CANADA PARK
                                                        Canadian Complicity in A War Crime
                                                                          
                                                                              { By Dr. Ismail Zayid}
 
" Here is our house", says Ibrahim Elsheikh, the 75 year old mukhtar [ village headman] of Imwas [Emmaus], pointing to the rubble of his home, that stood there until June 1967, when Israel invaded and occupied Sinai, the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights. Thousands of villagers, from Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba [my own hometown] still cry remembering their homes that stood there until Israel erased them from the face of The Holy Land, when they were systematically dynamited and bulldozed. In Beit Nuba alone, 18 old or disabled men, who were unable or unwilling to leave instantly their homes, were buried under the rubble. No fighting took place in these villages when they were occupied in the early hours of June 6, 1967.
 
The three villages were once part of what was called the Latrun salient. Over 10,000 people lived there; they had schools, mosques, agricultural land and many centuries of history. It was in Imwas [Emmaus] where it is believed that Jesus Christ appeared first after the Crucifixion.
 
The destruction of these villages was witnessed and described by the Israeli journalist, Amos Keinan, who was a reserve soldier in in the occupying force in Beit Nuba. He gave this account to the Jewish magazine Haolem Hazeh, which was not allowed, by the censor, to have it published. It was sent to all members of the Knesset [ Israel's parliament] and to the Prime Minister and Defence minister, but no response was received:
 
         " The unit commander told us that it had been decided to blow up three villages in our sector; they were Beit Nuba, Imwas and Yalu....
          We were told to block the entrances of the villages and prevent inhabitants returning......The order was to shoot over their heads and   tell them not to enter the village.
 
'Beit Nuba is built of fine quarry stones; some of the houses are magnificent. Every house is surrounded by an orchard, olive trees, apricots, vines and presses. They are well kept. Among the trees, there are carefully tended vegetable beds.
 
'At noon the first bulldozer arrived and pulled down the first house at the edge of the village. Within ten minutes the house was turned into rubble. The olive trees and cypresses were all uprooted. After the destruction of three houses, the first refugee column arrived from the direction of Ramallah. We did not fire in the air. There were old people who could hardly walk, murmuring old women, mothers carrying babies, small children. The children wept and asked for water. They all carried white flags.
 
'We told them to go to Beit Sira. They told us they were driven out. They were wandering like this for four days, without food, some dying on the road. They asked to return to their village, and said we better kill them. Some had a goat, a lamb, a donkey or a camel. A father ground wheat by hand to feed his four children..... The children cried. Some of our soldiers started crying too. We went to fetch the Arabs some water. We stopped a car with a major, two captains and a woman... We asked the officers why these refugees were sent from one place to another and driven out of everywhere. They told us that this was good for them, they should go. "Moreover" said the officers, " why do we care about the Arabs anyway?"
 
'We drove them out. They go on wandering like lost cattle. The weak die. Our unit was outraged. the refugees gnashed their teeth when they saw the bulldozers pull down the trees. None of us understood how Jews could behave like this. No one understood why shouldn't these fellaheens [villagers] be allowed to take blankets and some food.
 
'The chickens and doves were buried in the rubble. The fields were turned into waste land in front of our eyes. The children who went crying on the road will be fedayeen [ freedom fighters] in nineteen years, in the next round. Thus we have lost the victory. " { Copied from "Israel Imperial News", March 1968}.
 
Uri Avneri, a then member of the Knesset, described the destruction of these villages, as a definite war crime. This was carried out on the direct orders of Yitzhak Rabin, the then Chief of Staff of Israel's armed forces. These acts are in direct violation of The Fourth Geneva Convention, 1949, to which Israel is a signatory. Article 53 of the convention states : " Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the state, or to other public authorities or social or cooperative organizations is prohibited".
 
It is now difficult to spot the ruins and the rubble. Today stands there the infamy called " Canada Park", with picnic areas for Israelis, built with Canadian tax-deductible dollars provided by the Canadian Jewish National Fund [J.N.F.].
 
It was in 1973 that Bernard Bloomfield of Montreal, the then President of the J.N.F. of Canada, who spearheaded a campaign among the Canadian Jewish community to raise $ 15 million to establish Canada Park, so as to provide a picnic area accessible to Israelis from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
 
At the entrance of Canada Park, just off John Diefenbaker Parkway [ opened by Diefenbaker himself in 1975], is a sign that reads :  "Welcome to Canada Park in Ayalon Valley - A project of The Jewish National Fund of Canada".  The J.N.F., responsible for the upkeep of the park, has removed all signs of the villages and their inhabitants from the area. It would seem that only the Canadian donors are worthy of being remembered; their names are engraved in the bronze plaques which cover an entire wall. Interestingly these donors are not directly informed that the park is built at the site of the demolished villages. The Director of the American JNF stated that : " It is a delicate situation, and one cannot expect an institution [ such as Canadian JNF] which gathers money from abroad, to publicise the issue [ the demolition of these villages" { "Canada Park: A Case Study" by Ehud Meltz and Michal Selah, Kol Hair, Aug. 31, 1984}.
 
The glossy guidebook, published by the JNF of Canada, has an entire page devoted to the history of the area, including biblical, Roman, Crusaders and British periods history, but has no mention of these villages or their destruction. Another step in the obliteration of the villages from memory can be seen in their absence from Israeli maps.
 
As a new Canadian, my personal pain was compounded when I read on Dec. 4, 1978, in our local newspaper, The Halifax Herald, that Peter Herschorn was honored by the JNF, for his humanitarian work and " choosing the right goodness" in his participation in the building of Canada Park. The Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, the Premier of N.S. and the Mayor of Halifax were in attendance and offered their greetings. I was mortified to see that political leaders of my new country, Canada, would consider the erection of recreation centres on the site of ruins of  criminally demolished peaceful historical villages, illegally occupied, as a humanitarian act. Canada continuously brags about its reputation of upholding the UN Charter , international law and human rights, yet allows its taxpayers' dollars to sponsor such a war crime. Over many years, I have written repeatedly , supported by some honorable politicians like Senator Heath Macquarrie and Mr. R.A.Corbett, MP, to successive Revenue Canada Ministers, expressing concern about this and receiving only vague unhelpful answers.
 
Father Louis, who worked at the Latrun Franciscan Monastery for 40 years said : " Everytime I go by Canada Park. I still get angry. Why does the Canadian government allow it to be called Canada Park? It is built on the ruins of people's homes".
 
Alas, Every Canadian should be asking why should our country's name be associated with this infamy?