Jack Chivo: Brotherly love

Two apparently unrelated stories have caught my attention over the past few weeks, but there is a clear thread linking them and other events in the world, which make me wonder.

On October 16, Ontario NDP MP, Irene Mathyssen, rose in the House of Commons requesting that the Canadian government protest the refusal of the state of Israel to grant refugee status to thousands of people from Eritrea seeking asylum there.

I would have liked to be told by Mathyssen why she wanted devout Muslims from Eritrea to find a home among the Jews in Israel.

Didn't she learn from the fiery speeches delivered by her NDP colleagues, especially Deputy Leader Libby Davies, that Israel is a racist, xenophobic, and apartheid state, where Muslims are persecuted, discriminated, and treated like second-class citizens?

Wouldn't it be better for the Muslims from Eritrea to settle in one of their many neighbouring countries, like Yemen, Sudan, Egypt, or Kenya—or, more importantly, in the wealthy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, just across the Red Sea from their shores—where they could share the same religion, culture, habits, and often language, all with a predominantly Muslim local population?

Especially because the Saudis are so keen to be seen as caring for their Islamic brothers and sisters. With a huge territory barely populated and swimming in black and yellow gold, they could easily give shelter to a few thousands Eritreans seeking a better life.

And why would Eritrean refugees endure what is being described in the world media as the perils of being killed, maimed, raped, and sold as slaves during their journey over two thousands kilometers to Israel? It's often on foot through waters and desolated deserts, as they're forced to pay huge amounts to tribesmen and other shadowy people for safe passage, not granted or guaranteed. They could have asked for refugee status in any of the above mentioned neighbouring countries.

I would have liked to learn all of this from Mathyssen, but she has not replied so far to my polite messages asking the same questions. Should I hold my breath awaiting her reply?

Perhaps the explanation was given this past weekend in a string of horrific stories about the atrocities perpetrated in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). The Buddhist majority in the province of Rakhine has been targeting about 800,000 Rohingya Muslims living in the country for over a century, apparently Muslims of Bengali origin.

There are disputed theories about the origin of these people, but ithey are still considered as noncitizens in the country of Myanmar, and subject to persecution and worse. As reported by the CBC, aerial photos of the area show destruction of thousands of homes and other structures following violent clashes with their Buddhist neighbours; there are reports about tens of thousands survivors fleeing the lands in desperation.

And here comes the second part of the report. The neighbouring country of Bangladesh, home to about 300,000 Rohingya and with a 90 percent Muslim population, has further tightened its land and maritime borders with Myanmar, imposed earlier in June 2012, and is turning away every refugee trying to escape the massacres.

According to international aid organizations, not even one person has been able to enter Bangladesh, leaving them at the mercy of their tormentors. There are additional reports about hundreds, if not thousands who have been killed after being turned back by the Bangladeshi soldiers at the border.

This is despite repeated claims from the leadership of the country that one of their highest duties is solidarity with Muslims around the world. Which might also explain why the potential refugees from Eritrea, along with other more than 60,000 other Muslims who have fled to Israel over the past few years, appear to prefer the "racism" there to the brotherly love of their fellow Muslims, even those from very wealthy countries.

Jack Chivo is a retired journalist living in West Vancouver.




Nov 1, 2012 at 6:37pm

Right on Jack!

Steve Jones

Nov 1, 2012 at 8:26pm

Arrrmmm can it be most of the Eritreans are Christian not moslims ?


Nov 1, 2012 at 8:47pm

Dear Chivo, i just want to say one thing here, as we have told by Israeli Government, there are 60,000 ilegal african refugees living in there, now, from those 60.000 refugees believe me or not around 10.000 of them are real Eritreans, the rest who registered as an Eritreans came from different countries such as Ethiopia, sudan, etc, the reason why they say they are Eritreans is simple and clear, if they claim that they are Eritreans Israeli Government will allow them to stay or the UNHCR will register them as an Political asylum, this is the reason everyone want to be an Eritrean, this is an open secret. so Eritrea case is a hot cake everywhere, my point is why the media's say the refugees in Israel the majority comes from Eritrea, they should investigate and tell the truth to Us.


Nov 1, 2012 at 9:18pm

Dear Jackie:
The Eritreans seeking asylum are not Muslims, they are Orthodox Christians. They have been Christians for 1700 years! You should attempt to do a basic rerearch on Eritrea's history before you write such a silly article. There goes your premise...faulty thinking!

Just askingt

Nov 1, 2012 at 10:09pm

What does it matter if they are all Eritrean, or not, or some might be Christians??

The fact is they want to stay in the "racist" and "Apartheid" Israel, rather than living in the other countries in the area. Where they share religion, culture and the language.

Perhaps, Libby Davies, the United Church of Canada, or Rabbi Mivasair, along with their soul mates, should start caring for them and condemn Egypt and the other Muslim states where they are persecuted, robbed and killed. And with organs harvested for wealthy Arab patients.

Will this happen??

Stay posted!!


Nov 2, 2012 at 1:53pm

Well said Jack!! Why would black, Muslim (or Christian for that matter) refugees want to flee to such a horrible place as Israel? There are many other countries closer to home that have not been condemned continually by the United Nations where they could find shelter. Why would they want to risk there lives to go to Israehell, that bastion of racist hate?

Jack asks many good questions and we and the refugees all know the answer.


Nov 2, 2012 at 3:15pm

Yeah Jack, why would anyone want to go to a democratic country that doesn't kill you because you don't want to be in their religion? Or why would anyone want to go to a country that respects the rights of people different than them - you know, christians, gays, etc. And anonymouse, you call Israel a bastion of racist hate - sounds like most of the muslim countries instead. And quit being a racist yourself.

Jack C.

Nov 2, 2012 at 4:38pm

Many questions, no answers!!

What is suprising, no one seems to care about the Muslims in Myanmar, hundreds of thousands, killed, maimed, raped and dispossesed!

While their "broothers" in nieghbouring Bangladesh, rather than offering them help and shelter are waiting with machine guns to send them back to the killing fields.

Where is the condemnation from the United Church, or ALL the churches??

As long as they cannot blame the Americans, the Canadians, the British or the Israelis, it does NOT matter to them!!


Nov 2, 2012 at 11:33pm

Bobo, I was being sarcastic! I was just mimicking the so-called anti-Israel activists and Jew haters. Israel is the opposite of what I said and that is why the Africans are fleeing there and not to their immediate neighbours.

Wes Druer

Nov 4, 2012 at 9:03am

Dear Mr. Chivo, perhaps you should do your homework a little better. MP Mathyssen rose to PRESENT A PETITION, you know...from constituents...the people who elect MPs. Like MPs are supposed to do. It was not a debate on foreign affairs, or question period, it was presenting a petition. It does not mean the MP either supports or does not support the request, it is simply bringing forward an issue a minimum of 25 eligible petitioners requested.
Your post is a sloppy disservice to democracy.