September 2012



Four American diplomats in Libya are killed; including the Ambassador, Chris Stevens. Fourteen Libyans are dead. American fast food chains are set on fire. US, British and German consulates are attacked in Sudan. Fierce protesting continues in Libya and Egypt. Protesters in Chennai are pelting the US consulate. Yemen, along with numerous other Muslim countries, is engulfed in similar outrage.

All this is over an amateur movie no one has ever seen, and probably doesn’t exist. Whose creator is an unknown fraud.  The only evidence of this movie is a YouTube trailer – whose existence most protesters are probably unaware of and have never watched. The actors of the movie have come out and have declared themselves innocent; they were duped by the creator. Their scenes were manipulated and voices dubbed over during post-production.

While details of this bizarre story continue to unfold, some things are starting to become clear. One is that the attack on the US Consulate in Libya was led by heavily armed militants, not protesters; all this happening on the 9/11 anniversary isn’t mere coincidence it seems. The militants used the protesters as cover for their attacks. As for the attack on the Germany embassy in Sudan, its speculated that it was tied to the recent controversy about banning circumcision. In addition, the rumours about the film being ‘funded by Jews’ and being made by an Israeli-American have proven to be false. The creator of the film is an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian.

It is believed that it was the airing of the movie’s clip on the Egyptian channel, Al-Nas, that sparked this episode. U.S. officials believe that the Saturday broadcast of a talk show hosted by Sheikh Khalid Abdallah was the flashpoint for the unrest. Al-Nas is known to promote religious and sectarian hatred due to which its license has been periodically suspended.

While there is more than one force at play here; the similarity between these violent protests and those about the Danish cartoons are strikingly similar. It is clear that a group of opportunists have yet again managed to mobilize masses to meet their political ends. As Robert Fisk points out, religion and politics don’t just mix in the Middle East – they are the same. Clerics  have promoted the movie as if it was being televised across America and had full backing of West. Zealots have perfected ways of using people’s attachment to their faith as a means of lashing out at the Western countries.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to exonerate the protesters of their odious crime. They’ve proven yet again that the Muslim world has no shortage of lunatics who are willing to lash out at the drop of a hat. The Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Whoever kills a person who is granted protection by the Muslims shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise even though its fragrance can be smelt from a distance of forty years of travelling.” Why then storm diplomatic missions of Western nations over a trailer of an independently produced movie -which you’ve never seen ? Why defame our Prophet in the name of honouring him? Why give ammo to the bigots whose sole purpose is depicting Muslims as a bunch of violent barbarians? Illiteracy and foolishness are at the root of such behaviour.

This entire episode tells yet another tale of what a small group of extremists are capable of doing. A few Isalmophobes  managed to make a disgusting amateur movie to debase Islam, then a group of Muslim use the movie to incite people to attack Western diplomatic missions across the globe. Both extremists meet their objectives; the moderate majority is left to deal with the consequences of the disaster left behind.

 


In 1987, Israel became the last Western country to join global boycotts against South Africa’s apartheid regime. Twenty-five years later, in 2012, South Africa becomes the first country to introduce legislation to aid a boycott of products made in territories occupied by Israel.

South Africa’s cabinet recently introduced regulations that require consumer goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements to be labeled as originating from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This requirement prohibits use of the ‘Made in Israel’ label on goods that are produced on usurped Palestinian land. The Jewish settlements in the West Bank produce a large variety of goods ranging from cosmetics to chemicals. All these products can no longer be disguised as Israeli products in the South African market.

As expected, the Israeli government was infuriated at this news and accused South Africa of ‘discrimination’ and complained of being ‘singled out’. Israel has engaged in a brutal and murderous occupation which is now in its 45th year, it’s understandable why it gets ‘singled out’. However, it’s unclear why it would persist in identifying settler products as ‘Made in Israel’. If it has a bona fide commitment to the two-state solution, why then insist on blurring lines between Israel and the Palestinian territories? Blurring territorial boundaries only gives credence to supporters of a one-state solution; an idea which by no means is considered kosher these days.

In addition to being sensible and moral, this move is symbolic as it comes from the birth place of apartheid. It indicates South Africa’s global commitment to dismantling policies that resemble its once oppressive and draconian laws. In accordance with international law, Canada too considers the Jewish settlements to be illegal. It thus becomes a legal and moral obligation upon Canada to ensure that it does not aid the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. Canada should thus introduce legislation to distinguish Israeli settlement products from those made in Israel proper.

Such regulation first simply ensures truthfulness and accuracy in advertising. Canadians have a right to know the correct origins of the products they are buying; this greatly helps socially conscious consumers buy conflict-free goods. Incorrectly labeling a product goes against marketing standards and carries with it serious penalties under Canadian law.

In addition, allowing settler products to be labeled as ‘Made in Israel’ is essentially white washing the occupation; as if it does not exist. It is our tacit approval of the wrongful annexation of Palestinian land. By introducing labeling to distinguish settlement product, we are making a strong statement that we reject the ongoing colonization and support a two-state solution to the conflict.

If Western countries like Canada do not take such measures, the settlement enterprise will continue to grow and will make the crises even more difficult to resolve. The two-state approach is already in jeopardy with over half a million settlers in the occupied territories; it is about time our government takes practical measures to discourage their continued expansion. Implementing regulations that will give consumers the ability to repress the settler economy will do just that.

Not only do we lack such a policy, Canada actually has a free trade agreement with Israel (CIFTA) which is meant to promote trade by giving preferential trade treatment and lower tariffs to Israeli goods. This includes goods which are manufactured on the illegal settlements. The first step Canada should take is to modify this agreement so that settlement products are not given this privilege.

The United Church, following numerous other organizations, recently announced a boycott of Israeli settlement products. This is yet another indicator that Canadians support an end to the occupation and are increasingly frustrated with the apathy and inaction of our government. The Harper government has stood by Israel for too long; it’s about time they take a principled approach to this conflict. They can start by introducing regulation to identify settlement products; this would be a welcomed first and a pragmatic step towards an end to the Middle Eastern conflict.