Political Update on the Middle East

By Ed Corrigan

Published in Beesan March 2002

On February 8, 2002 at the instigation of City of London City Councillor Ed Corrigan, members of the National Council on Canada-Arab World Relations met with the Honourable Gar Knutson, the newly appointed Secretary of State, Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Attending the meeting was former Liberal M.P. Ian Watson, NCCAR Executive member Hussein Amery, William Jenzen of the Mennonite Central Committee, Rev. Robert Assaly, an Ottawa Anglican Priest and Head of the Canadian Chapter of Friends of Sabeel. Sabeel is a Christian Ecumenical organization based in Jerusalem which promotes nonviolent approaches to attain rights for the Palestinians. Mazen Chouaib, Executive Director for NCCAR also attended and chaired the meeting. A representative from Foreign Affairs also attended.

The exchange lasted 40 minutes and since Minister Knutson has just been appointed to the position of Secretary of State for the Middle East he described the meeting as very helpful and a good introduction to politics the region. Minister Knutson was leaving on a Canadian delegation to visit Russia and the Ukraine and was looking forward to more meetings to discuss the Middle East.

On Sunday, February 24, 2002 in Toronto, Palestine House and the United Holy Land, organized a funding raising dinner to send a delegation of Canadian Members of Parliament to the Holy Land. Attending the dinner and speaking out on the Palestinian issue was Montreal M.P. Yvon Charbonneau, Mississauga M.P. Carolyn Parrish, Colleen Beaumier M.P from Brampton. Also attending the dinner was M.P. John Bryden (Ancaster-Dundas), Mississauga City Councillor George Carlson and London City Councillor Ed Corrigan. Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion came late and also spoke out on the question of Palestinian rights.

Linda Sweiss gave a report of her recent visit to the Occupied Territories. Father Boulos Saleh was another guest speaker. Dr. Ismail Zayid, from Halifax, gave the key note address on the history of the Palestine problem. Palestinian Ambassador to Canada Baker Abdul Munem also was a featured guest speaker. More than 250 tickets were sold and over $34,000 was raised for the project.

Rashad Saleh and Elias Hazineh of Palestine House should be commended for a great initiative and for raising such a large sum of money to send Canadian parliamentarians to see for themselves the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza. The event also demonstrated that the Palestinian community is coming of age and can successfully organize such programs and raise serious money to help support the Palestinian cause.