Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Canada's Support of U.N. Security Council Resolution Draws Mixed Reaction from Politicians

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Canada's Support of U.N. Security Council Resolution Draws Mixed Reaction from Politicians

Article excerpt

Canada's Support of U.N. Security Council Resolution Draws Mixed Reaction From Politicians

By Faisal Kutty

Faisal Kutty is a Toronto-based lawyer and columnist for iViews.com.

On Oct. 7, the Canadian government supported the Malaysian-sponsored United Nations Security Council Resolution 1322, which called on Israel to use restraint in dealing with Palestinian protesters. The resolution pushed forward by several European countries also called for an international inquiry into the cause of the violence. The Americans agreed to abstain rather than veto in exchange for certain amendments, and the council passed the watered-down resolution 14 to 0.

Canada's 400,000-strong Jewish community has come out against Ottawa's support of the Security Council resolution. Moshe Ronen, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that the Liberals should reconsider their position if they want to keep the Jewish vote. Some members of the Jewish community, in fact, are threatening to vote for the official opposition Canadian Alliance Party in the upcoming November elections announced on Oct. 22.

Canadian Alliance Party leader Stockwell Day quickly fell from the graces of the country's Muslim and Arab communities when he openly joined the pro-Israel camp by criticizing the government's support of the U.N. resolution. Day and his foreign affairs critic, Monte Solberg, issued the following statement opposing the Canadian government position:

"I am disappointed that the Chretien government appears to be openly taking sides in this crisis by passing Resolution 1322," said Day. "The resolution is clearly slanted with an anti-Israeli bias. I am not sure we will further the cause of peace if we as a nation join in the finger pointing, rather than working with both sides cooperatively."

Day, whose party stands on a platform of religion and family values, enjoyed strong support from Canada's Muslim community for his social conservative views on abortion, homosexuality and support for equally funded private schools. The response from Canada's fast-growing Muslim community was unprecedented. Indeed, a number of people who never before had given any thought to politics joined the newly formed party. As had no other Canadian politician before him, Day was able to garner a great deal of support from Canadian Muslims, who actively worked to recruit members and candidates to run on the Alliance ticket in the upcoming elections. Day was seen as a hero, a knight in shining armor to those disillusioned with other political parties.

Shortly after Day made his support for Israel public, however, that support quickly deteriorated.

The decision to support Israel was a serious miscalculation on the part of Day and his advisers, for their attempt to win Canada's Jewish vote in Canada will cost the party in the long run. Reports estimate the size of the country's Jewish community at around 400,000 to 450,000. This compares to some 550,000 Muslims and 150,000 Arab Christians, according to Canadian Arab Federation estimates.

Moreover, Day seems not to have considered the fact that Canadian Jews, who have established roots in other political parties, are not likely to abandon these roots and move en masse to support the Alliance. Canadian Muslims, on the other hand, who are eager to join the political process and are growing at a much faster rate than the Jewish community, were beginning to feel welcome and comfortable with the Alliance. Day and his advisers failed to appreciate that the issue of Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians would unite both Muslims and the Christian Arab population at the polls.

A number of Muslim community leaders held an hour-long conference call with Day and the Canadian Alliance following his remarks. Day reportedly agreed to consult with Muslims before making future policy decisions affecting Muslims, and to work not only for peace in the Middle East, but for peace with justice. …

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