Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lobby Howls at Hillary

Israel Lobby Howls at Hillary
by Ari Berman

In her 2000 race for the US Senate, Hillary Clinton was loudly denounced by uncritical right-wing supporters of Israel for a 1999 trip to Ramallah, where she kissed Palestinian First Lady Suha Arafat and listened as Arafat denounced Israel (in Arabic). Pictures of "the kiss" were repeatedly slapped across the cover of the New York Post, in TV ads and invoked by the campaigns of Rudy Giuliani and Rick Lazio. The flap almost derailed Clinton's campaign.

Clinton learned her lesson and for nearly a decade afterward offered only boilerplate praise of Israel, which made her a favorite of the right-leaning Israel Lobby.

Now, as Secretary of State, she's forced to confront another reality: the difficulty of forging peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Anything she says that might be perceived as even slightly critical of Israel will land her in hot water with right-wingers back home. Just ask Chas Freeman, who Barack Obama appointed to head the National Intelligence Council despite fierce opposition from war-hungry neoconservatives.

In advance of her trip to the Holy Land next week, Clinton advisers sent word that the United States was unhappy with Israel for blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza, which was further devastated by Israel's recent military incursion.

According to Haaretz:

"Israel is not making enough effort to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza," senior US officials told Israeli counterparts last week, and reiterated Washington's view by saying that "the U.S. expects Israel to meet its commitments on this matter."

It didn't take long for so-called "pro-Israel" leaders back home to howl with protest. "I am very surprised, frankly, at this statement from the United States government and from the secretary of state," said New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman. "I liked her a lot more as a senator from New York," added Brooklyn assemblyman Dov Hikind.

Since when did starving the people of Gaza become good for Israel? Before we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we have to be able to have a rational conversation about it. The Zuckermans and Hikinds of the world make that nearly impossible. They're doing neither Israel nor the United States any favors.

Politically, Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton knows that the only safe words to say in US political campaigns are "I support Israel" -- no if ands or buts. Israel is the victim and the righteous warrior. Palestinians are terrorists who can't be trusted to negotiate. Hamas must be eliminated. Iran must be obliterated. End of story.

Unfortunately, such insane demagoguery doesn't come in very handy when it comes to the actual practice of diplomacy.

So, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, rightly, is trying to make sure that Israel doesn't turn Gaza into an even bleaker post-apocalyptic wasteland. Kudos to her for trying and lets hope there's more tough love to come.

Washington DC-based Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine.

Copyright ©2009 The Nation -- distributed by Agence Global

Friday, February 27, 2009

Canadian Assistance to Israel's Genocide

Canadian Military Exports to Israel: Aiding and Abetting War Crimes in Gaza (2008-2009)
By Richard Sanders, Coordinator, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT); Editor, Press for Conversion! magazine

In response to the bombing of Gaza and the deaths of hundreds of innocent children and other civilians, the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) -- an Ottawa-based, Canadian anti-war network -- has produced this research report on Canadian military companies that have direct or indirect export links to Israel.

Included below are links to ten tables of data providing detailed information about over 200 Canadian military exporters.

CADSI: About half of the companies listed in these tables are members of an Ottawa-based business association/lobby group called the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI). CADSI supports its 540 members by highlighting their capabilities on its website and sponsoring events to assist their domestic sales and international exports. In 2004, CADSI organised a "Canada / Israel Industry Partnering Mission" to "advance industrial partnerships between Canadian and Israeli companies." Speakers at the event included Canada's Minister of National Defence, Israel's Ambassador to Canada, a representative from Israel's Ministry of Defense, and top bureaucrats from Canadian government departments. Canadian military companies heard presentations from Israel's top weapons industries and then held 20-minute, face-to-face "Company One-on-Ones" with Elbit, Elisra, Israeli Aircraft Industries, Israeli Military Industries, Rafael, Simigon and Soltam. (Source)

Since 2006, when Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade began proactively disclosing "grants and and contributions over $25,000," CADSI has received three government donations totaling $192,000 for "generic international business development activities." These government "contributions" come from the "International Trade" division of DFAIT.

CANSEC 2009: CADSI's primary function is to organise Canada's top military industry trade show, known as CANSEC. This international arms bazaar is now scheduled for May 2009 at the City of Ottawa's largest municipal facility, Lansdowne Park. This is the first time in 20 years that the City of Ottawa has hosted such an weapons trade show. COAT, which launched the 1989 campaign that led Council to ban the leasing of City property for international arms shows, is calling on City Council to honour its historic motion. (Click here for details on this campaign, upcoming events and how you can get involved.)

Data Tables on Canada's Exports to Israel
Table 1:
Master Table: CADSI This master table for all of the CADSI-linked companies in COAT's report, lists 105 Canadian military companies, some general facts about each company (including figures on sales, exports and number of employees), their city location(s), links to their websites, summaries of their main military products and/or services, their status as current or former members of CADSI, whether they exhibited at CADSI's most recent military trade show (CANSEC 2008) and whether they report having "export experience" with Israel or are now "actively pursuing" such exports.

CADSI members,
current or former,
with Export Links to Israel

Canadian Complicity in the production of Major US Weapons Systems used by Israel
COAT's report lists more than 50 Canadian military exporters that have supplied a wide range of essential components and/or services for three major US weapons systems that are used by the Israeli Air Force: the F-15, F-16 and AH-64. These fighter/bomber aircraft and helicopter attack gunships were the main varieties of weapons systems employed by Israel during the recent aerial bombardments of Gaza. In an effort to document Canadian contracts that have supplied these US weapons systems, COAT's report provides hundreds of links to corporate and government sources:

Table 2a:
F-15 "Eagle"

This table compiles data on 31 Canadian military exporters and provides internet links to about 100 sources detailing their complicity in the production of the F-15 weapons system. More than half of these companies are now members of CADSI, while 16% are former members. Almost 40% of these military companies exhibited their products at CANSEC 2008.

Canadian War Industries
supplying Parts and/or Services
to the USA for the F-15
"Eagle" Tactical Fighter/Bomber
(a major Weapons System
used by Israel)

Table 2b:
F-16 "Fighting Falcon"
This table compiles data on 39 Canadian military exporters and provides internet links to about 100 sources detailing their complicity in the production of the F-16 weapons system. About 40% of these companies are now members of CADSI, while over 20% are former members. One third of these military companies exhibited their products at Ottawa's CANSEC arms show in 2008.

Canadian War Industries
supplying Parts and/or Services
to the USA for the F-16
"Fighting Falcon" Fighter/Bomber
(a major Weapons System
used by Israel)

Table 2c:
AH-64 "Apache"
This table compiles data on 18 Canadian military exporters and provides internet links to about 100 sources detailing their complicity in the production of the AH-64 weapons system. Over 60% of these companies are now members of CADSI, while 17% are former members. More than two thirds of these military companies exhibited their products at the CANSEC arms show in 2008.

Canadian War Industries
supplying Parts and/or Services
to the USA for the AH-64
"Apache" Helicopter Gunship
(a major Weapons System
used by Israel)
Table 2d:
F-15, F-16 and AH-64 This table compiles the data from the three preceding tables and lists 53 Canadian military exporters. The table includes detailed contact information for all of the companies and indicates that 40% are current members of CADSI while an additional 21% are former members. Among the current CADSI members in this group, 73% exhibited their wares at the CANSEC arms show in 2008.

Canadian War Industries Supplying Parts and/or Services
for three Major US Weapons Systems
(F-15, F-16, AH-64) used by Israel
Table 3:
Canada Pension Plan (CPP) This table contains annual details on CPP investments since 2003 in Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the US weapons makers that manufacture the AH-64, F-15 and F-16 weapons systems. CPP investments in these prime contractors increased from about $14 million (between 2003-2005) to about $100 million (between 2006-2008). This more than seven-fold increase occurred suddenly in 2006, the year that Israel bombed Lebanon and killed about 1300 people, mostly innocent civilians. The table also shows that these war manufacturers and/or their Canadian subsidiaries are members of CADSI and exhibited at CANSEC 2008.

Canada Pension Plan Investments (2003-2008)
in Prime Contractors for
Three Major US Weapons systems used by Israel
against Lebanon (2006)
and Gaza (2008-2009)

Direct Exports to Israel by Canadian Military Companies

There are more than 140 Canadian military industries now reporting that they have exported their products directly to Israel. COAT's report divides the data on these companies into two tables based on whether they are known to have ever been members of CADSI. More than one third of these Canadian military companies have known links to CADSI.
Table 4a:
Direct Exports: CADSI This table listing 53 Canadian companies includes summaries describing their main military products and/or services, provides links to their websites, notes their status as current or former members of CADSI and whether they exhibited their wares at CADSI's most recent military trade show, CANSEC 2008.

Canadian Exports to Israel
by corporate members, current or former, of the
Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries
Table 4b:
Direct Exports: non-CADSI This table listing 89 Canadian companies includes summaries describing their main military products and/or services, some general facts about each company (including figures on sales, exports and number employees), links to their websites, and detailed contact information.

Canadian Exports to Israel by
Military Companies NOT linked to the
Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries

Canadian Military Companies "Actively Pursuing" Direct Exports to Israel

There are 45 other Canadian military exporters now reporting that they are "actively pursuing" direct exports to Israel. In COAT's report, the data on these companies is divided into two tables based on whether the companies are known to have membership links to CADSI. Almost two thirds of these companies are known to be current or former members of CADSI.
Table 5a:
Actively Pursuing Exports: CADSI This table lists 28 Canadian companies, provides links to their websites, data on the location of their operations, and summaries describing their main military products and/or services and gives their status as current or former members of CADSI and whether they exhibited their wares at CADSI's most recent military trade show, CANSEC 2008.

Current and/or past members of the
Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries
"Actively Pursuing" Exports to Israel
Table 5b:
Actively Pursuing Exports: non-CADSI This table lists 17 Canadian companies includes summaries describing their main military products and/or services, some general facts about each company (including figures on sales, exports and number employees), links to their websites, and detailed contact information.

Canadian Military Companies
"Actively Pursuing" Exports to Israel
(Not current &/or past members of CADSI)

Some Goals of this Research
During the recent bombardment of Gaza, Canada's mainstream corporate media did not ask any questions, let alone investigate, Canada's role in supplying military hardware to Israel. In fact, very little has ever been published examining Canadian military exports to Israel. It is therefore hoped that the data compiled in this report will provide:
(1) a useful initial resource for those concerned about Canadian military exports and their impact on peace and human rights in the occupied territories,
(2) a starting point for further research into Canadian corporate and government complicity in supplying Israel's military forces, and
(3) an impetus for peace and human rights activists and organisations to focus on particular companies, the CADSI military exporters association, the CANSEC arms bazaar, as well as municipal, provincial and federal government institutions and programs that facilitate the international arms trade.

Take Action!
Please join COAT's "Stop Ottawa Arms Shows" campaign
(Click here for an even more detailed and comprehensive list of things that you can do to help)

* Sign our ONLINE PETITION now!
* Circulate paper petitions (print a copy)

Contact City Hall
* Click here to Contact Ottawa's Council and Mayor
(from the Ottawa Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, the regional umbrella group for 65 congregations in Ottawa!)

Attend upcoming events:

Information and Strategy Session to Oppose CANSEC
Tuesday, March 24, 7 pm
Southminster United Church,
15 Aylmer Ave at Bank Street.
(Just south of the Rideau Canal. Enter from the Galt St. entrance at the back of the complex.)

Speakers, Music and Candlelight Vigil
Wednesday, May 27 (time to be announced)
Southminster United Church,
(Speakers and Music in the Sanctuary followed by a Candlelight procession just across the bridge to Lansdowne Park. )

Related event (Film Documentary - OTTAWA PREMIERE)
> Hintonburg Community Centre
> 1064 Wellington Street (3 blocks west of Somerset)
> Wednesday, March 18, 2009, 7:00 pm
> More info and a trailer at:
> The film will be followed by a discussion with the film makers, Amy Miller and Boban Chaldovich.

* Spread the word:
Spreading the word about this campaign online and off.
Post a link to this page on listserves, blogs and relevant websites.
Raise the issue at meetings and public events.

* Media: Encourage the media to cover Canada's war exports, not cover them up.

* Divest: Promote divestment from military industries

* Endorsements: Get group endorsements for the campaign against CANSEC 2009

* The Feds: Insist that the Canadian government immediately stop permitting, facilitating, financing and otherwise encouraging and promoting Canadian military exports, especially to those governments that are either currently at war, preparing for war and/or violating the human rights of those inside or outside of their boundaries.

* Volunteer: Volunteer some time to help promote this campaign
* Support COAT: Donate to COAT and subscribe to COAT's magazine, Press for Conversion!

This web page is part of an online report called:
Canadian Military Exports to Israel: Aiding and Abetting War Crimes in Gaza (2008-2009).

The report includes 10 detailed tables filled with data detailing about 200 Canadian military companies that have direct or indirect export links to Israel.

Prepared by the Ottawa-based Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) -- this report is part of a campaign to expose and oppose CANSEC 2009, Canada's largest military industry trade show. CANSEC 2009 will be hosted by the City of Ottawa at Lansdowne Park, May 27-28, 2009. Please join us in exposing and opposing CANSEC! Click here to read more about our CAMPAIGN.

Here is an article that ties together the issues in this report and the campaign against CANSEC:
Canadian Military Exports, War Crimes in Gaza and Ottawa's Arms Bazaar

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Canadian "Intelligence" Agency Exposes Colombian Refugee's Family

CSIS endangering `lives of my sons'

Colombian union activist says agency gave media family addresses Feb 21, 2009 04:30 AM Lesley Ciarula Taylor Immigration Reporter

The case of a 53-year-old Colombian refugee fighting deportation on evidence she is forbidden to read has taken a chilling turn with something she can read. A Colombian newspaper, citing Canada's security service as the source, printed her sons' names and locations, making them targets in the country's bloody civil war.

"This was shocking to me," said Amparo Torres. "This puts in danger the lives of my sons. If they are killed, the responsibility belongs to CSIS." Torres survived a wave of bloodshed that left 3,000 Patriotic Union members dead and destroyed the movement in Colombia. "But I have no defence against this."

Torres, a well-known trade union activist, has been through years of deportation hearings and Federal Court challenges, most recently invoking the Supreme Court of Canada decision that security certificates used to invoke secret evidence to try to deport non- citizens as security threats were unconstitutional.

Neither she nor her lawyer, Raoul Boulakia, is allowed to see the evidence against her.

Torres had fled Colombia for Mexico and then Canada in 1996, a political refugee who had survived a kidnapping. Canada gave her refugee status and permanent residence. At the time, she admitted her brother and former husband were leaders of FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and that she helped create Colombia's Patriotic Union Movement, a consortium of left-wing political parties.

When she applied for citizenship in 2000, the government asked CSIS for a formal security clearance. CSIS countered that Torres herself belonged to FARC but refused to give her more than a summary of its evidence.

"We came to Canada to protect our lives," said Torres, who lives in Etobicoke with her second husband, a retired University of Toronto professor. "It is very surprising to me that Canada would do this because it is famous for respecting human rights. That is the reason I am in Canada."

Torres's first deportation hearing went on for a few years, said Boulakia, but just as a decision was due, the Immigration and Refugee Board official retired. "We had to start all over again a year ago."

This time, because the Supreme Court in February 2007 had struck down a law allowing the government to use secret evidence, Torres could name a special advocate to examine and challenge the classified documents on her behalf.

Her special advocate, Lorne Waldman, has himself represented the last of the five men held in prison on security certificates as part of the government's anti-terrorism campaign. A legal challenge to those certificates led to the high court ruling allowing special advocates. Waldman said he expects to soon have a date to review the evidence.

In three interviews, Torres said, CSIS asked about her brother, her sons, her politics. "They talked to me very ruthlessly, with shouts and insults and accusations." She denied belonging to FARC, which Canada declared a terrorist organization in 2003, and denies it still.

A summary of one interview said she "argued for violence." Her friends in Canada have been questioned. But late last year, "they did the worst that they have done, something very dangerous."

The largest newspaper in Colombia, El Tiempo, published an article about what it called the children of FARC living in comfort while Colombians were being killed. The article named Torres's two sons, Canadian citizens previously unknown to the Colombian media and university graduates, ages 24 and 26, and described where they were working and studying.

A spokesperson for CSIS, Manon Bérubé, said yesterday, "CSIS does not provide such information to any news media outlet." As to whether the information came via CSIS to Colombian security, she said, "CSIS does not divulge details of information shared with any foreign entity."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Island Uproar Over Logging in Watershed

Island Community in Uproar Over Logging in Watershed

By Joan Delaney
Epoch Times Staff Feb 24, 2009�

Trees lie abandoned on the ground after old-growth Douglas fir was heli-logged from a small island in Englishman River on Vancouver Island. (Scott Tanner)

A serene Sunday afternoon hike through what was�until very recently�pristine forest turned into a life-threatening situation for four residents of a Vancouver Island community.�

Two local filmmakers, a city councillor and his eight-year-old son had to run for their lives when a Skycrane helicopter appeared suddenly and began removing massive 500-year-old trees from right where the group had been hiking on a small island.

�It was pretty scary. People could have been killed for sure. They hadn�t really marked off the trails or given any warning to the public,� said environmentalist and documentary filmmaker Richard Boyce, who had to dive for cover amid flying branches and debris generated by the intense downdraft from the helicopter blades.

Councillor Chris Berger called 9-1-1 to get a message relayed to logging company Island Timberlands that people were in danger, and the helicopter left10 minutes later. Owned by Island Timberlands, the island is just one kilometre from the boundary of Englishman River Falls Provincial Park.

Boyce had taken city councillor Chris Berger to the island in the Englishman River to show him how logging is affecting the drinking water supply for the nearby city of Parksville and the surrounding region.

Locals are concerned about logging activities in the area, not only because of the rapidly disappearing old-growth Coast Douglas-fir but also because of risks to drinking water and efforts to restore salmon habitat in the Englishman River.�

Over two million provincial and federal dollars�and much local effort�have been spent to rehabilitate the Englishman, which up until last year was designated one of the most endangered rivers in British Columbia.�

�The company is claiming they�re only taking 20 trees from the island, but the bigger picture is that the watershed has very little old growth left, and what is left they�re cutting it down,� said Boyce.�

A 'bear den' cedar tree on the island, located metres from where the logging took place. (Richard Boyce)
Only one percent of the entire Douglas-fir ecosystem remains today, making it the most endangered forest ecosystem in Canada. Because it is located in sensitive areas, this one percent has historically been left alone by logging companies�until now.

�They didn�t log those areas in the past but today they have no scruples�they�re just logging them anyway,� Boyce said. In all, 47 trees between the ages of 150 and 550 were cut on the one-hectare island.

�With the zillion trees available for sensible harvest you can�t help but wonder why, for the few dollars involved, Island Timberlands would take trees away from a very sensitive spot �� said city councillor Barry Avis.

In order to log the largest and healthiest old growth, surrounding �habitat trees� must be cut down. Worthless to the logging companies, habitat trees are trees that have died but remain standing, often for hundreds of years. Though rotting inside, they become an invaluable source of food and shelter for small animal, bat, bird, and insect life.

�That�s the sad thing about the habitat trees that we lost on that island,� says Annette Tanner, chairperson of the mid-Island chapter of Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC).�

�There were 500-year-old habitat trees that are now lying on the ground. They were providing such an important function because there is so little old-growth habitat left in the area. It�s just incredible what a habitat tree does when it reaches that point in its life.�

A fight is also underway to protect Vancouver Island�s Cathedral Grove, the country�s most famous old-growth forest within MacMillan Provincial Park, visited each year by millions of tourists. Island Timberlands logged Douglas-firs and red cedars from the perimeter of the park in the fall of 2008 and has plans for further logging the area in the future.

While the company claims it will leave a 300-metre buffer between its clear cut and the park boundary, locals are worried more logging will expose the grove to flooding and �blow-down.��

�The community is outraged and we�re asking for a stop to the logging in Cathedral Grove,� said Tanner, adding that a new group has been formed to �get involved with the decision makers� to see what can be done to save what�s left of the grove.

�Those trees in the park are not going to survive the vast visitor use and all the impacts that are done upstream if we don�t stop it now�it�s been over-logged.�

What visitors don�t see on a pleasant drive through the grove is the �total devastation� on the other side of the mountain, said Tanner.�

�It�s just wasted, wasted forest all over the ground. They don�t even pick stuff up. They just grab those big old money trees and leave the rest.�

Vancouver Island�s diverse forests include the world�s largest Douglas-fir (the Red Creek Fir) and western red cedar (the Cheewhat Cedar). There are towering red cedar and Douglas-fir trees in Cameron River Canyon on the east side of the island that are thought to be between 800 and 1,000 years old.

Only 110 hectares of Douglas-fir forest on the east coast of Vancouver Island have been protected, while just two percent have been set aside as federal, provincial and regional parks.�

Last November, WCWC called on the government to end old-growth logging on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland in regions where the trees are most scarce. For other forests, the committee wants old-growth logging phased out completely by 2015.
South of the border, old-growth forests are also facing increasing pressure from logging and development, said Jonathan Jelen, old growth campaigner with Oregon Wild, a Portland-based environmental organization.

�We do not have adequate protection for our old growth here in Oregon, in Washington, or Northern California, where, with the Pacific Northwest, those are the forests that most closely mimic a lot of the old-growth that you all have in Canada.�

Jelen said there is only an estimated 10 percent of old-growth left in the U.S. Northwest. Oregon Wild is currently fighting a rule pushed through in the last days of the Bush administration that increases old-growth logging by 300 percent in parts of Oregon.

�Old-growth logging is still very controversial � there is more and more consensus amongst folks that old growth should be just taken completely off the table�that we just should not be logging it any more,� he said.

With these ancient trees so close to extinction on the west coast of both countries, environmentalists say that if they disappear, salmon, spotted owl, and a host of other species will be unable to survive. The ability of old growth to cleanse rivers and streams and stabilize soil will also be lost.

Meanwhile, in an effort to protect both salmon and drinking water, Parksville city council has passed a special resolution demanding that the provincial government put a stop to logging on Englishman River. A similar resolution will be taken to the Council of B.C. Municipalities in hopes that municipalities across the province will adopt a policy preventing logging in river beds and watersheds.

�The government has a responsibility to its citizens to protect the watersheds,� said Boyce. �They plan to do a lot more logging along the banks of this river. Hopefully we can stop that by getting the government to intervene � The government sooner or later has to start listening.�
Last Updated
Feb 24, 2009�

Rolling Back the Environmental Clock with Gord Campbell

1882 Act protects citizens' right of access to rivers, lakes, ocean inlets.
By Andrew MacLeod
The premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, wants the federal government to repeal a major piece of legislation that helps protect the environment.

The attack, which comes at a time when the federal government is already trying to weaken the act in question, at first appeared inconsequential. It rated just one sentence deep in Feb. 16's 40-page speech from the throne.

"The federal Navigable Waters Act [sic] should be repealed and replaced by legislation that meets the legitimate needs of the 21st century," said the speech, which sets out the government's priorities. "A unified major project review process will speed up job creation in mining, energy, resort development and other areas."

As it happens, the B.C. government had the name of the federal act wrong, leaving out the word "protection" from the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

The act's primary purpose is protecting people's right of access to rivers, lakes and any body of water it is possible to travel by boat or ship, an environmental lawyer explained. By helping protect waterways, the act has the side benefit of keeping them in their natural state.

That law's too old: Campbell

Reporters, curious about why the provincial government dislikes the act, got little help from Campbell during a scrum in his office.

"Let's put this in context for you," said Campbell responding to a question from CKNW's Sean Leslie. "That act was passed in 1882. I would suggest that the world has changed dramatically in the 21st century from what it was like in 1882."

The act slows development, he said. "Right now across the West, literally every economic development minister will tell you that the federal Navigable Waters Act [sic] is a huge impediment to investments and to jobs."

He added, "If there are legitimate needs for the Navigable Waters Act [sic], put them in place in a 21st-century bill, but don't hold up 21st-century investment and jobs because of a 19th-century piece of legislation."

Just what projects are being slowed by the act?

"You name it. Name a project that's a significant project. If it involves any kind of watersheds, it could do that, sometimes if it involves an agricultural ditch it, may be called on."

The act is supposed to ensure people can travel the country's waterways, he said. "We're capable of doing that in British Columbia without checking with the federal government."

'Profound misunderstanding'

Campbell's right that the Navigable Waters Protection Act is old, said Will Amos, a staff lawyer for Ecojustice in Ottawa. That's not a reason to get rid of it, he said, asking rhetorically, "Is the Constitution outdated?"

In fact, the principle the act is based on goes back much further, he said, to the Magna Carta, signed in 1215. Since then, common law in many countries, including Canada, has protected the public's right to use waterways.

The public has that right, said Amos, and the federal government is mandated to protect it.

"The suggestion of a repealing of the Navigable Waters Protection Act is ridiculous and inappropriate," said Amos. "It's a legally and historically incorrect view... It's a profound misunderstanding of navigation history and law."

Amos said he can, however, understand why Campbell wants it killed. "The provinces don't like any federal environmental regulation and enforcement."

Or as Linda Duncan, the MP for Edmonton-Strathcona and the federal NDP's environment critic, put it, "Provincial premiers always want to get rid of the federal government."

Told of Campbell's comments about the age of the act, she said, "Yes, they are very old laws. People have guarded them."

Environmental assessments

The Navigable Waters Protection Act will trigger an environmental assessment whenever a structure goes over a river or a lake, Duncan said. "It sounds like a minor thing, but it's an important part of federal responsibility," she said. "This is not an insignificant law."

In B.C., for starters, thousands of salmon streams could be affected, she said.

Campbell's are strange remarks from a premier working on his green reputation, she said. "He's showing his true colours. Unbelievable he would single it out."

That leaves observers wondering why exactly Campbell wants the act gone.

"It's a major trigger for the Environmental Assessment Act," said Andrew Gage, staff counsel for the West Coast Environmental Law group. It affects proposals such as a controversial one now being debated to add a marina to Victoria's inner harbour.

Provincial NDP environment critic Shane Simpson said Campbell has all kinds of reasons to oppose the federal regulations. The act affects run of the river hydro projects, gravel extraction and aquaculture, he said. "This could certainly relate to issues around oil tankers."

"I think it really does have to do with beginning to reduce environmental oversight," he said.

Last week's B.C. budget cut the province's environment ministry by 11 per cent, said Simpson. "Instead of putting resources in to deal with these in a more thoughtful way, the other option is just get the rules out of the way totally."

Federal threat

While repealing the act is not something on the federal agenda, the Conservative government is in the process of significantly weakening it.

On behalf of various clients, including environmental groups and Mountain Equipment Co-op, Amos will appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance today (Feb. 23) to oppose the changes, which the Conservative government announced with the budget in late January and detailed in the Feb. 6 Budget Implementation Act.

Harper's proposed amendments would make it easier to skip the approval process and environmental assessments, said Amos, who wrote an Ecojustice memo on the issue. "The [Transport] minister will be able to exempt whole classes of waterways and works from the approval process and environmental assessments."

The minister could, for example, decide that aquaculture projects are no longer subject to the approval process, he said. He or she could do the same for micro-hydro projects, a controversial topic in B.C..

For such projects there would no longer even be any need to notify the public, Amos said, threatening both long-standing access rights and possibilities for protecting waterways. With the stroke of the pen, he said, "They could do a lot of damage and nobody would know."

The Harper government argues the changes are needed to accelerate infrastructure spending, said Amos. "Wrecking the environment to stimulate the economy is not the direction we need to go."

Sneaky bill

A better way to accelerate approvals would be to invest money in the government departments that do the work, he said. "They could do that and they ought to do that." Instead ,Harper is choosing a deregulation approach. "We saw where deregulation got the U.S. economy. We don't need to go down the same route with the environment."

That Harper's government has brought the changes forward as part of an unrelated bill is outrageous, he said. "The real problem is we weren't consulted," he said. "There's a lot of people really concerned about this... We're finally going to get the opportunity to be heard."

Stories are starting to emerge from the paddling community, and there is concern among environmentalists, though the issue has received little media attention.

Amos said he'll tell the Feb. 23 committee meeting the amendments are contrary to the interests of many Canadians, including those in the ecotourism business, sport fishers and outdoors stores. "You're going to hear more about this soon."

The NDP's Duncan said bringing the changes forward as part of a budget bill is sneaky. "It should be done in an open forum so people can understand what they're up to," she said. "Shouldn't they come forward in a way the public can discuss and debate?"

The federal Liberals were in a position to ask for the amendments to be removed before they pledged support for Harper's budget, she said, but failed to do that.

Green edges

Campbell's attack on the federal laws is just another sign his commitment to the environment is weak, said the provincial NDP's Simpson. "It was always very narrow," he said. There was the introduction of the carbon tax to show Campbell's interest in the environment, but little more. "If you looked past that there's not much in the way of green initiatives that you can find on the agenda."

While Campbell has received credit for the carbon tax, a lot of environmentalists have ignored his brown side and what's actually happening on the land, said Vicky Husband. A long time conservationist, Husband describes herself as a "free radical" since her parting a few years ago from the Sierra Club.

In a recent e-mail, she listed a number of things the Campbell government has done: subsidizing the oil and gas industry, promoting coal bed methane exploration, encouraging "ruin of river" private hydro projects, funding advocates of offshore oil and gas development, allowing the removal of land from management under tree farm licenses, removing control over forest industry practices, promoting fish farms, ignoring the evidence on sea lice and salmon, proposing pipelines across Northern B.C. and building more highways in the Lower Mainland.

"A lot of the leading environmental groups are caught up in climate change and if there's a carbon tax, things are good. I've always said, 'show me,'" she said. "It's a total sham... He's going green around the edges and that's it. There's no green in the centre."

Pressing Harper to get rid of an act that helps protect waterways is just one more example, she said.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Three Strategies Against Obama

Netanyahu's Three Strategies Against Obama
by Patrick Seale

Having been asked by Israel’s President Shimon Peres to form a government, Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing Likud party, has until 17 March to try to put together a ruling coalition. Looming over his horse-trading with possible partners is the shadow of Barack Obama, America’s new President.

As he goes about his task, Netanyahu’s prime concern will be to find a way to defuse the threat from Obama, whose views about Iran, about the desirability of a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, and about relations with the Muslim world in general, are diametrically opposed to his own.

Early indications suggest that Netanyahu will resort to three distinct strategies to reduce, evade and eventually dispel any likely pressure from Washington, especially on the Palestine question, to which, unlike Obama, he intends to give no priority whatsoever.

His first strategy will be to seek to cobble together a ‘moderate’ coalition of the Likud (27 seats), with Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima party (28 seats), and Ehud Barak’s much reduced Labour party (13 seats). Such a coalition could no doubt attract smaller factions, so as to produce a reasonably comfortable majority in the 120-seat Knesset. The only problem is that Tzipi Livni is demanding real decision-making powers in the coalition, which Netanyahu is unwilling to grant her, while Barak seems to think it wiser to rebuild his shattered party in opposition.

From Netanyahu’s perspective, a ‘moderate’ coalition would be better able to neutralise pressure from Obama. The alternative would be a right, far-right and ultra-religious coalition of Likud with Avigdor Lieberman’s unashamedly racist Israel Beiteinu, and other hard-line factions. But such an extremist grouping would attract international opprobrium and further damage Israel’s image -- already severely battered by the Gaza war. In Washington, Israel’s friends and lobbyists would be hard put to protect it against Obama.

Netanyahu’s second strategy might be to extend feelers to Syria in order to attempt to revive the indirect Israeli-Syrian talks, which Turkey has been mediating in recent months, but which Syria broke off because of the Gaza war. Syria might be inclined to agree to resume them as part of its current diplomatic campaign to improve its relations with the European Union and the United States.

In seeking to revive the Syrian track, Netanyahu’s main motive would be to provide him with a pretext for resisting American pressure to advance on the Palestinian track. The argument that it cannot focus on two tracks at the same time is one Israel has long used to prevent any move towards a comprehensive peace.

In any event, Netanyahu has no intention of meeting Syria‘s bottom line demand -- the return of the Golan Heights. Syria, in turn would have no real expectations from revived talks. It knows that it cannot consider reaching a peace agreement with Israel, unless there is substantial progress on the Palestinian track as well. So, if talks were eventually revived, there would be a good deal of cynicism on both sides, and no serious expectation of a favourable outcome.

Netanyahu’s third strategy in dealing with Obama is to play up the alleged danger from Iran and its nuclear programme. It is his way of relegating the Palestinians’ political aspirations to a distant -- very distant -- horizon. Even as he accepted the task of attempting to form a government, Netanyahu lashed out at Iran.

There was no doubt, he declared, that Iran was seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel was faced with its greatest threat since the creation of the State in 1948. Terrorist forces were gathering in the north – his reference to the Hizbullah resistance movement in Lebanon -- and more in the same alarmist vein.

Whipping up hysteria about Iran has long been a familiar Netanyahu tactic. He is desperately anxious to prevent a U.S.-Iranian dialogue such as Obama has proposed, and to which Iran has reacted positively. The same scare tactic -- the allegation that Saddam Hussein was acquiring weapons of mass destruction -- was used by American pro-Israeli neocons in 2002 to push America into war with Iraq.

In testimony this month before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Admiral Dennis Blair, America’s Director of National Intelligence, predicted a confrontation this year between Israel and Iran over the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment programme. But few observers in Washington believe that Israel would dare launch an attack against Iran without an American green light -- which the Obama administration would be most unlikely to give.

Instead, as London’s Daily Telegraph reported, Israel is using covert activities -- sabotage, front companies, double agents, assassination -- to disrupt Iran’s nuclear activities. According to the newspaper, Mossad is rumoured to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top Iranian nuclear scientist at Isfahan’s uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances in 2007. Zbigniew Brzezinski , President Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser and now an American elder statesman critical of Israel, has advised the United States and Iran to proceed to negotiations as soon as possible.

Netanyahu will need to act quickly and be highly resourceful if he is to dent Obama’s determination to turn a new page with Iran, promote Israeli-Palestinian peace, and build bridges with the entire Arab and Muslim world.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.