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An interview by Kourosh Ziabari
Eric Walberg: Canada’s breaking ties with Iran foolish and dangerous

Canadian journalist and author Eric Walberg believes that the government of Canada is heavily influenced by the Israeli regime and makes decisions to meet the interests of Tel Aviv.

16 September 2012

Eric Walberg

With regards to the unilateral suspension of diplomatic ties with Iran by the Canadian government, he says, "as if scripted, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately commended Canada’s decision. With good cause, as it was undoubtedly a response to a direct Israeli request. Canadian foreign policy is now made in consultation with Israeli advisers under a public security cooperation partnership signed in 2008 by Canada and Israel to protect their respective countries’ population, assets and interests from common threats."

Walberg made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency.

"One of the first moves by the Conservatives when they came to power was to sign a public security cooperation "partnership" (2008). Every foreign policy move since then in which Israel has some interest has been taken in consultation with Israel," he noted.

Here is the text of Fars News Agency’s interview with Eric Walberg to whom we have talked about the recent diplomatic row between Iran and Canada and the role of Israel in the escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Q: On September 7, the Canadian government abruptly severed its diplomatic ties with Iran, sparking a wave of surprise and astonishment in Iran and around the world. The Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird cited reasons such as the 2011 attack of Iranian students on the British embassy in Tehran or Iran’s supporting of the government of President Bashar al-Assad as reasons for the suspension of diplomatic ties with Iran. What do you think about this unexpected incident, and particularly the alleged reasons that caused it?

A: Canada has not had a full ambassador in Iran since 2007, when the Conservatives came to power. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird cited Iran’s enmity with Israel, its support of Syria and terrorism. While indeed Iran has been the nation most outspokenly critic of Israel, and is actively working to thwart the Western-backed insurgency in Syria, there is no evidence of its support for "terrorism". It is in fact the victim of terrorism on the part of Israel and the US, which boast about assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists and destroying Iranian computers with viruses made-to-order, among other officially-sponsored acts of subversion. The decision was clearly a response to pressure by Israel, which is frustrated by its inability to isolate Iran, as demonstrated by Iran’s successful hosting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran in August.

Q: John Mundy, former Canadian ambassador to Tehran, castigated his government’s decision in cutting diplomatic relations with Iran, and called on the opposition parties of the parliament to officially question the Prime Minister for this action. Do you see chances of the Canadian government reversing its decision and restoring diplomatic ties with Iran? After all, more than 400,000 Iranians live in Canada and they need consular support and this decision will negatively affect them. What’s your take on that?

A: The decision probably cannot be reversed until there is a change in government in Ottawa. In this sense, the decision to break relations — a foolish and dangerous move — has the positive effect of further discrediting the Conservatives in the eyes of Canadians.

Q: Many Iranian people believe that the Canadian government is heavily influenced by the Zionist lobby and has made this decision under the pressure from the Israeli regime. What’s your viewpoint in this regard? Can we trace footsteps of Israel in the Canadian government’s decision?

A: As if scripted, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately commended Canada’s decision. With good cause, as it was undoubtedly a response to a direct Israeli request. Canadian foreign policy is now made in consultation with Israeli advisers under a public security cooperation "partnership" signed in 2008 by Canada and Israel to "protect their respective countries’ population, assets and interests from common threats." Israel security agents now officially assist Canada’s security services, the RCMP and CSIS, in profiling Canadians citizens who are Muslims and monitoring individuals and/or organizations in Canada involved in supporting the rights of Palestinians and other such nefarious activities. Baird’s claim that Iran supports terrorism is one that Israeli agents have been making in Ottawa under this partnership. Harper has publicly stated he is convinced that Iran is trying "beyond any doubt" to develop nuclear weapons, with ’evidence’ supplied by these advisers, though it is unlikely that such claims convince anyone, but rather merely confirm public perception of his devotion to Israel.

Q: Canada’s unilateral severance of diplomatic ties with Iran can be seen as an attempt aimed at isolating the Islamic Republic. The recent Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran demonstrated that Iran is a popular country, but the United States, Israel and their allies were very frustrated at the success the event offered to Iran. Will these nations succeed in portraying Iran as a secluded and isolated country?

A: The world is becoming more and more divided between supporters of Israel and US actions around the world, whatever their effects, and those people who realize that the real sources of terrorism are the US and Israel themselves. Unfortunately, the mainstream media in the West is captive to the Zionist discourse, so people in NATO countries have no way to mount a strong campaign against these sources of terrorism. This is a very dangerous situation, as we can see by the recent anti-Islam provocation involving an internet broadcast of a ’movie’ defaming the Prophet. In the pursuit of a campaign to support Israel, Islam is targeted and modern mainstream media becomes part of the campaign. Ordinary public opinion has little effect on this process, just as it has no effect on the financial and economic decision-makers who work to isolate Iran economically. The enemies of peace are still strong in the world, requiring courage and patience on the part of Iran, as world opinion continues to turn against the US and Israel.

Q: As a result of massive anti-Iranian propaganda by the Western mainstream media, the people around the world, especially in North America don’t have a clear and realistic image of Iran in their mind and are utterly unaware of Iran’s old civilization, history and culture. How is it possible to acquaint them with the realities of Iran? As you mentioned in your recent article, the Toronto International Film Festival canceled the screening of Iranian movies, while cultural exchange through showing films and movies of Iran can be an effective means of introducing Iran to the world. What’s your take on that?

A: Iranian culture is indeed an important part of the world’s cultural heritage. Sadly, Canadians will have no opportunity now to learn positively about Iran, except over the internet. But Iranians living in the West can help spread a more positive image of Iran. It is also important to correct the historical record — Iran suffered from interference from imperialist countries during the past two centuries, seizing territory and occupying the whole country to ensure access to oil. When I realized this, I came to respect Iranians for resisting these meddling powers. One of my own goals in writing is to help English-speakers understand how harmful the system of imperialism is.

Q: It’s said that the Israeli lobby is immensely active and influential in Canada. Organizations such as Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy or the Jewish Federations of Canada have long pursued the interests of the Israeli regime in Canada and contributed to drastic changes in the country’s foreign policy. What’s your idea regarding the role of Zionist lobby in Canada and its connections to the government?

A: As I mentioned above, one of the first moves by the Conservatives when they came to power was to sign a public security cooperation "partnership" (2008). Every foreign policy move since then in which Israel has some interest has been taken in consultation with Israel. For instance, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives

- called Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon a "measured response" (A Canadian UN peacekeeper was targeted and killed by Israeli in the invasion. Harper refused to protest, asking rhetorically in parliament what they were doing there in the first place.)

- refused to condemn the invasion of Gaza in December 2008 or the siege of Gaza (the only "Nay" at the UN Human Rights Council)

- refused to condemn the Israeli murder of nine members of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May 2009

- opposed an attempted IAEA probe of Israel’s nuclear facilities as part of an effort to create a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East

- cut off UN humanitarian aid to Gaza because it was going through the Hamas government there

- allowed goods manufactured in occupied territories by illegal settlers to be labeled "Made in Israel" under the 1997 Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement 1997.

And as is the case in the Obama-Romney ’race’ next door, there is no peep of protest from Canada’s opposition liberals or socialists. Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, whose wife Arlene Perly is past vice president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, met with Netanyahu on his official visit to Canada in February this year, and afterwards said the visit "gives all Canadians the chance to reflect on the deep friendship and strong ties between Israel and Canada".

After meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres during his official visit to Canada this May, New Democrat leader Tom Mulcair, told the press, "My in-laws are Holocaust survivors. Their history is part of my daily life. That’s why I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all circumstances." Mulcair’s wife, Catherine Pinhas, was born in France to a Sephardic Jewish family from Turkey. Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East and Independent Jewish Voices criticized Mulcair for accepting financial support from pro-Israel lobbyists.

Interestingly, both Rae and the NDP foreign affairs spokesman Paul Dewar mildly criticized Harper’s breaking off relations with Iran, saying we don’t break off diplomatic relations just because we disagree, but Mulcair then dismissed Dewar’s criticism. So the more ’progressive’ oppositionist party was exposed as the most pro-Israeli.

Q: Canada is notorious for discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities. There have been cases of mistreatment against the immigrants and non-native residents, as well. What’s your idea about the overall status of human rights in Canada? Over the past years, the Canadian government has repeatedly slammed Iran over its human rights record, but it seems that the Canadian government itself is a major violator of human rights. What do you think?

A: Canada as a country was created by colonialism, killing and forcing native peoples off their land. This shameful legacy can never be forgotten. One reason for the Conservatives’ hostility to Iran is criticism by Iran of this legacy, and Iranian support for the struggle by Canadian First Nation peoples for better treatment and rights. Former Ojibway chief Terry Nelson is expected to lead a small delegation on a visit to Iran in October. Earlier he was asked by Nazanin Afshin-Jam, wife of Defense Minister Peter MacKay, an Iranian born in Tehran not to go. Nelson told her, "I talked to the other side too." Nelson said First Nations need to approach countries willing to acknowledge the human rights abuses against Indigenous people in Canada. "If the Iranian government is willing to take our case forward, that is fine. Why isn’t the German government, or the American government, or the English government, or the French government doing it?" said Nelson. "Why hasn’t the Israeli government said anything? Have they condemned Canada?" Whether he will be forced by the Canadian government to cancel his trip is not yet clear.

Harper is already seen as Canada’s most undemocratic leader. Some of his efforts to undermine democracy include:
- April 2012 de-funding of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, which for 24 years had promoted democracy and monitored human rights around the world.
- 2010 de-funding the Canadian Human Rights Commission forcing it to close its offices in Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax.
- 2009 de-funding Kairos, an organization of church groups that advocated for human rights, after it criticized Israel for bombing a Gaza health unit.
- 2006 de-funding Status of Women Canada, resulting in the closure of 12 of the agency’s 16 regional offices.
- 2006 shut down the Court Challenges Program, which had worked on behalf of the rights and equality of women, immigrants and minorities by helping to fund court challenges to discriminatory laws.
- Two controversial prorogations of Parliament in less than a year, becoming the first prime minister ever to be found guilty of contempt of Parliament, and the distribution of a handbook on how Tories can disrupt committee hearings, such as by barring witnesses with potentially damaging testimony.
- The robocall affair in the 2011 federal election, involving voter suppression by the Conservatives.
- Harper and his cabinet have flagrantly ignored freedom of speech and information tenets by muzzling senior bureaucrats, withholding and even altering documents, launching personal attacks on whistleblowers and lying to voters.

Despite Harper’s notoriety, he has been chosen as 2012 World Statesman of the Year for his work as a "champion of democracy, freedom and human rights" by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which was created by a New York rabbi in 1965.

Interview by Kourosh Ziabari
Fars News Agency, 16 September, 2012.

Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian journalist and media correspondent. He writes for Tehran Times and Press TV.