(Note: CPA’s work over the past 34 years has been largely undocumented on our website, but we are trying to rectify this.)
AI-Canada Stated Zionist Legal Network Coordinator Didn’t Compromise their Commitment to Impartiality
The following letters were exchanged between CPA and Bonnie Harnden, Executive Assistant of Amnesty International Canada in Jan./Feb 2002.
We checked recently with AI-Canada about the status of David Matas and we received the following response on Feb. 24, 2014 from Denise Glasbeek, Information Services Coordinator, Amnesty International, Canadian Section (English-Speaking):
“I don’t have an exact date for when David Matas ceased to work with Amnesty International. It was sometime close to but before 2006, I believe. To clarify, he was not employed at Amnesty International Canada. He was a volunteer with our Legal Network.” We recognize that AI-Canada has increased its engagement with and promotion of Palestinian human rights in recent years, but to our knowledge, although he is no longer involved with them, they have never distanced themselves from David Matas.
Interestingly, Matas was fully informed about the 2002 exchange of letters and even wrote about them in his outrageous 2005 “Hasbara” book “Aftershock: Anti-Zionism & Anti-Semitism”
We started our engagement with AI, Canada in Jan. 2002, by inquiring about the status of David Matas and his involvement with them, and we received the following response from Bonnie Harnden.
—– Original Message —–
Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 7:25 AM
Subject: David Matas
David Matas is a long-time volunteer member of Amnesty Canada. He is currently the Coordinator of our Legal Network.
David is also very active in a number of other organizations.
The following letter was sent to Bonnie Harnden, Executive Assistant, AI Canada under the title “A Staunch Supporter of Israel CANNOT be Impartial”
Jan. 19, 2002
From: “hkawas” hkawas@…
Sent: Saturday, January 19, 2002 1:09 AM
Subject: A Staunch Supporter of Israel CANNOT be Impartial
Executive Assistant, AI Canada
I was disturbed and saddened to learn that David Matas is still working with Amnesty International – Canada.
Mr. Matas is a staunch supporter and uncritical advocate of Israel and Zionism, and he is also is an apologist for Israeli injustices and atrocities against the Palestinian people.
As a “Senior Legal Counsel” to the B’nai Brith Canada, he recently wrote:
“There may be some who assert the right of return for Palestinians without any awareness of the impact it would have on the Jewish people. Others are aware but either do not care, or worse, support that impact. For those in support, ‘the right of return of the Palestinian people’ is today what the ‘final solution to the Jewish problem’ was in the days of Hitler, a mask of words disguising the end result: a denial of the Jewish people’s right to a national identity in its historic homeland.”
He also stated in the same position paper that:
“Israel has not stripped Palestinians of their nationality in violation of international law”.
And then further stated:
“The non-governmental organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both endorsed the claimed right of Palestinians to Israel… In doing so, they have abandoned their human rights mandates and called for a human rights violation.”
(Israel And The Palestinians: Myths and Realities http://www.bnaibrith.ca/institute/articles/dm010730.html)
This leads us to the following questions:
1- If Mr. Matas thinks that Amnesty International calls for “a human rights violation”, why is he still working with AI Canada?
2- Can a man with so much blind loyalty to Israel and the cause of Zionism be impartial?
3- After all these years of his involvement with your organization, why has AI Canada never questioned his impartiality?
4- Can we trust that the campaigns you are conducting are not politically motivated? i.e. Are the campaigns you are conducting against human rights abuses in certain Arab and Moslem countries motivated by human rights principles or by a political pro-Israeli agenda? And what guarantees can you give the public about this question when you have the likes of Mr. David Matas
working as the Coordinator for your Legal Network?
Amnesty International claims that it “is impartial. It does not take sides in political conflicts. It neither supports nor opposes any government or political system.”
If you are true to your principles, we do NOT think Mr. Matas should be involved in the work of Amnesty International in any capacity.
He not only supports a political system, but he supports a political system that denies the suffering of the Palestinian people, their inalienable rights and their HUMANITY.
Canada Palestine Association
Bonnie Harnden’s response:
—– Original Message —–
To: “hkawas” hkawas@…
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2002 8:31 AM
Subject: Re: A Staunch Supporter of Israel CANNOT be Impartial
David Matas is a longstanding volunteer with Amnesty International. His work with the organization has been in keeping with AI’s commitment to impartiality and independence. Mr. Matas always makes it clear when he is speaking or acting on behalf of AI and when he is doing so on behalf of other organizations. Mr. Matas has no role in developing or presenting Amnesty’s policies or actions in relation to the Middle East.
Amnesty’s work on human rights concerns in the Middle East has always been scrupulously impartial, and not influenced by political considerations. In Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority the organization has spoken out frequently and very publicly with respect to human rights abuses attributable to Israeli forces, the Palestinian Authority and armed groups. Those reports are available on our website.
Our final response to Bonnie Harnden, under the title “Amnesty International-Canada Violates the Principles of Human Rights” Feb. 15, 2002
Sent: Friday, February 15, 2002 11:25 PM
Subject: Amnesty International-Canada Violates the Principles of Human Rights
Amnesty International Canada
We in the Canada Palestine Association are outraged that David Matas, a self declared violator of Palestinian human rights, is allowed to work in Amnesty International – Canada. Human rights are universal, and a violator of human rights in one country can not be a defender of human rights anywhere else.
What is even more incomprehensible is that Matas has publicly criticized Amnesty for its support of the Palestinian right of return, accusing you of having “abandoned (your) human rights mandate”, and yet he continues to work with you and you continue to involve him in a position of trust. The principles of human rights do not lend themselves to such opportunism.
1- Mr. David Matas supports Zionism as an exclusive ideology that allows any Jew to automatically gain Israeli citizenship regardless of his/her birth place, while at the same time he vehemently denies a native of Palestine and her/his descendants the right of return to their homeland.
2- Mr. Matas DENIES the direct responsibility of the Zionist movement for the mass expulsion of the majority of the Palestinian people and the subsequent tragedy of the Palestinian dispossession. Many historians, including Israelis, have documented this direct Israeli responsibility.
“The Jewish military advantage was translated into an act of mass expulsion of more than half of the Palestinian population. The Israeli forces, apart from rare exceptions, expelled the Palestinians from every village and town they occupied. In some cases, this expulsion was accompanied by massacres as was the cases in Lydda, Ramleh, Dawimiyya, Sa’sa, Ein Zietun and other
places. Expulsion also was accompanied by rape, looting and confiscation.”
Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe in “The Link”, January-March, 1998.
3- Mr. Matas not only defends the apartheid nature of the state of Israel, he also justifies it and believes that Israel should be the state of the Jewish people only and not of ALL its citizens. He supports the exclusive “Jewish character of the State of Israel” and “the preservation of the cultural identity of the Jewish people” in Israel.
a- On that basis, he thereby supports the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the state of Israel which was created according to the UN Partition Plan of Nov. 29, 1947, with a population of 50 percent Jewish and 50 percent Arab
Palestinians on 56 per cent of historic Palestine.
b- Mr. Matas believes that any natural demographic change inside Israel should be stopped by all means similar to what happened in 1947/1948.
c. He also supports all the Israeli laws and regulations that make Israel an exclusionary state and not secular for all of its citizens. The basic law, the law of return and the Jewish National Fund regulations are but a few examples.
4- Mr. Matas says the Holocaust “was global, not just European. It had a Middle East dimension, because of the failure of the states of the Middle East to offer protection to Jewish refugees”. Accordingly, he concludes that Palestinians should share in the “obligation to remedy these wrongs (of the Nazis)”, presumably by giving away their country. This is the utmost in victimizing the victim. Canada and the U.S. were two of the worst countries in turning away Jewish refugees during that period, but Mr. Matas hasn’t called for the state of Israel to be established in New York or on Vancouver Island. We refer him to the book, “The Holocaust, Victims Accuse”, published 1977 by the Orthodox Jewish group Neturei Karta, to fill the gaps in his rather selective analysis.
These are just a few examples of what David Matas stands for, and we do not understand how AI-Canada can claim that it is committed to “impartiality and independence” if it allows such a person to coordinate its legal network, and especially when this coordinator thinks that AI called for “a human rights violation” when it supported the Palestinians’ inalienable human rights.
We urge AI-Canada to:
1- Stop working with people like David Matas who call and work for violations of other peoples’ human and national rights.
2- To start a campaign to call on the Canadian government to stop the tax-deductible status of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) that discriminates on the basis of religion. The JNF and its subsidiaries control around 93 per cent of the land in Israel. This land is set aside for the exclusive use of Jews only, and the 20 per cent Muslim and Christian Israeli minority cannot buy nor even lease this land.
As a Canadian human rights organization, you do not want Canada to be an accessory to such discrimination.
In the meantime, however, we feel obliged to condemn AI-Canada and expose your hypocritical practices to all peace and human rights activists.
We will urge all those who are concerned with the universality of human rights to protest AI-Canada’s practices.
Canada Palestine Association, Vancouver, B.C.