Putting the Human Back into Humanitarian

The uprisings in Libya have unfolded not unlike that in other MENA (Middle Eastern North African) countries; unexpectedly and rapidly. Along the way there have been many unintended consequences not the least of which is the plight of the African migrant workers. The case of African migrants has been complicated by the suspicion of being mercenaries from Sub-Saharan Africa hired by Muammar Gaddafi and his regime to attack anti-Gaddafi protestors. So while other nationals have been able to make their way to safety many Africans remain trapped inside various locations terrified of leaving lest they be seen and then attacked by locals who enact vigilante justice based on the assumption that they were brought to Libya to kill them. And even if they were to leave the question is where do they go?

Hein de Haas, a senior fellow with the International Migration Institute, writes in his blog (see here http://heindehaas.blogspot.com) “But why is nobody concerned about the plight of sub-Saharan African migrants in Libya ? As victims of racism and ruthless exploitation, they are Libya ‘s most vulnerable immigrant population, and their home country governments do not give them any support.”

It is with this in mind that the international community and thus Canada must play a key role in addressing the unfolding humanitarian crisis and in particular the plight of those identified as most vulnerable by international agencies. UNHCR, Amnesty International, The International Migration Institute, Human Rights Watch are among those who have clearly identified African Migrants as being under particular threat and largely unable to move without fear of being targeted for retribution. The International Convention on The Protection of The Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was adopted by the General Assembly resolution 45/158 of 18 December 1990 Part 3 Article 16 items 1-9 clearly set out the rights that are being denied to African migrants currently besieged in Libya.

Canada has donated 5 million dollars in aid to the effort in Libya the allocation of which has not been made clear. Canada has further stated that it will assist in any humanitarian intervention and seek to support existing efforts on the ground. With this in mind we request the additional supports:

– Canada utilize its diplomatic and political capital to help facilitate the repatriation of all foreign nationals seeking return to return to their respective home countries (with a concerted effort made to Bangladesh and other African countries who have thus far resisted in assisting)

– Canada lead the call to work in partnership with the international community and the Libyan government and protestors to grant safe passage to those African migrants who are trapped inside various “safe houses.” This could mean calling for a day (or a couple days) of Amnesty that would allow international aid agencies to get into the country and facilitate the safe and speedy evacuation of those trapped inside

– Canada could fast track applications for those who are already in the process of being sponsored or considered for sponsorship. Canadians witnessed this most recently during the crisis resulting from the earthquake in Haiti in which the applications of Canadian adoptive parents of Haitian children, or family members were expedited due to the urgent nature of the crisis in Haiti. The case of African migrants classifies as urgent and since Canada already has boats and planes in
waiting with the expressed purpose of serving a humanitarian mission; evacuating foreign nationals who are targets for death should fit into their immediate mandate

– By acting on the above mentioned items with a sense of the required urgency needed to address this crisis Canada could take the lead in putting the word Human back into Humanitarian. In addition to being treated as a freakish sideshow of narratives without context the lives of Africans in Libya up have been relegated to being treated as pawns and tropes in a sinister game of life and death, a game they are favored to lose. As Canadians of conscience and citizens of the international community we ask that our country no longer stand on the sidelines allowing that to happen

For more information, please contact:
Khaled Mouammar
CAF National President

Demand firm action against Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza

January 05, 2009
For Immediate Release

Canadian Arab Federation calls on all people of conscience to contact the
Canadian government immediately to demand firm action against Israel’s ongoing
assault on Gaza

TORONTO- The Canadian Arab Federation calls on all Canadians to contact their
Member of Parliament, as well as the Canadian Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs
Minister and demand for immediate intervention, calling for an end to the attack on Gaza
and an end to the blockade on Gaza.

“Canada needs to take a stand and demand an end to the Israeli attack on Gaza along
with a lift of the siege and end to the illegal occupation of Palestinian land” stated Khaled
Mouammar, CAF President.

Facts to consider:

– Israeli troops began a ground incursion into Gaza on Saturday Jan.3 /09, after 8 continuous days of airstrikes.

– Over 520 Palestinians have been killed so far and over 2,700 wounded. The death toll continues to rise rapidly as Israel relentlessly continues its attack each day.

– This is the single largest assault on the Gaza Strip since 1967, when Israel’s illegal occupation of the land began.

– Gaza has been under a strict Israeli blockade over the past two years, resulting in an extreme shortage of food, water, medicine and fuel for its inhabitants, threatening the people of Gaza with severe malnourishment, poverty and death. The recent onslaught only further exacerbates the misery and devastation.

– On December 27th 2008, Mr. Lawrence Cannon, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs released a statement stating “Israel has a clear right to defend itself against the continued rocket attacks by Palestinian militant groups which have deliberately targeted civilians.”

– On December 29th, Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Official Opposition stated “The Liberal Party of Canada unequivocally condemns the rocket attacks launched by Hamas against Israeli civilians and calls for an immediate end to these attacks. We affirm Israel’s right to defend itself against such attacks, and also its right to exist in peace and security.”

How to contact the Canadian government:

1. Office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Stephen Harper
Phone (613) 992-4211 | E-mail
pm@pm.gc.ca and harper.s@parl.gc.ca | Fax:
(613) 941-6900

2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lawrence Cannon
Phone: (613) 944-4000 | E-mail l.cannon@international.gc.ca | Fax: (613) 9444500

3. Your Member of Parliament

Find the contact information for your MP by entering your postal code here:


Please keep your message polite, yet firm. See below for a sample letter.

Canadian Arab Federation (CAF)
T: (416) 493-8635
F: (416) 493-9239
W: www.caf.ca


To Whom It May Concern:

It is imperative that the Canadian government condemn Israel’s ongoing massacre of the
people in Gaza. Over 460 people have been killed and the death toll increases daily.
Canada is a nation once renowned for its commitment to freedom, peace and justice;
however, the current stance taken by our government officials is a betrayal of the values
upon which this country firmly stood for.

The statements of our government officials regarding Israel’s “right to defend itself” has
made Canada complacent in Israel’s war crimes in Gaza. This injustice being committed
at the hands of Israel in no way reflects a calibrated response to rockets fired by Hamas,
which could have been avoided if the truce was extended and its terms were respected.
Rather, Israel’s response to rockets has been massive air attacks targeting innocent
men, women and children, while leveling homes, government buildings, mosques and
educational facilities.

Furthermore, it is necessary that the Canadian government demand an end to Israel’s
blockade of Gaza, which has caused an extreme shortage of food, water, medicine and
fuel for its inhabitants, threatening the people of Gaza with severe malnourishment,
poverty and death. This two-year blockade is a clear violation of international law.

The Canadian government must act swiftly, before any more innocent lives are lost.

Thank You.

(Your name)

Quotes you may use as a Talking Points:

“…Hamas has repeatedly proposed long-term truces with Israel and offered to
negotiate a permanent truce. During the last cease-fire, established through
Egyptian intermediaries in July, Hamas upheld the truce although Israel refused to
ease the blockade. It was Israel that, on Nov. 4, initiated an armed attack that
violated the truce and killed six Palestinians. It was only then that Hamas resumed
firing rockets at Israel.” —  Richard Falk, the U.N. special Rapporteur for human
rights in the occupied Palestinian territory and former Princeton University law

Israel bears special responsibility as the occupying power exerting effective control
over the Gaza Strip. — Physicians for Human Rights-Israel

“Privilege and power, especially military power, is a dangerous narcotic. Violence
destroys those who bear the brunt of its force, but also those who try to use it to
become gods. Over 350 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians, and
over 1,000 have been wounded since the air attacks began on Saturday. Ehud Barak,
Israel’s defence minister, said Israel is engaged in a “war to the bitter end” against
Hamas in Gaza. A war? Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to
bomb densely crowded refugee camps and slums, to attack a population that has no
air force, no air defence, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no
mechanized armour, no command and control, no army, and calls it a war. It is not a
war. It is murder.” — Chris Hedges, who covered the Mideast for The New York
Times for seven years.

“The use of terror and hunger to break a hostile population is one of the oldest forms
of warfare. I watched the Bosnian Serbs employ the same tactic in Sarajevo. Those
who orchestrate such sieges do not grasp the terrible rage born of long humiliation,
indiscriminate violence and abuse. A father or a mother whose child dies because of
a lack of vaccines or proper medical care does not forget. A boy whose ill
grandmother dies while detained at an Israel checkpoint does not forget. A family
that loses a child in an airstrike does not forget. All who endure humiliation, abuse
and the murder of family members do not forget. This rage becomes a virus within
those who, eventually, stumble out into the daylight. Is it any wonder that 71
percent of children interviewed at a school in Gaza recently said they wanted to be a
“martyr”?  The Israelis in Gaza, like the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, are
foolishly breeding the next generation of militants and Islamic radicals. Jihadists,
enraged by the injustices done by Israel and the United States, seek to carry out
reciprocal acts of savagery, even at the cost of their own lives. The violence
unleashed on Palestinian children will, one day, be the violence unleashed on Israeli
children. This is the tragedy of Gaza. This is the tragedy of Israel.”  —  Chris Hedges

“It is macabre,” Falk said of the blockade. “I don’t know of anything that exactly fits
this situation. People have been referring to the Warsaw ghetto as the nearest
analog in modern times.”  “There is no structure of an occupation that endured for
decades and involved this kind of oppressive circumstances,” “The magnitude, the
deliberateness, the violations of international humanitarian law, the impact on the
health, lives and survival and the overall conditions warrant the characterization of a
crime against humanity. This occupation is the direct intention by the Israeli military
and civilian authorities. They are responsible and should be held accountable.” —
Richard Falk

“…what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza “a crime against
humanity.” Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as “a flagrant and massive violation of international
humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” He
has asked for “the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and
determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible
for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international
criminal law.” — Richard Falk

Facts about the war on Gaza:

—  The recent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas began in June 2008.
The terms were as follows:

1.      Israel would drastically reduce its military blockade of Gaza.
2.      Israel would halt all military incursions into Gaza.
3.      Hamas would halt all rocket attacks into Israel.

—  From the outset of the cease-fire, Israel did little to ease its military
blockade.  As a result, Gazans continued to suffer from a lack of food,
fuel, financial aid, electricity, clean water, medical supplies, and more.
This has been, inarguably, an attack on innocent Palestinian civilians.

— Despite the intense blockade against Gazan civilians, the cease-fire
held until November 4, 2008.  On that date, the Israeli military made an
incursion into Gaza and killed six Palestinians.  The Israeli government
sought to justify these actions, saying that they suspected these
Palestinians of plotting to kidnap Israeli soldiers.  Palestinian fighters
responded to the attack by launching rockets into Israel.  Thus began the
unravelling of the cease-fire.

— As the cease-fire began to crumble, the violence from both sides
intensified.  Efforts to redeem the cease-fire ultimately failed.

— Following the end of the cease-fire, Israel moved closer to an invasion of
the territory.  The Israeli government claimed that this was the only
remaining option to eliminate rocket attacks from Gaza.  However, as
cited in the sources above, this was clearly not the case.  Israel had failed
to abide by the terms of the cease-fire.  For the overwhelming majority of
the six-month truce, Israel had refused to ease its military blockade of
Gaza to any significant degree.  In addition, it was the initial violator of the
cease-fire when it sent tanks and aircraft into Gaza and killed six
Palestinians on November 4, 2008.  In fact, there is evidence that Israel
was planning to strike Gaza even while the cease-fire was still in effect.

—In the interest of peace, Hamas, and especially Fatah, have firmly
established that they are willing to participate in negotiations that are
based on internationally recognized borders and rights.

—The White House said that Israel will cease its attack when Hamas has
agreed to a truce.  Hamas said they are open to any cease-fire propositions.  A cease-fire has been proposed, but Israel rejected this

The international community must continue to demand that a cease-fire be
implemented.  In order to be successful, any agreement must call for:

1.      An end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza
2.      An end to the Israeli invasion of Gaza
3.      An end to rocket attacks into Israel
4.      An end to the plight of the Palestinian people, and the beginning of
serious efforts to reach a final solution for the Palestinian problem.