Last Thursday, I joined a group of Montrealers in an occupation of MP Irwin Cotler's constituency office, to protest against Ottawa's Middle East policy. As our manifesto stated: "Mr. Cotler embodies the hypocrisy of our government's policy. . . . [He]is a renowned international human-rights lawyer who pathologically ignores Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights."
Mr. Cotler responded to our action in an article in The Globe and Mail. It is ironic, he wrote, that as we demonstrated on behalf of Palestinian freedoms, our action coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada. Our actions, he said, "effectively assault the very values that underlie this free and democratic society."
With all respect, the real irony eluded Mr. Cotler. For the past 35 years, the Israeli government has perpetrated a brutal, repressive occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The practices of the occupation forces include summary executions and collective punishment in the form of house demolitions and restricting Palestinians from travelling from one city to another. The irony is that, in the face of a dehumanizing occupation conducted by the Israeli government, Canada continues to support Israel.
Mr. Cotler accuses us of importing the hatreds of the Middle East to this country. Ignoring the xenophobic connotations of this statement, I would remind Mr. Cotler that, as Canadians, we do not wish to see our country profit from trade deals and investments in Israel as long as the Israeli government remains an instrument for the oppression and humiliation of millions of Palestinians, who, I find myself having to remind Mr. Cotler, are humans as well. Samer Elatrash is a student at Concordia University in Montreal.