Punch a hippie

Harvey Oberfeld writes about Syria. It begins with a good-intentioned lament for the carnage and brutality inflicted on the Syrian people as they attempt to overthrow the Assad regime. But ultimately that’s not really the point of the post.

“So where are the Canadian and other Western world activists?”

There are protests “against the United States, Britain and especially Israel…But are staying so “inactive” in the face of ABSOLUTE BRUTALITY by Arab states AGAINST THEIR OWN PEOPLE?

Just who are these alleged “silent” Canadian activists? (I say “Canadian” because for “other Western world activists” inactivity is defined differently, I guess). They’re not directly named. But a couple of points:

  1. Most protests are designed to change the policy of the domestic government. For example, Americans and Brits protested to change the American and British governments policy in, say, Iraq. To date the governments of the United States, Britain, and Canada have shown a considerable deal of concern for what is going on in Syria. Other than for those who believe in military intervention, is there any actual need to spur stronger action?
  2. Speaking of that latter point, where are the right-wing protesters spurring action on Syria?
  3. Syria is, and has been for decades, a pariah state. Western governments cut ties long ago, which means there are very few carrots and sticks available for them to use today.
  4. Canadian protests against, say, the military action in Iraq weren’t as big as they were in the U.S. or U.K. But there were some. However, those countries are ones Canada has strong cultural, political, and economic ties too. They are, literally, our brothers and sisters. We know them, we identify with them. We can influence them. Our ties with Israel our not as strong, but they certainly exist.
  5. There’s a long, long line of countries where human rights are in crisis right now. Where were/are the protesters for Kyrgyzstan? For Bahrain? For Burma? For East Timor? (Where were the Harvey Oberfeld blog posts on those)? In fact, Canadian protests against anything – outside Quebec – are disappointingly small.


Those “militant” unions and professional organizations which pass all kinds of resolutions calling for bans … again, especially against the state of Israel, its products or even their own Israeli professional confreres  … but take no action to disassociate themselves in any way from Syria, its products or their confreres or products from other murderous Muslim states?

I believe one of the things “militant” unions have done Harvey may be referring to was CUPE Ontario’s Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions proposal against Israel. As mentioned, we don’t do a lot of trade with Syria. Unlike Israel, our government is already boycotting, disinvesting and sanctioning Syria with the little economic leverage we do have.

Syrian professors don’t visit Canada. They defect to Canada.

Harvey acknowledges that the Assads of this world don’t give one whit for Western protesters, but we should do it anyway because it “makes it easier for the slaughters to continue and makes it easier for our own governments to do little or nothing to stop it”.

Huh? In this case, it seems a call for Canadians to take to the streets to force the government to take action it’s already doing.

All of which leads me to suspect this is less about Syria than to use Syria as an opportunity to vent frustration that there are protests against other things that Harvey likes.

Finally, here is a vigil for Syria held in Vancouver on February 4th:

And here’s one in Montreal for Bahrain: