Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Canada Loses Bid for Security Council Seat Due to Recent Unqualified Support of Israel

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Canada Loses Bid for Security Council Seat Due to Recent Unqualified Support of Israel

Article excerpt

"My country right or wrong" has always been a very dubiously patriotic phrase. True patriots try to correct their country when it is wrong. In Canada, as in the U.S., there is a vociferous and powerful group that believes in an even more dubious proposition: "Someone else's country right or wrong."

For those who worry about impunity, it is some small comfort that there is indeed a price to pay for defending lawlessness. In elections for the rotating two-year seats on the U.N. Security Council, Portugal defeated Canada by 113 votes to 78. This should serve as a wake-up call for the Canadian electorate, since feedback from U.N. diplomats confirms that Canada's defeat was in large part due to Ottawa's recent unqualified support for Israeli policies and actions. Sadly, the defeat is unlikely to alter the pro-Israel course set by Stephen Harper and his Conservative government in Ottawa.

Since the U.N.'s foundation Canada, along with a few other countries like Sweden, has been the very model of a modern U.N. member, and had been almost automatically elected to any position in the organization, based on its demonstrably principled international positions.

In times past, Ottawa had defied its giant neighbor to the south to establish relations with China, and later maintained trade, travel and diplomatic links with Cuba. Pre-Harper Canada supported such important pillars of international law as the international tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the International Criminal Court, and pioneered the articulation of the Responsibility to Protect, which established principles for genuine humanitarian intervention that avoided acting as a cover for aggression. It led such important campaigns as the ban on land mines.

Then Harper and the new breed of Canadian conservatives began by emulating Bush at almost every level, and in some ways went further. Canada showed hostility to Russia and China-more, it would seem, out of old habits than any deep concern for human rights, since Ottawa developed an American-style expediency on that subject. Its troops in Afghanistan handed prisoners over to the CIA and its officials did nothing at all about Canadian citizens kidnapped in New York and sent for torture in the Middle East or held in Guantanamo.

The Canadian government has continued to act as if Israel can do no wrong.

Even now, with Bush gone-and at a time when, if one were to believe the conservative squawks here and in Israel, the Obama administration is being pro-Muslim, anti-Semitic and vicious toward Israel-the Canadian government has continued to act as if Israel can do no wrong. Nor are we talking about the spineless abstentions and hemming and hawing from Britain and other European states, which dislike Israeli behavior but always find an invertebrate excuse to abstain on any votes criticizing it.

No, Canada recently has opposed unabashedly any scrutiny whatsoever for Israeli actions, as when it voted against whether the U.N. Human Rights Council should even consider Operation Cast Lead. While Canada's official Middle East policy as expressed on its Foreign Ministry Web site has not changed, executive decisions have profoundly changed its application. The government has withdrawn contributions to UNRWA, which feeds and educates Palestinian refugees, and de-funded grants to NGOs that investigate Israeli human rights abuses. And whatever one thinks of the principle, what government with any sense of diplomatic realities signs a trade agreement with Israel days before asking for nonaligned, Arab and Muslim votes to win a Security Council seat?

In the spirit of blaming the weather forecaster for rain, Harper's government blamed the defeat on opposition leader Michael Ignatieff, who already had suggested that overall government foreign policy would cost the seat. He later discounted the Middle East issue's significance in the loss. However, faced with a reactionary, vicious, neocon-inclined Canadian Israel lobby, there is little opposition even from the Canadian opposition to the proposition that Israel is always right. …

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