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Sharon Carstairs

Sharon Carstairs Voices Concerns over Hamas “Parliamentarians”

By Rhonda Spivak, November 1, 2009

Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs voiced concerns on C.B. C.  at the beginning of  2009  [ January 25, 2009] over the arrest of Hamas “Parliamentarians” taken to Israel, shortly after they were elected in 2006.

In a telephone interview, Carstairs, who is  Chairperson of the Committee of Human Rights of Parliamentarians, said that after the elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006 [under the Palestinian Authority] ,   34 Hamas members “ who were duly elected” were “taken to Israel,” some “as early as April 2006.”

Carstairs said that most of these Parliamentarians “have never been charged or tried.” She said that “if they are guilty of terrorist acts they should be charged and prosecuted, but up to this point [over two and a half years] most of them haven’t been brought to trial.”

Carstairs says that as a chairperson, she has an obligation to raise this issue.  She said that according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union there are more than 300 Parliamentarians in 29 countries in these types of situations.

Carstairs added that “Israel supported the elections in 2006, and they said these [people] will be duly elected Parliamentarians… Israel did not object to these elections taking place.”

Carstairs also noted “two of these individuals [elected Hamas members] were charged and tried and convicted, but the only charge was that “they belonged to Hamas,” which Carstairs says wasn’t a proper charge, and she is “dismayed” by the handling of these cases.

Carstairs says that “It is fair to say that because Fatah is in charge of the Palestinian Authority [in the West Bank] their original demands for the release of these individuals [Hamas Parliamentarians] have been lessoned to some degree.” This, according to Carstairs, is because “Fatah and Hamas are rivals.”

Carstairs emphasized that the issue she has raised has “nothing to do” with Israel’s recent military operation in Gaza.

 When asked what her views were on the recent conflict, Carstairs said “My view is that Israel is entitled to have a secure border and security for its people. Although none of us like what’s happened in Gaza, Israel has a right to defend herself.”

On Wednesday Feb 4, following inquiries from this reporter, Shimon  Fogel, CEO of the Canada-Israel Committee issued the following response to Carstair’s concerns about Hamas Parliamentarians:

“The Hamas-affiliated individuals currently detained in Israel who are the subject of Senator Carstair’s concern (expressed at the recent meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union) are believed to be connected to various terrorist activities. Their parliamentary association does not render them immune to detention or prosecution by Israel for their alleged roles in terrorist plots. Some have been released by Israel (e.g., Hassam Khader) as a goodwill gesture to PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, and all benefit from treatment that is in full accord with Israeli and international law – conditions not afforded Gilad Shalit, who remains incommunicado and unavailable for even basic Red Cross inspections. 

“The CIC understands the desire on the part of Canadian parliamentarians to advocate for the safety of all democratically-elected lawmakers. However, we regret that Senator Carstairs – with whom we enjoy a warm relationship – did not reach out to the CIC or the Israeli Embassy before offering any comment, despite efforts by the Embassy to contact her. Had we been provided with that opportunity, we would have reminded the Honourable Senator that Hamas came to power in Gaza in a violent and most decidedly undemocratic coup.”

On hearing CIC’s response in a telephone interview, Carstairs replied that it “was not true” that she has not tried to contact the Israeli Ambassador, before raising her concerns.

 “I have been asking to meet with the Israeli ambassador for over a year and a half,” she said.

Carstairs said only “two days ago” [February 3], a meeting was finally set up between her and the Israeli Ambassador to Canada.

In response to inquiries Frank Dimant, Executive Vice-President, B’nai Brith Canada has also issued a statement in response to Senator Carstair’s remarks on C.B.C. radio, which he said are “very troubling.”   Dimant said:

“Hamas is recognized by Canada, the United States and our European allies, as a terrorist organization.  Members operating in Gaza, whether in the operational or organizational departments, or those that are giving the orders, are all part and parcel of the same terrorist entity that has been responsible for the killing of civilians in Israel and for an ongoing campaign of missile attacks that has deliberately targeted civilians for no less than eight years.

How can Senator Carstairs demand that these terrorists, whether they are on the front lines or coordinating from behind the lines, such as Hamas members of the Executive who serve in the Parliament of Hamas, be treated any differently than any terrorists who have blood on their hands?”

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.