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Darrell Dexter's Hasbara!

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Jaber Rjila, whose land has thrice suffered major Israeli army invasions, killing nearly all of his 3000 chickens, razing hundreds of olive, fruit and nut trees, pock-marking the house walls with machine gun fire, destroying the chicken barn and appliances, and stored crops within, and traumatizing his 7 young children. Not on Dexter's NS-Israel trade mission. Photo: Eva Bartlett
Jaber Rjila, whose land has thrice suffered major Israeli army invasions, killing nearly all of his 3000 chickens, razing hundreds of olive, fruit and nut trees, pock-marking the house walls with machine gun fire, destroying the chicken barn and appliances, and stored crops within, and traumatizing his 7 young children. Not on Dexter's NS-Israel trade mission. Photo: Eva Bartlett

There are a few things wrong with Darrell Dexter's recent so-called trade mission with Israel. Aside from the most glaring obvious err in moral judgment in choosing to do business with an apartheid state seemingly bent on the genocidal extermination of the indigenous Palestinian population, and bucking the global trend towards isolating Israel economically until they finally learn to share, there are the more subtle wrongs that permeate Dexter's folly.

Firstly, it is nearly impossible to get a clear answer as to where Dexter and his hand-picked Nova Scotian crew of businesspeople and hangers-on actually went on their trip. The Nova Scotia Business Institute, who apparently arranged the entire venture, will not provide an itinerary. Spokespeople at the Premier's office mention that due to the “sensitive areas” (what?) that were visited, there will be no itinerary made public.

Granted, the public was treated to dribs and drabs of carefully-massaged media releases, while the whole stunt was taking place. A picture of a giddy Dexter, shovel in hand, planting a carob tree while wearing a JNF-logo hat, for example, made the media rounds. The effect of Dexter posing beside a JNF flag, in a JNF hat, receiving a JNF certificate, while planting a JNF sapling was anything but subtle.

The JNF presents itself as some kind of tree-planting outfit, all greenery and park preservation on the outside. On the inside, however, they own about 13% of all of Israeli lands, and make a habit of only selling to individuals of Jewish heritage. They also operate as a strong-arm eviction force for Palestinians who just don't leave of their own accord.

They also operate around the world, encouraging young children to send money to Israel for tree-planting efforts. Whose house didn't have a blue plastic JNF charity box in it when they were young? I know mine did. Sadly though, recent charges against the American JNF branch allege that only 21% of the money ever makes it to Israel. Maybe Dexter knew. Maybe Dexter was just happy to be there and get a free cap.

Another issue that separates this Nova Scotia-Israel trade mission from other province-sponsored trade missions is that it is nearly impossible to find out who actually participated in the trade mission. The NSBI won't say who was on it. The Premier's office refers to the official media release, which mentions that Dalhousie University, the Halifax Port Authority and the Brain Repair Centre were all in. Local outdoor gym manufacturer “Green Gym” apparently landed a few contracts, perhaps selling the same outdoor workout station in our very own Point Pleasant Park to the IDF. Dalhousie U signed an MOU with Hebrew University. After that though, things get quiet.

The hush surrounding this trade mission leads the mind to wander. Was Dexter fishing for military contracts, throwing in a few photo ops for good measure? It may well be.

It was recently announced that L-3 Electronic Systems, with 170 employees in NS, has teamed up with Elbit Systems Land on a bid to bring two military contracts to Nova. The first bid is for the weapons system for Canada's new design of armoured land attack vehicles, which in itself is a nasty offering of “two guns, a 40-millimetre gun and a 12.76-(millimetre) gun with camera systems and laser-warning systems and 40-millimetre smoke grenades on it.”

The only thing worse than sucking on a smoke grenade, however, is perhaps knowing it was built by Elbit, the heinous company responsible for such atrocities as the Palestinian Separation Wall, and the Hermes 450 drone, responsible for much of the carnage of the 2008-09 siege on Gaza.

Was L-3 on the happy Dexter trade mission to Israel? Or did this come as an afterthought?

Of course, Dexter put a proverbial feather in his cap by visiting the West Bank city of Ramallah, and meeting with an actual, real, Palestinian, Minister of National Economy for the Palestinian Authority, Hassan Abu Lindeh. Abu Lindeh, some may know, has just been indicted on charges of embezzlement and insider trading. The Palestinian Authority enjoys little popular support from the general Palestinian public, and has been embroiled in controversy and power-grab maneuvers for years. Dexter and Abu Lindeh must have gotten along just swimmingly.

The mind does wander, as well, to all the places that Dexter's folly invariably did not visit. These would be all the places, all across Palestine, all across Gaza, that just don't fit with the whitewashed notion of doing trade with Israel, the necessity of looking here, but most certainly not over there.

“If the trade mission wanted to learn any facts about the role of Canada in this illegal occupation...they should go to see the so-called Canada Park.” says Dr. Ismail Zayid, long-time Haligonian, and one of the millions of displaced Palestinians around the world. “The infamy that Canadian tax-deductible dollars built on the ruins of three villages; Imwas, Yalu, and Beit Nuba, my own hometown. These three villages were...occupied on June 6th, 1967, without a single shot being fired, and yet they were systematically demolished and 14,000 people were driven out. We were all driven out of our own homes. So our shame as Canadians (is that) our dollars were used to build what's called Canada Park on the ruins of these villages, through the Canadian Jewish National Fund, which is a registered charity. This is a war crime, and I think that the Canadian Jewish National Fund should not be recognized as a charity.”

After a recent presentation in Halifax that left many in tears, journalist Eva Bartlett had a full alter-travel plan ready for the Premier and his crew. Gaza, blockaded from the rest of the world aside from the trickle of foot traffic coming in from Egypt, doesn't see anything in the way of trade these days, and could have greatly benefited from some real Nova Scotian hospitality. And of course the lifting of Israel's illegal blockade.

Of course, Canadians are not allowed into Gaza without a signed release letter from the Canadian embassy in Cairo, and the Canadian embassy in Cairo isn't signing release letters, so Darrell would have had to crawl through a tunnel and maybe dirtied his new JNF hat.

Bartlett's suggestions are as follows:

Day 1:

Gaza's power plant, bombed by the Israelis in 2006 and still not fully repaired.

Gaza's brimming sewage pools, and residents of Umm Al Nassr, where sewage overflowed in August in 2007, drowning 5, including a baby.

Any of Gaza's camps, particularly in the middle areas of Gaza, where the poor functioning of the maimed power plant affects the most residents, cut from power, thus water, for between 8-12 hours a day.

Day 2:

Go fishing. Plan on meeting the Israeli Navy, however, as they shower the poorest of Gaza's population with machine gun fire, shelling, and water cannons, as they try to fish.

Eva advises that Dexter bring a change of clothes, as the water cannons are loaded with “skunk juice”, an excrement-smelling chemical.

Day 3:

A trip to the farm. The border regions, where nowadays farmers are beginning to try and plant their wheat...

Have a cup of fire-brewed coffee and whole wheat bread with the farmers before heading out to land 400 metres, 800 metres, even 1 kilometre from the border, where farmers are targeted by Israeli soldiers from military towers, jeeps, and remotely-controlled towers.

If the Premier has much of an appetite after this, Eva encourages him to try some of Gaza's succulent strawberries, and have as many as he likes, because they are otherwise not being exported.

If anyone else thinks Dexter's trade mission to Israel was a shameful act that doesn't represent Nova Scotia, be sure to drop him a line.

Telephone: 902-424-6600
Fax: 902-424-7648
Toll-free Message Line: 1-800-267-1993
E-mail Address: premier@gov.ns.ca

Ask for Darrell.


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