Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Anti-Semitism and Harper

For whatever reason -- whether it's his personal ideology or his religious beliefs -- Stephen Harper has confused legitimate criticism of Israel's policies with anti-Semitism.   The latter, of course, is something we should be constantly vigilant against; God's Chosen People have a specific place in the world and in history.

But to suggest that to be against how the State of Israel treats Arabs not just in the occupied territories, but even within the internationally recognized boundaries (those who are are considered Israeli citizens, and they regard themselves as an indigenous people) to be anti-Semitic is trying to make black and white out of a very complicated situation.

It's not even clear if Harper supports a two-state solution (with free access to all holy sites on both sides of the border) as most countries officially do, or if he would go the route of the currently and rightly banned Kahane Chai - Kach and support the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel and the occupied lands.   Or is it a middle ground -- give Palestinians their country but have Israel remain in control of the airspace and the sub-surface (which would effectively make Palestine a vassal state with Israel the suzerain power over it).

As far as his claim that Canada's former stance as an "honest broker" made us weak, actually it did not.   We have long recognized Israel's right to exist -- since December 1948, about seven months after the British mandate ended.   We have long recognized Israel as an ally and in fact we even have a free trade agreement with the country.

But we have also played a major role in trying to keep a relative peace between Israel and its neighbours.    Remember that it was Canada that helped to negotiate a ceasefire over the Suez Canal crisis which involved Israel.    As well, owing to the fact that the status of Jerusalem hasn't been settled in the eyes of the world community, we from the beginning (1953 to be exact) have had our embassy in Tel Aviv.

Moreover, Canadians are actually quite divided over where they stand on the conflict -- roughly a third each are for Israel, for the Palestinians, or just plain don't care.

Being an "honest broker" means that while we make our allegiances clear, we are also willing to be a mediator between belligerent powers -- even if it's just "shuttle diplomacy" (running back and forth between neighbouring rooms because the two parties refuse to meet face to face).   Just because we were strongly on the side of France and West Germany and the United Kingdom during the Cold War didn't prevent us from reaching out to people behind the Iron Curtain; if anything relations with most of the client states in the Warsaw Pact were actually rather cordial, owing to the large ex-patriate communities here.    And we along with most of our NATO partners have had a long standing relationship with Cuba, much to the annoyance of the United States.

Canada will probably never be a superpower, unless there turns out to be even more oil and diamonds in "them thar hills" than currently proven.   But we can act responsibly in the eyes of the world and attempt to be more open-minded about world affairs.   Realpolitik is not weakness.   Being pragmatic actually demonstrates more hidden strength than just wielding the sword or sabre.   Perhaps Mr. Harper needs to remember outside of the UN Headquarters in New York City there is a monument where man "beats his swords into ploughshares and his spears into pruning hooks."   The statue specifically mentions the source, Isaiah 2:4.   The country that donated the statue?    The former Soviet Union.

Support Israel, I always will.   Seeking justice for the Palestinians -- provided they completely renounce violence once and for all -- I will also.    But carpet bombing an entire people to Kingdom Come, that is something I cannot support.   To have peace, you must sometimes wage war; but it must be measured and attack specific targets, not destroy entire infrastructures or force bombed out people on rations.

If he had just realized this simple fact, Canada might be in on the Security Council, the world's enforcement body ... and not sitting on the outside while the European Union now has four seats (five when Bosnia ends its term late next year) and effective control of the body.

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Anonymous said...

Conservatives in the United States employ the same tactic as Harper to deflect any criticism of the policies of the Israeli Government.

I don't hear anyone calling citizens of Israel who criticize their own government's policies "Anti-Semites".

In fact, it could be argued that the Harper Government is using the same blueprint that has succeeded in bankrupting the United States Government and polarizing its' citizens.

WesternGrit said...

The lack of time Harper spent in and around the UN displays his ignorance of any ideas illustrated by statues outside... He likes his friends at Tim Hortons, remember???

The man HATES the UN. He and his party spent the years from their inbred inception in 1993, up to some point just prior to realizing that a seat on the Sec Coun would be a good thing, publicly berating and belittling the institution.

As far as Harper's idea of anti-semitism... Does he even know what that is? First of all, "semitic" peoples: (from Wikipedia) "The term Semite means a member of any of various ancient and modern Semitic-speaking peoples originating in southwestern Asia, including Akkadians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Arabs, and Ethiopian Semites." More: "The term "anti-Semitic" (or "anti-Semite") overwhelmingly refers to Jews only. It was coined in 1879 by German journalist Wilhelm Marr in a pamphlet called, "The Victory of Germandom over Jewry". Using ideas of race and nationalism, Marr argued that Jews had become the first major power in the West. He accused them of being liberals, a people without roots who had Judaized Germans beyond salvation. In 1879 Marr founded the "League for Anti-Semitism"." (from Wikipedia)

That last part is interesting. Anti-semitism was coined and "originated" by ultra-conservatives in a fight against "liberals". Right wing wack-jobs trying to scapegoat "liberal" Jewish minorities as "liberal" "elites". The biggest anti-semites in history have been ultra-conservative right-wingers thinking they were protecting their "own" and their "cultures" against a successful minority group.

in reality the study of anti-semitism is a good way to learn about the dangers of ultra-conservative thought in any modern democracy. We have a LOT to learn from Israel (whom I support whole-heartedly), and we have a lot to learn on how we can achieve lasting peace - without outside influence in the area (bringing it's own self-interest).

WesternGrit said...
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