EDITORIAL: The Galloway Ban

Rossland Telegraph
By Rossland Telegraph
April 2nd, 2009

This week, British Member of Parliament George Galloway was denied entry into Canada under Canada’s anti-terrorism legislation. Galloway, a vociferous supporter of the Palestinian people, was banned from entering Canada because of his public support for Hamas (and criticism of Israel). Galloway is not some sort of fringe-ish, Holocaust-denier type; his views are quite mainstream. Many people in Canada support the efforts of the people of Gaza to be free of Israel’s checkpoints and military incursions, the principals of this newspaper included.

Hamas, however, has been labelled a ‘banned terrorist group’ by the current Canadian government, and Galloway has been refused entry into our country because he, along with 100 other British citizens, recently handed over around $45 000 to Hamas to help the stricken people of Gaza, still reeling from Israel’s latest invasion of their land and mass-murder of their children.

While the Canadian government calls Hamas a terrorist group, it is also the democratically-elected government of the Palestinian people. And add this to the mix: the United States hasn’t banned Galloway. So a British MP can enter America to speak about the slaughter of children, but he can’t enter Canada.

We are, in fact, the only nation on earth to ban him. It’s a joke and a bad one at that.

How on earth did this happen? Our anti-terrorism law states that a person can be banned for “engaging in terrorism,” or “being a member of a (terrorist) organization”. Too bad for our democracy that neither of these things is true of Galloway: handing over cash for starving orphans isn’t terrorism and shaking the hand of an elected president, no matter what you think of the party he represents, isn’t the same as joining a terrorist organization. There must be another reason.

In a letter dated March 16th and sent to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, the Jewish Defence League of Canada requested that Galloway not be allowed entry because he was a “hater”. Implicit in this carefully-chosen word is the idea that Galloway is an anti-Semite, but Galloway is no such thing—anything but. What he is, is a man who opposes the current policies and practises of the Israeli government. Perhaps the JDL should change its name to the Israel Defence League?

Let’s be clear: the Israeli government is not the same thing as the Jewish religion any more than the government of George W. Bush was the same thing as the Christian religion.

It’s pretty disgusting that pressure can be brought to bear in this sleazy way and that our representatives are all-too-willing to capitulate to it. Do our rights and freedoms count for nothing in this country? Do we hold them so lightly and value them so little that we’re willing to let a man like Kenney throw them away just so he can appease a special interest group?

Galloway is almost certain to be vindicated when the case is reviewed by our courts, but that’s not the point. Freedom isn’t something that’s okay sometimes and other times not. It either exists in a society or it doesn’t. Look at it this way: if anyone out there wants to give me $45 000, I’ll gladly fly over to Gaza and hand it over to Hamas in person. Better deport me, Mr. Kenney, and most of the people I know. Email me and I’ll give you a list.

The lesson here? We should all stop and think hard about who we allow to represent us the next time we’re herded to the polls and told to make our choice. Prime Minister Stephen Harper hasn’t said a word on this issue (that I’ve heard). The fact that a government will lower the GST or offer tax breaks doesn’t add up to much in face of the fact that it’s also willing to sell our most basic rights down the river. Keep this in mind next when the next election rolls around.

Categories: Op/Ed

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