The Diplomacy of Impartiality: Canada and Israel, 1958-1968

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Zachariah Kay, The Diplomacy of Impartiality: Canada and Israel, 1958-1968 (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2010), 138 pp. Cased. £56.99. ISBN 978-1-55458-187-0.

This is the last volume in a trilogy which explores the history of Canada-Palestine Mandate/Israel diplomatic relations from 1922 to 1968. During the period covered by this book the official Canadian policy toward Israel was one of impartiality. While Canada recognized the State of Israel and saw itself as a friend, it took an impartial view of Israel's relationship with its Arab neighbours. This policy was a logical result of Canada's strong commitment to the United Nations (UN). As Kay shows, the policy allowed Canada to act as an honest broker between Israel and its Arab neighbours. However, Kay suggests Canada saw Israel as a non-indigenous actor in an Arab Middle East and as part of the West, so some policymakers believed Israel was required to show more initiative than its Arab neighbours.

Kay believes that for the most part Canada's policy was genuinely impartial. However, as he shows, there was at least one area where the policy was not equally balanced toward the Arabs and Israel. Canada had a strong commitment to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which was responsible for a network of camps which housed Palestinian refugees. On the other hand, Canada did not recognise or provide any funding for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish 'Mizrahi' refugees from the Arab world in Israel. However, as Kay observes, the Canadian Jewish community, the international Jewish leadership and the Israeli government, in retrospect, very foolishly, chose not to make this an issue. …