknown to most people is the Harper government’s tacit approval of the fact that numerous Canadians exploit a legal loophole in the 1985 Foreign Enlistment Act to join the Israeli Defense Force (IDF); technically a foreign army. These Canadians serve in a wide verify of IDF units, including sections whose members; horrified by civilian casualties, have rebelled and refused to serve in Gaza or the West Bank. According to the Act:
Any person who, being a Canadian national, within or outside Canada, voluntarily accepts or agrees to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state at war with any friendly foreign state or, whether a Canadian national or not, within Canada, induces any other person to accept or agree to accept any commission or engagement in any such armed forces is guilty of an offence.
The loophole concerns the fact that the Palestinian authority, while friendly with Canada; is not an official state in spite of their recent efforts to improve their status at the United Nations. Therefore, since Israel has never declared war on the Palestinian authority or other Palestinian representative bodies; Canadians can serve in the IDF without fear of sanction from their own government.
Concerning the number of foreigners serving in the IDF, As Ron Csillag wrote in the Canadian Jewish News:
According to the Lone Soldier Center, an Israeli non-profit, 5,700 such personnel currently serve in the IDF. About 45 per cent are new immigrants from Jewish communities all over the world. One estimate… puts the number of Canadian lone soldiers at 145.
According to Canadian journalist Yves Engler, "It’s unknown exactly how many Canadians participated in Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza but an Israel Defense Force (IDF) spokesperson said there were 139 Canadians fighting in the Israeli military in 2013."
It is useful to contrast this situation with Canada’s treatment of people like Somali-Canadian Mohamed Hersi who was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison for attempting to join al-Shabab, an admittedly violent organization. Hersi was arrested at Toronto’s Pearson Airport in early August, 2014 and later found not guilty of committing or plotting a specific act of violence, though the presiding judge declared that he was “poised to become a terror tourist”.
As Engler notes, “The double standard is extreme. It is illegal for Somali Canadians to fight in that country but it is okay for Canadian Jews to kill Palestinians in Gaza. And the government will give you a charitable tax credit if you give them money to support it.”
While the corporate media reports that the IDF regularly invades Gaza to stop Hamas rocket and mortar attacks; the complex reality is rarely-mentioned in the Western press. Eric Walberg presents this perspective in Counterpunch:
The violent occupation of Arab lands in 1948 was bad enough, but the seizure and rapid colonization of all of Palestine since 1967 radicalized the Middle East…Jews around the world have the legally recognized option of supporting Israel’s jihad against its Muslim neighbors. Yes, jihad, because Eretz Israel (Greater Israel) is still aggressively expanding, 70 years after it was founded.
Canadian volunteers were heavily-involved in all recent Israeli combat operations; including the brutal 2008/2009 Israeli assault that killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. Since terrorism is largely matter of perspective; Palestinians can hardly be blamed for supporting the democratically-elected Hamas in Gaza or the Hezbollah militia that protects Lebanon’s southern border from Israeli land invasions. Odious as it is, the violence perpetrated by the latter is miniscule compared to the crushing power of Israel’s high-tech military equipped with the latest U.S. weapons; including a recent gift of twenty-nine F35 stealth fighters.
Beyond the fact that the Harper government exercises an obvious double-standard in its treatment of Canadians volunteering for the IDF and Canadians who attempt to join irregular forces in Syria and elsewhere is the fact that Revenue Canada offers charitable status benefits to organizations that provides financial and moral support to active duty IDF soldiers. These include Disabled Veterans of Israel or Beit Halochem, Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel, the Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada (ASI), International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, the Ne’eman Foundation and the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association and the Israeli-based Lone Soldier Center.
Additionally, elite Canadian business figures like the Gerry Schwartz and Heather Riesman provide up to $3 million yearly in post-military scholarships to Canadians IDF volunteers. These volunteers or “lone soldiers”; include Canadians who serve on Israeli supply bases in non-combat roles that saves the IDF millions of shekels per year in pay and benefits.
The time has come for the government to prevent Canadians from serving in any and all foreign military units, both regular and irregular. According to Canadian historian Jack Granatstein; noted for conservatism, “If they’re going off to serve somewhere else, in some other army, they’re switching their allegiance…Canadians, even those born here, should forfeit their citizenship if they join a foreign army, no matter how just the cause.”
Engler, Yves. Canadians Join IDF: Harper’s Government Silent in DISSIDENT VOICES: http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/08/canadians-join-idf-harpers-government-... August 24, 2014.
Foreign Enlistment Act R.S.C., 1985, c. F-28
Granatstein, Jack, in Mertl,Steve: Daily Brew. https://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/canadians-shouldn-t-allowed-fi... 24, 2014.
Lasalle, François. Media Relations Officer-Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada: March 11, 2015.
National Post: July 23, 2014.
Ron Csillag: Canadian Jewish News: July 24, 2014.
The Economist: September 23, 2014.
Walberg, Eric: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/15/isis-and-the-idf-canadas-double-s...