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Europe, Canada and US

Canada's First Nations: Expect resistance

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“Respect Existence or Expect Resistance”, chant native Canadians as a showdown 11 January loams with Prime Minister Harper.

Sparked by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike on tiny ‘Victoria’ Island near Ottawa's Parliament Hill, now in its third frigid week, the native uprising across Canada is in fact the latest manifestation of the world's colonized peoples trying to throw off the shackles of imperialism. An exciting moment, one of vital import for us all.

Their warrior path brings to mind Egyptian Muslims fighting their westernizers and Mubarakite old guard since the revolution in January 2011, or the struggle by Palestinian natives against Israeli theft of their land. It is a continuation of the Iranian people's struggle in the face of unrelenting subversion from the West. It’s no coincidence that Cairenes were some of the demonstrators at Canadian embassies, or that native activist-leader Terrance Nelson recently was offered support in Tehran for his efforts to gain a seat at the OPEC table for the real owners of Canada’s oil and gas resources.

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Human rights: the people vs the UN

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Even as the US government is re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Committee Against Torture hears a complaint against Bush, notes Eric Walberg

The recent death of Iranian dissident blogger Sattar Beheshti in police custody was a sad event. All human life is precious. “If anyone kills a person unless in retribution for murder or spreading corruption in the land – it is as if he kills all humanity,” states the Quran. An investigation by the Tehran prosecutor, the head of Tehran police and the head of Tehran prisons was ordered by Iranian parliament and Beheshti’s interrogators were hauled on the carpet.

At the same time, the US was elected to a second three-year term on the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). President Bush boycotted the HRC for criticizing Israel too much, but Obama joined in 2010 to ‘improve’ it. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed Washington’s re-election this week, saying that the HRC “has delivered real results”, citing its criticism of Syria, though she criticized the rights council’s continued “excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel”.

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Canada-Iran: Looking for real democracy

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One Canadian leader looks for allies to develop our resources responsibly, while another looks for enemies where there are none, says Eric Walberg 

News that should warm the heart of any supporter of native rights and critic of Stephen Harper -- that native activists will finally get a voice at OPEC (however weak) -- has been greeted by the silence of the liberal lambs. Where are voices of reason? Where is the opposition in Canada's so-called democracy?

The only public response to former Roseau River chief Terrance Nelson's efforts to help his people -- Canada's First Nation (as opposed to the settlers who stole the land and who export and destroy our resources) -- is to accuse him of treason, of consorting with the enemy, the enemy being a nation which has never threatened Canada, the US or any other nation with aggression. A nation which is instead the victim of harsh sanctions and unrelenting subversion by Canada and its 'friends’.

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Canada's Muslim problem: Who’s demonizing who?

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The return of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo, Canadian Islamophobia, and a trip by a native leader to Iran make Harper’s human rights award an embarrassment, says Eric Walberg

After 10 years in Guantanamo, former child soldier Omar Khadr, the last Western national being held there, was finally repatriated last week after years of mistreatment. The illegality of the procedures used against Khadr from day one mean that the Canadian government faces a multi-million dollar law suit for damages. Various court cases against the government failed to convince it to expedite his return, until the US government finally pulled the plug, forcing the Canadian government to take him after his plea of guilty to various charges, clearly made as the only way to end his ordeal and give him hope of eventual release.

At the same time, Egyptian Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmud has issued arrest warrants for Canadian Egyptians Nader Fawzy Jacques Attalla of Montreal, claiming they were involved in the production of the film "Innocence of Muslims", which defames Islam and led to the death of dozens including the US ambassador to Libya, and the closing of Canada’s embassies in Egypt and Libya (since reopened). Of course, both Coptic Christian activists insist on their own "innocence". Attalla asked for police protection, claiming he and his family in Egypt are now targets of potential violence, calling the arrest warrant issued by the prosecutor general a "fatwa". As if to confirm his own guilt, Attalla said, "Egypt was exporting civilisation before and now it's exporting terrorism and killing and hatred." It will take some doing for the Conservatives to finesse this diplomatic tangle.

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TIFF: Cultural Starwars

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This year's Toronto International Film Festival highlights the new direction in filmmaking: Iran is the enemy du jour, but at the same time it is not longer kosher to praise everything Israel does, notes Eric Walberg

The empire requires a nice juicy enemy to keep people's minds off its own sins. During the Cold War, Hollywood responded admirably to the challenge, churning out anti-communist thrillers with Russian bad guys, most memorably during Reagan's surreal presidency, when "Red Dawn" and "Rocky IV" reduced international politics to a comic book parody.

Given who the official enemy is these days, it is no surprise that the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which boasts of 72 participating countries, did not include a 'Spotlight on Iranian cinema' this year. On the contrary, it showcased the latest serving of propaganda against Iran with the premiere of “Argo”, a docudrama depicting the escape of six US diplomats from Iran following the November 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran, when 52 Americans were held hostage, and Iranian student protesters dumped US diplomatic correspondence on the street in a spectacular premodern WikiLeak.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

Europe, Canada & USA

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