Reflections on the Trump Overseas Tour

Reflections on the Trump Overseas Tour

by

Howard Adelman

My overall impression of Donald Trump’s first excursion overseas as President is the low standard American commentators have set for their President. Further, Trump has surrendered American leadership in the world, although the focus has been on whether his visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican and the G7 were far less damaging than expected.  I examine the trip thus far one stop at a time.

Saudi Arabia

The glitz was familiar. Friendships were forged and solidified. The dancing at the ardha ceremony on the part of the Americans was awkward, and that may have been the metaphor for the whole visit. At the same time, a number of issues came into sharper focus.

  1. Donald’s supreme ignorance concerning terrorism

Though Trump declared that the war against terror was not a war of one civilization against another or one religion against another, but a war against evil, Iran alone was blamed as the heinous source of terrorism, as “the tip of the spear of global terrorism.” To some extent, in the Middle East, the country is a prime source. However, most radical Islamicist terrorism in Europe, in North America and even in the Middle East, is a product of Sunni, not Shiite, background. Wahhabism, rooted in Saudi Arabia, is both a source of proselytizing as well as repression, though both merge together in terrorism in only a small proportion of adherents to this fundamentalism. ISIS in its theology and jurisprudence is far closer to Saudi Arabia than to Iran.

  1. Donald proved he could be diplomatic

He learned to follow Barack Obama’s lead, a lead at which he once aimed withering criticism, and avoided the phrase “Islamic terrorism.” He also deliberately ignored his anti-Islamic rhetoric in addressing Muslim leaders and conveniently forgot that he had once declared that Muslims hate us.

  1. Donald’s Respect for Democracy

Saudi Arabia is a dynasty and theocracy, permitting only male descendants of the founder, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman al-Saud, to rule. Further, the Basic Law that dictates a dictatorship is rooted in sharia law; punishment can be severe for apostasy, sorcery and adultery. Trump could have offered indirect criticisms of the Saudi democratic deficit by applauding the honesty of its December 2016 elections and the innovation in allowing women to both vote and run as candidates, while urging moves towards further reform. If he had a deeper sense of diplomacy than he exhibited, this need not have emerged as a scolding, but as encouragement towards judicial independence and due process in opposition to rampant use of arbitrary arrest, particularly targeting human rights activists. However, Donald Trump’s “principled realism” unveiled an absence of any principles.

  1. Donald’s Ethos

Donald seems to have no sense of human rights – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly – and universal values; he expresses a positive disdain for them in the leaders he admires. He never once brought up the issue of human rights or confronted the repressive government of the Saudis. Instead, a member of his executive, Secretary Wilbur Ross, lauded his visit to Saudi Arabia by noting there were no protesters. “There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard.” When Ross was offered an option to amend or qualify the statement, he abjured and, instead, doubled down on the plaudits he awarded Saudi Arabia without reference to the authoritarian reasons.

(See the U.S. Government Report: https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/253157.pdf)

This State Department Report explicitly notes that, “the [Saudi] government categorically forbids participation in political protests or unauthorized public assemblies.” Two protesters currently sit on death row sentenced to be beheaded.

  1. Donald’s Economic Interests

While the billions in trade deals (selling billions of dollars in arms to the Saudis whom he once charged with masterminding 9/11) were being celebrated, so was Saudi investments in America – $55 billion in defence, manufacturing and resource companies. Sales and investments also promised to bring more jobs to America. Less apparent was the fact that a close associate of Donald Trump, Hussain Sajwani, whose DAMAC Properties built the Trump International Golf Course Dubai, might be a big beneficiary.

  1. Saudi Middle East Peace Plan

Though the fifteen-year-old Saudi-led plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians had previously led nowhere, there were hints that the Saudis had modified their approach by offering Israeli recognition as well as trade and investment cooperation if Israel took positive steps towards peace – freezing settlements, releasing prisoners. The increasing surreptitious cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia in trade, security and even diplomacy has, in fact, provided the possibility of making the current period propitious for an advance toward peace, however unlikely that seems to be.

Israel and the Palestinians

At this time, virtually no one with any in-depth knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict expects any breakthrough on the conflict. This is especially true of the Palestinians. Some still believe that Palestinian stubbornness on the “right of return” is a, if not the, major impediment. In fact, there is a deal in the backdrop which allows Israel to ensure its demographic Jewish majority while giving a nod to Palestinian honour. Since there are agreements in place for trading territory and various resolutions are thrown about in dealing with the 80,000 Jewish settlers outside Area C in the West Bank, the problem of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel versus East Jerusalem serving as a capital of a Palestinian state still seems insurmountable. Could that problem be bracketed and a peace deal agreed upon on the other issues?

  1. Orthodox Jews were already suspicious when an unknown rabbi purportedly gave permission to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner landing in Saudi Arabia after the sun had set for the beginning of shabat.
  2. Donald Trump arrived in Israel against a background in Washington where he let the Russians know that intelligence had come from Israel.
  3. Former MK Moshe Feiglin, former leader of Zehut, criticized the $110 billion dollar-weapons-deal signed by Donald with Saudi Arabia.
  4. Netanyahu had to order his ministers to meet Trump at the airport; extreme right wing members recognized that they could not win Trump’s endorsement for a one-state solution based on Israeli victory.
  5. Netanyahu welcomed Trump to the “united capital of the Jewish state.”
  6. Donald Trump, whatever the huge range of his ignorance and inadequacies, does have a keen ear for identity politics and an ability to appeal to that side of Palestinian political concerns. In the past, efforts to strike a deal based on Palestinian self interest have failed. Would Donald be able appeal to their identity concerns?
  7. Recall that in February, Trump suggested that he, and the U.S., were no longer wedded to a two-state solution, even as the State Department reaffirmed that the U.S. still supported a two-state solution. Only a bare majority of Israelis continued to support a two-state solution and the support among Palestinians had dropped to 44%. However, it was not clear whether Trump had dumped the two-state solution or whether he was holding out that possibility if the Palestinians refused to bend and compromise. In his dealings with Israel, he was much clearer that he continued, for the present, to support a two-state solution, but it was also clear that it would not be based on a return to the Green Armistice Line, though Trump disdained the use of a label to characterize the solution without clarification of any content.
  8. When Donald Trump went to Bethlehem to meet Mahmud Abbas, he was greeted with a banner declaring Trump to be a man of peace: “the city of peace welcomes the man of peace.”
  9. Donald Trump did urge Palestinians to refrain from inciting violence.
  10. Trump broke a taboo and flew directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv.
  11. Trump broke another taboo and, as U.S. President, visited the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, but without any Israeli politicians.
  12. He also reinforced Netanyahu’s propensity to demonize Iran as Trump insisted that Iran would never be allowed to make nuclear arms in the same week that a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, had just been re-elected as President of Iran.
  13. On the other hand, Trump did not announce moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as he had promised.
  14. Further, Trump asked Netanyahu to “curb” settlement expansion, but did not ask for a freeze on building housing units in existing settlements.

The Vatican

  1. Instead of building bridges, as Pope Francis favoured, the Pope had criticized Trump’s promise to build a wall on the Mexican border during his campaign.
  2. Trump in return had called Francis “disgraceful.”
  3. Pope Francis, a critic of climate change sceptics, openly advocated adopting policies to deal with climate change. (Francis gave Trump a copy of his encyclical on preserving the environment – of course, there is little possibility that Trump will read it).
  4. Francis is also perhaps the best-known world figure who identifies with giving a helping hand to the poor, with compassion for refugees and, in a Ted talk, he had urged the powerful to put the needs of the people ahead of profits and products.
  5. Francis and Trump did not end up in fisticuffs, but the half-hour visit appeared to be a downer for the Donald and certainly for Sean Spicer, a Catholic, who never got to meet the Pope; the background of the Manchester terror attack did not help, though Trump is all sentiment when children are killed and riled up when terrorists do the killing.

Brussels

  1. The visit to the heartland of globalism was bound to depress the Donald, especially when the UK placed a curb on sharing intelligence with the U.S. since Washington leaks could have compromised the investigation of the Manchester terror attack.
  2. The release of the CPO discussed yesterday did not help.
  3. Donald lectured other members of NATO – totally ignoring the progress made towards the 2% of GDP to be dedicated to the military; he claimed other members owed “massive amounts”; “23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying.”
  4. The combination of ignorance and bravado earned some open sniggers from a few European leaders but more frowns.
  5. Donald did not say that NATO was obsolete or dysfunctional, but neither did he pledge America’s unconditional fealty to NATO as required under Article 5 dealing with collective defence and the requirement that each member come to the defence of another.
  6. Donald was mostly left to wallow in his depressed isolation.

The G7

  1. At the G7, Trump lost the control he had exhibited in the Middle East and even Rome.
  2. It is difficult to say whether this was because of events back in Washington – John Brennan’s testimony that there definitely was Russian interference in the election and “possible” collusion because of Trump campaign officials contacts with the Russians, the breaking news of Trump possible obstruction of a criminal probe when he urged his intelligence chiefs to announce that there was no evidence of collusion, and the continuing parade of information that the Trump budget would be disastrous for Trump’s working class white supporters, or whether it was a result of events at the G7, or some combination thereof.
  3. First, while Trump refused to commit to the Paris Accord on the environment, he bragged that he won two environmental awards. And he did – for soil erosion control and preserving a bird sanctuary on one of his golf courses and for donating park land to New York State. Donald did not add that the first on the golf course complemented his self interest and the second was a way to get a charitable donation for land on which he was refused permission to build a golf course. Further, as one drives on the Taconic State Parkway through Westchester, you are greeted with large signs advertising the approach to Donald J. Trump State Park, but one finds the park is small (436 acres of woods and wetlands) relative to the signs, lacks any amenities – trails, parking, washrooms and picnic areas – and is uncared for (overgrown pathways and buildings deteriorated and covered with graffiti) since Trump never donated the money needed for its maintenance.
  4. President Xi of China told Trump that the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord would be irresponsible.
  5. Was America’s pledge to commit $2 billion to the Green Climate Fund alive or would Trump issue an executive order this week cancelling the American commitment?
  6. In turn, European leaders lectured Trump on the fallout for the U.S. withdrawing from the Paris Accord – a wave of international anger that would lead to retribution, declining trade with the U.S. and destroy the last shred of trust in Washington; withdrawal would be treated by the world as “diplomatic malpractice” and characterized as betrayal; Trump had delayed an announcement before he arrived at the G7 and, perhaps, might allow U.S. state interests to take precedence over fulfilling his wild and destructive promises.
  7. Europeans tried to educate Trump on globalization and trade policy, but there was little indication that they had made a dint in his thinking. However, a private meeting with Justin Trudeau seemed to indicate that Trump would not scrap NAFTA, but would work to iron out wrinkles. On the other hand, the Europeans rejected out of hand his plea for bilateral trade deals instead of multilateral ones.
  8. The Donald was sabotaged in his effort to deliver French President Emmanuel Macron his traditional macho pull and handshake. Macron, instead of greeting Trump first, let him stand there, as he planted cheek kisses on Angela Merkel, greeted several others and then, having been briefed, subverted Trump’s effort and even pressed his hand harder and longer and would not let Trump pull away.
  9. When all other leaders are seen chatting informally with one another as they look over an iron fence at the spectacular view, Trump is nowhere in sight. Instead of walking there with the others, he went in a golf cart. When he arrived, he was surrounded by a phalanx of security men and only then joined the group and appeared to dominate the conversation.
  10. When Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, as host of the conference, addressed his fellow leaders, all leaders had on headphones and listened – except Donald Trump, sitting two seats away, Donald without headphones sat looking vacantly at the table. Perhaps no one can understand Italian as well as he can.
  11. Trump had been gone too long from living in what he owned and projected his possessive individualism. Was it the requirement of collegiality that made him slip from his vacuous demeanour at the Vatican to his glumness in Taormina, Sicily?
  12. There was a media dustup over whether he referred to Germany as evil or bad, and, if “bad,” as seems to be the case, did he mean the situation in which Germany finds itself, specifically with respect to refugees, or did he mean German political policies were bad?
  13. The meetings confirmed what Angela Merkel had come to believe: a) that the U.S. was no longer a reliable ally on which Germany could depend; b) American current policies on trade and climate change were disastrous.
  14. Trump had gone from dancing with swords in Riyadh to dodging darts at the G7.

The trip overseas marked the U.S. loss of leadership in the Western world and threatened America with negative repercussions because the Europeans had linked action on climate change with trade policy. Trump managed to keep his head above water in this overseas trip as he escaped the domestic closing in on the administration in its fourth month in office, but only by moving America towards disastrous policies that would be economically and politically detrimental to the U.S.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Accepting Refugees: International Law in a Canadian Context in the Twentieth Century

Accepting Refugees: International Law in a Canadian Context in the Twentieth Century

by

Howard Adelman

Keynote Address

24th Annual Canadian International Law Students’ Conference (CILSC)

“International Rules and Standards: A Meeting of Minds”

3 February 2017; revised 22 February 2017

Faculty of Law, University of Toronto.

PART I

Introduction

The dominant discourse in contemporary refugee scholarship re policy and law is based on refugee rights. However, by far, the vast majority of refugees in the world are humanitarian refugees; they flee, not because they are targeted for persecution, but because of war or a natural disaster.[1] Even when the instigation is persecution, they are often accepted for admission as humanitarian rather than Convention refugees.[2] Further, the Convention refugee category offers rights only to those victimized by very specific kinds of persecution. Yet, Convention refugees constitute most of those admitted to Canada as refugees.[3]

Why does the Convention and the issue of refugee rights dominate the intellectual and conceptual landscape? Why is there not far greater attention applied to those who flee because of need? Why, in fact, are rights granted only to those who flee persecution and not to those who flee because of need? This is especially important because a number of states, including Canada, have, at times, been more willing to grant entry to humanitarian refugees rather than respecting the right of Convention refugee claimants to claim refugee status once on Canadian shores. The intake of Indochinese refugees is an example.

In the case of rights refugees, there is a direct clash with the concept of sovereignty. In the case of needs refugees, there is no conceptual conflict – though some would try to make one.

“When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, especially for reasons of safety & security — big trouble!”

Donald Trump tweet, 4 February 2017

This paper will discuss the interweaving of policy in Canada applied to rights refugees and humanitarian refugees since WWII, not to answer the above questions, but to provide an empirical backdrop for wrestling with them.

The timing is propitious, but only with respect to academics and practitioners concerned with refugees, not with refugees themselves. They are doubly victimized, first by the warriors and ideologues that forced them to flee their homelands if they wanted to survive, and then, a second time, when persons in authority like the malignant narcissist and serial liar, Donald Trump, placed an indefinite ban[4] on Syrian refugees coming to the United States, and then a “temporary” 90-day ban on refugees coming to the United States from six other countries – Iraq, Iran,[5] Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen in his notorious executive order issued 27 January 2017, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”

Visas will not be issued to anyone from those countries. Even those traveling with valid visas may be and were turned back or detained. Many others, including, initially, those with Green Cards, were not allowed to take their seats on airplanes on which they had booked travel.

It just happens that these seven dangerous “Muslim” countries are all ones which the U.S. has waged war against and even actually bombed, but does not include Saudi Arabia, the source of the majority of the 9/11 terrorists and a country in which Donald Trump has financial interests, nor Pakistan, the home country of one of the very few Islamicist terrorists who committed heinous crimes within the United States in the last eight years.[6] It also just happens that not one of those seven countries nurtured a single terrorist who committed a terrorist act on American soil.

Of the relatively small number of refugees that the U.S. planned to take in during 2017, 10,000 slots targeted for Syrians were recently increased to approximately 20,000 by the outgoing Obama administration.[7] All 20,000 will probably now go unfilled even though the original executive order on migrants was stopped in its implementation by American courts.

In contrast, in 2015 even under the Harper regime, Syrians constituted the group of refugees with the highest numbers coming to Canada. For ten years, Canada’s average intake of refugees had been about 25,000 annually, about 10% of the overall immigrant intake. In 2015, almost 60% came as asylum seekers with their family members, over 40% as either government or privately sponsored refugees, the latter making up about one-third of that 40%.

In 2016, the Harper government had planned an intake of 10,000 refugees.  When the Liberal Justin Trudeau Government was elected, it immediately announced some ambitious plans for the intake of Syrian refugees. As indicated above, by the end of 2016, Canada took in almost 40,000 refugees under this new initiative, twice that even planned by the Obama government and now literally infinitely more than will be allowed entry by the Trump administration

The breakdown was as follows:

Data as of 2 January 2017

Refugee category                                                              Number of refugees

Government-Assisted Refugee                                                        21,751

Blended Visa Office-Referred Refugee (BVOR)                             3,923

Privately-Sponsored Refugee                                                           13,997

TOTAL                                                                                                  39,671

The number estimated for 2017 is expected to be about 23,500, the reduction coming overwhelmingly from the government-sponsored class. Just after ‘The Donald’ issued his executive order, an initiative was begun almost immediately for Canada to admit 20,000 more Syrian refugees than planned for 2017 on a matching formula whereby the government will take in the same number of government-sponsored Syrian refugees, up to 10,000 in 2017, as the number of Syrian refugees sponsored by the private sector. There need not be any deliberate explicit connection to Trump’s embargo. The day after Donald Trump issued his executive order, Justin Trudeau tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” He walked that fine line by praising Canadian values rather than criticizing current American policy. At the same time, an influx of refugees from the United States began arriving on Canadian soil to claim refugee status. For example, some crossed from Minnesota into Manitoba at Emerson after trekking for miles in freezing weather through deep snow drifts.[8] When the weather improves, the numbers are expected to dramatically increase.

The current Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, who himself fled war-torn Somalia at the age of 16, under the plain reading of the Trump executive order would not be allowed entry to the United States if he were not traveling on a diplomatic passport. Hussen issued a policy directive in response to the Trump decree that Canada would issue temporary residency permits to those stranded because of Trump’s order, but that would do nothing for Canadian citizens and permanent residents born in those seven countries. Later, the State Department, in apparent direct contravention of the wording of Trump’s executive order, declared that the ban would NOT apply to Canadian citizens with dual passports or to Canadian permanent residents with passports from those countries.

What has happened to the carefully constructed international refugee system developed in the aftermath of World War II that has enabled millions of refugees in every region to find safety in other countries? What has happened to the country that for decades welcomed refugees, that until very recently resettled millions of refugees, from regions in turmoil and led initiatives in inspiring other countries to engage in responsibility-sharing?[9] That country has now fallen into the hands of a president governed by a radical nationalist ideology who builds policy on paranoia and prejudice rather than any analysis of data or of consequences. Make no mistake about it; his policy has as little to do with the threat of terrorism as the connection between drinking Coca-Cola and a healthy lifestyle. Though couched in security concerns, the Trump policy is rooted in cultural identity politics with virtually no reference to either rational economic policy or genuine dangers.

It is not as if Trump is alone. Stephen Harper for almost ten years offered a polite and non-demagogic perspective that was suspicious of Islamic refugees from the Middle East, but is now perceived as an extremely faint shadow of Trump’s position. However, in today’s world, Trump’s blatant extremist position is not rare. Look at Europe. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as a “defender of Western Christendom” built a wall to keep out the Islamic hordes. Slovakia’s populist Prime Minister, Robert Fico, insisted that Islam had “no place in Slovakia.” And in Western Europe, France and Holland, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, are rising populist stars who have been building support based on their anti-Islamic rhetoric.

Part II

If you think the current wave of negative attitudes towards refugees is a monopoly of nationalist populist extremists, it is not. On 27 January 2017, I participated in an international webinar,[10] “European Union third-country partnerships: Where do we go from here?” The discussion centered on current refugee policy in Europe with participants in Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Washington, etc. Those who led the discussion moderated by Elizabeth Collett, Director of the Migration Policy Institute Europe, included four very distinguished and knowledgeable, as well as liberal, leaders and academicians very intimately involved in the formulation of those European laws and policies.[11]

I will not even attempt a summary of the discussion. But I do want to communicate its predominant theme. That theme was not refugee asylum policy or issues of integration. This was not simply because of the topic. For the title of the webinar itself had been chosen because the prime approach in Europe these days to refugee issues, from those sympathetic to refugees, is refugee return. The prime issue is how to link return with development in partnership with the states from which the irregular migrants are fleeing. The primary challenge is now re-migration and reintegration, taking into consideration the country of return’s capacities and the skills the returnees bring with them on their return.

This focus was based on the conclusion that there was no solution to the refugee issue if the primary reliance was on law and the individual rights of refugees. As one person put it, “THERE IS NO LEGAL WAY OUT.” Instead, the focus was on knowledge gaps, on evaluations of past practices, on leadership in the face of the humanitarian disaster producing so many millions of refugees and pushing them to seek very unsafe passageways to the West.  Further, the not-so-hidden problem is that humanitarian aid funds are primarily used to hold refugees in place rather than return them, using a more vulgar but colourful language, to warehouse them. But reintegration poses its own set of problems – competition among those who stayed behind, IDPs returning and refugee returnees. The latter may be the ones who are best off given skills acquired in camps and when abroad, and given their better access to aid funding.

Money tells the story. The EU recently pledged $2 billion in development aid to assist refugee return and reintegration.[12] Thus, the policy of an enlightened refugee-receiving country like Denmark now is to focus on linking development aid both to refugee return and to inducing people to stay. Instead of the right to claim asylum, the emphasis is placed on the “right to stay” that, of course, went far beyond issues of governance and transportation. In the webinar, sensible slogans were thrown about, such as a “broad approach,” the linkage between peace and local stability[13], the need for coordination among like-minded countries, the absolute requirement that climate change and climate change policy be integrated into any solution, that there would have to be a primary reliance on civil society rather than government. Thus, humanitarian policies and rights had to be examined within the larger political, social cultural and primarily economic contexts. So why call them rights at all? And what was humanitarian about such a program?

The application of such efforts has some dire consequences on the right to leave. On 3 February 2017, at the same time as this talk, European Union leaders met in Malta to try to extend the initial deal made with Turkey to a contract with the countries in North Africa. The gist of the deal to reduce crossings, primarily to Italy now that the efforts to reach Greece have been largely stopped, entails a deal where the North African countries assume the responsibilities for search-and-rescue, hence avoiding the problem of warehousing the refugees on European soil and giving those refugees access to the refugee asylum system in Europe. On 2 February 2017, Libya signed the first deal, the EU-Libya Framework Agreement, to accept monies in return for assuming these responsibilities. The problem is, given the past record, North African countries may not be as effective in saving people given their capacity limitations and their disincentives to save illegal migrants.[14]

What we also need to keep in mind is that migration has always been used for families to manage risks, as demonstrated in the role that management of that risk played in getting the refugees to different places in the first place.[15] Yet the focus of the discussion was overwhelmingly about individuals.

However, my goal in this paper, issued initially as a series, is not to undertake an analysis of the United States or of Europe. Nor is my focus on contemporary policy, though I hope I will throw some light on the current situation. Rather, I want to use the trajectory of the development of that refugee (and migration) policy in the twentieth century in Canada to provide some understanding of where we find ourselves today with respect to the issue of refugees within Canada and within a global context. Because the material is so vast, I will use my personal involvement with refugees as a totally non-objective selective guide to offer a constructed narrative of what took place.

Further, even using my selective mechanism, it is not possible to cover the whole story of the development of Canada as an outlier country in the West with respect to refugee policy. But by covering three-quarters of the period, I can, I believe, unpack the tensions involved in the development of that policy and the fundamental contradictions that are at the base of the problems. That basic tension exists between rights refugees and needs refugees, between Convention versus humanitarian refugees, and, within Canada, between asylum claimants and refugees admitted under relaxed immigration criteria.

In 1943, two years before I start my tale, Hannah Arendt wrote a seminal essay, “We Refugees.”[16] She began by stating that “we” refugees avoided that designation and preferred to be called newcomers or immigrants. At that time, she defined the term refugee in terms of needs rather than rights. Refugees “are those of us who have been so unfortunate as to arrive in a new country without means and have to be helped by Refugee Committees.” (110) In resettling, “We were told to forget; and we forgot quicker than anybody ever could imagine,” avoiding any allusion to concentration camps (by enemies) or internment camps (by friends). Recall that Emil Fackenheim and Gregory Baum were interned in Canada as “enemy aliens.”

Arendt then went on to discuss PTSD as it is known now, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, suffered by many of the refugees, with some of them to taking their own lives. This was a pattern that began, not in the camps, but with the rise of fascist power accompanied by a massive inversion from optimism to pessimism. Captives and slaves rarely commit suicide. Those about to lose their freedom, those whose freedoms are haunted by memories and traumas, do. Their own sense of personal failure, combined with the lack of recognition of themselves as human beings, not political oppression, does them in.

Most fundamentally, we must recognize that refugees are people who do not want to be refugees, who do not want that as their identifier. At once, they want to be accepted and recognized as one of us while being induced often to forget that they are, behind the mask, one of them. One way to forget, ironically, is to “Never Forget,” to pass forward and help new refugees.

Let me end this section with a story that I have told often. It really took place. It was 1979. We were in what used to be the Cecil Street Synagogue (not its Jewish name) where my older brother had his Bar Mitzvah and was then and remains to this day a Chinese-Canadian community centre. We were greeting and offering some orientation to the first group of ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam who had been privately sponsored and arrived in Toronto.

I belonged to a group of people introduced in Chinese as VIPs. We may have been very important people in their eyes, but each one of us lacked the ability to give a speech from the heart. Instead, all four of us, without any coordination whatsoever, gave the same speech – of course using different words and different situations for illustration – but the same speech in terms of the theme. ‘You are us,’ we told them. Except for the indigenous people, all the rest of us Canadians came as immigrants and refugees. We are you and you are us. And, they had lots of time to think about what we said because our words were being translated.

The speeches of Chinese community leaders followed. Those speeches too were all the same – again different words and depictions, but, according to what I heard from the translator beside me, offered a radically different message than the one we had. “You are NOT one of them. You are not yet even one of us. If you are staying in a private sponsor’s home or in a private sponsor’s apartment, do not cook with fish oil. They [mostly Caucasians] hate the smell of cooking with fish oil. Always remember that you are representatives of the Chinese-Canadian community in Toronto. Do not shame us. Do not disgrace us.”

If they were not torn between bewilderment, the need to feel appreciation and the desperate desire to get on with their lives, they might have been able to wonder. “Weren’t those white guys (there was one woman among the four of us) liars? We did not speak their language. We did not look like them. But they told us we are the same because their parents or grandparents or great grandparents came to Canada as immigrants and refugees? What do they personally know about the risks, the death of loved ones? At least 1 in 10 of us died in the flight. Their smiling welcome is obviously a false front.”

Perhaps they were bothered even more by the local ethnic Chinese who said the refugees represented them. “We held their reputations in our hands, or, more accurately, in how we cooked. They were so condescending in letting us know that we had a long way to go before we became hyphenated Canadians. For though they looked like me and spoke my language, they not only were not us, but they made sure that we knew, in their superego instructions to us, that we had a long way to go before we became them.”

While I offer this long historical talk on the development of refugee policy in Canada, a talk that only covers half the period since WWII, let’s not forget those who are at the centre of this story, refugees, refugees who for the most part do not even aspire to be human beings, as Hannah Arendt did. They just once again want to be themselves. And that requires that they be recognized. Hannah Arendt ended her essay, “The community of European peoples went to pieces when, and because, it allowed its weakest members to be excluded and persecuted.” Behind my paper is the question, “How can Canada not go down that path? How can we help reverse the direction of the path on which our American cousins are racing?

An even larger question: why are security concerns linked with the rejection of refugees? Why are refugees increasingly seen as barnacles on the body-politic of the nation-state that show that the human rights commitments of these states are a sham?  And even when those rights are used for protection, they protect so very few and conceptually omit offering any rights to the tens of millions of refugees who simply flee war and may not be individually targeted for persecution? Why are these refugees given no rights but are declared to be humanitarian refugees, refugees only with needs? From another perspective, why does a predominant conception of sovereignty in the end reject refugee claims based on universal right, since the prime right of a sovereign state is to protect its members and determine its new ones? And, in the ultimate end of this madness, why are those least likely to be security threats branded as a prime security threat?

Part III

I Refugee Policy After World War II – 1945 to 1965

  1. 1945-1947

It is often forgotten that Canada’s refugee policy in the immediate aftermath of WWII was pretty dreadful, characterized still by exclusion and xenophobia.[17] Before WWII, it was even worse. Canada had a terrible reputation as a receiving country for refugees. Canada would not admit any of the hundreds of thousands of refugees left in the aftermath of WWI because there was no provision that they could be returned, though, in the 1920s, the government admitted over a million selected immigrants. In contrast to immigrants, refugees might not be able to be sent back home.

In the 1920s, Canada refused to recognize the Nansen passports. A 1923 Order in Council specifically prohibited the entry of “Asiatics.” In the 1930’s, a racist immigration policy was the order of the day and immigration in terms of numbers was also very restrictive.

When the Deputy Minister Frederick Charles Blair, who headed Immigration, Mines and Resources, was asked how many Jewish refugees could be admitted, he replied, “None Is Too Many.”[18] Blair retired in 1943, but even after the war, Canada only admitted 8,000 Jews between 1945 and 1948. When Canada had one of the 11 seats on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine occupied by Ivan Rand, he supported the position of partition of Palestine between Jews and Arabs, not because of any guilt about the Holocaust[19] – that influenced none of the members in their recommendation – but primarily because 250,000 Jewish refugees were still languishing in European refugee camps and countries, including Canada, would not offer to resettle them. A Jewish state seemed to provide an opportune answer.

Prime Minister Mackenzie King certainly opposed admission of anyone as a fundamental right. Despite previous reservations about admitting refugees even based on Canadian self interest married to humanitarian concerns, this position shifted, in good part motivated by the need for manpower in a rapidly industrializing country and the availability of people from Europe. The shift was not motivated by a concern with rights.

Changes were underway. Parliament in 1946 began to consider the possibility of admitting refugees as immigrants under relaxed admission criteria, though it would be ten years before any large program was implemented. French immigrants were finally treated equally with American and British applicants. And, in 1946, Canada also made provision for Canadians to be citizens and not just British subjects.

In June of 1947, Louis St. Laurent became Prime Minister of Canada (1948-1957). Finally, in that month, Canada opened its doors, a bit and then wider and wider for the admission of Eastern Europeans – Poles, Hungarians, Ukrainians – initially only 5,000 and then only if they were privately sponsored. The arrival of over 1,500, mostly Estonians, in 1948 marked the real beginning of the program.[20] One quarter of a million European “refugees” as well as almost two million immigrants were eventually admitted over the next 14 years.

  1. 1948-1955

The shift in 1948 was quite radical for Canada at the time. In 1950, Leslie Chance, a Canadian, took the role of Chair of a United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on Refugees and Stateless Persons Special Committee to draft a new refugee convention. Up until that time, refugees had been dealt with on a case-by-case basis focused on providing humanitarian aid on a temporary basis until they could return to their homes or be settled in the regions or countries to which they had fled. This was the case with UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which focused on both Arab and Jewish refugees displaced from the war in Palestine. It was also the case with The United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA) (1950-1958) established in 1950 to provide relief and rehabilitation on behalf of the United Nations in South Korea.

The minutes of the debates in developing the Refugee and Stateless Persons Report during 1950 make for fascinating reading, if only because the issues sound so familiar 67 years later. For example, the beginning discussions at the Lake Success 13 February 1950 initial meeting largely focused on ending statelessness based on a report of the Israeli delegation. One issue was the nationality of a child born of a refugee claimant on the soil of a country in which the woman was not a national. Based on lex sanguinis, should children born of refugee applicants be denied citizenship because the mother was only in the country temporarily, an issue still alive today? What if the child remained in the country until he or she was an adult? Or should ius soli be applied and such children automatically be granted citizenship? Discussion of granting refugee status based on rights would never prove straightforward, especially since rights, supposedly universal, were interpreted so differently by different countries.

The minutes of the final meetings between 14-25 August in Geneva considering the report and the final recommendations are especially instructive.[21] Canada was represented in the latter meeting by Ross W. Winter and N.F.H. Berlis. (Leslie Chance was unable to attend that meeting.) John Humphrey was also present as a representative of the UN Secretary-General. The report was drafted by the International Refugee Organization (IRO) and amended in response to various government inputs. Since it is 26 pages, let me just quote some germane passages, beginning with the preamble:

PREAMBLE

  1. Consideringthat the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establish the principle that human beings shall enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination;
  2. Consideringthat the United Nations has, on various occasions, and most recently in General Assembly Resolution 319 A (IV), manifested its profound concern for refugees and endeavored to assure refugees the widest possible exercise of these fundamental rights and freedoms;
  3. Consideringthat, in the light of experience, the adoption of an international convention would appear to be one of the most effective ways of guaranteeing refugees the exercise of such rights[22];
  4. Consideringfurther that it is desirable to revise and consolidate previous international agreements relating to the protection of refugees, to extend the scope of such agreements to additional groups of refugees, and to increase the protection accorded by these instruments;
  5. Considering, however, that the exercise of the right of asylum may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries, and that a satisfactory solution of a problem of which the United Nations has recognized the international scope and nature cannot therefore be achieved without international co-operation;
  6. Consideringthat the High Commissioner for Refugees will be called upon to supervise the application of this Convention, and that the effective implementation of this Convention depends on the full co-operation of States with the High Commissioner and on a wide measure of international co-operation.
  7. Expressing the hopefinally that this Convention will be regarded as having a value as an example exceeding its contractual scope, and that without prejudice to any recommendations the General Assembly may be led to make in order to invite the High Contracting Parties to extend to other categories of persons the benefits of this Convention, all nations will be guided by it in granting to persons who might come to be present in their territory in the capacity of refugees and who would not be covered by the following provisions, treatment affording the same rights and advantages.”

This was a radical change. Instead of a refugee being regarded as a national outside the borders of his nation, and sometimes even within, as a person with humanitarian needs, the report recognized refugees as members of humanity first and foremost with inalienable rights. The refugee convention was to be designed to both recognize and protect those rights.

But what was that right? Was it to be guaranteed membership in a nation-state that protected all other rights. But if the nation-state was the instrument recognized as the protector of rights, who or what would protect the right to be a member? As it turned out, refugees were not really given rights, only those refugees who could establish that they had been targeted for persecution were given rights. And then, only if they were on the soil of a nation-state that signed the Convention.

Further, and even more telling, there was a caveat inserted because of pressures from some countries – clause 5. If a country determined that a refugee exercising his or her rights placed “unduly heavy burdens” on the country of asylum, the granting of those rights would depend on international cooperation or what later became known as “burden sharing.” However, the report, and then the Convention based on it, allowed a refugee on the territory of a nation that was a signatory to the Convention, to claim those rights as a refugee. (Clause 7)

It is no wonder that in the history of human rights, refugee rights are viewed as ersatz rights when sovereignty and security so easily trump those rights. It should be no surprise that refugee rights are rarely placed among the pantheon of fundamental rights even though no other right can be enjoyed unless one is a member of a nation-state that protects such rights.

Though the refugee convention was initially restricted in both time covered and geographical region, the refugee in section A was defined as a person outside of his country of nationality and unwilling to avail himself or herself of its protection and required to have a “well-founded fear of being the victim of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion” to claim refugee status. But could such persons be later expelled if found to be detrimental to the life of that nation – an issue that continually stymied Canada from accepting the Convention for years.

There was also the issue of non-refoulement, that a claimant not be sent back to a country where they would be at risk. But what if they did not satisfy the criteria for being a refugee? One principle would deny their admission. Non-refoulement would prevent expulsion. Claimants could become de facto landed even if they were not granted refugee status.

Does not the following ring familiar?

Mr. ORDONNEAU (France) pointed out that article 24 as originally drafted by the Secretariat had covered both expulsion and non-admittance. The reference to non-admittance at the frontier (refoulement) had been omitted from the new draft, which was thus incomplete.

In reply to a question by Mr. ORDONNEAU (France), Mr. GIRAUD (Secretariat explained that the original draft of article 24 had been based on article 3 of the 1933 Convention. The reference to non-admittance at the frontier (refoulement) in paragraph 1 applied only to refugees who had already been authorized to reside in the territory in question. The practice known as refoulement in French did not exist in the English-speaking countries. In France and Belgium, however, there was a definite distinction between expulsion, which could only be carried out in pursuance of the decision of a judicial authority, and refoulement, which meant either deportation as a police measure or non-admittance at the frontier.

Mr. CUVELIER (Belgium) agreed with that explanation and added that the term “expulsion” was used when the refugee concerned had committed some criminal offence, whereas the term “refoulement” was used in cases when the refugee was deported or refused admittance because his presence in the country was considered undesirable, even though he was a person of good character.

Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) concluded from the discussion that the notion of “refoulement” could apply to (a) refugees seeking admission, (b) refugees illegally present in a country, and (c) refugees admitted temporarily or conditionally. Referring to the practice followed in his own country, Sir Leslie stated that refugees who had been allowed to enter the United Kingdom could be sent out of the country only by expulsion or deportation.

The effort of Mr. Henkin from the U.S. to speak on behalf of the French but attempt to mediate the debate in the direction of the British also sounds familiar. But the main point is that wherever you probe, the definition of rights expected to be universal, in their application proved to be anything but; they varied from nation to nation.

In the larger picture, we had two different streams for defining refugees, one as persons in need to be admitted to Canada as a humanitarian determination solely at the discretion of the Canadian government, and a rights definition whereby a refugee claimant on Canadian soil could make a claim as a matter of right for Canadian protection.[23] Of course, Canada could also then choose to admit a person determined to be a refugee by UNHCR under the Convention, and, in that case, sovereign choice would be wedded to rights.

In due course, when Canada eventually signed the Convention in 1969, this was the method used initially. Subsequently, Canada developed its own capacity to make such decisions. Within the rights perspective, rights were always presumed to be universal, but, as soon as the process was domesticated, they varied depending on how the state balanced its self-interest, humanitarianism and principles of sovereignty against those rights. The historical process kept hitting the wall of the nation-state which subsumed refugee law within its own national framework.

In the interim, the Canadian Cabinet opted NOT to sign the Refugee Convention, finalized in 1951. Why? The old fear that Canada would be restrained from deporting refugee claimants if, for example, they turned out to be subversive communists. (Canada did not become a signatory to the Convention until 1969.)  Ministers were concerned that the Convention would impede Canada’s ability to deport persons they considered a security risk, especially communists. Further, the cabinet even then recognized that rights were not just abstract under Canadian law, but conferred rights to representation and rights to a hearing where the claimant was present.  Canadian officials were reluctant to grant refugees such rights, including “the right to be represented in the hearing of his appeal against deportation.”

This period of development ended with a unique contribution by Canada that would be one factor that led to Canada being appointed to gavel the refugee talks between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s.[24] Major-General (ret’d) Howard Kennedy from Canada had been the first UNRWA Director from 1950-1951. In 1955, in the summer, Canada offered to admit refugees that were not from Europe for the first time, adumbrating a policy change that would take place only a few years later. The Canadian government offered to admit 100 Palestinian refugees and their families who possessed skills that Canada could use. I n addition to acquiring migrants with needed skills, the program was intended to relieve the economic burden of countries in the region who were hosting a population that had grown to almost a million. The effort was also intended to contribute to facilitating peace in the region. That goal faltered as the Arab and Palestinian leadership raised a hue and cry and accused Canada of siding with Israel and, in today’s language, helping Israel ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from the Middle East.[25]

Part IV

  1. 1956-1957

Given my later extensive research on Palestinian refugees[26], one might expect that this last initiative would have been my first real foray into the refugee issue. But it was not. I first became involved with refugees in 1957, sixty years ago. I was then the General Manager of the Campus Cooperative Residences at the University of Toronto. The previous fall, in November, I had been one of the young romantic students who met on campus to join a group who were going to volunteer to go overseas to fight and defend the “democratic” Hungarian regime in its efforts to throw off the yoke of Moscow. With the arrival of Russian tanks, the attempt of Hungary to break away from the Soviet bloc was crushed as were the impossible romantic notions of young students dreaming of recreating the “glory” days of the Front in the war in Spain in the 1930s.

My chance to play a part arose the following spring when the Canadian government was searching for temporary housing for the Hungarian refugees arriving in Canada. Of the over 200,000 Hungarians who fled following the crushing of the revolt, under the leadership of the unstoppable Jack Pickersgill (Liberal – Bonavista-Twillingate, Newfoundland), Minister for Citizenship and Immigration 1954-1957, Canada ended up taking in just over 37,000 Hungarian refugees under the humanitarian provisions of relaxed immigration criteria[27], an initiative even supported by John Diefenbaker, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party that won the election in 1957. Jack personally flew overseas to organize the processing of the applicants.[28]

That does not mean there was not opposition to the intake, even from within the Liberal cabinet. Worries were expressed that the refugees would be infiltrated with communist spies and hence the movement represented a security threat to Canada. After all, the Igor Gouzenko security crisis had taken place after the end of WWII, just 12 years earlier.[29] But Pickersgill was such a powerful personality. Further, he was backed by a tremendous upsurge of vocal support from civil society. He was unstoppable. And so was the Canadian initiative.

Though the movement was considered one of the great triumphs of Canadian humanitarian initiative, it was not without its problems. Among the brilliant businessmen, scientists, academic, artists, theatre directors and filmmakers who came to Canada were a significant criminal element, for the prisons were opened to allow inmates to flee with the refugees. I know of no estimate of how large that group was – some estimate as high as 10% of the intake – but I was personally acquainted with one group who operated a Hungarian restaurant on the north side of Bloor just west of Spadina. They were colourful racketeers who also melded into Canadian society without any significant incident.

Though “Jumping Jack,” as he was often called, was widely recognized as getting Prime Minister St. Laurent in 1956 to agree to waiving the requirement that the refugees take out loans to fly to Canada – 200 air flights had been chartered – what is less known is that he discovered an old nineteenth century provision in Canadian law that allowed the Prime Minister to, in effect, print script and thereby spend money without Parliamentary or even Cabinet approval. Jack directed the processing of refugee applicants before monies had been allocated for the task which, provided he worked fast enough, would allow him to take into Canada in the end one-sixth of the refugees before a lid was placed on the numbers we accepted. The only country that took more, and it had ten times the population of Canada, was the United States, and it only took about a thousand extra. Suddenly, Canada had leapt to the head of the line in resettling humanitarian refugees, but still showed no indication that it was willing to sign the Convention and recognize refugee rights. I am proud that I played a very minor role in helping a small group of them with temporary housing.[30]

  1. 1958 – 1965

Canada continued to apply its race-based immigration policies even when applied to refugees accepted only through humanitarian programs. In the United States, the 1965 Immigration Act made major changes in immigration policy by amending the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952. Quota systems were abolished as were preference system and labour clearances for certain classes of immigrants. These changes immediately affected the country of origin of migrants. Southern European, Asian and Caribbean immigrants made up increasingly larger proportions of migrants. There were also increased volumes.[31]

In Canada, a 1962 Order-in-Council accomplished most of the same goals by substituting skill criteria and eliminating overt racial discrimination through the designation of only specific countries of origin from Canadian immigration policy. All Canadian citizens and permanent residents could sponsor relatives. Racism, however, still left its residue. Only Canadian immigrants from preferred nations in Europe, the Americas and select countries in the Middle East could sponsor children over the age of 21, married children and other members of their extended family. Canadians with respect to immigrant sponsorship were divided into two types of citizens in the first effort to get around the racism built into Canadian immigration and refugee policy up until that time.

 1966-1968

What a difference new thinking on migrants and refugees makes! It began with the 1962 Order-in-Council and culminated in the 1966 White Paper on Immigration originally commissioned by Mike Pearson’s Liberal government to recommend restructuring the whole immigration process. The big change – choose immigrants based on their skills and potential contribution to the Canadian economy and not based on the source country. The other big change was on refugees. The White paper insisted that the time had come to sign the Convention. Secondly, finally specific legislation should be introduced to deal with refugees.

These changes are widely known. Less known, and of much greater relevance to the present, were the security provisions. Enhanced protections against the admissions of criminals and homosexuals or, indeed, chronic alcoholics, labeled security risks, were deleted from the Immigration Act. No longer would these types of people be rejected because they were defined as presenting a danger to the country. Whether a potential immigrant (or refugee) was a security threat would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Until Trump, that had also been the modus operandi in the U.S. for over fifty years.

You might believe that these more impartial and fairer provisions would have been broadly welcomed. Instead, they stirred up a hornet’s nest of complaints from labour unions and from immigrants who arrived recently and wanted preference to be given to their family members, both immediate and more distant. Churches and synagogues wanted to continue the process of sponsorship that left more decisions in their hands, but would, in effect, reinforce a preference for immigrants who were reflections of who they were.[32]

Nevertheless, the 1967 regulations that followed in launching the point system to replace country of origin criteria, leveled the playing field for family sponsorship with the introduction of both the Sponsored and the Nominated Categories. Universality had become the order of the day. The basic premise of the new immigration system was to be based on the premise of treating everyone as an economic actor and assessing the degree that individual who applied to Canada would be useful to the Canadian nation-state in advancing its economic prospects.

Internationally, universality had also been applied to refugees as the 1967 Protocol to the Refugee Convention removed the geographic restrictions in defining refugees. When Canada signed both the Convention and the Protocol two years later in 1969, refugees became, initially only formally, a problem of rights as well as needs. If needs, they were to be given humanitarian aid overseas and were not issues of Canadian self-interest unless the refugees were viewed as benefiting the Canadian economy, in which case they could be admitted under relaxed immigration criteria. In terms of rights, there was a conflict between the sovereignty of the nation-state to determine its own members and the right of the refugee to belong to a nation-state which could and would protect his/her rights.

But human rights law was about the obligation of the nation-state to guarantee those rights, so how could that obligation be internationalized to become a responsibility of the whole world community? Only with the introduction of the Convention. In that Convention, nation-states surrendered part of their sovereignty to allow certain individuals, those who could establish that they were in fear of persecution on grounds considered to be abuses of human rights, to come (and, later, stay) in Canada and claim membership as a matter of right. There were fundamental contradictions among three different poles: a) between the conception of a nation-state and its sovereignty; b) the conception of the nation-state as the instrument for protecting the rights of its own citizens; and c) the new notion that the sovereignty must be qualified and the obligation of the state to serve and protect was to be extended to those who were not citizens.

Hannah Arendt had pointed out the real core flaw in the international system in her seminal paper on persons who do not have membership in a state that protects their rights, either because they are stateless or because the state to which they belong is an abuser rather than a protector of their rights. Michael Walzer had pointed out that the most important decision a state makes is who to accept as a member and that is the essence and core of sovereignty.[29] A White paper premised on serving self-interests fairly with respect to the intake of immigrant was not the best place to adjudicate how refugees would be protected. The first statutory provision for protecting refugees only took place in 1973 with an amendment to the Immigration Act about allowing refugees to remain in Canada if they claimed to be refugees.

In the meanwhile, Canada introduced practices and procedures to make this principle of universality, initially only with respect to immigrants, operational. Area Offices were created staffed by Canadian officials – subsequently called visa officers. Within a year, they were interviewing people in one hundred countries and territories. This would turn into the operational foundation for selecting humanitarian refugees under relaxed criteria.

  1. d) 1968-1975

The basic premise of the new system was to be based on the premise of treating everyone as an economic actor and assessing the degree that individual who applied to Canada would be useful to the Canadian nation-state in advancing its economic prospects. But refugees were either a problem of needs or of rights. If needs, they were to be given humanitarian aid overseas and were not issues of Canadian self-interest unless the refugees were viewed as benefitting the Canadian economy. In terms of rights, there was a conflict between the sovereignty of the nation-state to determine its own members and the right of the refugee to belong to a nation-state which could and would protect his/her rights.

But human rights law was about the obligation of the nation-state to guarantee those rights, so how could that obligation be internationalized to become a responsibility of the whole world community? Only with the introduction of the Convention. In that Convention, nation-states surrendered part of their sovereignty to allow certain individuals, those who could establish that they were in fear of persecution on grounds considered to be abuses of human rights, to come (and, later, stay) in Canada and claim membership as a matter of right.

There were fundamental contradictions among three different poles: a) between the conception of a nation-state and its sovereignty; b) the conception of the nation-state as the instrument for protecting the rights of its own citizens; and c) the new notion that the sovereignty must be qualified and the obligation of the state to serve and protect was to be extended to those who were not citizens.

Canada was now on a roll, not vis-à-vis refugees with rights, but with refugees with needs, with humanitarian refugees. For another fifteen years, the issue of rights refugees would sit as a shadow in the background. The issue of rights refugees would grow slowly and emerge out of the darkness to become the predominant issue in refugee policy in the 1980s.

In the meanwhile, Canada admitted almost 11,000 refugees from Czechoslovakia between 20 August 1968 and 28 February 1969 when once again Russian-led Warsaw pact troops crushed a thrust for independence by one of its most western satellites. However, if public support from civil society proved telling in backing the government initiative, in the initiative in fostering the intake of the largest refugee intake into Canada, civil society was in the lead to allow entry of American draft dodgers and, later, deserters into this country.

Of course, Americans were not called refugees. The use of that term would have insulted both them and the American government, our big bully partner to the south. The Americans came as immigrants and were quickly processed for admission. Some were genuine immigrants who came because they did not want their children to fight in Vietnam. However, the clear majority, perhaps up to 180,000,[33] came to escape participating in the Vietnam War. If they had come from any other country, they would have been labeled refugees. That was evident in the lobbying that we had to do to facilitate quick entry approval, easy initially for draft dodgers, much more difficult but eventually successful for deserters.

On the path of rights refugees as distinct from humanitarian ones, after the signing of the Convention and Protocol, problems of principle and subsequently operations would also arise. On 27 July 1970, the Federal Cabinet noted that, “while Canada’s immigration policy was placed on a universal basis with the introduction of the new immigration regulations in 1967, the selection of refugees continued to favour persons of European origin.” How could the principle of universality be applied to refugees? Only if the European geographical bias was removed.

Canada dropped the Euro-centred refugee definition and adopted the Convention universal one. At the same time, in terms of needs refugees, discretion could be applied to selection. As a result, a number of humanitarian classes of refugees would be created, including the oppressed minority policy that allowed entry to Canada for persons who had not fled their country of origin., a measure that would subsequently benefit refugees from Russia, Uganda, Chile and other Central American countries.

The foundations began to be constructed also of a refugee rights regime. An Immigration Department Operations Memorandum on 17 January 1971 led to the creation of an “Interdepartmental Refugee Eligibility Committee. This was the precursor to the independent stream of refugee adjudicators eventually developed. Tibetan refugees constituted the next group of needs refugees permitted entry under relaxed immigration criteria. However, their numbers were small.

The first large group of non-European sourced refugees were the Ugandan Asians who came in 1972. When Idi Amin decreed that Ugandan Asians were no longer wanted in that country, Canada, with only the slightest pressure from Britain because they were British subjects, stepped up to the plate and allowed the entry of 20% of those expelled, just over 7,000 by the end of 1973. It helped, of course, that these were largely prosperous professionals and business people. The principle of accepting humanitarian refugees as immigrants under relaxed criteria designated for that class seemed to be working very well. That should have set a precedent for the Canadian response to a refugee crisis originating in Latin America when Pinochet overthrew the Allende government in Chile in a coup, but this proved more difficult. Our department of philosophy at Atkinson College (I was the chair at that time) was successful in getting Claudio Durán, his wife and children into Canada by offering Claudio a faculty position in the department, but for many others without job offers, the gates were closed. I regard it as a disgrace that by February 1975, less than 1,200 Chilean refugees had managed to escape to Canada. 3,000 Chileans “disappeared” in the ruthless Pinochet coup.[34]

However, the foundations were in place for a much larger group of humanitarian refugees. The experiences above, as well as with people fleeing the Soviet Union, bequeathed to the department an enormous experiential treasure that was used in writing the 1976 Immigration Act and its promulgation in 1978 as well as dealing with the first wave of Indochinese refugees. It is through these experiences that the designated classes and the idea of private sponsorship emerged that would be so influential in the intake of subsequent waves of refugees.

These initiatives also took place with respect to rights refugees. The Immigration Department not only developed specialized units focused on refugees, but cooperated with External Affairs and CIDA by assigning specialists to the Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva to connect with UNHCR, ICEM (IOM), the Red Cross organization, the World Council of Churches and an ever-increasing number of international refugee-centred NGOs. With this foundation in place, the Canadian regime with respect to both needs refugees and rights refugees was ready to expand and develop, initially primarily in dealing with humanitarian refugees and the creative response to the Indochinese refugee crisis.

Part V

 1976 – 1982

The largest recognized[35] movement of refugees into Canada began in the same year the Chilean movement ended. But one would not have known this from the start. When Americans left Vietnam in such a humiliating way, Canada was asked by the State Department to take some of the refugees. The Canadian government at the time was reluctant. These refugees were perceived as America’s problem. For the vast majority of Canadians, the Americans should not have been involved in the Indochinese wars at all.  Further, some once again expressed fears that the refugee stream would be used as a route into Canada of communist spies from Southeast Asia. To mollify its American partner to the south, Canada did agree to take in the three years after the conquest of the south by the north a total of 8,000 persons, a relatively token number given the demand and the size of the movement.

That attitude changed in 1978. Canadian diplomats concluded that the increasing numbers of refugees fleeing Vietnam, though also Laos and Cambodia, were not the result of the war because the refugees had been allied with the Americans. They were fleeing repression and ethnic cleansing of Chinese in Vietnam at the same time as the ethnic Vietnamese were being cleansed in Cambodia. The issue came to a head in 1978 with the Hai Hang, a large and ancient freighter packed with over 2,500 refugees from Vietnam. Local countries were unwilling to admit them fearing they would be followed by a flood which they were reluctant to absorb. The Canadian government stepped forward and instead of the usual international implicit norm of Canada taking 10% of a refugee movement, Canada offered to take 25% of those on board to induce the Hong Kong government to allow the boat to dock and other countries to rally and join with Canada to resettle the refugees. The situation was repeated with a second boatload.

By the beginning of 1979, Bud Cullen, the then Minister of Immigration in the Liberal government, had convinced the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues to establish a special program for Indochinese refugees to be admitted under relaxed immigration criteria and set a target of 5,000 for that year.[36] When the Joe Clark Conservatives won the election in the Spring and when Ron Atkey, who had been named as the new Minister of Immigration, sat down and had a talk with Bud, Bud convinced Ron that the most important issue on his desk would be the movement of Indochinese refugees and that Ron should be prepared to take a lead in increasing the numbers of refugees.

One of the first initiatives the Joe Clark government took, after the fiasco over moving the Canadian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem[37], was to increase the intake of Indochinese refugees into Canada, 8,000 to be government-sponsored refugees and 4,000 to be privately sponsored. Private sponsorship was a novelty. A little-known clause had been introduced into the new 1976 Immigration Act that had been promulgated in 1978. The change was made to accommodate the Jewish community that wanted small groups of Canadian Jews to sponsor Jews from the Soviet Union. Only 200-300 refugees were expected to come via this route.

The provision allowed a group of five or more sponsors, or a church, synagogue or other organization involved with refugees, to initiate the sponsorship of humanitarian refugees from designated classes determined by the Minister by means of regulations. In 1979, there were three designated classes: the Indochinese, the Latin American Political Prisoners and Oppressed Persons and the East European Self-Exiled Persons. The first would become by far the source of the largest intake.

By the time the government of Joe Clark took office in June and the refugee crisis in the South China seas had reached dramatic proportions, senior government civil servants had only been able to convince two groups, the Mennonite Central Committee and the Dutch (Christian) Reformed Church to sign an umbrella agreement that would permit small groups of its members to initiate sponsorships under the guarantee of the larger church body. There is a myth that the government was forced by public pressure to increase the Indochinese intake. Evidence supports the interpretation that the opposite was the case. In this instance, the government was always the lead player.

The situation changed dramatically in June of 1979. Part of the reason was that a new government had taken over and wanted to demonstrate it was in charge and initiating policy, but it was policy that had support from all sides of Parliament. A second major reason was the dedication of senior policy staff in the Immigration Department; they worked assiduously to get the government to take a lead in dealing with this problem. A third instigator was the media that provided non-stop coverage of the issue as front page news that was critical in arousing the compassion of Canadians. In contrast to the incident of the Hai Hong, where there was much speculation about the gold bars the refugees had used to pay their way out and questions about whether we were helping refugees in need or just wealthy families to escape, that whole concern had been shoved overboard and disappeared into the choppy ocean waves.

A fourth element now entered the equation – the involvement of secular civil society at large rather than just special religious groups with a record of commitment to assisting refugees. Operation Lifeline was part of that upsurge. Though it turned out to be the name of the major initiative that spread across Canada, there were other worthy local initiatives, the most noteworthy being the initiative of Mayor Marion Dewar in Ottawa with Project 4,000.

Operation Lifeline in some form was inevitable, but it developed from a serendipitous combination of factors.[39] Let me speak of my role first. I had been up north working on my book on Hegel and the Problem of Recognition. I was on an island cut off from the media. I had been up there for six weeks and only returned to Toronto because I had a prior commitment to running a workshop for the Canadian Friends (the Quakers) on the island they owned; the topic was the Israeli-Arab conflict. The group consisted of supporters of each position, but each group was required to take up and defend the position of the other side. It also happened to be the case that I had written a review essay on a spate of books and articles that had recently been published, each having been written about the way various nation-states had turned their backs on Jewish refugees in the 1930s. As I was inundated with the media coverage that everyone had been reading for weeks, I became determined that this should not happen again.

When I finished the retreat, I decided to stay in Toronto a few days longer to write Ron Atkey, my member of Parliament and a former colleague at York University where he previously taught at the Osgoode Faculty of Law. I wanted to exert pressure on him to enlarge his initiative. I organized a meeting at my house on a Sunday, 26 June 1979, after church was out at 1:00 p.m. Representatives of the Catholic church up the street, an Anglican minister whom I knew from the area, rabbis from Holy Blossom Temple and Beth Tzedec Synagogue as well as the local alderman and some friends were invited to draft a letter to Ron asking the government to take a larger initiative. Not one who was invited failed to come or send a representative.

Just after 1:00 when the meeting was just beginning, there was a knock on the door. I went to answer presuming it was just some late comers who I had not been expecting. It was, but from a source I would never have guessed. The Director of Settlement for Ontario in the Immigration Department as well as the head of public relations for that department, André Pilon and Bob Parkes, were at the front door. They said that they had heard about the meeting and wondered if I would mind if they were permitted to attend and listen in.

I had to overcome being flabbergasted that senior civil servants had heard about the meeting, that they took time on a Sunday to come to a private home of someone they did not know. They did not even know if they would be welcome. I invited them in to join the group. We wrangled over the wording of the proposed letter for perhaps half an hour when our visitors from that strange land, the government, intervened. They asked if they could offer a suggestion. We easily acquiesced, if only to get relief from fifteen or so people trying to write a letter together. They informed us of this small provision in the Immigration Act. They asked if, perhaps in addition to writing a letter, we might want to make use of that provision and initiate some sponsorships as a form of witnessing.

Within a few minutes, we agreed to abandon our letter drafting and took up the idea of private sponsorship. We quickly determined that among the religious institutions in the riding as well as local community groups, we could organize at least 50 sponsorships. We divided up responsibilities with each of us agreeing to contact others to arrange for sponsorships. Within two weeks, we had overshot our target. We could never arrive at an accurate figure, but we certainly organized over 150 sponsorships in our riding.

Serendipity, once again, entered. It so happened that I had invited one of my graduate students to attend the meeting, on the assumption he might be interested, as well as to save time so we could work on his thesis immediately after the meeting was over and before I headed north again. He had never told me that he was a stringer for our national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. The next morning, when I was sitting at my desk, at 5:45 the phone rang. It was a lady from Marystown, Newfoundland. She had read about Operation Lifeline in the Globe and wanted to know how she could help. Startled, I asked her what Operation Lifeline was? She then read me Dick Beddoes’ page length column in the newspaper that has described myself as abandoning my book on Haekel (sic!) to return to Toronto to save the Boat People and to organize Operation Lifeline. At the bottom of the page, he had printed my name and number and suggested that if others wanted to help, they could contact me.

I laughed at the enormous lie, but then responded that she should organize a chapter of Operation Lifeline in her riding. I appointed her chair of the Marystown Chapter of Operation Lifeline. She protested, insisted that she was only a housewife and did not know how to go about this. I told her to contact her friends, her local clergy of any denomination, local politicians to form a local chapter of Operation Lifeline in her federal riding. I said I would send her an express package describing in detail how to go about sponsoring, even though at the time I had no clue. Reluctantly she agreed, and she performed admirably as she promised to keep me notified of her success.

Delighted, I hung up the phone and no sooner had I done so, it rang again. By the end of two weeks, 66 chapters of Operation Lifeline had been organized across Canada. By the end of the week, my house was overrun with volunteers – it was great that the family were now up at the island and that school was over. Also by the end of the week, the target of 50 sponsorships had been reached in our riding and would soon be greatly exceeded. In that morning, people began showing up at the door to volunteer since they were unable to reach me on the phone. One of these was Wendy Schelew, an expert in hospital administration who was between jobs and volunteered her services. She became the managing head of Operation Lifeline. Another was Dr. Joseph Wong who had organized a similar initiative among his friends who had immigrated from Hong Kong and he merged his organization with ours and became a stalwart. A third was Elaine Slater who brought us a pile of office supplies; she would become chair of the Board.

Another was a former fellow graduate student in philosophy who was then a practicing lawyer. He had gathered an enormous body of material on private sponsorship when he had tried – unsuccessfully – to get his United Church in April to initiate a sponsorship group. By Tuesday morning, after the two of us worked all night, we had a manual on private sponsorship that we could send out to chapters of Operation Lifeline that were mushrooming up all over.

There are many stories to tell about the exhilarating days that followed, how, for example, Flora MacDonald, Foreign Minister, got her cabinet to raise the target from 12,000 to 50,000, with 21,000 to be sponsored by the private sector. (The private sector by the end of the period of 18 months had almost doubled that target.) But I will end this story of the beginning of the Indochinese private sponsorship movement with one tale, that of Operation Intellectual Kneecapping. (It turned out to be a stupid name, but that is what we called it.) The National Citizens Coalition (NCC), then headed by Colin Brown, though subsequently by Stephen Harper, published within weeks of each other in August and September full page ads in Canadian newspapers. The first said that each refugee brought in would eventually bring in another 16 family members on average. The result: according to the NCC, almost a million Indochinese would be allowed to enter Canada.

Setting aside whether that would be a problem in the first place, setting aside that the numbers projected were based on early forms of family sponsorship practices no longer possible under the 1976 Immigration Act, the ads stank of racism and the fears of the “Yellow Peril.” Sometimes the bogeymen are communists. At other times, they are Islamic terrorists.[40] That time, race was the spectre.

That initial ad was followed by a second based on a survey the NCC had taken. Based on that survey, most Canadians were opposed to the intake of 50,000 Indochinese refugees. Only about a third of the population supported the expanded initiative. At the time, we denounced the way the survey had been carried out and the leading questions asked. But we later learned that secret surveys of public attitudes had been undertaken about the same time, but based on more scientifically stringent questions and methods. The results were not significantly different. Though virtually every professional organization, business association, business leaders, along with the parties in parliament, had endorsed the initiative, the NCC was tapping into a racist vein that ran through the heart of Canada. Quite aside from its effects on the sponsorship movement and on the political process, an NCC anti-refugee campaign would be very detrimental to the process of resettling refugees. They already had more than enough insecurities. We would be welcoming refugees against a background noise that said that they were not welcome.

Dr. Joseph Wong and I huddled together and he came up with an idea to contact one of the financial supporters of the NCC whom he knew to be a very good guy, though a fiscal and financial conservative. Joseph contacted him and he agreed to meet with us for breakfast at 7:00 a.m. the next day at what was then called the Prince Hotel on University Avenue. We told him the problem. He said he understood and sympathized. The breakfast ended before 8:00 a.m. Before noon, he phoned Joseph and told him that we could set our concerns aside. The NCC would not be publishing anything more on the issue.

He had phoned seventeen of his friends and acquaintances who were donors to the NCC and received permission to speak on their behalf. He phoned Colin Brown and told him to stick to financial issues and abandon the campaign against the sponsorship of the Indochinese refugees otherwise not only would he and his friends withdraw their support, but he would personally phone people he knew across Canada, who were supporters and contributors to the NCC, to withdraw their support unless he received an immediate commitment to stick to financial issues.

We never heard another peep from the NCC. The danger of organizing a racist backlash had been diverted. However, when the President of the United States holds such views rooted in invented fears of terrorists slipping into the U.S. through the refugee door, when he is ostensibly a billionaire in his own right, the problem is raised to a totally different dimension.

Reflections and Adumbration

In the 1980s, the mouse that eventually roared was that sleepy issue of rights refugees. At the beginning of the Indochinese refugee movement that would eventually bring 160,000 Indochinese refugees into Canada, rights refugees were a sliver in the refugee movement. In 1982, there were approximately 300 files that were reviewed by the Minister to determine whether a refugee claimant should be allowed to stay or whether a refugee referred to by UNHCR for protection status could be approved for admission by the Canadian government. But the signs were becoming ominous. The number of files had doubled from the year before. By the end of the decade, refugee claimants on Canadian soil had reached over 50,000 applicants per year with a backlog of over one hundred thousand. The story of rights refugee claimants had moved from the back burner to a front firestorm.

“Unprecedented in the history of Canadian immigration legislation, the Immigration Act, 1976 attempted to codify the procedures dealing with the entrance of individual refugees to Canada. “That coding would undergo many revisions over the years,”[41] initially in the eighties to give “the benefit of the doubt” to refugee claimants on Canadian soil, but over the longer term in practice, to set in motion procedures which would make it increasingly difficult to arrive in Canada to make a refugee asylum claim in the first place. Other scholars concentrate on the glass half full argument in tracing the application of refugee law in general in procedures and practices to make that law more precise.[42]

However, refugee rights regimes never escaped the net of the primacy of sovereignty[43] – we will accept refugee rights but only so long as the sovereign right to select members is only incidentally compromised. Refugee rights are inevitably caught up in security issue, often as indicated at the very beginning, to put in place a nativist agenda that had nothing to do with either refugees or security, except insofar as the former offer a convenient target and the latter offer a convenient even if irrelevant excuse. The security issue is often about cultural security and effects, not simply on the nation-state, but in a federal system like Canada’s, on the policies of provinces, such as those of Quebec.[44]

Politics has always been at the centre of refugee issues and rarely at the periphery. And that is completely understandable. As I have said above, the principle of the sovereign to decide for itself and its own interests is sacrosanct, even as it takes into consideration the rights, interests and needs of others. Those considerations can be shaped to serve the interests of the nation-state.[45]

In a subsequent article, I will try to describe the impact of human rights refugee law and its development on humanitarian refugee policy and the boomerang effect the former had on limiting the latter. At the same time, I will try to clarify several historical questions, all of which have an impact on the debate of whether it is preferable to view refugees primarily through a needs window or whether refugee policy should be subsumed under human rights law.

How did the crisis in El Salvador and the creation of special measures for admitting Salvadorans into Canada in 1981, including those who were already in the U.S., impact on this question? When the Solidarity movement in Poland was repressed, why did we add Poland to the countries included in the Political Prisoners and Oppressed Person Class, a direct and clear case of people targeted for persecution and presumably eligible to be taken in as Convention refugees, but, in fact, allowed entry without having to prove they had a well-established fear of persecution? In 1983, how and why did the government expand the intake of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka from those simply affected by the riots in Colombo to include all Tamils throughout Sri Lanka affected by the war in the north. And what did this tell us about the rivalry between the primacy of rights versus needs, Convention versus humanitarian refugees?

The big shift took place in 1985 with the Singh decision. If you recall, at the very beginning of the development of the Convention, there had been a debate. If refugees were defined in terms of rights, then, as a concomitant of those rights, there would have to be other rights – rights to be heard, that is, to have an oral hearing and the application not simply processed by the Minister and/or her appointees, but the asylum claimant to be present at the hearing, to be assessed by persons of independent judgment, to have the right of counsel and to have the right of appeal. The Supreme Court of Canada in the Singh case in 1985 ruled that these connections anticipated in 1950 had to be implemented in Canadian refugee law.

Just after the Canadian people were awarded the Nansen medal in 1986 – an event commemorated by all of the Indochinese ethnic groups in Canada in Ottawa last year – for the tremendous leadership and work on behalf of humanitarian refugees performed by Canadian citizens on behalf of refugees, specifically the Indochinese, what followed was that the movement of humanitarian refugees in Canada shifted back into the shadow of an overwhelming focus on rights refugees and the creating of large institutionalized systems for hearing and adjudicating claims, for arranging counsel, for educating supposedly independent assessors. An administrative review system was initiated for refugees who had arrived before 21 May 1986, at the same time as Bill C-55 was passed to provide an adjudication system based on a combination of recommendations from the Robinson Report (1981), the Ratushny Report (1984) and mostly the Plaut Report (1985).

No sooner had rights refugees come to the fore than the reaction and pushback started. In 1987, refugees from the U.S. were forced to turn back and await a hearing date in the U.S. For only the second time in its history, parliament was recalled out of its summer recess in 1987 when a group of Sikhs arrived off the shores of Nova Scotia and, upon landing, requested refugee status. Very quickly, the government tabled Bill-84, the Refugee Deterrents and Detention Bill that was finally passed in 1988.

These steps to undermine the possibility of landing in Canada to claim refugee status were compounded by carrier sanctions, by expanding the number of countries where its citizens were required to obtain visas before they came to Canada as well as other deterrent measures. By 1988, where there had once been 150 and then 300 applications, the backlog alone of refugee claimants was over 100,000. By the end of the 1980s, the cost of the whole system just in Canada was estimated at over one billion dollars, equivalent to the entire budget then of UNHCR to deal with 35 million refugees.

The humanitarian designated class system, now relegated to a back seat, continued to function and was applied to overstayers from China following the Tiananmen massacre in Beijing in 1989 and, following the disintegration of the iron curtain that same year, to a European self-exiled class. By 1992, the accumulated methods for deterring the arrival of refugee claimants were expanded even more and given legislative authority in Bill C-86, including more scientific methods of identification – fingerprints originally – and expanding the detention system, though never as broadly or as cruelly as in Australia. Further, refugee claimants who traveled to Canada had to have the proper documents, in total contradiction to both reality and to the principle that the persecuted had rights independent of their membership in a state.

At the very same time, Canada opened the definition to include those persecuted because of gender. But the key shift took place even before the United States when immigration responsibilities were transferred to the Department of Public Security. The message was very clear – much harder to get in and much quicker to be kicked out. The newly elected Chretien government simply reversed that step and shortly after that, modified the requirements on documentation.

By 1987, initiatives were taken to bring the humanitarian process and the asylum or rights process into closer alignment with the creation of a Humanitarian Designated Class applied to applications from those persecuted who were still in their home countries – the Source Country Class. A Country of Asylum Class for Convention refugees from overseas who would be sponsored was created.

The dialectic between humanitarian and rights refugees continued into the twenty-first century, leaving the tensions between sovereignty and rights, between security and humanitarianism, between prejudice and generosity, unresolved and leaving the field open for a demagogue to play on fears and ignorance, lies and misrepresentation to advance a populist lowest denominator appeal that would transform an open polity into a closed and paranoid one.

To rephrase Judge Rosalie Abella, with the doctrine of civil liberties we gained the universal right to be equally free from an intrusive state regardless of group identity; with the doctrine of human rights, we gained the universal right to be equally free from discrimination based on group identity. But what about refugee rights? What about the right to belong to a state that protects your rights? For only if we are members of a state can we have both civil and human rights.

This brief historical sketch points to a claim that rights language cannot produce the transcendental conditions that are the preconditions of any rights in the first place. The existence of a sovereign nation-state is a precondition of both civil and human rights and membership in a state that protects such rights in the first place. A nation-state that goes beyond its sovereign and democratic responsibilities to guarantee rights to non-members has a problem. Further, it stimulates a fear that globalizing rights will take away a nation’s primary interest in self-preservation and open the way for exploitation by populist demagogues. In any case, refugee rights are redundant. Once a foreigner is on the soil of such a sovereign state, they too must be guaranteed both civil and human rights. There are no separate refugee rights. Further, I suggest much more can be done for refugees and more will be granted membership in a democratic nation-state when the threat to sovereignty is removed.

But this argument requires a full essay on its own.

 

[1] Of almost 64 million refugees and persons of concern to UNHCR in 2015, only 3,219,941 were asylum seekers and many if not most did not qualify as Convention refugees. In contrast, there were over 16 million humanitarian refugees, though IDPs were more than double that number. (http://popstats.unhcr.org/en/overview)

[2] For example, government assisted refugees (GARs) and Blended Visa Office-referred Refugees (BVORs) are Convention refugees referred to Canada for resettlement by UNHCR, while privately sponsored refugees (PSRs) may be Convention refugees or Country of Asylum refugees, that is, refugees seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict.

[3] Thus, of 40,081 Syrian refugees who arrived since 4 November 2015 to the end of 2016, GAR and BVORs made up over 25,000 of the total while under 15,000 were PSRs. Some of these were Convention refugees referred to Canada and private sponsors by UNHCR. (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/welcome/milestones.asp) In addition, within Canada over 16,000 individuals claimed Convention refugee status in 2015. If even only 40% of those end up being accepted as Convention refugees, and even if all PSRs were non-Convention refugees, Convention refugees would outnumber humanitarian refugees admitted to Canada by approximately a 2:1 ratio.

[4] Though Trump and members of his administration repeatedly used the word “ban,” they subsequently blamed the media for calling what they were doing a ban. It was only a “pause,” they asserted. How can a pause be “indefinite”?

[5] Shargh, the Reformist Iranian newspaper on 26 January 2017 wrote, “Donald Trump … has taken a hold of a pen, and is fulfilling every one of his electoral promises, and is scaring thousands of people across the world by every decision he is making. The United States of America, the country which is founded on immigration and racial diversity, is now witnessing one of its most anti-immigrant presidents of its history in the White House.” The prominent Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in Asghar Farhadi’s film, The Salesman, decided to boycott the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony in protest.”http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/01/trump-executive-order-iran-iranian-visa-ban-alidoosti.html#ixzz4WzPYCYRt

[6] Not one of the perpetrators of terror attacks on U.S. soil in the twenty-first century came from any one of these countries. Most perpetrators of terrorism are home-grown. Though three of the major terrorist attacks during the Obama regime were perpetrated ostensibly by Muslim terrorists, all three were cases of psychological disturbance. Only two of the sixteen major terrorist cases were clearly ideological, based on Islamicism. In the San Bernardino terrorist attack in which 14 were killed, one perpetrator was born in the U.S. of Pakistani descent while the other was a legal resident of the U.S. of Pakistani descent. Any reasonably objective study would conclude that there is virtually no linkage between domestic terrorism and refugees.  Trump’s whole policy was based on a lie, and, unlike the fraud of weapons of mass destruction that took the Americans into Iraq, this is a case of a blatant lie, not simply one of questionable evidence but of no evidence.

[7] The U.S. under the Obama administration admitted about 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. For 2017, it planned to increase the overall target of admitted refugees to 110,000 for 2017, a 30% increase over 2016. The single largest increase, by an additional 10,000, was expected to go to Syrian refugees.

[8] The Globe and Mail on 12 February 2017 (“Quebec and Manitoba see influx of asylum seekers crossing U.S. border”) reported that on the previous weekend, 42 people crossed illegally into Quebec and 21 into Manitoba. Most were Somalis. Thus far in 2016 into 2017, 400 had crossed, an increase from 68 in the previous 2014-2015 fiscal year.

[9] For a historical comparison of the development of refugee policy in the two countries, Canada and the U.S., see Howard Adelman (ed.) (1991) Refugee Policy: Canada and the United States, Toronto: York Lanes Press Ltd.

[10]  https://migrationpolicy.webex.com/migrationpolicy/onstage/g.php?MTID=e4cfca0049867a54019aea1d8961fab86

[11] Jean-Louis de Brouwer, Director, Humanitarian and Civil Protection Operations, DG ECHO, European Commission; Laura Hammond, Reader, Development Studies, and Team Leader, Research and Evidence Facility, EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, SOAS University of London; Nassim Majidi, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Samuel Hall and the Migration Pillar Lead; Affiliate Researcher, Sciences Po Paris / CERI, France; and Affiliate Researcher, Wits University / ACMS, South Africa; Mia Steninge,
Chief Advisor, Migration and Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark.

[12] See, for example, the following: Charlotte Alfred (2016) “How the EU Is Trying To Stop Africans Boarding Boats To Europe,” Worldpost, 9 June; James Traub (2016) “Europe Wishes to Inform You That the Refugee Crisis is Over,” Foreign Affairs, 18 October; Patryk Kugiel (2016) “Can Development Assistance Solve the Refugee Crisis?” The Polish Institute for International Affairs, 87 (937), 14 December. The effort is attacked as far more expensive to implement than estimated, far more difficult to get cooperation on the ground in real terms, while incurring political and moral costs. The Turkish agreement is an example where the EU said it would continue to consider asylum claims from within countries of first asylum, but, with the pressure off, is, in fact, doing very little to process claimants.

[13] To understand how refugee return can be a destabilizing factor and contribute to a renewal of war, cf. Howard Adelman (2002), “Repatriation of Refugees Following the Signing of Peace Agreements: A Comparative Study of the Aftermath of Peace in Fourteen Civil Wars,” in Stephen Stedman et al Thematic Issues in Peace Agreements Following Civil Wars. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

[14] Cf. Elizabeth Collett (2017) “New EU Partnerships in North Africa: Potential to Backfire?”, Migration Policy Institute, 2 February http://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/new-eu-partnerships-north-africa-potential-backfire

[15] The pioneer work to underpin migration movements, not in individual choice, but in family survival strategies, was initially put forth by Oded Stark (with D. Bloom) (1985) “The new economics of labor migration.” American Economic Review75, 173–178. The family, not the individual is the crucial agent in the vast majority of cases of migration. This applies to integration as well as emigration. In both, the family constitutes a crucial actor in the process of human mobility. Given this family risk management framework, it is often the case that family reunification may not be the ideal goal in dealing with migrants. Cf. Laura Zanfrini (2012) “Family Migration: Fulfilling the Gap between Law and Social Processes,” Societies 2:3, 63-74.

[16] The essay was published in, Altogether Elsewhere: Writers on Exile, edited by Marc Robinson, London: Faber and Faber, 110-119.

[17] Cf. Howard Adelman (1991) “Canadian Refugee Policy in the Postwar Period: An Analysis,” Refugee Policy: Canada and the United States, ed. by Howard Adelman, Toronto: York Lanes Press, 173-223.

[18] See Irving Abella and Harold Troper (1982; 2012), None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948. Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys and revised edition, University of Toronto Press.

[19] For a more general argument about this thesis and its influence on the development of human rights laws in general, cf. Mark Mazower (2004) “The Strange Triumph of Human Rights, 1933–1950,” The Historical Journal 47:2, June, 379-398.

[20] The documents on their arrival can be found in the archives of Tartu College at 310 Bloor St. W. in Toronto.

[21] http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae68c1a10.html

[22] This supposed “international constitutional moment” (Anne-Marie Slaughter and William Burke-White, (2002) “An International Constitutional Moment,” 43:1), in which refugee law was built into human rights law, is under dispute from many directions. Some argue that the moment existed, but not at birth, but only when these rights were first really institutionalized – in human rights law in the 1970s and in refugee law in the 1980s. Others argue that all three types of rights, general human rights born with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (along with the subsequent International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)), Refugee Rights in the Convention and the rights of a group not be attacked for their culture, beliefs and way of life in the Genocide Convention, are triplets, born at about the same time out of the same seed, even if one of the triplets, human rights law, emerged first from the womb. Still others argue that the legacy is much older than the aftermath of WWII. Human rights and refugee rights are as old as Methuselah. And primogeniture belongs to refugee rights expressed deeply in all three major religions that arose in the Middle East and possibly Far East religions as well. Cf. Jill I. Goldenziel (2016) “The Curse of the Nation-State: Refugees, Migration, and Security in International Law,” Arizona State Law Journal 48: 579-636, 581-2. Goldenziel argues that, in the contemporary world, refugee rights not only emerged from a very much older tradition, but coalesced in the 1940’s because of national interests as well as abstract principles. (There is a sense in which each of these positions is correct, but that is for another discussion. The real debate is whether refugee law should be primarily understood in terms of human rights law as my colleagues Guy Goodwin-Gill and James Hathaway have argued. (For the latter, see his 1991 article, “Reconceiving Refugee Law as Human Rights Protection,” Journal of Refugee Studies 113: 113-131 and the many other articles and books he has published to advance that argument.) The argument proceeds by concentrating on the Convention and its aftermath and largely ignores humanitarian law applied to refugees. Or, for that matter, to actual genocides. Cf. Howard Adelman and Astri Suhrke (1996) Early Warning and Conflict Management, Volume 2 of The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience, Copenhagen: DANIDA; Howard Adelman and Astri Suhrke (eds.) (1999) The Path of a Genocide: The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire, New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books; Howard Adelman, with Frank Chalk, Alexandre Kiss, William A. Schabas and Dinah L. Shelton (co-eds.) (2004) Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, 3 volumes, New York: Macmillan USA.  The interaction between the issue of genocide and refugee flows is discussed in Howard Adelman (2005) “Rwanda and Refugees,” Matthew J. Gibney and Randall Hansen (eds.) Immigration and Asylum: From 1900 to the Present, Oxford: ABC Clio 2, 542-547.

[23] Cf.. Goldenziel, Jill I., (2016) “The Curse of the Nation-State: Refugees, Migration, and Security in International Law (July 10). Arizona State Law Journal, 48. SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2684903; see also , François Créepeau and Michael Barutciski (1995) ““Refugee Rights in Canada and the 1951 Geneva Convention,” Journal of Refugee Studies, 7, 239-248.

[24] A major concern was the right of refugee return, not discussed in this article. For an extensive analysis, cf. Howard Adelman and Elazar Barkan (2011) No Return, No Refuge. New York: Columbia University Press. For an analysis, most germane to the thesis of this essay, cf.  Howard Adelman (1994) “Refugees: The Right of Return” in Group Rights, ed. Judith Baker, University of Toronto Press, 164-185, and Howard Adelman (1987) Palestinian Refugees and Durable Solutions, Oxford: Refugee Studies Programme. When applied to refugees in the Far East, cf. Howard Adelman (ed) (2008) Protracted Displacement in Asia: No Place to Call Home, London: Ashgate, and, more generally, Howard Adelman, (2013) “The Law of Return and the Right of Return,” in M Rafiqul Islam, Azizur Rahman Chowdhury and Jahid Hossain Bhuiyan (eds.) An Introduction to International Refugee Law, Leiden: BRILL, Netherlands, 291-318, and Howard Adelman (2010) “Refugee Return: By Right and By Law,” in Dan Avnon and Yotam Benziman (eds.) Plurality and Citizenship in Israel: Moving Beyond the Jewish/Palestinian Civil Divide, London: Routledge, 31-52.

[25] Cf. Jan Raska  (2015) “Forgotten Experiment: Canada’s Resettlement of Palestinian Refugees, 1955-1956,” Histoire sociale/Social History, November, 48:97

[26] See, for example, Howard Adelman (1986), Guest Editor, Palestinian Refugees, Middle East Focus, 9:2.

[27] For an overview of these developments, cf. Howard Adelman, editor-in-chief (2002) Immigration Policy and Practice in Canada. Ottawa: Metropolis Institute.

[28] Howard Adelman (ed.) (1994) Hungarian Refugees, Toronto: York Lanes Press and “Genesis,” in The Genesis of a Domestic Refugee Regime: The Case of Hungary, Toronto: York Lanes Press.

[29] The Gouzenko Affair marked not only the beginning of the Cold War, but an unprecedented abuse of human rights in the name of national security by the Federal Government of Canada with the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the arrest and trial of many, and with the reputations of many others ruined in the process.

[30] For a more thorough discussion, cf. Howard Adelman (1991) “”Humanitarianism and Self-Interest: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Hungarian Refugees,” Studie- en Informatiecentrum Mensenrechten Special 11 Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, 98-108.

[31] Charles B. Keely (1971) “Effects of the immigration act of 1965 on selected population characteristics of immigrants to the United States,” Demography 8:2, 157-169.

 

[32] Cf. Harold Troper (1993) “Canada’s Immigration Policy since 1945,” International Journal 48:2, Spring; Ninette Kelley and Michael Trebilcock (1998) The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy, Toronto: University of Toronto Press; Valerie Knowles (2000) Forging our Legacy: Canadian Citizenship and Immigration, 1900-1977, Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada.

 

[33] Precise figures are not available because Canada diplomatically never announced a special program for American refugees. We did not have to go overseas to get them. They arrived in Canada on their own, often with the help of Canadians in what was termed the Vietnam underground railroad. I then lived in Rosedale and cannot count the number of draft dodgers and deserters who came to the terminus of that railroad to sleep in our third floor.

[34] Steve J. Stern (2004) Remembering Pinochet’s Chile, Duke University Press.

[35] Only the American refugee movement during the Vietnam War was larger, but it was not recognized as a distinct movement.

[36] For a more detailed discussion and depiction of these developments, cf. Howard Adelman (ed.) (1980) The Indochinese Refugee Movement into Canada, Toronto: Copp Clark, and Howard Adelman (1982) Canada and the Indochinese Refugees, Regina: Weigl Educational Publishers.

[37] Howard Adelman (1980) “Clark, and the Canadian Embassy in Israel,” Middle East Focus, March 2:6, p. 6-18.

[38] The source of this false news is not only the media, which has a propensity to view government initiatives as only passive responses to the voice and will of the people. One source of this misleading information is the otherwise extremely reliable Canadian Council for Refugees. On its website summarizing the history and development of refugee policy in Canada, it is written that, “Popular pressure forced the government to adjust upwards its initial commitment to resettling the refugees.” http://ccrweb.ca/en/hundred-years-immigration-canada-part-2 This is just incorrect.

[39] For a journalist’s account, see Peter Goodspeed (2014) “Can Canada duplicate its boat people rescue with Syrian refugees?” Toronto Star, 26 September.

[40] For a discussion of the interaction between terrorist threats and Canadian refugee policy, cf. Howard Adelman (2008) “Canada’s Balancing Act: Protecting Human Rights and Countering Terrorist Threats”, in Alison Brysk and Gershon Shafir (eds.) National Insecurity and Human Rights: Democracies Debate Counterterrorism, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 137-156.

[41] Cf. Christopher J. Wydrzynski (1979) “Refugees and the Immigration Act,” Montreal: McGill Law Journal, 154-190. This article outlines “the immigration system established to process refugee claims, and will comment on the legislative steps Parliament has taken to ensure that Canada meets her international obligations and provides a system whereby the individual refugee applicant is treated with procedural and substantive fairness.”

[42] Cf. Alexander Betts (2009) Protection by Persuasion: International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime; Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, and Alexander Betts, Gil Loescher and James Milner (eds.) (2012) UNHCR: The Politics and Practice of Refugee Protection, London: Routledge.

[43] Howard Adelman (2008) “Sovereignty in the Twenty-First Century: Security, Immigration and Refugees,” Ch. 8 in Trudy Jacobsen, Charles Sampford and Ramesh Thakur (eds.) Re-envisioning Sovereignty: The End of Westphalia? Aldershot: Ashgate, 129-150. See also Jack Donnelly (2014) “State Sovereignty and International Human Rights,” Ethics and International Affairs, 225.

[44] Cf. Howard Adelman (1995) “Canada, Quebec and Refugee Claimants,” in Is Quebec Nationalism Just: Perspectives from Anglophone Canada, ed. Joseph Carens, McGill-Queens University Press, 82-96.

[45] Thus, the effort to get nations to intervene in other states where there were gross abuses of human rights – Government of Canada and U.N. Secretary-General, Responsibility to Protect: Timely and Decisive Response, 1, U.N. Doc. A/66/874-S/2012/578 (July 25, 2012). For the more ambitious issue of humanitarian intervention, cf. Canadian Government Responsibility to Protect and a critique in terms of practice, Howard Adelman and Govind C. Rao (eds.) (2003) War and Peace in Zaire/Congo: Analyzing and Evaluating Intervention 1996-1997, Lawrenceville, N.J.: Africa World Press as well as a more extensive effort to salvage the disasters in application, see U.N. Secretary-General (2012) Responsibility to Protect: Timely and Decisive Response, U.N. Doc. A/66/874-S/2012/578, 25 July. Refugee movements are also used as a propaganda tool and an instrument of war. Cf. Howard Adelman (2003) “The Use and Abuse of Refugees in Zaire,” Chapter 4, Stephen John Stedman and Fred Tanner (eds.) Refugee Manipulation: War, Politics, and the Abuse of Human Suffering. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institute, 95-134. For a more theoretical examination that preceded the publication of the Responsibility to Protect, cf. Howard Adelman (2001) “Theory and Humanitarian Intervention,” Chapter 1, Michael Keren and Donald A. Sylvan (eds.) International Intervention: Sovereignty versus Responsibility. London: Frank Cass & Co., 3-24.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Female Siblings – Leah and Rachel

Female Siblings – Leah and Rachel in Vayeitzei: Genesis 28:10 – 32:3

by

Howard Adelman

This is the seventh Torah reading of the Jewish calendar year. On the seventh day we rest. What about the seventh week? However, “no rest for the wicked,” as the saying goes. And I have not been resting the last two days. The blogs are piling up. Somehow, I have been blocked from sending out any bulk mailing, even though I do so in small batches. Hence, the tedious method used of one at a time until I get to the source of the problem.

This morning, I will also cheat and borrow a great deal from my daughter who happens also to be called Rachel. Rachel Adelman is an Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible in the rabbinical program at Hebrew College in Boston. Her most recent book was, The Female Ruse — Women’s Deception and Divine Sanction in the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015). She is also a poet. With her permission, I begin my commentary this week with her poem on Leah and Rachel. This is the signal that I will not be dealing with the usual topics in this portion of the Torah, such as Jacob’s dream, his wrestling with the angel and his encounter with God, his relations with Laban, the birth of his sons nor, finally, his departure from Haran and return to the land in which Abraham and Isaac had settled.

Sisters Entwined

She is the crimson cord, I the blue.
Leah-of-the-weak-eyes stole my bed that night,
wrapped round his sinewy thighs like a wick.
No candle light but the faceless flame of love-making.

I am the blue thread, she the red.
After a night in my tent, I trip down to the River to bathe
away the life-seed. Monthly, the death-void
washes away in the stream, crimson diluted in blue.

She is the red cord, I the blue.
Leah, despised—roots throttled in desire, stunted as a bonsai.
I, barren—a leafless tree exposed against the sky.
Leah fruitful but bent, I beautiful and shapely, ever slim, ever empty.

I am the blue of water and sky, she, red of the earth.
At dusk, I cross the River Jabbok, wending through Gilead.
A clay-woman, a dibbuk, assails me, thrusts me to the ground.
We wrestle in the dust until daybreak.

She is the red thread, I the blue.
Intertwined, she torques my elbow behind my back.
How to break the torturous embrace? The dying embryos? The flaccid breast?
Will maidservant-stand-ins or mandrakes do?

Both caught in the stranglehold of desire—
sisters and mothers, rivals and lovers—for the same
man-hire: Jacob. Our hearts tripped up
by the heel-wrestler, Ya‘aqov: she for love, I for child.

I pray: O God, untangle me from her.
Or let the entwined wicks ignite the light of flame as in Havdalah
that I might discern between the crimson
her and the blue-hue of me and You.

Then God remembered Rachel, and God heard her and opened her womb. (Gen. 30:22)

When I read this poem, I personally cannot help but think of the United States where recently red and blue states seem to have developed into an eternal wrestling match for power. The north-south divide has been displaced. The conflict between the coastal states on both the eastern and western seaboards of the United States and the interior heartland is usually cast in terms of a masculine metaphor about power to make sense of the controversial results of the last election. The struggle is usually represented in terms of rivalry and male metaphors.

I sketched that male rivalry in relationship to birth order in reflecting on the relationship of Esau and Jacob. I contrasted a character who was adventurous, more impetuous and “instinct” driven, even when his academic achievements were higher, and, ironically given his propensity for risk-taking, more conscientious, more dutiful and more respectful of paternal authority, versus a more cautious, more cerebral and more conniving younger sibling who had better developed communication and social skills. Admittedly, the analogy is a stretch, but insightful nevertheless.

The Torah offers three different tales of male sibling rivalry – Cain versus Abel, Ishmael versus Isaac and Esau versus Jacob before introducing female siblings. In the latter, the emphasis is on circumstances rather than inherent character differences even though Leah and Rachel are radically different in their personalities. In comparing sororal rather than fraternal relations, the latter is characterized primarily by rivalry in which the connection between the two brothers in each set was suborned to the implications for a permanent and eons-long divide. In contrast, the Leah-Rachel relationship emphasizes how the two are intertwined rather than separated, how their rivalry is suborned in a larger unity. I contrast feminine sibling “rivalry” with masculine ones and end by exploring the insights into current American politics through a feminist rather than masculine male metaphor.

However, whereas there is a bounty of scientific research on fraternal sibling rivalry, research on sororal relationships is hard to find. Further, in scientific discussions of sisters, however sparse, there is far greater emphasis on sororal or sister solidarity rather than rivalry. Even in this case, where the sisters are married to the same man and where one usually finds an expression of conjugal authority by the older over the younger, this is not the emphasis of this story. In such cases of competition for the favour of a male, cooperation and solidarity still usually trump competition. In other cases at an extreme, when you compare families where all children are female with families where all children are males, female-children families achieve higher incomes on a gross family level – 25-40% higher – than all male children households. This may have implications on theories of competition and capitalism, but that is not the subject today. I begin today, not with science, but with poetry and with that which is indicated by the text and its account of the tension between Leah and Rachel.

If female birth order effects were similar to male birth order personality characteristics, we might expect Leah to be both more conscientious and dutiful while also more adventurous than Rachel and Rachel more agreeable and possessing more social skills while, at the same time, being much more of a non-conformist. We shall not find this to be the case. Further, older sisters are more likely to praise and teach their younger female siblings than is the case in males. Whereas one can expect aggression and dominance from the older male and conniving and a greater sense of initiative and independence from the younger brother, the issue of solidarity emerges as primary in the case of sisters. This is generally true even in polygamous marriages where a man is married to two sisters. Inclusiveness and family cohesion become the dominant norms rather than rivalry. This results in a greater clustering of feeling and affection, even among the step children. However, the discussion of the relationships between all of Jacob’s children of his two wives and two concubines belongs to a separate though related analysis.

In the poem above, Rachel is portrayed as engaged in a wrestling match with her sister, with Rachel deprecating Leah-of-the-weak-eyes who “stole” Rachel’s bed on the first wedding night. The poem appears to be about rivalry. But this is not an ordinary wrestling, but one which is much more akin to Jacob wrestling with God than his rivalry with Esau. So the thread, cord or wick (petl in Hebrew becomes a central metaphor in divine wrestling – elohim niphtalti). In my daughter’s poem, there are two cords like two DNA strands, one blue and one red, that intertwine and tie together though they also divide the two matriarchs. For Rachel is jealous that her sister’s thread and superiority in delivering progeny ties Jacob and her sister together more than the love that unites Rachel and Jacob. In the former, there may be “no candle light but the faceless flame of love-making.” The roots may be “throttled in desire,” but the result is “stunted like a bonsai.” Rachel’s sister’s thread is red, signifying the ability to give birth, whereas Rachel for years remained barren, her life-seed washed down the stream at each menstrual period.

In contrast, the fire of Jacob’s passion is almost totally directed towards Rachel. Yet it is Rachel who burns with jealousy, not simply at her sister’s sexual involvement with Jacob, but mostly at her sister’s ability to give birth even though Rachel is by far the more comely. “Leah fruitful but bent, I beautiful and shapely, ever slim, ever empty.” But the rivalry exists within a context stressing cohesion rather than competition. The latter exhibits itself in both sexual rivalry and deep concern about progeny. However, though Rachel may pray to be disentangled from her sister, her prayer is not answered. The two remain eternally intertwined.

Both caught in the stranglehold of desire—
sisters and mothers, rivals and lovers—for the same
man-hire: Jacob. Our hearts tripped up
by the heel-wrestler, Ya‘aqov: she for love, I for child.

So the portrait focuses on Leah’s jealousy over sex and Rachel’s jealousy about having children. But the dominant desire is not the expression of the rivalry, but the desire to set it aside, to untangle Rachel and Leah and to have sister solidarity trump sister rivalry. For Leah and Rachel initially seem complicit in the initial tricking of Jacob. Rachel recognizes the right of her older sister to marry and have children. And Leah prays that her younger sister will have children. How different is this from the relationship of the brothers thus far depicted! Further, Leah and Rachel bring very different characteristics to the marriage and their dialectical connection says a great deal about the desire for cohesion trumping rivalry.

As Rashi says when he connects the meaning of Leah’s name with the tiredness the Egyptians experience in the famine, Leah of the tired or weak eyes is exhausted. Egyptians worked with little to feed them. Leah cannot feed off Jacob’s love, for that love seems directed entirely to Rachel. But Leah is conscientious, wakes up even before dawn to work at her spinning wheel and make the thread to bind Jacob to her in contrast with Rachel’s natural endowments. Leah is a hard worker, giving and not demanding and dedicated to the well-being of her progeny. She is the mother of Jews as a stiff-necked people, as a people which stands up for its rights even in the face of rejection. She refuses dejection. She is serious and hard working and her rewards will come in her fruitfulness, in what comes out of her rather than in what she takes in. For she gives her virginity to Jacob, not as a sacrifice to love, for hers was a faceless flame of love-making, but as a sacrifice to ensuring the continuity of life. That is what it means to be stiff-necked.

Leah is the salt of the earth or, as my daughter described it avoiding clichés, “red of the earth.” Rachel, in contrast, is the water and the sky. Leah names her first three children, Reuben, Shmuel and Levi, for all three send a message that Leah not only has a right to be married, a right to have children, but even a right to be loved by Jacob for who she is rather than her natural physical endowments. Reuben means, “behold a son,” a triumphal declaration, but the name also comes from ra’ah, my affliction. Reuben was cursed by his father for sleeping with his concubine, Bilah.

In the case of the second-born son, non-Jews rarely name their children Shmu’el or Simeon and usually use its translation as Samuel. For Samuel is the second-born and means either the name of God or “God has heard,” שם האלוהים, shem Elohim. But Shmuel also means that the “Lord heard (shama) that I was unloved.” (Genesis 29:33) Her third son was named Levi. She hoped that finally “my husband will become attached (yillaweh) to me. (Genesis 29:34) Only with the birth of her fourth son, Judah, does Leah come into her own and leave behind her fantasy-driven desire with respect to Jacob. She ignores Jacob and names her son Judah because “this time I will praise (odeh) the Lord.” (Genesis 29:35)

But what about Rachel? Does she exhibit the conniving and the supposedly feminine traits of trickery to achieve mastery and control over the domestic holdings? Not at all. Rachel is giving, suspends having the fruits of her love for her sister. She is the epitome of chesed, of a giving nature. Rachel means sheep because Rachel obeys and follows the larger collective ethos rather than pursuing exclusively her own rights and position. While Leah makes the wool and thread to weave into garments, it is Rachel who sheds her wool to empower her older sister. She gives up the immediate satisfaction of her rights so that Leah can express hers.

The relationship of Leah and Rachel is so opposite to that of Esau and Jacob. Further, whereas Jews are the children of Jacob and not of Esau, and that gives a basic character to the Jewish people, Jews are also the children of both Leah and Rachel and embody determination and commitment combined with chesed, self-sacrifice and service. At the same time, the two strands of personality DNA remain in tension. We inherit that tension in actual power terms. Moses is a descendent of Leah who leads the Israelites from slavery into freedom and to the borders of the Promised Land. Joshua, his military commander and descendent of Rachel, is the calculating strategist who leads the conquest. King Saul descends from Rachel, but David ascends the throne to displace the heirs of Rachel for David’s predecessors trace their lineage to Leah.

We have different leaders for different times, the embodiment of care and responsibility and service to the other and the embodiment of self-interest and survival with weak eyes towards any visionary goal. But it is the children of those weak, tired and tender eyes focussed on determination and self-will, on self-survival and self-interest, that lead the people to the Promised Land. However, one only crosses into that land with concern for the other, with differentiating between strangers with whom one can live and enemies whom one must destroy. In contrast, it is the descendants of Leah who view all outsiders as enemies. After all, Esau, who, according to the Midrash, was to be Leah’s husband, married two Hittite women. In contrast, Jacob was committed to marrying his own and preserving the blood line, but not by rejecting the other, but by including the other, the children of his concubines, within the fold.

In the United States, the rivalry between the red states and the blue, is one between the heartland left behind and the coastland facing outward across the seas on either side of the continent, between those who wallow in nostalgia and long for a leader who comes from the coast but faces inward and backwards in history, versus a leader who, though born on an outer island, comes from the heartland, but faces outward. Red and blue express the value differences between those who embody the vision of a unitary nation versus those who express and respect the values of difference and diversity. The former focus on physical survival and are still of the earth while the latter are of the air and the water, combining innovation with a love of change and focused on what can be versus what has been. Obama marched into the future with eyes aglow, not the tired and weary eyes of Donald Trump, who enters office fantasizing about “being great again.” In this historical dialectical dance, the givers, who are generous in their love and look outward, will also have to look inward and listen to the pain of their sister’s children who constitute the heartland of America.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Pierre Trudeau, Fidel Castro and Donald Trump

Pierre Trudeau, Fidel Castro and Donald Trump

by

Howard Adelman

I planned this morning to return to writing about the economy and Trump’s possible or likely contribution to a new economic financial collapse. However, one of the many responses to my blog on Justin Trudeau and Fidel Castro asked the following question:

“What would be the basis of the ‘love affair’ between the liberal PE Trudeau and the Marxist Castro? Their Jesuit upbringing? And that, literally in the shadow of the U.S. (for both) and during the cold war? This still sounds to me like defiance vis-à-vis the U.S. (but perhaps out of filial loyalty, rather than current calculations). Can you explain?”

I will add some partial notes to an attempted preliminary answer and explanation, in part because I want to draw out some comparisons between Pierre Trudeau and Donald Trump as a kind of introduction to the economic analysis I will undertake in my next blog. The comparison might seem very odd since Donald Trump, though he admires Putin, has only disdain for Fidel Castro and his brother, even though, when it was forbidden to do so, The Donald, in 1998 illegally under American law at the time, sent a team of his to investigate building a hotel and gambling casino in Havana, and this was well before this possibility of foreign investment in Cuba first opened up. His company spent $68,000 in Cuba illegally without the requisite U.S. treasury license.

Further, this offers me a chance to fill in some blanks. I had been intrigued about why Fidel Castro, a close personal friend of Pierre Trudeau and an honorary pallbearer at the latter’s funeral, had not granted Justin Trudeau an audience when Justin visited just a week or so earlier and when, just the day before, Castro had granted a visit to the leader of Vietnam. There had to be some serious explanation given Fidel Castro’s personal history with the Trudeau family. The explanation: Fidel was even sicker than anyone knew, for it is virtually impossible to imagine that he would not have wanted to see Justin given his personal connection to Justin’s father. After all, Fidel’s brother, Raúl, went out of the way to welcome Justin personally. Instead of a boring and very formal state dinner, Raúl took Justin and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau out to the Restaurante Café del Oriente in old Havana. It helped that Sophie was fluent in Spanish.

To demonstrate the close family connection, Justin Trudeau also met with three of Fidel’s sons where, as a present from the Cuban people and from the Castro family, Justin received a photo album of his father’s historic 1976 visit to Cuba and the adulation of the Cuban people for him. Remember, on that trip, Pierre had come with his wife, Margaret and his youngest son, Michel who was just under four months of age at the time. It was Michel who would years later die in an avalanche in British Columbia. The Justin Cuban visit had all kinds of nostalgia for Justin as it had in subsequent visits for his father. It just happened that many Cubans mistakenly thought that Justin was the grown-up Michel.

Professor Wright of Trent University (author of Three Nights in Havana) claimed that, “I had an impression that Justin was borrowing from his family’s history with Cuba to shore up the bilateral relationship.” I myself believe that the effort to pay “homage” to Pierre’s relationship with Cuba was not in service to advancing business interests, but was the real goal of the visit. Reinforcing family and the family connection came first. As Mark Entwistle, a former Canadian ambassador to and an expert on Cuba, opined, the Trudeau family connection with the Castros is a matter of deep affection, but it will have no effect on advancing Canadian business interests which will have to succeed or fail on their own merits.

This strength in the family connection, within and between families, is the first comparison I want to make between Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Donald Trump. Despite all the business that each of Pierre’s and Donald’s business and public lives required, both were very devoted to their children. Donald Trump remains so. And their children adored their own fathers in return as Pierre had respected his own father and as Donald Trump had admired his own father. Parent to child links were and are very important in both families. Justin replied to Tom Mulcair’s criticisms of his father, “Let me say very clearly, I’m incredibly proud to be Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s son. “And I’m incredibly lucky to be raised with those Liberal values” According to Justin, Pierre taught his sons “to believe in ourselves, to stand up for ourselves, to know ourselves and to accept responsibility for ourselves.” Donald used very similar words in describing what his father, Fred, had taught him. All the children in the respective families were devastated at the death of their fathers. Pierre’s father died when he was only fifteen, and he was admittedly wracked by that death. In addition, both fathers bequeathed an inheritance on their sons, though Pierre’s was much less than Donald Trump’s and Justin’s was even smaller again (1.4 million). But the Trudeau boys were taught to be frugal while Donald Trump acquired a taste for ostentation.

Justin’s father’s Jesuit upbringing partially explains his lifelong attraction to dogmatic and absolutist rulers. Among those, Castro was his most important friend. Pierre was the first NATO leader after the Cuban revolution to visit Cuba. Pierre’s huge portrait hung at Havana airport when he arrived and a quarter million Cubans, who had been given the day off, packed the streets of Havana waving Canadian flags as the entourage made its way through the city. Unlike virtually all Central and South American countries, Canada along with Mexico were the only countries in North and South America not to break off relations with Cuba.

The largest source of tourists to Cuba comes from Canada, and that has always been the case through thick and thin. Currently Canada sends 100,000 tourists per year to Cuba but American tourism will soon overwhelm the Canadian contingent. But the big difference came when Pierre Elliot Trudeau was elected Prime Minister of Canada. He and Castro formed a lasting bond. Pierre often took his family for holidays in Cuba. Pierre used to travel privately to Cuba and see Castro when there was no government business to do there. At home, Justin was passed this adoration of the Cuban leader by his father. After Pierre retired from politics, he continued to visit Cuba as a private citizen. Castro was not the only dictator Pierre felt he could do business with. His last international initiative was a visit to Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania, the same dictator who was executed by his own people upon the overthrow of communism. Pierre in one of his flakiest efforts wanted to try to persuade Nicolae to partner with him in a joint effort to eliminate nuclear armaments totally.

Pierre first was elected Prime Minister of Canada on a wave of Trudeaumania. Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States, almost fifty years later, on a wave of Trumpomania, this time coming from the right reinforced by the so-called Reagan democrats. In the Canadian case, personality and not just populism – Diefenbaker had also been a quasi-populist – dominated the political scene in Canada. This is what just took place in America. In the case of Trudeau, an intellectual who was deeply devoted to ideas and abstract theory, reason presumably trumped passion. But not in the public arena. There, like Trump today, Trudeau made an instinctual connection with Canadians. They either loved or hated him. And Trudeau thrived in that public applause while, always at the same time demonstrating he was his own man and could flout convention. Does that not seem similar to Donald Trump?

John English, Pierre Trudeau’s biographer, also his admirer, credited Trudeau with holding Canada together against the forces of provincialism, separatism and disintegration. He made bilingualism official and it is impossible today to imagine that we would ever again have a leader who was not fluent in both official languages. But Trudeau overreached as was his want. The vision of most Canadians being bilingual or even being able to receive goods and services in French in British Columbia was a pipedream foisted on Canadians. Trudeau did repatriate the constitution, but only by alienating Quebec and without Quebec’s formal assent. Further, Canada in transforming itself into a country with a written constitution as its base also lost the flexibility of its informal foundations though, admittedly at a gain in clarity. As we move into the future, we will have to see whether the British historical foundations or the American legal foundations are more adaptable to the changing demands on a polity.

Trudeau also introduced the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but was the Prime Minister who most abused those rights and freedoms by imposing the War Measures Act in the face of two kidnappings and one murder by extremist Quebec separatists in the 1970 October Crisis. When Tom Mulcair in Parliament reminded Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister what his father had done, Justin became defensive and effusive in praise of his father just as he had launched his political career in 2000 with his emotional and very effective eulogy to his father at his father’s funeral. But in 1970, over five hundred Canadians were rounded up and imprisoned without charge or even the protection of Habeus Corpus. I could imagine Donald Trump doing the same. It is ironic, but perhaps not so ironic, that the terrorist killers were released from jail earlier provided that they accepted exile in Cuba.

In this regard, Pierre Trudeau is best known for his intellectual defence of federalism and the advantage of giving provinces semi-sovereign powers in areas that were closest to the desires and needs of the populace. But Pierre was a very strong defender of centralized power. Donald Trump is as well. He will not cede control of federal lands to states and believes that states cannot be trusted with administering federal lands. Their behaviour would be unpredictable. Pierre Trudeau alienated the West, and specifically Alberta by imposing federal control over the ownership and extraction of fossil fuels in his National Energy Policy (NEP). Donald Trump also sees energy policy as central to his administration and backs the continuation of drilling and fracking, including on federal lands, and rejects the efforts of some liberal states to promote renewable energy. Ironically, even in medical care, even with respect to Obamacare that he officially opposes, he would remove state barriers on insurance companies which, ironically, will allow a more centralized and unified medical care insurance system to emerge.

But isn’t Donald Trump an American firster – make America great again – and a hyper nationalist with isolationist propensities, while Pierre Trudeau was a cosmopolitan in support of free trade? I will go into that later when I deal with economic and foreign policy. But domestically, in terms of federalism, Donald Trump is a believer in a very strong central government. After security, the next two priorities for a Trump government will be education and health care, traditionally areas of state control. Even Pierre Trudeau never went that far in centralizing power in Ottawa. It will be ironic that the candidate most critical of the swamp in Washington will be the president that will most extend the reach of, and hence, bureaucracy in, the central government. On the issue of a federal state that shares sovereign powers with sub-states like provinces and American states, Trump will move even more power to Washington, perhaps more than any other president prior to his rule.

But Trudeau was a social democrat. Trump is a conservative Republican. But is he really? He is a populist primarily and will use the state to reinforce and strengthen his image in the eyes of the people. He may not pour his energies into a national energy policy – good for renewables – but he may very well throw money about on infrastructure, education and, ironically, even health. For though he denounced Obamacare as a bad system, he never denounced having a system that took care of the health of all Americans. A federal model of using money and spending to strengthen federal jurisdiction will make previous aims of former presidents seem totally modest in comparison.

Here again, Pierre was anti-nationalist and contended that nationalism evokes emotion and particularist obsessions, whereas cosmopolitanism builds its allegiances on a state serving and stressing the cohesion among all. For Trump, the all will be all Americans who follow and support him and thus a strong nationalism and a strong central government will be reinforcing. As with Pierre Trudeau, the rights of aboriginal nations will suffer under Donald Trump’s rule.

Pierre Trudeau undermined rather than advanced Canadian stability and its strength and presence in the world. While he ran as an intellectual federalist, he did more than any predecessor to undermine the federal nature of the Canadian polity. For Trudeau set a precedent for reducing the French role in the political life in Canada, not strengthening it. In terms of cultural presence, it was strengthened, but not in terms of political presence. Trump too will resist the tendency to advance multiculturalism through a political agenda and, especially resist the growth of the Hispanic community in the United States. After all, within two decades, America will have a larger percentage of Hispanics than Canada has of francophones. French may have been advanced under Trudeau but not the French political role. Culture is not politics. Trump too will more deliberately resist the growth of Hispanic culture as a political force. Of course, he will do the same for African Americans because he is a believer in the fact that an American is an American, full stop.

In foreign policy, Pierre Trudeau shuttled among many capitals to try to enhance Canada’s role and presence in the world continually shrank while he was Prime Minister even as he was cheered as a leader around the world in a way that Donald Trump will never be. I mentioned his flaky visit to Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania not long before his downfall to enlist his aid in dismantling the system of mutual deterrence using nuclear weapons. Pierre Trudeau was convinced that the Americans, and its president, were leading the world forward to nuclear destruction. But it was Ronald Reagan, openly despised by Trudeau, who made the treaty with the Soviets to get rid of 90% of the tools of massive nuclear destruction. Further, and more significantly in light of the current controversy over Justin’s eulogy to Fidel Castro. The latter was both the instigator for bringing nuclear arms into Cuba and believed that even if Cuba engaged in a nuclear war over Cuba, Cubans would gladly be incinerated to help destroy capitalism.

“First of all, Cuba would have burned in the fires of war. Without a doubt the Cuban people would have fought courageously but, also without a doubt, the Cuban people would have perished heroically. We struggle against imperialism, not in order to die, but to draw on all of our potential, to lose as little as possible, and later to win more, so as to be a victor and make communism triumph.” As Che Guevara put it, we are “a people prepared to suffer nuclear immolation so that its ashes may serve as a foundation for new societies. When an agreement was reached by which the atomic missiles were removed, without asking our people, we were not relieved or thankful for the truce; instead we denounced the move with our own voice.”

One major difference between Trudeau and Trump is that while the Soviet leaders ignored or at best patronized Pierre Trudeau, Donald Trump will be feted by the Russians. In the history of Canadian foreign relations, Pierre Trudeau was exemplary in undermining our commitments to our allies and we have never recovered from the political and defense devastation that he bequeathed to Canadians. NATO was weakened under Trudeau. So was the international Organization for Tariffs and Trade. Donald Trump will follow in Pierre’s footsteps in this regard and pay little attention to the consequences of his policies on traditional alliances, though, unlike Pierre Trudeau, Donald Trump is likely to go on a spending spree on the military, an area on which Trudeau was a skinflint. But as Pierre Trudeau demonstrated in the past, Donald Trump in the future will demonstrate an extraordinary indifference, not only to authoritarianism, but to totalitarianism and its spread in the rest of the world.
Pierre Trudeau avoided military service in WWII. Donald Trump managed to evade the draft and military service in the United States. While Donald Trump will spend lavishly on defence, he will not use that strength to really challenge Russia and China in their areas of prime interest. The Ukraine recognizes it is being abandoned further to the maws of the Russian bear. The Baltic states fear it. Signals have already been sent to Japan and Korea that they will be more on their own and cannot rely on Pax America.

Perhaps the closest resemblance between Donald Trump and Pierre Trudeau is their disdain for journalists and the media. Donald’s is so fresh in our memory, we need hardly be reminded of it. But we should recall that when Pierre Trudeau left office and rode off into the sunset in his antique convertible Mercedes, he turned Richard Nixon’s words on their head. Nixon, when he lost his campaign for the presidency in 1960, told the press that he would no longer be around to be picked on. Pierre when he left office chuckled and said that the media would no longer have him around to beat up on them. Asked if he had any regrets, Pierre replied, “Yes. I regret that I won’t have you to kick around anymore.”

But it is on the economy that Pierre Trudeau and Donald Trump really resemble one another most. Pierre was and Donald Trump is an economic ignoramus. Donald Trump will inherit an economy that is well on the path to recovery from the 2007-08 financial collapse, even though the recovery remains halting and far from setting the U.S. on a solid financial foundation. That was the case in Canada in the early sixties. Canada was then an economic powerhouse. But in Canada in 1979, a year when both the Tory and the Liberal governments provided extraordinary initiative in bringing refugees to Canada, the foundations for the 1979 recession were set in motion as well as for the disaster of 1989-1994 that was the worst economic period in Canada since the Great Depression. Pierre Trudeau bore the major responsibility. He increased the Canadian debt from 1968 to 1984 to $157.2 billion, a 738.7% increase. He would not introduce the requisite taxes to pay for the government’s expenditures, which tripled. Canada went through the worst period of inflation in its history. Interest rates became sky high. In fact, by 1993, Canada was even flirting with defaulting on our debt. As in the United States, the middle class was left with greater burdens as their effective salaries stagnated. Brian Mulroney, with all his faults, but mainly the Chretien government with Paul Martin as finance minister, brought Canada back from the brink.

I suggest we can expect the same from Donald Trump and I will subsequently try to show why. But I want to add another note of comparison, this time applicable to both Pierre and Justin as well as Donald Trump. All gained power, in spite of being underrated as underdogs when they pursued the leadership of their own respective parties and then the leadership of the country. I end with one further remark. Pierre Elliot Trudeau at the rally in Cuba in 1976 that I referred to above, shouted out, “Viva Castro.” Justin in November 2016 was simply reiterating the sentiments of his father.

With the extraordinary help of Alex Zisman

Justin Trudeau and Fidel Castro

Justin Trudeau and Fidel Castro

By

Howard Adelman

I just cannot leave this alone. Perhaps it is partly a relief valve for my depression at the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. I am reluctant to write this because I generally like and approve of Justin’s efforts to date. But Justin Trudeau’s statement on Fidel Castro’s death has so appalled me that it keeps going over and over in my head.

Here is what Justin said:

“It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.
“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.
“While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante’.
“I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.
“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”

Why deep regret? Why did Justin say that Castro had served his people when he was such a disservice to them? He certainly gave extraordinarily long speeches, but his public effusions were manipulative and full of lies and deceit. To call Castro a controversial figure is a euphemism of the worst type. He was ruthless. Clearly all the people did not have a “deep and abiding affection” for “El Comandante”. His opponents did not recognize that Fidel Castro had a deep and abiding love for the Cuban people. Neither do I. So why did Justin subscribe to that propaganda? And why was Justin’s father proud to call Fidel a friend? Did he have such unworthy choices of friends? Pierre visited Cuba in the very same year that Fidel Castro went on a rampage of locking up civil rights leaders and instigating “disappearances”. In any case, if Justin wants not only to acknowledge but eulogize Fidel when he did, he has no right to do so on behalf of all Canadians. Justin did not speak for many and possibly most Canadians when he misspoke.

If Stalin was remarkable, if Hitler was remarkable, if Mussolini was remarkable, if Putin remains remarkable, so too is Castro. If remarkable means worthy of attention, astonishing and astounding, then certainly. But remarkable has the connotation of being worthy of notice, not only for the outlandish deeds done, but for very positive accomplishments on the scales of worthiness. Castro was conspicuous and larger than life and, thus, extraordinary in some sense. But not to spell out or qualify one’s praise about such a ruthless dictator after his death is to demonstrate great insensitivity to the people who have spent their lives critical of Castro’s oppression. While offering condolences to his supporters, what about his many victims?

When interviewed an hour ago to explain his tribute, Justin was asked whether he thought Castro was a dictator. Justin replied “Yes.” But he added, “Fidel Castro had a deep and lasting effect on the Cuban people but on the passing of his life I expressed my condolences…He was certainly a polarizing figure and I have always been concerned about his human rights abuses. However, a Prime Minster of Canada should show respect.” Respect, maybe. But a eulogy – certainly not. Justin had to know he was stepping on a landline and he certainly could have expressed respect for the Cuban nation without paying tribute and eulogizing a ruthless, manipulative and oppressive dictator.

Now some praise of Castro’s regime is in order, particularly his contribution to universal education and health care and his sending Cuban doctors all over Africa and South America. Canada, and Toronto in particular, has enormously benefited from the rich Cuban cultural tradition, particularly in music and jazz, that flourished under Fidel Castro. Finally, though he could be credited with bringing universal literacy and health care to all Cubans, that in itself has been at significant cost to quality. Further, I have always supported Canada retaining its diplomatic contacts and have applauded Barack Obama’s lifting of the sanctions regime which Fidel used as an excuse to be a brutal dictator; but look at the cost.

1) 1 in 5 Cubans forced into exile – massive class cleansing;
2) Though he opposed anti-Semitism and was protective of the rights of Jews within Cuba to remain Jews, he was homophobic and persecuted gays for many years;
3) As a dictator, he was a leading human rights abuser, not only incarcerating dissidents, but executing many under his draconian rule, not counting the harassment and intimidation that many Cubans experienced; for example, in 1976 Fidel cracked down on a flowering human rights movement and sent journalists, lawyers, trade unionists to jail and solitary confinement where they were beaten and tortured – I lost track of two friends who were arrested and never heard from them again – they were not among the destroyed souls who were released and went into exile in Spain ten years ago, thirty years after they were arrested.
4) The ICC, UN agencies and independent international human rights organizations were not permitted to monitor what happened;
5) Like Donald Trump, Fidel Castro was a populist, but of the left rather than the right. In his abuse of the rule of law and relegation of accountable institutions of governance to the sidelines, Castro left leftists and liberals with a bad brand by contagion; there was neither an independent judiciary nor an independent police force dedicated to serving and protecting civil society in Cuba.
6) The record of abuse, of surveillance, of citizen reporting on other citizens, of civilians organized on a block level to serve as the eyes of the state that would even surprise George Orwell, of arbitrary detentions, of suppression of individual initiative, of public shaming, though attenuated to a degree in recent years, still all remain an integral part of the Cuban polity.
7) Fidel ruled as a dictator, controlling the three most powerful positions of governance – president of the Council of State, president of the Council of Ministers, and first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party – and prevented any steps that might make political rulers accountable.
8) In his foreign policy, he helped export revolution and supported revolutionaries around the world in many countries where there may have been economic inequality, but there was no repression; look at what his support of revolutionaries in Colombia, and a populist repressive government in Venezuela has wrought, not to speak of Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
9) The only time fear of a worldwide apocalypse came near, before the current climate change danger, was in 1962 when Cuba arranged secretly with the U.S.S.R to bring nuclear-armed missiles into Cuba that instigated the Cuban missile crisis.
10) But the greatest damage to Cubans came from Fidel’s insistence on monopolizing and controlling ALL economic power.

I want to elaborate on the latter to show that his opposition was not just restricted to capitalists. When most of my friends, when my own brother, were strong Castro supporters, before Fidel revealed himself to be a Marxist-Leninist, when he had not yet been branded as an enemy of the U.S. and was still being courted by the State Department, Fidel made a speech to the annual meeting of the co-operative farmers of Cuba. Since I was then very active in the co-operative movement, I received a copy of that speech in translation. What he had told the meeting in a typical three-and-a-half hour speech was that Cuba had a shortage of seeds for farmers, and that since co-operative farms only represented the needs and concerns of their members while state collective farms represented all of Cuban society, he regretted that the state would only be able to distribute seeds to collective state farms. The co-operatives voted overwhelmingly to become state farms. Suddenly there were enough seeds for all the farms. But it was clear that Fidel Castro was a bully and would use any means to get total control.

I was not able to convince my brother who headed for Cuba immediately on completing medical school in 1961 before he was to start his internship. He became trapped by the embargo that was soon imposed and was only able to leave Cuba when a Canadian military aircraft flew him back to Canada. In the interim, he had served as part of the Cuban propaganda machine, working as a volunteer in the Cuban broadcasting organization. Of course, a few years later, he turned against the Fidel Castor regime, but not vocally or publicly. For him, it had been the exuberance of youth and a naïve faith.

Luckily, the apocalypse of the Cuban missile crisis was averted. But I could never forgive Castro especially, though also Kennedy and Khrushchev, with playing chicken with the lives of my children. I have never visited Cuba. It has been on my boycott list. One of my sons has been there a number of times. He described both the vibrant life of Cubans and their warmth and hospitality while appalled at the decaying buildings. I flirted with going but always decided not to while the Castros were in power.

I think I will wait until Raȗl leaves power before contemplating a visit, but that may not take place in my lifetime in spite of Raȗl’s advanced age. In the meanwhile, I will gripe loudly at the effusive expression of condolences that Justin Trudeau conveyed to the Castro family.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Independent Jewish Voices – BDS Redux I

BDS Redux: Part I IJV

by

Howard Adelman

Since the end of the Association for Israel Studies (AIS) meetings last Wednesday in Jerusalem, among the newsfeeds I have received and read over the last four days, ten dealt with BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel. I have written about BDS before. Last year at the AIS meetings at Concordia, I read a paper on BDS. In that essay, I took on the persona of a radical supporter of the Palestinian cause to critique BDS, but from a very opposite perspective than is customary with respect to virtually all anti-BDS papers at AIS, even though some criteria, such as effectiveness, were common to both angles of analysis. That paper stood in place of the usual defensive feeds one reads in Jewish and public media sources. I begin this series revisiting the BDS issue, but starting with a review of a selection of very recent news stories on BDS, with a specific focus on stories on IJV, Independent Jewish Voices, an organization of Jews explicitly dedicated to advocating on behalf of BDS.

One story on BDS itself was headlined, “15 years since the Durban Conference: ‘We need an idea to go against BDS’.” Like most BDS stories (but not all, as shall be seen), the headline alone evoked a sense of failure as well as panic at the advancing tide of this enormous wave called BDS. The report covered the presentation of Dr. Nachman Shai, a Kadima member of the Israeli Knesset and its Deputy Speaker, a former spokesperson for the IDF, journalist and communications expert who insisted that the strategies developed at Durban, embodied in its step-child, the BDS movement, continued to pose a threat to the State of Israel. The Jewish organizations and Israel itself had developed tactics and strategies to counter BDS, but they needed a counter anti-BDS idea. BDS was based on an idea. When one looks at the counter-BDS movement, Shai found that it was bereft of an idea behind it.

He, of course, meant a competing positive idea. For the anti-BDS movement did seem to have a negative idea, to paint the BDS movement as, at heart, not a supporter of a two-state solution, but in favour of the elimination of Israel as a state in the Middle East. One example that could have been offered was the effort to paint “Independent Jewish Voices” (IJV) as anti-Jewish as well as an anti-Israel movement that used the celebration of Al Quds Day as a hate-fest against the Jewish people.

IJV was founded in Canada in 2008 and endorsed BDS in 2009. One method used to oppose BDS was to paint it, and other groups that supported BDS, as opposed to the Jewish state. Further, such groups were depicted as either explicit Holocaust deniers or ones that flirted with Holocaust denial and associated with deniers. (More on this in the next blog.)

However, IJV describes itself very differently, as representing Canadian Jews (for IJV Canada) who have a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights. Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) is purportedly a national human rights organization whose mandate, it claims, “is to promote a just resolution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for the human rights of all parties.” IJV claims that there are currently ten chapters of IJV in cities across Canada in addition to a growing number of student clubs on major university campuses. IJV supports the right of Canadians to criticize and challenge the current laws and policies of the State of Israel, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. IJV’s policies and operations are claimed to rest on the following principles:

1. Human rights are universal and indivisible and should be upheld without exception. This is as applicable in Israel and Occupied Palestine as it is elsewhere.
2. Palestinians and Israelis alike have the right to peaceful and secure lives.
3. Peace and stability require the willingness of all parties to the conflict to comply with international law.
4. There is no justification for any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, anti-Arab racism or Islamophobia in any circumstance.
5. The battle against anti-Semitism is vital and is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic.

Leaving aside the problem of what constitutes Occupied Palestine, on first glance I would think that IJV might represent me. However, when I read the policies it endorses, I am appalled.
1. Israel withdrawing to the Green Line of 1967, a position set aside by Oslo and which even Palestinian peace negotiators advancing a two-state solution have not pursued;
2. Support of the universal right of refugees to return – refugee return is NOT a universal right (see Adelman, Howard and Elazar Barkan (2011) No Return, No Refuge. New York: Columbia University Press) – or receive compensation; the original clause about refugee return and compensation (Resolution 194) was commendatory rather than a statement of universal obligation and was subject to negotiations and an agreement with Israel;
3. Dismantling the Separation Wall which, whatever one thinks of the wall and fence, did enormously reduce Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel, and there is no statement against Palestinian terrorism or on the security issue more generally;
4. Dismantling ALL Israeli settlements on the West Bank and the Golan Heights, even in those cases where the settlements were re-creations of Israeli settlements prior to the War of Independence where the Jordanian government practiced complete ethnic cleansing and wiped out every Jewish settlement in the area it occupied; again this position runs counter to interim agreements on peace already negotiated between the Palestinians and Israelis;
5. Correcting laws and practices within Israel that discriminate against the rights of non-Jews, but says nothing about discrimination against the rights of Jews in Palestinian territory;
6. Is ostensibly neutral on the one-state or two-state solution when the overwhelming number of those promoting peace in the Israeli-Palestine conflict support a two state solution and oppose both the one state option which would eliminate Israel and the one state option which would deny Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza a state of their own; further, this is an explicit misrepresentation of BDS’s own published views attacking Israelis who advocate an annexationist policy – BDS is unequivocally opposed to a one state solution where Israel is the one state.

IJV has criticized the Liberal government claiming that, “Since the Liberals came back to power, the Trudeau government has voted against defending Palestinian human rights at the United Nations; voted with the Conservatives in support of a motion condemning Canadian individuals and organizations promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; and smeared Canadian international law expert Michael Lynk by calling for the UN to “review” his appointment to Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Take the last issue first. Is Michael Lynk an independent examiner? He is independent in the sense that he is not dependent for his income on an organization connected to the issue. Further, the proposed position is unpaid. However, independence also connotes a detached examination of a dispute. It suggests an effort to be impartial. In that sense, judges and commissioners of inquiry are supposed to be independent and should not pre-judge issues. Though more moderate than Professor Penny Green from the UK who was initially pushed for the position, Michael Lynk is not independent in that sense since he has not only pronounced himself frequently and vociferously in denouncing Israel as a serial violator of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza, but has, to the best of my knowledge, never denounced the abuse of human rights of either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. He evidently even blamed the West for provoking the 9/11 attack citing global inequalities and Western disrespect for international law. He has associated himself with Palestinian “popular resistance” and supports branding Israel as an Apartheid State. As one might expect, he has accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.

Michael presented a paper, “Partition, federalism and the future of Israel-Palestine” at a Conference in March of 2009 at my home university, York, called, “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace.” It was a conference from which I withdrew my paper after I concluded that the meeting included too many non-scholars presenting advocacy papers rather than independent intellectual analyses on one state versus two state approaches, though I respected many of the papers by fellow academics who supported a one state solution as much as I differed with them. (http://www.yorku.ca/ipconf/documents/program21may.pdf)

Michael Lynk is clearly and unequivocally a partisan on the issue and not impartial. Certainly, neither is BDS nor IJV which supports BDS and condemns “the racist policies of the Israeli state.” IJV associates with the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network and speaks for anti-Zionist Jews, yet even when I was an anti-Zionist, I would not have wanted IJV to represent my views. It is not independent. It is not fair. It insults as much if not more than it is insulted. And does so as if it stands on the high ground of universal human rights.

In 2015, IJV provided a social link to an article written by Alan Hart, former Middle East Chief Correspondent for Independent Television in the UK, author of a three-part series, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, and his weighty two volume Waiting for the Apocalypse. Hart believes that Israel-Palestinian conflict will be settled, and only be settled, with the end of Zionism. Unless this happens, the world will come face to face with Armageddon. IJV identifies with Hart and strongly condemns anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of any kind, but disassociates itself from Hart’s conspiracy theories, but not Hart’s theory that the Zionist lobby controls American Middle East policy. Hart insists that the destruction of the World Trade Center took place as a result of planes fitted with transponders planted and controlled by Mossad. Those transponders were used to guide the planes to hitting the World Trade Center.

IJV cited a website for Hart’s article of Veterans Today, an organization that IJV now acknowledges as promoting wild conspiracy theories as well as Holocaust debunking. IJV has admitted that the citation was thoughtless and careless and apologized for it. IJV removed the link since it purportedly advocates “rigorous, factual discussion and debate on Israel and Palestine.” I do not believe it does, but neither do I believe it knowingly associates with Holocaust-deniers and anti-Semites. Further, IJV does not agree with Hart’s advocacy for de-Zionizing Israel and turning it into a Jewish state in which “the most powerful force would be the moral principles of Judaism,” for IJV seems to be critical of the notion of a Jewish state in itself.

IJV has been very active is getting two, and there are only two, foreign policy resolutions on the agenda of the annual Green Party meeting in Canada in August. Both resolutions deal with Israel. One calls for the support of BDF. The other calls for the decertification of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) as a Canadian charity. BDS has succeeded in getting Elizabeth May, the leader of the party, to co-sponsor the latter resolution with Corey Levine of IJV to rescind JNF’s charitable status. Given that the Green Party has nothing to say about ISIS or Islamic extremism from Indonesia to Nigeria, has nothing to say about the cruelties of the Assad regime, nothing to say about the enormous increase in refugee numbers, nothing to say about the prospect of Brexit, nothing to say about the crisis in Venezuela, nothing to say about human rights in Saudi Arabia, nothing to say about the deforestation and reforestation policies of Brazil and their effects on indigenous peoples of the Amazon, nothing to say about North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear arms capability, nothing to say about the human rights abuses of Iran, might it not be reasonable to suggest that this exclusive focus on Israel alone indicates a bias against Israel?

What has been Elizabeth May’s defence? She in the past claimed that she has raised human rights concerns about many nations – which does not explain why these are party policy issues and not just expressions of a leader’s concern and why these are the only two foreign policy resolutions at the convention. Her answer: the Green Party, unlike other parties, has no process for screening resolutions placed on the convention floor. Current party policy opposes the use of BDS to influence the policies of the Netanyahu government – itself an indication of possible bias since it may imply that only the Israeli government needs to be influenced to advance a peaceful resolution of the conflict. May defends the right of party members to propose changes in policy. Further, according to B’nai Brith, when May discussed human rights in the context of Jews, “when Parliament convened in February of 2015 specifically to discuss the global rise in antisemitism, May’s sole contribution to the debate was to argue that criticism of Israel should not be considered antisemitic.”

The fact is everyone agrees that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic per se. Certain types of criticism are. The B’nai Brith response suggested that May’s criticism risked falling into the latter category since she cited IJV as her source for the claim. Even more critically, IJV is the same organization that sponsored the two resolutions.

With respect to the JNF resolution, she does not take back that she is a sponsor of the resolution, but has said that she has invited Josh Cooper, CEO of JNF Canada, to speak to the resolution if it comes to the convention floor. However, the resolution may never reach the floor if it is defeated in online voting. We will have to see what happens. But in the next blog I want to turn to the efforts of Jewish organizations in Canada, in particular, B’nai Brith, to attack IJV and BDS. As we shall see, Nachman Shai may be very correct in his charge that BDS is only being combated with defensive attacks, and possibly distorted ones, rather than Shai’s call for a competing idea.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Domestic Policy Issues in Turkey

Domestic Policy Issues in Turkey

by

Howard Adelman

As we approach the G20 Summit to be held on November 15-16 in southwest Turkey in Antalya, it is important to understand not only the outcome of the Turkish election, but the various foreign policy issues with which Obama and other leaders will have to wrestle. The war in Syria, the threat from IS, especially its control of one-third of Iraq, and other crises in the Middle East, are bound to be high on the agenda. Domestic policy in Turkey also cannot be ignored since police continue to arrest people – 18 IS suspects in Antalya (2 are Russian) – in the lead up to the G20. Moreover, there is an intimate connection between domestic and foreign policy since foreign threats, at the very least, are used to rally support for the President.

Economics

Though Turkey’s economic crisis was the main issue of the June election, Erdoğan almost singlehandedly shifted it entirely aside for the 1 November election. In June, 53% of voters put Turkey’s economic downturn as the number one priority. In September, only 12% insisted that economic problems were Turkey’s foremost issue. This was in spite of the fact that Turkey’s economic performance had not improved one iota since June. This seemed to belie Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s own statement twelve months ago, in anticipation of the Antalya summit and his role as chair, of the inseparability of economics and politics, and the depiction of the G20 as “the premier platform for economic and financial issues.”

The Great Recession in 2008-09 taught us that the solution to global challenges rests in global actions. The rise of the G20 is a manifestation of this spirit. As the major economies of the world, we adopted a more integrated, coordinated and effective approach to the challenges we have been facing. During these difficult times, the G20 has clearly demonstrated its capability as a global crisis resolution forum.

As the OECD Report on Turkey noted at the time, although, “GDP growth is projected to increase from 3% in 2015 to above 4% in 2017, as political uncertainties are assumed to fade, employment continues to rise, and the exchange rate depreciation and the gradual strengthening of global markets support export growth. The geopolitical crisis at the southern border and the associated influx of refugees pose challenges. Currency depreciation until October has strengthened price competitiveness, but has also weakened household confidence, created pressures on corporate balance sheets and added to already high inflation.”

Economic improvements in Turkey were premised on a further decline in the political troubles in the southeast. Those troubles increased as the war with the PKK was resumed. Turkey is now more involved in the military conflict in Syria than ever before. IS now poses an internal domestic threat to Turkey. Employment has not continued to rise. Trade imbalances persist. Inflation rates remain above targets. In this context, currency depreciation that led to weakened household and corporate confidence continued, and the very factors that usurped the focus on the economy of voters exacerbated the economic problems.

Rule of Law

The prosperity of Turkey cannot be separated from the status of the rule of law. As described in my last blog, the government seized the assets of Koza ĺpek Holdings and placed the assets in a trusteeship. While such seizures are sanctioned by law in cases of mental incompetence and in the case of minors, there is no legal sanction in Turkey – or in the rest of the developed world – for the arbitrary seizure of commercial assets without  legal due process. In modern Turkey, even when under a military dictatorship, this seizure of private property was unprecedented. When a company is implicated in criminal activity, Article 133 of the Turkish Criminal Procedures Code is applicable requiring a trial and a definitive judgment before an asset seizure can proceed. There was not even any presentation or even an allegation of intention to commit a crime. There was not even a hint that Koza ĺpek was engaged in narcotics, money laundering, human trafficking, prostitution, embezzlement, or espionage.

Once, the AKP was closely allied with the Gülenists who had been disproportionately represented among judges, prosecutors and the police. Erdoğan now considers them the enemy and he has been systematically purging the criminal justice system of Gülenists, especially ever since prosecutors began pursuing the AKP government for corruption. Ali Babacan, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister with an MBA from Northwestern earned with a Fulbright scholarship, put it very well just before the June elections: “Public trust in the justice system is in steady decline.”

In January of last year, the Turkish police stopped and searched three trucks in southern Turkey traveling towards the Syrian border. The trucks were accompanied by officers from Turkey’s military intelligence. They contained missiles, rockets, mortars, ammunition in crates with Russian Cyrillic markings. Bizarre! But perhaps not for the world of international espionage. What was truly bizarre was the subsequent purging of the police which had stopped the trucks. Those police and four prosecutors were even charged with espionage. The widespread belief was that the arms were intended for IS of all parties. Not so strange since the NYT just before the June election reported that tens of thousands of kilograms of ammonium nitrate fertilizer used for explosives were being transported from Turkey into IS-controlled sections of Syria.

Education

The purges in the criminal justice system and the attacks against the media documented yesterday were complemented by attacks against the universities, especially universities close to the Gülen community, such as ĺpek University in Ankara. University assets have been seized by amending regulations governing the Higher Education Board (YOK). On 2 November, a pro-government journalist listed, as next in line for seizure, Fatih, ĺpek, Zirve, Süleyman Sah, Mevlânâ, Turgut Özal and Istanbul Şehir universities as well as other media outlets – the Zaman daily, Samanyolu TV and Samanyolu Haber TV. YOK was evidently being empowered to close down and seize the assets of any private university if and when the university becomes “the focal point of acts against the state.”

Part of the reason for these seizures, and for the introduction of Arabic language training in Turkish schools from Grade 2 onward announced immediately after the AKP won the 1 November elections, has been the need to supply employment for the increasing numbers of graduates from Islamic universities, virtually the only graduates equipped to teach Arabic other than Syrian refugees. There was also an ideological issue of religion versus secularism in the public realm. Kemel Atatürk, the founder of modern secular Turkey had introduced the Latin alphabet 87 years earlier to the date of the 1 November election, and that change was made part of the Turkish constitution in Article 174.

Minorities and Rights

One of the positive outcomes for education, property as well as minority rights was the final success, after decades, of the Armenian community in Turkey getting back control and ownership of its children’s camp, Camp Armen. The Armenian Evangelical Church of Gedikpaşa was assigned the deed after an interminable court case. Whether this was simply a gesture for Westerners, and particularly Americans, to sell the image of the AKP as a party of tolerance and a protector of rights or not, it was a good first step. The real test will be whether all the other properties seized from Armenians will be returned or whether this restitution was merely a publicity stunt.

However, though non-Muslim minorities have realized this benefit, other Muslim groups have certainly not. The other major group under attack, besides the Gülenists, have been the Kurds. Not just members of the PKK. According to Ferhat Encű, a Kurdish MP for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), after the AKP victory, members of the Turkish gendarmerie went on the warpath against Kurds. “Many people throughout Kurdistan have been arrested wholesale lately. Some of them participated in the election campaigns for our party.” He claimed that the police “started the violence and conflicts… they murdered civilians knowingly and intentionally.” Seyfettin Aydemir, the co-mayor of Silopi, accused the police of firing on ambulances that raced to help the wounded. Young men were gunned down by Turkish snipers. Kurdish towns, such as Cizre, have even been bombed from the air.

The HDP may have made a strategic error in the five months leading up to the 1 November elections by supporting the young Kurds who put up barricades against the police, but those activities in no way justified the systematic military attacks against Kurdish areas in south-eastern Turkey and the widespread abuse of human rights. For many, the unending curfews, arrests of politicians, attacks, torture and murder by Turkish security forces seemed to be an effort to intimidate voters who supported the HDP and signal the instability to follow if the AKP was not returned to power with a majority. After the military attack on Cizre, the 21 dead were all civilians; none were members of the PKK. This number does not include the large numbers who were arrested and tortured. Yet in Cizre, which in June had cast 97% of its votes for the HDP, the government decided for the 1 November elections, out of ostensibly safety concerns, that there would be no ballot boxes provided in the Nur, Cudi and Sur quarters of Cizre district in the province of Şırnak. 65% of Cizre’s Kurdish population lived in those quarters.

Domestic Terrorism

There are three sources of terror in Turkey: the PKK, IS and, the most dangerous and extensive, the state security apparatus. The biggest attack within Turkey, was the bombing of the largely Kurdish-led protest for peace in Ankara on 13 October. It was the largest terrorist attack in the history of the Turkish republic, Turkey’s 9/11. IS was blamed together with the PKK. But the PKK and IS are sworn enemies. Further, why would the PKK attack a mainly Kurdish rally? Why even would IS? And if the latter did, why did it not behave according to its own norms and broadcast its responsibility for the attack? Why, again, were security forces so absent from the demonstration? Why were ambulances impeded from aiding the wounded? Why had Turkey not classified IS as a terrorist organization until the courts ordered it to do so on 15 July?

What does seem clear, and as I tried to document yesterday, is that the huge victory of the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) was in good part a result of the resumption of the war on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its alleged threat of terrorism. The AKP won both Kurdish votes and votes from the more right-wing nationalist MHP.

Corruption

In February of last year, one of the most respected international organizations dealing with corruption wrote an important report on Turkey. The Transparency International report indicated that the real catalyst for tackling widespread corruption in Turkey had been the effort of Turkey, beginning in 1999, to acquire full membership in the EU. The Report noted that efforts, both on human rights and in fighting corruption, had improved from the base line. Nevertheless, “the country faces high levels of corruption,” a situation that continues in spite of the adoption of an anti-corruption action plan in 2010 and a series of commitments in June 2012 to cover incrimination and presidential candidate funding. As the Report stated, “the country continues to be confronted with challenges of rampant corruption and existing anti-corruption measures are still in question.” Turkey lacks an overall strategy, coordination in the campaign and a system of transparency and accountability in the political system. Immunity regulations continue to protect high-ranking officials.

Moreover, corruption reaches the highest levels. At the end of 2013, the anti-corruption wolves were at the doors of the Presidential Palace. Erdoğan responded swiftly and decisively, not only by circling the wagons of his supporters, but by launching a counter-attack against his pursuers. 14 high-ranking officials were immediately purged. The judiciary, police forces and prosecutors offices were swept clean of critics and accusers of the government. Thus was the major motive in the general attack against the Gülenists.

One might think that Erdoğan had his hands full with IS now on domestic soil, with his domestic war against the PKK, with the stalled economy, with his efforts to promote Islam in the secular school system, with the increasing revelation of himself at the centre of a large-scale corruption operation, with his rivalry with the Gülenists and with his war against the critical media, that he would avoid any adventurism in foreign policy. In reality, all the domestic problems were interrelated and the distractions of foreign policy were important in diverting attention away from his domestic troubles as we shall see in the next blog.