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Mayor of Canadian city invites Ehud Barak to economic summit

on 31 Comments
Ehud Barak speaking at the 2012 World Economic Forum. (Photo: World Economic Forum/Flickr)

Ehud Barak speaking at the 2012 World Economic Forum. (Photo: World Economic Forum/Flickr)

The argument that we can separate the political from everything else seems to be persistent when there is a discussion about the occupation of Palestine.

This time, the issue emerged in an email correspondence between me and Mayor Dianne Watts’ communications assistant, who by the virtue of his position is often given certain guidelines on to respond to political inquires. Despite the fact that the origin of this email is the mayor’s assistant, it is safe to say that the content of it is generally reflective of her attitudes and outlooks.

On February 27th, the city of Surrey, located at the outskirts of the Greater Vancouver Area, plays host to the 2014 Regional Economic Summit. The summit will host various international political and economic personalities such as the Canadian Minister of Finance and the former prime ministers of Australia and Greece. But what is of more direct concern to the Palestinians in Surrey and the Greater Vancouver Area is the fact that Watts has audaciously decided to invite former Israeli Prime Minister and war criminal Ehud Barak, paying absolutely no attention towards international law and the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

“The purpose of the Surrey Summit is to generate dialogue about new approaches to the challenges we face as a city, province and country,” the mayor’s office said.

With this statement, Watts echoes the standard and oft-debunked Zionist narrative that we must engage in “dialogue.” The oppressor must, for whatever reason, be given a platform, especially at prestigious economic summits, in order to present their point of view.

The email from the mayor’s office does not explain how a man accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity is even beneficial to this type of summit. What kind of expertise does a military man have that can possibly benefit Surrey’s economic interests? And if the mayor is truly concerned with dialogue, and is truly looking at things beyond the veil of politics, then how come there are no Palestinian academics or politicians? The mayor didn’t even bother to offer a semblance of care towards this notion of dialogue, which she could have done by bringing the West’s poster child and former Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad. But she didn’t.

The agenda is very clear: it’s ugly and obvious normalization.

Watts’ assistant wrote: “This is an economic conference, not a political event, and will focus on creating an open environment for discussion and debate.”

The statement points to a strange dichotomy between politics and economics–as if the two can be separated. It asserts that talks about the economy can be separated from politics during an era when economic sanctions are considered an essential part of political sanctions (see Iran for example). And it seems to insinuate that a summit that includes a war criminal like Barak will contribute to “creating an open environment for discussion and debate,” without considering the fact that this man represents a government that dedicates ample resources to persuade international actors to silence debate and level accusations of anti-Semitism against pro-Palestine and BDS activists.

There is no need to highlight the atrocities committed by Barak against the Palestinians because these are readily available on the Internet, which I am sure that Watts and her staff has access to. But it is important to highlight the political bankruptcy of a politician who isn’t even capable of making an intellectually sustainable argument that explains her unwarranted invitation of such a war criminal.

This is a time when Palestinian civil society is demanding that the world and people of conscience end all normalization efforts with Israel, support and actively promote BDS and increase the pressure to end the occupation of Palestine. But Watts seems to be more interested in photo ops and empty jargon coming out of the mouth of a man who has absolutely no expertise in economics.

Omar Chaaban

Omar Chaaban is a Palestinian activist based in Vancouver, BC. He holds a BA in International Relations from the University of British Columbia and focuses on Syria and Palestine. Visit his blog:, and follow him on: @al3isawy.

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31 Responses

  1. Justpassingby on February 21, 2014, 1:27 pm

    Canadians should urge the arrest of this man. Yes it will fail but exposure is good.

    • Talkback on February 23, 2014, 7:42 am

      It failed in the UK in 2009, because he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. But he’s not longer in office. ;)

  2. traintosiberia on February 21, 2014, 1:31 pm

    Toronto Mayor can switch from cocaine to ecstasy . Jerusalem will be delighted with opening of a new dealership.

  3. hophmi on February 21, 2014, 2:06 pm

    “With this statement, Watts echoes the standard and oft-debunked Zionist narrative that we must engage in ‘dialogue.'”

    Engaging in dialogue is a Zionist narrative? Wow. Somebody should tell Sari Nusseibeh. Heck, somebody should tell Hamas member and Al-Ahram journalist Khalid Amayreh. He engaged in dialogue for years.

    “But Watts seems to be more interested in photo ops and empty jargon coming out of the mouth of a man who has absolutely no expertise in economics.”

    LOL. You clearly have no clue what you’re talking about. Barak has a masters in economics from Stanford, and he’s credited with bringing Israel out of recession and increasing foreign investment during his time as Prime Minister. Barak is sitting on a panel on international economics with two other former heads of state, Julia Gillard of Australia, a lawyer, and George Papandreou of Greece, an economist best known for stepping down to prevent Greece from falling into a depression.

    Gosh, maybe your BDS policy of running away from any dialogue is warping your intellect. It’s almost like you’re trying to commit intellectual suicide.

    • UpSIDEdown on February 22, 2014, 5:58 am

      You say someone clearly had no clue about what they were talking about my God You’re saying he was this educated man when education has nothing at all to do with the oppression and murders of another people. He may of brought Israel out of recession but where did that leave the palatines forgive me for saying its the fact you are unable to see the wrong shows me its an unwinnable argument. One day you will see the truth until then compassion for all people regardless of race is the true mark of a sane and stable person.

    • amigo on February 22, 2014, 8:19 am

      Hopknee, go and bow down to your war criminal hero if that is what turns you on.

      This pint sized thug should be arrested and thrown in jail under “administrative detention” and kept there for the rest of his vile life.

    • seafoid on February 22, 2014, 10:36 am

      Papandreou saved Greece from a depression, really, Hoph? How much did gdp fall by 08 to 12 ?

    • puppies on February 22, 2014, 11:11 am

      @hophmi – “George Papandreou of Greece, an economist best known for stepping down to prevent Greece from falling into a depression.”

      Your powers of invention on behalf of the dictators, pirates and bankers of this world would be amazing if one didn’t know you get them pre-cut from the Hasbara Directorate.

      George Papandreou, Jr., was defenestrated on practically the same day he mused aloud on having a referendum about defaulting on, essentially, the Goldman-Sachs-imposed abusive interest (after two years of shilly-shallying), and replaced as Prime Minister by an unelected and uneligible Goldman-Sachs employee (what was the forbidden word, “chutzpa”?), a certain Papadimas. Defaulting was almost certain to be approved by referendum.

    • SamT on February 23, 2014, 12:23 am

      Julia Gillard is responsible for driving Australia into such hormungus debt it will probably take generations of austerity to resume an even balance again. Anyone who listens to her has nothing better to do that evening!

  4. Walid on February 21, 2014, 2:21 pm

    Omar’s back for more fun and games, but no Syria this time.

  5. Krauss on February 21, 2014, 2:30 pm

    No expertise in economics? He graduated with a master’s in economics from Stanford and he was the PM of Israel, a job which in of itself requires you to deal with economics than any other subject, by far, just like in every other country.

    Barak’s policies on colonization is another thing but if we are to slam him, we should at least be sticking to the fact.

    But Omar has emerged as one of the most embarrassing voices on this site and hopefully his stay here will be short. In his last article, he wrote his bio lamenting the colonization of native Canadians(or “first nations” as they are called) and quite rightly so.

    Yet that didn’t stop him for continuing this colonization by settling on their land, so why is he a hypocrite? Now he’s trying to tell us a man with a master’s on economics from Stanford and a former PM knows nothing about economy. But a random ex-student with in the liberal arts and zero responsibility over a large organization(forget an entire country) does? Or at the very least has the capacity to judge?


    • Walid on February 21, 2014, 2:54 pm

      The guy rubbed me the wrong way with his “Fuck Canada Day” comment. It was downhill for him from that point on.

      • puppies on February 22, 2014, 11:23 am

        But he is absolutely right in asking for the arrest of criminal against peace, war criminal, and personally terrorist Ehud Barak. His presence in Canada is a major security risk, too.

    • on February 21, 2014, 5:24 pm

      I don’t think continuing the decades long practice of sticking his hand deep into the pockets of the American and German taxpayers and the Swiss banks qualifies Barak as an economic expert.

  6. seafoid on February 21, 2014, 2:35 pm

    Barak will advise Canadian municipalities with debt problems to claim guilt money from the Huron tribe for ethnic cleansing in the 1600s.

    If that doesn’t work, just get AIPAC to squeeze the Yanks.

    • UpSIDEdown on February 22, 2014, 5:43 am

      I worry about anything that Barek says to any political official because it wouldn’t matter whatsoever what Barak asked of them they would jump for joy to please him and make all his dreams come true. Our Prime Minister recently stood up and told the world that Canada would go through fire with Israel and an attack on Israel is an attack on Canada. As a Canadian people have been frightened to death of what they say or don’t say for example I would tweet a article on the Israeli and Palestine issue or share on other sites and once in awhile someone would retweet but since this boycott began making noise I noticed more people were acknowledging it after all this time finally..

  7. The JillyBeans on February 21, 2014, 6:06 pm

    Perhaps a road trip, posters, large markers and protein bars to “welcome” Mr Barak to Vancouver?

  8. Keith on February 21, 2014, 6:15 pm

    “The statement points to a strange dichotomy between politics and economics–as if the two can be separated.”

    While I have some problems with this particular commentator, this particular statement is absolutely correct. It is a grave error to treat economics as separate from politics, rather, we need to deal with the political economy. The notion that economics is “the dismal science” is pure propaganda. Dismal yes, science no. Capitalist economics is primarily an ideological construction justifying the unrelenting concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the capitalist elites. It is basically a series of rationalizations intended to justify the power seeking actions of capitalists who provide employment for economists. Capitalist economists function similarly to the high priests of yore, sanctifying the divine right of capital to rule. And if you don’t comprehend that we are a money driven, money controlled society, you need to wake up.

  9. mcohen on February 22, 2014, 4:45 am

    Palestinian refugee destinations will include canada,australia,new zealand,and it will be the capitalist economies that fund it …….hows that for a ideological construction

  10. Talkback on February 22, 2014, 1:52 pm

    Canada is violating the Fouth Geneva Conventions if its doesn’t arrest Barak and bring it before its courts:

    Art. 146. The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention defined in the following Article.

    Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts.

    Art. 147. Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

    Art. 148. No High Contracting Party shall be allowed to absolve itself or any other High Contracting Party of any liability incurred by itself or by another High Contracting Party in respect of breaches referred to in the preceding Article.

  11. ToivoS on February 22, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Seems like a Ukrainian thread might be appropriate today. With this headline in Haaretz Ukrainian rabbi tells Kiev’s Jews to flee city
    Fearing violence against Ukraine’s Jews, the Jewish community asks Israel for assistance with the security of the community.
    events there may well impact the Mid East.

    The rabbi sent a request to Lieberman asking for Israeli help in securing Kiev’s Jewish community.

    • Keith on February 22, 2014, 3:50 pm

      TOIVOS- “The rabbi sent a request to Lieberman asking for Israeli help in securing Kiev’s Jewish community.”

      Perhaps he should have appealed to Victoria Nuland who is rather chummy with these right-wing, anti-Semitic thugs which the US is paying and directing in an effort at punitive regime change. Of course, Nuland breaks no new ground. There is a long and sordid history of Zionists working with anti-Semites to achieve Zionist objects.

      “In this case, Nuland, who – according to the WSWS – is “the grand-daughter of Jewish immigrants who fled to America to escape pogroms in Tsarist Russia”.was seen “handing out cookies in Maidan square to Svoboda thugs who venerate the mass murderers of Hitler’s SS.” (Bill Van Auken)

      “A number of confirmations have come in from readers that Washington is fueling the violent protests in Ukraine with our taxpayer dollars. Washington has no money for food stamps or to prevent home foreclosures, but it has plenty of money with which to subvert Ukraine.” (Paul Craig Roberts)

      “…the EU deal that Yanukovych turned down, precipitating the uprising, actually offered Ukraine little other than Greek-style financial servitude, while the Kremlin, at least, proffered cash on the barrelhead. The opposition itself is not a monolith of moral rectitude; one of its driving forces is an ultra-nationalist faction that spouts vile anti-Semitic rhetoric.” (Chris Floyd)

      “Ukrainian rioters have seized 1,500 guns, 100,000 rounds of ammunition, 3 machine guns, and grenades from military armories….The human-rights trained Ukrainian police have permitted the violence to get out of hand. A number of police have been burned by Molotov cocktails. The latest report is that 108 police have been shot. A number are dead and 63 are in critical condition.” (Paul Craig Roberts)

      • Keith on February 22, 2014, 6:56 pm

        I think that it is important to mention something else here. In the past, I have occasionally posted a quote from General Wesley Clark indicating a neocon inspired US plan to invade or destabilize seven countries. Let me re-quote a part, then continue- “…there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.…” (Wesley Clark, Winning Modern Wars, p. 130). Of course, the original time frame was off (5 years), however, a look at the countries and subsequent events indicates that the plan was more-or-less implemented by Obama, only Iran somewhat in doubt.

        In following the news, it appears increasingly obvious that not only has Obama targeted the original seven, but appears to have added to the list to include anything which potentially stands in the way of complete imperial hegemony. The two most prominent additions are the Ukraine and Venezuela, both of which are being subjected to destabilization campaigns. Thailand, too. The empire is on a dangerous rampage and appears intent on eliminating any and all opposition to imperial hegemony during what the elites see as a window of opportunity preceding a global upheaval as a consequence of neoliberal globalization. None of these situations can be analyzed in isolation, they are part of a total campaign. I will conclude with a quote from a prominent neocon to give a flavor of their operational philosophy.

        “If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war… our children will sing great songs about us years from now.” (Michael Ledeen, following 9/11/01 attacks)

    • Bumblebye on February 22, 2014, 10:14 pm

      That could be a deflection. MRW linked a report from International Business website (can’t remember which thread!), and I’ve found PressTV with a report that a leader of the rebels is a former IDF commander, supported by four Ukrainian/Israelis, bankrolled by some Israeli tycoon – all unnamed. What horse does Israel have in all this???

      • Sumud on February 22, 2014, 11:08 pm

        Here we are Bumblebye:

        Ukraine Protests: Israeli Ex-Officer ‘Leads Militant Group’

        IB Times’ source is also PressTV so: buyer beware.

        With Nuland and other neocon hacks pulling the strings there may well be some manoeuvring going on that will benefit Israel.

      • ToivoS on February 23, 2014, 3:35 am

        PressTV is really not worth citing unless there is some independent confirmation. I have seen too many articles by them that are transparently false.

  12. American on February 22, 2014, 10:45 pm

    Why the bright Russians are leaving Israel and going back to Russia.
    Barak should be worrying about Israel economics.

    Russian-born Israelis chase capitalist dreams to Moscow
    Russians who immigrated to Israel are increasingly moving to Moscow in search of opportunity, stability – and politer waiters

    Their reasons for leaving Israel are how I imagined Israel had to be—- its suffocating .

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