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

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Fuck God!

Fuck God!

by

Howard Adelman

Wow! Neither the crusading atheists, Richard Dawkins nor Christopher Hitchens, wrote that. Hitchens did say to religious believers, “Fuck you” and Fuck off,” but never wrote or verbalized “Fuck God” to the best of my knowledge. That is because he was more interested in writing about his disbelief in God than indicating any relationship to God. For someone who blasphemes God suggests an irritation or anger with God, Otherwise, why say it? Irritation or anger with someone is not denial or banishment to an unspoken world. I wanted the reader to have at least a sliver of understanding about the powerful effect of blaspheming God.

Nevertheless, the expression in the title remains ambiguous. Not in its meaning! It is unequivocally a blasphemous statement. But it is ambiguous in the sense that the reader does not know whether I am asserting what the phrase says or whether I am writing down the phrase as an object for dissection. I could have put the expression in quotation marks, but that would not have helped much. Because I could be quoting myself. Further, I would have lost some of the impact. I want readers to grasp what blasphemy is directly since we are far removed from a world and a time when blasphemy was not merely shocking, but a reason to stone me to death for making such an utterance. If I may cite an eminent authority, Prince Charles declared that we had lost the sense of the sacred in our public life. We no longer recognize that cursing God should arouse revulsion, rage and revenge. When religious identity is at the core of who you are, then cursing God is akin to calling someone a dirty Jew.

Last evening, I saw an excellent Israeli Bedouin film called Sand Storm. At one point in the movie, a first wife not only disobeys her husband, but talks back to him and goes further and even insults him. She is not stoned. But she is “banished” from her husband’s compound and, in disgrace, sent back to the home of her parents and separated from her four daughters. We would not only regard the punishment as unacceptable, but as cruel and unjust. On the other hand, in the rabbinic tradition, capital punishment for blasphemy was avoided by resorting to the lesser penalty of banishment for limited periods, say seven days, though in the most liberal of states, the Netherlands, Baruch Spinoza was excommunicated in the middle of the seventeenth century for life for his pantheistic interpretation of God. (The condemnation has never been reversed.)

On my birthday two years ago on 7 January 2015, the newsroom massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo took place in Paris. The instigation for the attack was alleged blaspheme – and not even of God, but of one of his most important prophets – Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo spent years mocking believers and institutions like the Roman Catholic Church. Its cartoons were trenchant and telling, for the target was the marriage of belief and power and the elevation of some subjects to the sacred. The Catholic Church sued Charlie Hebdo 14 times, each unsuccessfully. The constant object of attack was the hidden and not so hidden racism in French society that hides behind white robes and the so-called civility of society.

This was precisely the subject of debate when two brothers, Said and Chérif Kouachi, with Kalashnikovs and a grenade launcher stormed the offices of the magazine shouting, “Allah Akbar,” God is great! as they fired indiscriminately and insisted that, “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.” (On the same day, in addition to the journalists, a policeman as well as members of the Jewish community were murdered at other locations.) For Al Qaeda had vowed revenge when Charlie Hebdo first printed the portrait of the prophet on its front cover and then republished the infamous Danish caricature mocking Islamic fanaticism nine years after the cartoon first appeared. In defence of Al Qaeda, does not the Hebrew Torah also condemn cursing Abraham as well as God? (Exodus 22:27)

Canadian law (Criminal Code Section 296) still prohibits blasphemy, a critical issue for many now that Bill M-103 has passed condemning Islamophobia. Blasphemy is the act of showing contempt or failing to display reverence and respect for religious symbols or persons. Though the penalty is not execution or stoning, you can get up to two years in prison.

  1. (1) Everyone who publishes a blasphemous libel is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years

(2) It is a question of fact whether or not any matter that is published is a blasphemous libel.

(3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section for expressing in good faith and in decent language, or attempting to establish by argument used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, an opinion on a religious subject.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in contrast, in 1952 in the case of Joseph Burstyn v. Wilson ruled that “it is not the business of government in our nation to suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular religious doctrine, whether they appear in publications, speeches or motion pictures.” Under the blasphemy laws until Cromwell intervened, a Sephardic Jew and physician, Jacob Lumbrozo, whose family had once fled the inquisition, was charged in Maryland, a Catholic colony, in 1658 with blasphemy under the ironically named Toleration Act of 1649 that adumbrated the language of the laws of George Orwell’s 1984.

The fight was over freedom of expression. For in our contemporary Western secular civil religion, freedom to say what you want is far more sacred than any reverence for divinity. But not everywhere. Specifically, not in the Middle East. Fanatics were causing mayhem and murder in their war against the new secular civic religion. In defence of the latter, some journalists were willing to risk and even sacrifice their lives. And sacrifice they did. All for insisting that laughter had to be protected in the face of assaults on it in the name of something else regarded as sacred. Charlie Hebdo was not against, was not opposed, to those who would elevate God or Jesus or Muhammad to sacred status. It did fight against those who would deny its right to have its own set of sacred values. Charlie Hebdo was not Islamophobic. Charlie Hebdo was philofreedom.

On the other hand, would Charlie Hebdo defend the right of Islamicists not only to openly advocate suppressing blasphemous speech, but to urge a community to stone or kill by other means anyone who engages in blasphemy? Would Charlie Hebdo not insist on some boundaries to free speech as a central core value, i.e., when free speech is used to advocate attacks on free speech and the murder of its defenders? When or if caveats are used to limit free speech in the name of free speech, especially if the defender of this position is an anarchist and/or pacifist like many of the journalists writing for Charlie Hebdo, is this not hypocrisy? Whatever one’s position, it does make clearer the strong motivation behind laws against blasphemy.

Whatever criticisms I have had of the French secular civil religion of laicité and its own paranoid intolerance of hijabs, that religion does affirm the right to be blasphemous. (See Caroline Fourest (2015) Éloge du blaphsphème, In Praise of Blasphemy, Grasset.) The civic religion of North America does not, and no English edition was published even though the United States is far ahead of Canada on this subject. Further, the current compassionate Pope Francis in some sense defended the murderous response to blasphemy as “normal.”

And it once was. Blasphemous, irreverent or sacrilegious words about God are not only condemned, but acts not strictly in accord with God’s instructions for behaviour in the holy of holies are worthy of capital punishment as well. God killed the two eldest sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, for making such an error. Profaning God’s name was equivalent to profaning God’s home. Fanatical Islam simply expands the targets to anyone insulting the Prophet of Islam. One of the deep roots for the condemnation of blasphemy is to be found in this week’s portion of Leviticus. And not only in Leviticus. Exodus 22:27 reads:

אֱלֹהִים לֹא תְקַלֵּל וְנָשִׂיא בְעַמְּךָ לֹא תָאֹר. You shall not revile God, nor put a curse upon a chieftain among your people.

Insulting the head of state is also considered blasphemy.

The opening chapter of Parashat Emor (verse 6 of chapter 21) reads:

קְדֹשִׁים יִהְיוּ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶם וְלֹא יְחַלְּלוּ שֵׁם אֱלֹהֵיהֶם… They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God.

The injunction is repeated in 22:32. “Don’t profane my Holy NAME that I may be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel.”

The wording in Leviticus 25:14 sets out the penalty:

ויקרא כד:יד הוֹצֵא אֶת הַמְקַלֵּל אֶל מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה וְסָמְכוּ כָל הַשֹּׁמְעִים אֶת יְדֵיהֶם עַל רֹאשׁוֹ וְרָגְמוּ אֹתוֹ כָּל הָעֵדָה. Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands upon his head, and let the whole community stone him.

Leviticus 24:15 states:

ויקרא כד:טו …אִישׁ אִישׁ כִּי יְקַלֵּל אֱלֹהָיו וְנָשָׂא חֶטְאוֹ. כד:טז וְנֹקֵב שֵׁם יְ-הוָה מוֹת יוּמָת רָגוֹם יִרְגְּמוּ בוֹ כָּל הָעֵדָהכַּגֵּר כָּאֶזְרָח בְּנָקְבוֹ שֵׁם יוּמָת. Anyone who vilifies his God shall bear his guilt. And the one who invokes the name of YHWH shall surely die, all the assembly shall surely stone him; the ger and the citizen alike, he who invokes the name shall die.

The impression seems clear. Blasphemy is verboten and deserving of the harshest punishment. However, is that the lesson of the text? I suggest otherwise. The text offers one case study. (24:11) The son of an Israelite woman who married an Egyptian gets into a fight with an Israelite and says the equivalent of, “Fuck God!” Moses, upon God’s command, orders the community to remove that individual and stone him. Banishment alone was insufficient given the perceived enormity of the crime.

וַיִּקֹּב בֶּן הָאִשָּׁה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִית אֶת הַשֵּׁם וַיְקַלֵּל וַיָּבִיאוּ אֹתוֹ אֶל מֹשֶׁה וְשֵׁם אִמּוֹ שְׁלֹמִית בַּת דִּבְרִי לְמַטֵּה דָן. The son of the Israelite woman invoked the name, vilifying it, and he was brought to Moses. And the name of his mother was Shelomith, daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan.

But then why is the description of this event immediately followed by a universal injunction against taking another’s life? Is the passage and the general narrative really about an objection to blasphemy or is it an objection to a norm which justifies murder provoked even by blasphemy? For is not the implication of the initial tale of a fight between an Israelite and a child of a mixed marriage that the fight was about racism? This fight ran contrary to the injunction to welcome the stranger, to welcome the ger. And even within the laws of blasphemy, was not the ger to be treated equally with any Israelite? The key question is whether the incident illustrates how important and sacred are laws protecting the sacred so that those who defile God’s name are to be put to death. Or is the story told to carry the message that racism is wrong and that murder in the name of blasphemy is heinous?

We have two interpretations of the same narrative that are totally at odds. In one, a standard version, the text stresses the enormity of the crime of blasphemy and the consequent severe punishment for engaging in it. For blasphemy was an attack on the central core beliefs of the Israelites in their one and singular God. Reverence for God is absolutely necessary to preserve and strengthen the identity of the Israelites as holy, as God’s chosen people. Profaning the name of God detracts not only from the reverence for God, but turns the utterer away from being holy to being profane. (21:6) God, in turn, may, as a result of such treatment, turn his back on His chosen people and abandon them as unholy. Further, when the sacrilege of blasphemy takes place, it is necessary to unite the people in defence of God’s name.

In the other interpretation, the real issue is racism and the gross mistreatment of someone who curses God. What is the evidence for questioning the standard interpretation? A least, what are the puzzles that give rise to questioning the standard traditional account?

Note the following:

  • The boy (not man) who commits the “crime” of blasphemy is the child of a mixed marriage.
  • There is an implication that the altercation that gave rise to his cursing God was the use of a racial epithet against him.
  • Though the son is not named, the Israelite mother is, Shelomit (a peacenik (though Rashi calls her a strumpet), daughter of Dibri (from dever, destruction) of the tribe of Dan; there is also the suggestion that she was a single mother, possibly the mother of a son that was the result of rape by an Egyptian man in an inversion of the Moses story.
  • Professor Wendy Zierier has pointed out that the phrasing used is both unusual and follows the same formulation as the reference to the matriarch, Rebecca, “who is referred to as רִבְקָה בַּת־בְּתוּאֵל הָאֲרַמִּי מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם, “Rebecca, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean, from Paddan-Aram,” a formulation also used to depict the kings of Israel.
  • Why is the parent of a blaspheming son provided with such a lofty designation and what had her preachiness about peace and her heritage from a shit-disturber have to do with the meaning of the story?
  • There is the repeated stress that all children of God, not just Israelites, fall under the injunction not to profane God’s name.
  • Further, Israelites are specifically enjoined not to wrong the ger, the stranger who lives amongst them.
  • However, there is the suggestion that an Egyptian, unlike the stranger, is not to be treated equally because he introduced an “impurity” into the Israeli blood – if this sounds racist, that is the intention; after all, Leviticus insists that it is wrong to wear clothes made of mixed materials or to take one breed of cattle and “mix” it with another.
  • Further, the father of that son was an Egyptian, a ember of a people whose oppression the Israelis fled; the boy is not just of a mixed “race,” but his father was an enemy and not just a stranger living among the Israelites.
  • In the punishment, the boy is first banished from the camp and stoned outside it.

The answer to these puzzles, which I can only sketch, interprets the tale, not as a defence of blasphemy laws, not as a defence of racism, not as a defence of patrilineal descent, but as a stricture against such values. It is precisely because laws of blasphemy can be abused by those in power, as Queen Jezebel used them to punish and take away the vineyard for her husband, King Ahab. Donald Trump has demonstrated that he is made of the same deformed spirit who would punish those not absolutely loyal to and in service of his regime so that what he says is not hate speech, but what the critical media write.

The meaning of the tale is given by the ending – do not murder. Do not kill. Especially, do not kill in the name of protecting God’s name. If that is the case, why does God order Moses to tell the people to stone the boy? I suggest it is a parallel to God ordering Abraham to sacrifice his son. Only this time, God does not intervene and save Moses from such a heinous act. Moses carries it out and stains the future of Jewry and of all humankind just as he once, in rage against an Egyptian overseer’s injustice, killed that Egyptian. In the end, Moses never learned to overcome his rage and all humans had to be enjoined not to kill.

U.S. and International Background to Islamophobia in Canada

U.S. and International Background to Islamophobia in Canada

by

Howard Adelman

Three weeks ago, on 6 February 2017, Donald Trump issued a list of 78 terror attacks that had allegedly been under or not reported by the media. He left off that list numerous and almost daily terrorist attacks against Muslim targets. Not one terrorist attack in Israel was included. The attack against a mosque in a Quebec City suburb on 29 January 2017 by an Islamophobe was omitted. Most on the list – the Paris Bataclan attack, the Nice truck killings, the Pulse nightclub slaughter in Orlando, Florida, the mass shooting in San Bernardino, received massive worldwide coverage. When Sean Spicer was specifically asked for names of attacks that were not reported by “the very, very dishonest press,” he promised to provide a list later, insisting there were “several instances,” “a lot of instances,” but no list was ever produced.

Two weeks ago, on 16 February 2017, two particularly heinous and destructive terrorist attacks took place. In Baghdad, at a very popular used automobile market in the southwest corner of the city, a car packed with explosives blew up killing at least 45 and wounding hundreds of others. In Pakistan, in a relatively small city in Sindh Province, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the very famous Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and killed at least 88, including many women and children, and wounded many more. The victims were virtually all Muslims. The perpetrator in both cases was the Islamic State.

On that same day of these two attacks, Trump held his first sole, and spontaneous, one hour plus bizarre press conference as president. Rant is probably a more accurate description of what took place. Sometimes Islamophobia is best revealed by silences and omissions rather than overt hate speech. While Trump once again berated the “dishonest press,” in a discussion of terrorism, Trump failed to mention either the Iraq or the Pakistan attack. He offered no condolences to the victims’ families or the nations in which these large number of victims died at the hands of terrorists. Nor did he tweet about it later. For, in his view of terrorism, Islamicist terrorists only target Western – i.e. non-Islamic Judeo-Christian civilization – when, in fact, the vast majority of targets of these terrorist extremists are themselves followers of Islam.

Donald Trump had cited the Center for Security Policy to justify his migration ban in his 27 January Executive Order, the same centre that honoured Zuhdi Jasser, head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), as a “defender of the home front.” Jasser is a doctor of internal medicine and nuclear cardiology in Phoenix, Arizona and a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. navy. He served two years (2012 and 2013) on the Congressional U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is a strong advocate for the separation of mosque and state and opponent of both political and radical Islam. His focus has been radicalization in the Islamic community in America. He narrated a notorious PBS film Islam v Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center, which PBS banned from the air following pressure from Muslim organizations which widely interpreted the film as anti-Islamic, even though its focus is radicalization. Jasser is a poster boy for Trump’s contention that he is not anti-Islam.

Within the U.S., attacks from the far right far outnumber any Islamicist terrorism. One example occurred just two weeks ago. Adan Purinton, in the Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, after calling for the men he assaulted to return to their home country, shot and killed an Indian man, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and seriously wounded an American bystander, Ian Grillot, who tried to intervene. Alok Madasani, who also had been attacked, survived his wounds as well. The attack took place just prior to the sentencing of two Kansas men for an attack on three Somalis.

Nonie (originally Nahid) Darwish, an Egyptian-American human rights advocate, a former Muslim and convert to Christianity, founder of Arabs for Israel even though her father as an Egyptian military officer was a victim of a targeted killing by allegedly Israeli agents, has been another leading voice. She is president of AIFD, wrote several books:  Now They Call Me Infidel; Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel and the War on Terror and Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law. She has led the effort to broaden what has been dubbed the U.S. Islamophobia network and called for the defeat and annihilation of Islam. Mosques, she declared, are the sources for initiating the war against America. In such cases, how do you separate the right to free speech and the right to be critical of Islam from Islamophobia?

This trope of Islam and not just Islamism as a clear and present danger is complemented by a depiction of Islamic countries and Muslims as hypocrites. Muslims, critics contend, argue for freedom when they are a minority but repress the freedom to practice Christianity when Muslims are the majority. Muslim countries love and admire non-Muslims who champion freedom for Muslims in non-Muslim countries, but either actively or by turning a blind eye discriminate against non-Muslims in their own countries. Muslim countries condemn discrimination against Muslims while they perpetuate not just discrimination but oppression of minorities.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Numan Kurtulmuș, insisted that, “rising Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-immigrant feelings” lay behind Trump’s travel ban against seven countries. Yasin Aktay, the chair of Turkey’s ruling party called the ban “racist” and a violation of human rights. Both ignored the rising tide of persecution of individual Christians and Christian institutions, particularly Protestant ones within Turkey. (See the report of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey which documents the increasing persecution of Christians in 2015 in its Human Rights Violations Report.) Over 100 Evangelical Christian pastors have been expelled from Turkey.

Christians have been cleansed in huge numbers from the Middle East where those communities have existed for two thousand years. Saudi Arabia has a travel ban limiting where non-Muslims can travel in the country. The public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited.

Islamophobia is not simply the disagreement with or dislike of Islam as a religion, though that is specified in the dictionary, but prejudice against that religion and its adherents that is expressed in the public arena in a myriad of negative ways. It includes an irrational fear of Islam. Donald Trump does not explicitly and unequivocally express his Islamophobia in this way, but in his actions and his policies, he certainly acts as the “new sheriff in town” with the objective of cleaning up the hombres that has been interpreted as signalling to Muslims that they are unwelcome. Trump associates with groups who would not only ban hijab-wearing women from working in any government position, but would insist that all Muslim government employees sign a loyalty document that they reject Sharia law. For them, Sharia is not a set of legal texts and religious practices subject to interpretation, but the foundational code for converting America to the Muslim faith.

Stephen K. Bannon, perhaps his closest political adviser and the former executive chairman of Breitbart, described Muslim American groups as “cultural jihadists.” He contended that their intention is to destroy American society from within. He wrote a documentary film script ten years ago with this theme; it was called Destroying the Great Satan.

This depiction of Islam as an insidious agency assaulting the American way of life is a sentiment echoed by organizations such as ACT for America which argues that the “jihadists wearing suits” are more insidious and dangerous than radical Islamicists. The organization, with 17 full time staff and a half million members, depicts Islam has having a mission of Islamicizing America. ACT claims that the Council on American-Islamic Affairs (CAIA) is “working to infiltrate the U.S. government and destroy American society from within,” a domestic extension of a very active and determined international conspiracy. (See Trevor Loudon’s documentary, Enemies Within.) ACT volunteers train local communities on how to object to mosques being built in their neighbourhoods and to push for banning existing ones unless they denounce Sharia.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was fired after only a few weeks as Donald Trump’s security adviser, sits on ACT’s board of directors. When he was fired, ACT dubbed it the work of “rogue weasels” and “shadow warriors” within the depths of the government. ACT vigorously campaigned to defend Trump’s executive order banning entry to individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries. One cannot hear Donald Trump’s slogan, “America First” but recall, if you have ever looked at it, ACTs website that claims, “we are the greatest nation on earth” and “if you are an American you must be an American first.” ACT, of course, ardently supported Trump’s ban against travelers from seven Muslim majority countries, but also opposed the resettlement of any Muslim refugees in the U.S.

ACT labels supporters of the resettlement of Syrian refugees into the U.S. as fanatics. The concept of “Islamophobia” is “fake news” and part of the international conspiracy’s propaganda campaign that uses liberals as fronts. The push for combating Islamophobia by these apologists for Islam is but a front for the perpetrators of evil against which good Christians in the name of the good must fight back.

In Europe, political parties have built their central base in the fight against Muslims. On 15 March, there will be parliamentary elections in The Netherlands. In Holland, 6% of the population is Muslim – mainly Turks and Moroccans. Geert Wilders’s populist Freedom Party (PVV) has made migration and Islamisation the core of his campaign. The PVV is expected to increase its number of seats from 10% to at least 20% and is currently the frontrunner among the many competing Dutch political parties, though it will not likely be included in any coalition. Wilders denounced the number of Moroccans in the country, whom he has referred to as “scum,” and has been convicted by Dutch courts of inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans. Wilders vowed to appeal and denounced the court’s decision as suppressing free speech. Wilders has stated that Islam is potentially more dangerous than Nazism, especially since the Koran includes more anti-Semitic hatred than Mein Kampf.  Wilders supports closing all mosques and Islamic schools and banning the sale of the Koran (Qur’an).  Recall that two far right Dutch activists have been assassinated in recent years – Pim Fortuyn and then filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim radical, Mohammed Bouyeri.

In recent local elections in Germany, the far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), captured almost 14% of the vote in recent local elections. Stories of a mob of Arab men rampaging through the streets of Frankfurt and assaulting women were widely reported worldwide, but the stories turned out to be “fake news.” Local police subsequently determined that the stories were “baseless.” But the story spread like wildfire because an old refrain of the “foreign sexual offender” is a deep part of German as well as Dutch culture.

“False news” is pervasive in Europe, some originating in the U.S. Breitbart news reported that a mob of 1,000 chanting “Allahu Akhbar,” this past New Year’s Eve, had attacked police in Dortmund and set fire to what Breitbart reported was the oldest church. It never happened. Further, St. Reinold is not Europe’s oldest church; the Cathedral of Trier is and this was where fireworks from a celebrating crowd accidentally set off a small roof fire. Racism is once again on the rise in Germany with a multitude of assaults by neo-Nazis against foreigners who looked Arabic – a passenger getting out of a taxi and an attack against a biracial boy in the safe Berlin suburb of Prenzlauer Berg by four neo-Nazis. These take place in spite of strong laws and vigorous enforcement by the German state against neo-Nazis and the racism they espouse. That racism runs contrary to the born-again sense of tolerance now pervasive among Germans which allowed Angela Merkel to admit over a million Middle East refugees into Germany.

Marine Le Pen in France is a strong competitor to Wilders’s Islamophobic messages. For Le Pen, France must choose between being French and continuing its self-destructive trip as a multiculturalist country. Since the infamous Paris and Nice radical jihadist attacks, the fear of Islam and migrants as central mainstays of her National Front party have become more mainstream. Like Trump’s supporters, like Wilders, Le Pen insists that France is threatened both from within and from without by Islam and not just radical Islam. Trump’s ban barring migrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries was applauded, but did not go far enough since the ban was only temporary for only six Muslim countries; the ban should have been applied much wider.

Islamicism is bred among Muslim immigrants as well as brought to France from the outside. And its source is Islam itself, though Le Pen, like Trump, initially adopted a far more limited focus on “foreigners who preach hatred” and advocated stripping Islamicists, not Muslims, of their citizenship.

Canada has established itself as an exception to a more general tide of rising Islamophobia, but is not immune from the virus.

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

Terror in America: Obama and Trump

Terror in America: Obama and Trump

by

Howard Adelman

I wrote this blog – or most of it – two days ago. But I didn’t, I couldn’t send it out. I did not like my conclusions. More importantly, the argument and evidence offered were only sketched rather than fully developed and properly supported. But, after all, this is only a blog and not an academic paper. So I invite readers to tell me I am wrong, to show me where I am wrong.

Clearly and unequivocally, Barack Obama’s greatest failure as president was in creating conditions which allowed Donald Trump to succeed him. Or is this assertion not so clear and unequivocal? Was Donald Trump elected through a confluence of external factors that had nothing to do with Obama – the FBI Director intervening in the election eleven days before most ballots would be cast with information that the FBI was investigating an additional trove of material that might (it never did) throw further light on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address and unprotected server. Russian hacking into the Democratic Party communications and releasing the information to Wikileaks may have done the critical damage. After all, Trump won Wisconsin by only 22,000 votes, Michigan by only 10,700 votes of 4.8 million cast, .002%, two-tenths of one percentage point, of the ballots cast in that state. Trump won Pennsylvania by 49,000 votes out of 6 million, .008 or 8/10ths of one percentage point. Poor Democratic party organization in those competitive states may have cost the election. Bur perhaps the loss also occurred because Obama had forged a role for himself right from the beginning as a president above the fray. Though he tried at the end, he clearly had difficulty in parting from his self-created image to pin the tail on the donkey. Perhaps this was because he was still blindfolded.

Look again at Obama’s farewell speech. What were the threats he pointed to as dangers to America? “A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the specter of terrorism — these forces haven’t just tested our security and our prosperity, but are testing our democracy, as well.” But how does a shrinking world or demographic change threaten democracy? And why are they put on the same level as growing inequality and terrorism? And to what extent was terror a real threat? Further, if, under Obama, the trend to increased inequality had been reversed, why not point to that rather than “growing inequality?” “Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So, just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.” Rather abstract and indirect if Obama was referring to Trump as a fear-monger indifferent to core values Americans hold dear.

But look when he pivoted to specific types of examples in the next paragraph – put the fight against terrorism on a “firmer legal footing,” end torture, close Gitmo, reform laws governing surveillance, and protect privacy and civil liberties.  These are all pretty remote from the concerns of most citizens. Does anyone believe that even one of these issues, let alone all five, mattered to a single one of Trump’s supporters? If Trump voters were afraid, it could possibly be from terrorists, but I will try to show that it was not and could not be. Nor was it a failure in due process or protecting terrorists from being tortured. Trump supporters could not care one whit about Gitmo, except perhaps what it costs to keep the few imprisoned there, if they only knew the actual costs. (In 2015, it was $445 million for the 41 prisoners still there, almost $11 million per prisoner.) In the election, they seemed more interested in their own fellow citizens being careless with information under their control than others looking at that information, including either their own government or a rival foreign power.

This is written with no criticisms of whether the goals Obama named are laudable. They clearly are for any small “l” liberal. But the implication of the remark is that Trump supporters were allowing their heroic leader to stir up fears that then trumped their concerns for individual liberty, freedom and respect for law. However, they were not primarily concerned with individual liberty, freedom and respect for law. And rather than terrorism being a major threat, it was not and was not even perceived to be a major threat. If it were, they could pay far more attention to home-grown terrorists, and, as we shall see, they were fully justified in largely ignoring that magnified threat.

Much more importantly and justifiably, they would be concerned with the scourge of gun violence that killed far more Americans than all the foreign wars in which America has been involved over the past eight years. From 2001 to 2014, over 440,000 people died from domestic gun violence in the U.S.A., almost 34,000 on average per year. In contrast, in the Afghanistan War, America lost 2,734 military personnel between 2008 and 2016, about 342 per year, or about 1% of those who died from gun violence in the U.S. In the Iraq War, there were only 591 deaths in those same 8 years, for Obama began withdrawing most American troops from there shortly after he took office. The death toll averaged 74 per year, or two-tenths of one percent who died from guns on American soil. In both operations, the death total has fallen dramatically during Obama’s second term.

I received the following feedback from my initial draft from a regular reader. “Again, those Americans for whom owning a weapon is sacrosanct do not look at deaths resulting from gun violence in an abstract way.  If they are the ones shooting the bastard who dared to look at them the wrong way, then that is justice served, their way: the customary method of settling disputes.  This is fierce individualism, protective macho gesture taking things in your own hand.  You do not need no namby-pamby principles, just a secure hand and a functioning gun.  They do not advocate for the right to bear firearms as a principle, but as a licence to take care of business, without the interference of government authority.  Of course, sometimes they are the ones who get shot: then all hell breaks loose: individual particular self-interest, not universal principles guide the actions.”

I will come back to the figures above in a blog on foreign terrorism, but note who died. In 2015-2016, three Americans died assisting Iraqi domestic military forces in the fight against ISIL terrorism – 31-year-old Navy Seal Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Keating, 27-year-old Marine Staff Sergeant Louis Cardin on his fourth deployment overseas, and 39-year-old Army Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, who left four children fatherless; he was also on his fourth deployment and had earned 11 bronze stars. The cost in the lives of American military personnel overseas fighting terrorism has been relatively very small, but the sense of who they were has been very large.

In this blog, I will focus on the alleged threat of terrorism within the United States to democracy. Examine the list of major violent attacks within the United States when Obama was president:

  1. Binghamton, New York, 3 April 2009 on an immigration centre; 14 killed, 4 injured
  2. Fort Hood, Texas, 5 November 2009; attack on the Soldier Readiness Center there; thirteen were killed and 44 injured
  3. Tucson, Arizona, 8 January 2011. At a supermarket political meeting, Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others were severely injured and U.S. District Judge John Roll as well as five others were killed
  4. Aurora, Colorado, 20 July 2012; 12 killed and 58 injured in shooting attack at a movie theatre
  5. Newtown, Connecticut, 14 December 2012; elementary school shooting attack
  6. Boston Marathon, 15 April 2013; 3 killed and 264 injured by two bombs, and later, 1 police officer killed and 1 injured in the capture of the bomber
  7. Washington, D.C., 16 September 2013; at the Navy Yard – 13 killed & 3 injured
  8. Fort Hood again, 2 April 2014; 3 killed and 16 injured
  9. Las Vegas, Nevada 8 June 2014; 2 police and 1 civilian killed in shoot-out
  10. Chattanooga, Tennessee, 16 July 2015; 4 marines, 1 sailor, 1 policeman killed
  11. Roseburg, Oregon Community College, 1 October 2015; 9 killed & 9 injured
  12. San Bernardino, California, 2 December 2015; 14 killed and 21 injured
  13. Orlando, Florida, 12 June 2016; nightclub killing of 50 and 53 wounded
  14. Dallas, Texas, 7 July 2016; 5 police killed & 8 injured by a sniper
  15. Baton, Rouge, Louisiana, 17 July 2016; 3 police killed and 3 injured
  16. Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 8 January 2017; 5 killed, 6 injured.

These sixteen were major attacks classified as criminal, terrorist-Islamic, terrorist-right, or terrorist-left; 5 of the 16 fell into the classification, terrorist-Islam. But a closer examination of each of those cases raises serious doubts about the classification for at least one and probably three of them. In the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas attack on the Soldier Readiness Center, the perpetrator was Nidal Malik Hasan, a military psychiatrist identified over the previous decade as having serious psychological problems. In the last few years, he identified as a religious Muslim, but there was no connection ever discovered with radical Islamicist terrorism. Any reasonably objective analysis would conclude that this was a case of a criminal act by a deranged perpetrator who rationalized his action in terms of Islam, extremist Islam.

In contrast, the Boston marathon attack in April 2013 was a clear case of Islamic terrorism, though not carried out with any direct links to terrorist organizations, Islamic or otherwise. Dzhokha Tsarnaev was 9-years-old and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was 16-years-old when they immigrated from Eastern Europe to the U.S. They became self-radicalized Islamicist terrorists. In another case, that of the 2015 Chattanooga Tennessee attack and killing of military personnel, Muhammed Youssef Abdulaziz was born in Kuwait and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 6. His father was a Palestinian radical of the Hamas variety. Yet he too could be classified as a home-grown Islamicist terrorist without any known links to extremist groups abroad or domestically.

In the Chattanooga attack on military personnel in 2015, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez had substance abuse (sleeping pills, opioids, and painkillers) and alcohol problems. He was also suffering from depression and under his parent’s health insurance plan, was ineligible for treatment in a rehabilitation centre. He may also have been suffering from bipolar disorder. This was another case of an act of violence that took place under the banner of Islamicist terrorism that would be better classified as a criminal case of murder resulting from a deranged person.

The second deadliest attack during Barack Obama’s term took place in San Bernardino in 2015. Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple, were the perpetrators. This was also a case of home-grown, self-radicalized Islamicist extremist terrorism, though inspired by foreign Islamicist terrorism, more specifically, ISIL which claimed them as “soldiers of the caliphate.”

The deadliest attack took place in Orlando, Florida on 12 June 2016. The devastation in that nightclub killing in which 49 were killed and another 53 injured, was caused by 29-year-old Omar Mateen. He was clearly a disturbed individual. He failed to become a state trooper and a prison guard and was working as a security guard. The psychologist who signed his papers permitting him to own a gun had never interviewed him directly and was fined for this lapse. Though his action, in his own words, was instigated by American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, his history included a record of a number of threats to kill people that had nothing to do with religion.

In sum, only 2 of the 5 alleged Islamicist terror attacks and 2 of 16 terror attacks in general within the United States could be clearly and unequivocally classified as Islamicist terror actions. The three other cases were carried out by Muslims who claimed to be inspired by Islamic extremism, but were almost certainly cases more of mental derangement rather than religious ideology.

What are we to make of this analysis – that domestic Islamicist terror is not a real threat? Not at all. After all, none of the citations above refer to the number of alleged planned Islamicist terror attacks that were disrupted and prevented by the police and intelligence services or to those attacks in which there were only 1 or 2 casualties. However, even if account were taken of all those, the threat of domestic Islamic terror is not a significantly large problem. After all, two of the sixteen terror attacks were perpetrated allegedly by left wing terrorists and two by right wing terrorists, as many as the clearly and unequivocal Islamicist variety.

Domestic terror is not a serious threat within the United States. It does not compare in quantity to criminal terrorist incidents usually committed by people with serious psychological problems and certainly not anywhere comparable to the unique situation in America of thousands killed per year by gun violence having nothing to do with terrorism. Investing money in mental health facilities or monitoring of individuals buying guns would give far better safety and security results that the huge amounts invested in combating domestic Islamicist terrorism.

In any case, Donald Trump did not appeal to the fears of terrorism of his supporters, but to their hatred of terrorism and the religion that they felt deep-down endorsed or otherwise abetted that terrorism. Trump explicitly and repeatedly promised to “eradicate Islamic terrorism completely from the face of the earth.” Not Islamicist terrorism but Islamic terrorism! This is not an appeal to fear, but rather an appeal to the genocidal instincts we all harbour and, with the help of laws and institutions hopefully quell – to define a group as Other, as wholly other, as a threat, as a mortal threat, as a threat that the only way it can be dealt with is by extermination.

When Barack Obama reiterated that he was a liberal leader who defended liberal values, this only indicated how out of touch he was, how unsupportive the evidence was, of his position and the real danger. Packaging the threat in the language of threats to individual liberty is but a confession of the powerful forces of ultra blood and soil ethnic and religious nationalism, of demagogic populism, of a stress on strength and order rather than law and order. It is not as if Barack Obama does not know, did not know this, but that he was too circumspect in naming it and, in effect, talked beside the point. Barack Obama was perhaps not only personally guilty of mis-diagnosing the real problem in the hearts and minds of those in the street, but shared in the innocence and ignorance of those around the world who fought for liberal values in the Arab Spring, or marched in Iran, Turkey and Russia against militant dictatorships, and the women and men who filled the Washington Mall and streets around the world calling out for the protection of liberal values.

This is a war, a war being fought around the world, a war between liberalism and anti-liberalism. And the proponents of anti-liberalism are not afraid, are no longer intimidated, from defining themselves as non-liberal, as at war with liberalism and, therefore, at war with any other nation or religion that challenges their own sense of self-superiority. (Same reader commenting: “It is not so much that they are anti-liberal, but that they do not see any benefit from having liberal leaders, if they have no jobs. The liberals talk big, but the lives of the rustbelt denizens ain’t getting no better from that.  Screw the principles and the slogans and give bread. And I do not think these people truly believe they are superior: they are painfully aware of their disenfranchised status amidst the grand speeches about equality.  This much they understand: slogans do not feed hungry mouths.  And anyhow, anyone who acts superior is in fact troubled by a whole lot of inferiority complexes.  The aggression is just a protective mask.”) But until the stage of inter-nation war is reached, it is liberal values that must be struck down. Asserting that these fears are being stirred up and defending liberal values against that threat just misses the point totally. And if the women and men marching in Washington, marching in Los Angeles, marching in Toronto and marching in sixty or six hundred other cities around the world do not recognize their real enemy, then those liberals will be swept into the dustbin of history along with the defenders of a new liberal order in the Arab world, in Turkey, in Russia and in Iran.

The real threat is far, far greater than a threat to women’s rights and civil rights. The point is not to guard the values that make us who we are, but to go to war against the values who would make us something other than who we should aspire to be. An aggressive, not a defensive war was and is called for. And Obama still did not recognize this fact, or openly articulate it, when he left office. Defensive Maginot lines are one way to do battle, but such lines can always be breached by surprise and a blitzkrieg. The issue is not withdrawing from expanding democracy, defending human, women’s and LGBT rights, but fighting an aggressive war against ALL those who threaten the rights we already have won, terrorists of the left, right or Islamicist variety among them, but far more the citizens of America who do not fundamentally believe in democracy, do not fundamentally believe in rights, who believe in nation, who believe in strength and order rather than law and order, who believe a demogogic leader who will take them to the promised land where they supposedly once dwelt.

The fight against “extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism” may indeed be of a “piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalism,” but if you focus your guns and your ammunition primarily on those who would assault human liberties, then the main threat is given a wide-open birth. Trump does not just represent an alternative policy option in a pluralistic system of competing positions. Trump represents the enemy that sometimes comes in the guise of Islamicist terror, but far more dangerously under the banner of free speech and democratic liberties. This is the real fifth column. This is the real danger from within. And if we are too timid to brand that threat, to name it, to diagnose it and simply rise on our pillars of righteousness to defend civil liberties, we will have surrendered the field of battle to the enemy. And make no mistake – these are enemies. Aggressive war, not a defence of old standards, is required.

Barack Obama’s failure in this area is our failure. He articulates that failure best in his eloquent and inspiring words. They appeal to his allies because we share those same values and have become timid in warring on their behalf, if for the simple reason that wars so-called in defence of those values have been fought for quite different reasons inspired by radically different motives.

Obama was no Eisenhower leading the fight for democracy. Obama was not even a Harry S. Truman capable of firing General Douglas MacArthur. We needed a tough street fighter (and former haberdasher) more than a community organizer to do battle with the real enemy within that has now taken over the White House.

With the help of Alex Zisman

One reader wrote the following:

The media is simply not trustworthy. Most read no newspapers in America. If they did use media and relied on CNN, conservatives called them the Clinton News Network. Their bias was and still is outrageous. No problem for the conservatives. FOX feeds their own bias and outrates CNN three to one. Radio is a non-existent news source. CBC here was and still is horrendously over-the-top anti-Trump. Only one Canadian pundit of note, Conrad Black, had the timbre to go against the tide. Need I remind you of the so-called pollster blunders? It was the liberal media that created these misleading reports. Did they do it deliberately? How did they get it so wrong?… Many Americans see daily carnage in Syria and watch the horror of beheadings and mass suicide bombing and wonder when it will take place in their already troubled existence. Their own USA local news deals with the 15 minutes of overnight deaths by violence of their fellow citizens. Howard, in case you missed it, so does CBC News! Their lead morning reports deal with overnight deaths by stabbing and guns, every day! Our youth wonder if the music rave events they attend will see nightclub slaughters like those of France and Florida. You, like Obama now wish to downplay the fact that radical Islam is even a problem and rationalize such efforts by telling us more people die from domestic gun violence than from terrorism. That is simply two wrongs and no rights.

Secure America

Secure America

by

Howard Adelman

This morning I received the following email:

Secure America

by

Howard Adelman

Howard —

Today is Election Day! This is a critical election and we need every single American to do their part.

Hillary Clinton is a danger to Americans. Go to the polls today and stop Clinton from implementing her dangerous policies by voting against her. Hillary plans to increase the number of unscreened refugees in the U.S. by at least 550%, directly endangering our communities. Through her role in the murder of Americans in Benghazi and her support of Obama’s disastrous Iran nuclear deal, she has demonstrated her terrible judgement over and over again.
Point blank, we cannot let Hillary Clinton become the President of the United States.

America is at a crossroads and this election will have huge ramifications upon our national security. With so much at stake for the future of our nation, you simply cannot afford to stay home. Your vote will help to restore our national security and protect Americans across the country.

Do you know where to vote today? Click here to find your polling location: http://vote.secureamericanow.org/

Get out and vote today!
Thank you for your loyal support,
Secure America Now

Quite aside from the fact that the organization did not know that I am not an American and am not eligible to vote in an American election, and setting aside the vilification of Hillary Clinton, this short email makes a number of simple factual errors. The organization is accurate in several respects – today is election day in America. It is accurate also in asserting that “America is at a crossroads.” Sometimes, making such an assertion is merely rhetoric, but I believe it is demonstrably true today.

The email stresses the two core themes raising fears among Americans:
1. The fear of terrorism and of Syrian refugees;
2. The Iran nuclear deal is a direct threat to the U.S.

Secure America asserts, “National security is the most important issue this cycle. Hillary Clinton endangers the security of Americans with her support of the Iran nuclear deal and admitting Syrian refugees.”

On Syrian Refugees

One year ago, following the terrorist attack in Paris, Hillary Clinton weighed in on the refugee issue in a city not particularly pro-refugee – Dallas. America had a target of 13,000 Syrian refugees last year. Hillary argued that closing the door to refugees fleeing Syria would “undermine who we are as Americans. “We always welcomed immigrants and refugees. We have made people feel that is they did their part, they sent their kids to school, they worked hard, there would be a place for them in America.” She added that those seeking refuge must be carefully vetted by “our defense and intelligence professionals.”

So the email is blatantly incorrect that Hillary Clinton proposed allowing the entry of unvetted Syrian refugees. She never did. She never has. And she never will. For even the strongest bleeding heart for refugees does not recommend an unvetted process. As for numbers, Hillary did support a 550% increase in the intake, from 10,000 to 65,000, just about the same number Canada will take this year with a population one-tenth of America’s. A 550% increase seems enormous, but not if you start with a very low figure. Given traditional ratios, if Canada takes in 50,000 refugees, the U.S. would be expected to take in 500,000. But given the temper of the times in America, it is hard to imagine America getting back anytime soon to being a large haven for the oppressed in the world.

The fear mongering about Syrian refugees, other than telling an outright lie about vetting, ignores a number of facts:
1. Syrian refugees include Yazidis and other Christians who are being and have been systematically religiously cleansed from the Middle East;
2. If you are a terrorist, the refugee route is one of the poorest routes through which to gain entry into the United States or Canada since you become so well documented. Arriving as a student, as a visitor, as a business person, are all far easier routes into the country;
3. 70% of Syrian refugees are women and children;
4. The vast majority of terrorist acts committed by terrorists – and there have not been that many given the huge threat from them – has come from radicalized young Muslims who grew up in Canada or the United States; they are homegrown influenced, by the ideology of Al Qaida and ISIS.
5. Syria thus far has been a magnet for extremists far more than a producer of terrorists for export. This may change with the imminent defeat of ISIS.
6. The Harper government, far from being pro-Syrian refugees, was very suspicious of Syrian refugees, but still authorized Canada to adopt the same absolute target as the U.S. in the Obama administration. [In its 2013 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, published by Public Safety Canada, there is no suggestion that refugees from Syria currently pose any threat.]

The Iran Nuclear Deal

This is a subject on which I have written extensively and a quick survey of the SAN site indicates that it is another area with enormous misinformation.
Note the source of the missive I received – Secure America Now (SAN). SAN claims to be non-partisan, but seems clearly linked to the Alt-Right and headlined by hard-line ideological Republicans such as John Bolton. It was established by two pollsters, John McLaughlin and Pat Caddell, in 2011. It is one of the major sources of non-scientific “push-polls” that Donald Trump frequently cites to show he is on a winning track.

SAN has pushed petitions that are strong on rhetoric and very weak in providing information that urge the U.S. government to “lead a multi-faceted campaign to stop Iran” and “to send a powerful message to the world that America is strong and will not tolerate illegal aliens infiltrating our land.” The organization is alarmist and demonstrates little concern with accuracy. For example, while urging support for the American intelligence and military service arms of the U.S. government, SAN ignores the simple fact that those same communities, whatever hesitations or qualms they might have about the nuclear deal, contrary to SAN claims, agree that Iran’ nuclear program is NOW not geared to nuclear weapons production. SAN’s videos are also replete with geographical errors, errors about dates, and questionable maps about Iran’s nuclear sites. If you wonder where Donald Trump’s vision of restoring water boarding and other even worse torturing techniques, that even the conservative U.S. Supreme Court insists are contrary to the American constitution, look at this site. Further, its “information” data base looks even worse than Donald Trump’s mendacity, if that is possible.

“Push polls” spread politically driven talking points under the guise of gauging public opinion, They are the same types of polls that the National Citizens Coalition in Canada used to raise fears in 1979 that the Vietnamese refugees arriving in Canada would each bring an additional 16 relatives – for some of us, not a fear at all – but it played on a deeper “yellow peril” fear that once ran through Canada. However, while the National Citizens polls mislead with leading questions, they did not distort, as SAN polls seem to do, by cherry picking those to be interviewed or respond. One SAN poll claimed to show that Americans viewed Iran as a top security threat when independent scientific polls show no such thing.
The oldest trick in the American political playbook is to play up America fears. JFK did it in his race against Nixon in 1960 – “the myth of the “missile gap”. SAN is part of that tradition.

This is what SAN has to say. “Secure America Now will work with like-minded groups to help our elected officials to make the right policy decisions on a wide range of security issues. For too long and too much the threats to our security have been downplayed or even ignored in our political discourse. Secure America Now exists to make sure our security concerns are no longer ignored. Secure America Now will challenge political correctness that often leads to avoidable security situations such as the Fort Hood massacre committed by Major Hassan. Secure America Now will expose and promote action when governmental policies fail to effectively address direct threats to our national security such as the nuclear program of Iran, the rise of China’s military challenge, and growing lawlessness in our society. For too long national security policy has been made by politicians in a vacuum. These issues are too important to be left to the politicians. The American people should be heard on these issues that impact all our lives.”

Scaremongering along the lines of Trump lying! Just two more from the above list. One is the alleged “growing lawlessness in our society.” If the reference is to ordinary crime, crime rates have declined steadily. If the reference is to the lawlessness of torture or to urging people at rallies to take protesters out, then the point is self-referential and not at all about society as a whole. On the issue of Dr. Nidal Hasan (not Hassan), a major and a psychiatrist in the Army, Hasan shot 13 people and wounded 32 others seven years ago. He was convicted and awaits execution. The FBI, the DOD, and the Senate all conducted thorough investigations and all concluded the same thing: “Investigators in the FBI and U.S. Army determined that Hasan acted alone and they have found no evidence of links to terrorist groups.” He would describe his colleagues as anti-American. On the other hand, he was a devout Muslim who examined terrorist sites and was upset by what he heard from the soldiers he was treating about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is more information that is readily available, but there is no suggestion of any connections with refugees let alone Syrian refugees.

The SAN missive alone is sufficient to make sure one does not vote for Trump.

Corporeality II Daesh (ISIS or ISIL)

Corporeality II Daesh (ISIS or ISIL)

by

Howard Adelman

In my blog on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, I mentioned, but only mentioned, that Obama had cited that fighting Daesh (which he referred to as ISIL) and other terrorists is the top priority of his administration. “Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.” Since Daesh was and is not an existential threat to the American people, referring to the fight against Daesh as WWIII was a gross “over-the-top” exaggeration that inflated the threat of ISIS enormously. Nevertheless, “Both Al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.”

Further, he refused to conflate Daesh with Islam. “We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are  —  killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.” What strategy was he following to accomplish that goal? “For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons. We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.” Once again he repeated his plea to Congress to authorize the use of military force against ISIS.

There are a number of puzzles about the war on Daesh as the top foreign policy agenda item for the U.S. First, why was it his top priority? Why not John Kerry’s since the strategy involved creating a broad coalition? Why not the Secretary of Defence since this was also a military mission? Because, in the U.S. system of government, the U.S. President is also Commander-in-Chief. In the Torah, Aaron the High Priest was not only foreign minister but commander-in-chief of the Israelites’ defense forces, not Moses. In virtually all Western democracies, the Prime Minister is NOT the head of the armed forces.

But before I offer an account trying to explain that anomaly, let me clarify why, since Paris and San Bernardino, Daesh has become the outstanding military enemy of the U.S. I want to help understand the body politic of these jihadist terrorists. The answer in one sense is simple. Obama gave it himself in a speech this past December. The Daesh attacks “shook Americans’ confidence in the government’s ability to protect them from terror groups.” The Assad regime was demoted. So even though normally the enemy of my enemy is my friend, in this case, this is not true. For yesterday, when ISIS led three coordinated attacks using a car bomb aimed at a bus and two suicide bombers aimed at the rescue teams in the suburb of Sayeda Zeinab Southern Damascus (the site of Shi’ites’ holiest shrine) killing 35, mostly Hezbollah fighters in the bus that was transporting them (at a cost to Daesh of 25 of their own), the U.S. and her allies did not cheer.

Further, in Iraq, there is a huge dam located in territory captured back from Daesh and once again controlled by the Iraqi military only 18 km. from Mosul. The dam is fundamentally weak. Given the fighting, the weakness of the dam and the difficulty in repairing it under such circumstances, its bursting would send a wall of water down on Mosul, a Daesh stronghold, Iraqi’s with the help of Americans, however, are evaluating the weakness of the dam and helping to take restorative measures to ensure it does not collapse. America’s war is not with Muslims, not with ordinary Iraqi civilians, nor even with Hezbollah Shi’ite fighters allied with Assad when they are targets of Daesh terrorism. America’s war is with Daesh and its terrorist look-alikes.

Why is Daesh so formidable even though its bases and leaders have been attacked with over 10,000 air strikes, even though it is under retreat in Iraq because of America and its allies reinforcing the Iraqi and Kurdish armies, and even though it is in retreat in Syria because of Russian and Hezbollah reinforcing the Assad regime? After all, there is little evidence that Daesh is a cohesive terrorist network. In that sense, it is even weaker than al Qaeda was. The sensationalism and repetition of its terrorist attacks have been invaluable in recruiting. However,   Daesh does not follow the examples of African warlord rebel groups who recruit mainly through terror rather than ideology and indoctrination. Daesh does, however, retain its adherents through precisely the same system of terror when the recruits discover how totally disappointing, ruthless and un-Islamic Daesh really is. So it is not surprising that 15-year-old Younes Abaaoud, the partner of his much older brother Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian jihadist and mastermind of the 13 November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, though he vowed revenge for his brother’s death, also became the target of a Daesh hit squad when he admitted to colleagues that he thought the attacks had gone “too far.” Daesh is not powerful structurally, strategically or even ideologically, but it is vicious in its terrorist practices.

Daesh is powerful as the best advertising agent for Islamicist terror, but wants to keep its reliance on terror to keep its recruits in line secret. Daesh is also powerful because it plays on specific weaknesses of America’s allies, weaknesses which a leading Republican candidate for the presidency wants to replicate in the U.S. States like France attack the wearing of the hijab by girls in schools in defense of their secular religion of laicité for absolutely no valid political reason and, at the same time, populates its suburbs of Paris, the infamous banlieues like Saint Denis, with 25% unemployment among the Muslim youth, with its deteriorating school system and medical services, with foreigners. France is just terrible in its multicultural policies of integration. Britain is almost as bad as MI-5 tracks an estimated 3,000 homegrown jihadists, but the U.K.’s weakness are somewhat different.

The scholarly evidence overwhelmingly shows that states that provide religious security for all their citizens and that have healthy multicultural programs that offer minority youth the same educational and employment opportunities as the native born, do not provide anywhere near the ripe recruiting grounds as states that fail in their multicultural policies. As Patrick Aeberhard, the Parisian-born cardiologist and co-founder of Médecins sans Frontières, has said with respect to France, “We didn’t know how to integrate the Magréhbins, who were mostly northern Algerians, who were French, who should have blended right in.” The surprise is that, in spite of some of the virulent anti-Islam rhetoric, only 250 American Muslims have joined the Islamic State, according to a report by the House Homeland Security Committee; 68 of them have been indicted on charges of supporting Daesh according to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School.

For the evidence on the proposition that healthy multiculturalism is a formidable deterrent to jihadi terrorism, read the academic publications of the Terrorism Research Initiative under the direction of Alex Schmid or the special issue of Politics dealing with terrorism published by the School of Politics, Philosophy & International Studies at the University of Hull under the direction of Raphael Cohen-Almagor. The more Islamophobia in a country, the more fertile the ground is for the growth of Islamicist terror groups. Daesh feeds on Islamic alienation. In the U.S. since 9/11, right-wing extremists have murdered 48 people. Islamicist extremists in 26 deadly attacks have killed 31, including the 14 at San Bernardino. On 15 April 2013, the two bombs set off near the finish line of the Boston marathon wounded 250 people but only killed three.

I want to now go back to the theoretical discussions of French multiculturalism because they reveal a vision of the body politic in which the nation and state are one. Citizens must be assimilated, not just integrated. Since French political theory is so important in the principles underlying the American body politic, it is helpful to explore various aspects of that theory to understand not only Obama’s problem in dealing with terrorism and the French problem, but the body politic of contemporary jihadist terrorism.

Many French philosophers agree that the new immigrants have failed to assimilate into French culture, but instead of blaming French policies of assimilation (versus integration), blame the immigrants for both refusing to assimilate and selling a doctrine of multiculturalism intended to undermine the French state rather than enrich it. Well before the current Syrian refugee crisis, Pascal Bruckner, one of the new French philosophers, joined the right and argued that Western sentimentalism has permitted a mass invasion from Africa and the Middle East that threatened to destroy the foundations of French and Western civilization. (La Tyrannie de la pénitence (2006) The Tyranny of Guilt). He claimed that multiculturalism is a fraud and defended the unifying principles of reason and the Enlightenment and has been one of the rationalizers of the laws against public displays of religious symbols in France rather than the historical development of tolerance and pluralism.

Alan Finkielkraut is another of the new French philosophers. Though Jewish and a child of Holocaust survivors, he has attacked multiculturalism arguing that France has always been assimilationist and has never been multicultural (L’identité malhereuse (2013) The Unhappy Identity). Multiculturalism, he argued, was an Islamic plot deliberately promoted by Islam to subvert French ideas and culture. He argued that France was headed for a Franco-Creole-Mahghrebin civilization under the aegis of Islam. “France is voluptuously sinking in the undifferentiated.”

Other French philosophers such as Michel Onfray, take the same path through from a complementary perspective. Following the 13 November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, he withdrew his book, Penser l’Islam because he did not think his attack on Islam to show it celebrated violence and terrorism could have a rational discussion. Nevertheless, from the previews of the book and his other writings, it is clear that he did not assign any responsibility to France, except to its soft sentimental underside, but instead envisioned the deep roots of terrorism to reside in Islam itself.

In contrast, André Glucksmann, the French philosopher of my age who died just three days before the Daesh terror attacks on Paris on 13 November 2015 and who practiced a similar form of philosophical analysis as I do using a detailed analysis of current events to extrapolate and illustrate philosophic principles, wrote: the war of Islamicist terror is not a war of East against West for the prime and overwhelming number of deaths are those who belong to the Islamic faith. It is not that we agreed on most things – he supported the intervention led by George W. Bush. But he was often brilliantly insightful and besides, had a sense of wit I lack. It was André who wrote the terrific 2004 book, The Discourse of Hate and said that, “Maybe violent wickedness can be decapitated, but stupidity has too many heads.”

That is the problem with Daesh. It is not just violently wicked. It is also stupid so it is hard to discern any grand rational strategy in much of its terrorism other than its brilliance in using terror and the internet as recruiting tools and targeting oil production areas for initial conquest to ensure an inflow of money. Daesh is built on a politics of money and blood, spilling the blood of others indiscriminately and forging bonds of blood between and among its adherents and blood flowing in the streets from innocents everywhere. For Daesh, warfare has been reduced to its basest and core foundation stones.

There are two common themes in understanding the body politic of Daesh. First is the use of terror to forge men into blood brothers. It is no surprise that many of the jihadists were, in fact, blood brothers:

  • 19-year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev who perpetrated the terrorist attack at the Boston marathon by setting off bombs near the finish line
  • Abdelhamid Abaaoud and his younger 15-year-old brother Younes who organized the 13 November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris against the Le Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon cafés, the Stade de France during a German-French football match, and especially the Bataclan concert venue where 130 were killed
  • Chérif Kouachi and Said Kouachi who, on my 77th birthday, 7 January 2015, with assault rifles perpetrated the massacre at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine killing 11 and wounding 11 others, and subsequently killed a French National Police Officer and five Jews in a Parisian kosher supermarket, but then, in the name of al Qaeda rather than Daesh, and the ostensible objective of defending Mohammed from blasphemy using gheerah or protective jealousy.

The contrast between the last two attacks is revealing. The Islam, and Kosher supermarket attackers were professionals who used military gestures, infantry tactics and fired and aimed execution-style single shots to the head. They also had a very specific motive – revenge against Jews and Charlie Hebdo for its controversial satiric pictures of Mohammed. In contrast, the November Paris attacks targeted ordinary Parisians carrying out typical and ordinary leisure activities. The shootings and killings were random with no specific targets at all. And that is where Daesh trumps al Qaeda as a terrorist “organization” – the objective is simply to sew fear whether in the battlefield or in the home turf of the allies against whom it is fighting And look at the response. Two million French citizens and foreigners marched in unison to uphold France’s principles of liberty, equality and fraternity after the Charlie Hebdo and supermarket attack. After the most violent terrorist attack since WWII this past November, Parisians cowered at home, with the encouragement of the government lest masses of French and foreigners become a new target. Prudence trumped public displays of patriotism.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, another French philosopher, has argued that this new wave of terrorism is built on Xerox copycat principles so that even the so-called third intifada of the knives and car rammings in Israel are not so much expressions of a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation – though the resentment and frustrations are there – so much as just another expression of a worldwide jihad hysteria. (The Algemeiner, 21 October 2015) Palestinian leaders, particularly Hamas leaders, have encouraged and incited ordinary Palestinians to attack Jews, any Jews, Israeli or non-Israeli, civilian or military, young or old. Take to the streets and maim as many Jews as you can with as much pain as possible and spilling as much blood as possible. Then to hear Mahmoud Abbas call these acts “heroic” simply turns more and more Israelis and Jews off any peace process with the Palestinians. In fact, the resort to the knife in contrast to a Kalashnikov rifle can be seen as a throwback to classic Arab terrorism. Muhanad Alukabi, who stabbed and killed a victim in Beersheba (wounding 11 others) professed his allegiance to ISIS.

Daesh does not need to operate with a head. Certainly all its actions, its prideful displays and its heartlessness attest to that. For Daesh is a cult of blood, knitting its adherents together to constitute them as blood brothers, and aiming at the spilling of as much blood of the enemies as possible. If that is the real enemy, is an Islamic plot to foist multiculturalism on the French polity or the inadequate and incompetent application of multiculturalism to blame, an application which celebrates pluralism and integration rather than assimilation?

Emmanuel Levinas, France’s foremost post WWII thinker and a Jewish theologian as well, has also stood against the French intellectual tide denouncing multiculturalism in Philosophical Perspectives on the ‘War on Terrorism.’ For Levinas, ethics, the norms that govern conduct in society, are rooted in the experience of having to deal with the Other, with the Other’s alterity, whether Moses dealing with the Egyptians versus the Midianites, or Jethro dealing with the Egyptians and the Israelites. Ethics arise out of a face-to-face encounter with the Other as Other, and a demand to respect the opacity of that Otherness. This does not always mean extending hospitality to the Other and welcoming the stranger. For when the Other defines you as wholly Other, as an inferior Other, as a threatening Other, and, therefore as an Other that must be exterminated, then the Other that does so is an enemy. The Other is then not a stranger whom one does not know, but an Other who is all-too-familiar. The Other is not someone with whom one can dialogue and whom one should respect while acknowledging differences. There can be no dialogue with such an enemy. That enemy is owed no respect, only disdain, disgust and a militant defence.

So the problem is fourfold:

Daesh as a terrorist cult dedicated to randomly spilling blood.

Daesh as a terrorist organization that breeds loyalty, not by ideology, but by sharing blood so its warriors become blood brothers.

France is a state with a fundamental ideology that disdains multiculturalism.

France is a state that has misapplied the practices of multiculturalism.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Tomorrow: Terrorism and the Application of Multiculturalism in Canada

Following: Obama: Caught between the Body Politic of France and Canada