Susan Howard Azzeh – Presentation to Hamilton Police Services Board Sept 21, 2005

Good Evening Police Services Chair Morelli, Vice Chair Nimigan, Police Chief Mullan, and Ms. Lois Morin…

My name is Susan Howard-Azzeh and I’m here representing the Niagara Palestinian Association and the Niagara Coalition for Peace which have members in both the Niagara Region and Hamilton. (Between the two groups we have approximately 818 individual members, not counting organizational members.)

I am not a diplomat and I am not a rabble-rouser. i am here tonight to try to be informative. The pro-Israeli lobby had a week to give their perspective to Ontario police in Israel. Please let the voices for Palestinian human rights and appropriate policing in Canada have this one evening

Our membership is very concerned about the Hamilton Wentworth Regional Police Service Board’s decision to permit your Chief of Police, Chief Mullan to participate in the training trip to Israel of Canadian politicians and senior police officials. I know if consulted, none of our members would have endorsed this training. (A full list of all those who went on the trip is on page 21 of our complaint.)

The idea of Canadian police officers learning from and possibly adopting Israeli police tactics is genuinely scary.

Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress was quoted in the Toronto Star August 31 as saying that our complaints are “frivolous”. He was also quoted as saying that the complaints are “Hypocritical and based on many false and hateful foundations.” (The Liberal, Chief’s Israel trip OK, says board” by Martin Derbyshire, staff Writer Sept 1, 05)

Our complaints are not based on “hateful foundations” as Farber declares. They are based on fact. But yes, we do hate it when Israeli police arrest young people for throwing stones at Israeli tanks by putting a damp burlap sack over their head, cuffing them and physically and verbally beating them during interrogations, as has been documented. Yes, we do hate it when an Israeli sniper, during a period of calm, fires upon a group of children, killing some, as happened to my husband’s 13 year old cousin Nida in Beit Jalla near Bethlehem. Yes, we do hate it when Israeli police arrest and indefinitely detain Palestinians without charge or trial and deny them access to legal counsel and family, as is documented for example in “Stolen Youth: The Politics of Israel’s Detention of Palestinian Children” by Adam Hanieh. Yes, we do hate it when Israeli police routinely use a shoot to kill strategy, which they also taught to the London police who shot Jean Charles de Menezes (Jimmy Burns Financial Times July 25, 2005 and other articles.). Yes, we do hate it when some Palestinian areas have an 80% unemployment rate because Israeli “border” police will not allow them through check-points to go to work, their orchards, or to school. And yes, we do hate it when pregnant Palestinian women give birth at check-points for the same reason, resulting in at least 30 newborn infants dying at Israel checkpoints in a two year period. (“Children Under Occupation” Appendix F in our Complaint.)

In Israel, Israeli Jews are for the most part only subject to Israeli police. Palestinian Israelis on the other hand are subject to both Israeli police and the Israeli military interchangeably. As Michael Ben-Yair, Attorney General of Israel from 1993 to 1996 said, Israel has two judicial systems: one – progressive, liberal – for the Jews; a second – cruel, injurious – for the Palestinian Arabs. (Ha’artez News, March 3, 2002.) Members of the Niagara Palestinian Association have been tortured by these cruel, injurious Israeli policing bodies. The use of torture is routine and officially sanctioned in Israel. When one of our members was 16 years old, he was throwing stones at an Israeli tank. He was arrested. While the Israelis were beating him, he fell to the ground and said “Guys, my hip, my hip.” Rather than softening their blows or letting him up, they beat him harder until his hip totally shattered. They then arrested him and put him in jail for 18 months. His leg is now 2 inches shorter and he has a permanent limp. Israel placed another of our members in a concrete closet for three months, with only a small opening near his eyes. He was allowed out for one hour a day to eat and lie down.

In October 2000, 13 Palestinians were killed during a demonstration by Israeli police. This week the Israeli Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Unit released its decision that none of the Israeli police who killed these 13 unarmed Palestinians will be prosecuted, despite concluding that officers issued directives to snipers to open live-fire on the stone throwing protesters. Additionally the Or Commission found that officers could have prevented clashes and that live-fire was used without justification causing death and that evidence had been concealed, yet still no Israeli police have been prosecuted. (“No officers to face charges for October riots as ministry closes investigation” Jonathan Lis, Haaretz 19/09/05; “No police charged in rioters’ deaths” Jerusalem Post Sept 18, 2005. “Arab, left wing MKs blast decision” Jerusalem Post Sept 18, 2005.)

Are these the “best practices” we want Canadian officers to use in Canada? I don’t think so.

I can’t imagine that the Hamilton Regional Police Services Board was aware of these practices when they approved Chief Mullan’s trip to Israel.

Leslie Lasky, president of the United Jewish Appeal Federation, whose Toronto chapter hosted two Israeli Defence Forces representatives, who were illegally recruiting in Toronto schools in May (page 6 of our Complaint), is quoted in the Hamilton Spectator yesterday as saying our complaint, “borders on anti-Semitism.” (“Tomorrow’s hot topic: Police chief’s Israel trip” by Sharon Boase Hamilton Spectator, Sept 20, 2005.)

Our complaints are not anti-Semitic. As Canadian citizens we expect that our right to public dissent be protected without the slander of automatically being labeled anti-Semitic. “Many try to silence any critical discourse of Israel’s practices by calling it anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. The obvious fact is that the government of Israel has been labeled by many international human rights organizations and various United Nations bodies as a frequent violator of human rights and the rule of international law.” (Omar Alghabra, President Canadian Arab Federation, “Re: ‘Police chief’s Israel trip was bound to blow up on him- and it did.’ Hamilton Spectator, March 26, 2005.)

What we are criticizing is the political ideology of *Zionism and the practices that stem from creating and maintaining an exclusively “Jewish State” at the expense of the indigenous non-Jewish Palestinians. Canada and all of our public institutions, such as police services, supposedly embrace anti-racism and multicultural and religious diversity. So why would we want to emulate Israel which as an exclusively “Jewish State” and which is therefore racist by definition? Ironically, South African Apartheid and the creation of Israel were both implemented in 1948.

*Zionism is an ideology founded by Theodore Hertzel in 1897: “Among the Jews, a theory, plan, or movement for colonizing their own race in Palestine, the land of Zion, or if that is impracticable, elsewhere [such as Argentina and Uganda], either for religious or nationalizing purposes. http://www.brainydictionary.com/words/zi/zionism186636.html “A Zionist is anyone who upholds the continued existence of a “Jewish state” in Palestine, which can only be at the expense of the indigenous non-Jewish Palestinians. The State of Israel holds itself out as a “Jewish state”. An anti-Zionist is anyone who upholds the right of all of the people of Palestine to national self-determination, which includes the right of the return of the Arab refugees, and which can be achieved in the framework of a unified democratic republic in Palestine.”

The sponsors’ Propaganda Agenda of this trip was very effective. To read our findings in this regard and our thoughts on the “Security Measures” learned, please see pages 11 and 16 of our Complaint.

Recommendations

  1. Premier Dalton McGuinty has told the Canadian Arab Federation that he will never allow a trip like this to happen again. This is not enough. Reparatory action must be taken to mend the damage that has already been done. And the Hamilton Wentworth Police Services Board needs to develop policy to ensure that their officers never again accept funding and training from a foreign government which is involved in human rights abuses, such as I have described. Despite Premier McGuinty’s promise, the Hamilton Wentworth Police Services needs new policy, because politicians come and go.
  2. Some organizations have requested that local police services reimburse taxpayers for the approximately $2,000. per officer who participated in the trip. On the other hand the Niagara Palestinian Association and the Niagara coalition for Peace request that the Hamilton Police Service or the province send the Chief Mullan and the same Ontario Police delegation back to the Middle East but this time to the occupied Palestinian territories, to Palestinian Canadian chosen locations, to Palestinian areas in Israel (some of which are worse than the refugee camps in the territories), and to meet with joint Jewish/Palestinian peace organizations; NOTE: There is a fundamental difference between Ontario police officers going to Israel to learn Israeli police and military tactics, and Ontario police officers going to the occupied Palestinian territories on a Fact Finding Mission to learn about the day to day living conditions of Palestinians under Israeli police and military rule.
  3. Hamilton Police Service, if they have not already done so, to create requirements to ensure that the Police Service Board reflects Hamilton’s multicultural and religious diversity.
  4. Meet with Palestinian Canadian victims of Israeli torture.

Open Invitation

We would be pleased if you would accept our invitation to attend various cultural and educational events held by Palestinian Canadian organizations and supporters of Palestinian human rights. They are an ideal opportunity to get to know the Canadian Palestinian and solidarity community, to sit in a relaxed atmosphere to learn about Canadian-Palestinian and solidarity concerns, and the on-going suffering of Palestinians in the territories, in Israel, and in exile.

We would be happy to meet at any time with Chiefs of Police, police officers and elected officials who are interested in discussing Canadian-Palestinian concerns.

I appreciate your time and attention. Thank you.

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