Thursday, March 16, 2006

"We love Canada"

To all those who said we should have joined the war against Iraq, who argued that Arabs are animals who want to take over and destroy the world, that they have no discernment and that any Westerner was equally their target and that Canadians were living in a fool's paradise if we really believed we were safe...

Passport saved Canadian hostage
Held hostage at gunpoint by Palestinian extremists in the Gaza Strip, Mark Budzanowski feared for his life – until his captors discovered his passport and declared 'We love Canada'
From Thursday's Globe and Mail

JERUSALEM — Mark Budzanowski could almost feel his captors' mood sag when they rifled through his pockets and found his passport. The word Canada on the cover was a blow to the dozens of masked men who surrounded him in the nondescript basement somewhere in the Gaza Strip. They thought they had kidnapped an American.

At first, the men in the masks didn't believe their eyes, and questioned the 57-year-old aid worker about Canada and about specific shops near Mr. Budzanowski's residence on Carlton Street in Toronto.

When they were finally convinced that Mr. Budzanowski was not an American in disguise, he said, they started treating him more politely, and handling him less roughly.

"When they were certain I was Canadian, they were very disappointed. Then, they told me, 'We love Canada.' That's wonderful to hear when you have guns pointed at you," an exhausted Mr. Budzanowski said yesterday in a telephone interview shortly after he was released after almost 30 hours as a hostage.

"It's wonderful to have a Canadian passport because it changes people's minds. One of the guards kept asking me to say hello to Canada, so it does stand for something."

His former captors had taken a liking to him toward the end of the hostage-taking and one — the one who kept asking him to say hello to Canada — even gave him a phone number to call if he ever needed the help of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

"I don't intend to use it, but I believe he meant it," Mr. Budzanowski said with a chuckle...

...Mr. Budzanowski's captors, members of the leftist PFLP, which Mr. Saadat leads, had been looking for an American or British hostage, someone they could potentially use as barter to get Israel to stop its attack on the jail...

...After a sleepless night, during which his captors kept flicking on the light to make sure he wasn't trying to escape, Mr. Budzanowski said, he was forced to record another video, then put back into a car and driven to what he assumed would be another hideout. Only when he saw a crowd of camera-wielding journalists, and then was greeted by French diplomats acting on behalf of the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv, did Mr. Budzanowski realize that he was being freed.

But while the Canadian embassy had arranged safe passage for him to Tel Aviv, and then home to Canada if he wanted, Mr. Budzanowski decided to stay in Gaza City. After what he hoped would be a long sleep and a warm shower, the aid worker planned to be back at his desk at Jumpstart this morning.

Despite his lack of sleep, Mr. Budzanowski spoke passionately about the need to help Palestinians rebuild their economy and society. He said Jumpstart's projects — including the building of a polytechnic school on the ruins of a deserted Israeli settlement in Gaza and a "peace park" near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt — are too important for him to go home now.

Palestinian police were less sure he should stay, and posted guards outside his room in Gaza City last night. Mr. Budzanowski, however, wasn't worried.

"I find this work very exciting, this is tangible help we're giving, and there's no reason for me to go home because of an incident like this, no matter how unpleasant."


The Persian said...

I guess he was one lucky Canadian!


Masnick96 said... I'll only have to wait four years to get my passport :-)

georgepollock said...

As an American, I am seriously considering getting me a fake Canadian passport. (I am checking out your website as a fellow winner of the best description in 10 words or less of why Bush should be impeached. Enjoyed it) George Pollock

Lone Primate said...

Thanks for dropping by, George. :) If more Americans were like you, guys overseas would be reacting to American passports the same way.