There is little or nothing Prime Minister Stephen Harper can really do to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he can, however, assure the former of his government’s unswerving friendship with the Jewish State.
Does this mean that the PM, as a consequence of his friendship with the Israelis, holds ill will towards the Palestinians? The evidence suggests, no he does not.
Canada has been accepting Palestinian refugees since, at least, 1955. Canada’s Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, though, was questioned about our country’s current policy on Sunday’s CTV’s Question Period and replied, “With respect to Palestinian refugees, the objective we all share is for them to become citizens in a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.”
Apparently, some Palestinian sources expected our prime minister to assure Mahmoud Abbas’s government that Canada pledges to absorb refugees from neighbouring Arab countries as part of a final peace settlement with Israel. I believe Chris Alexander was anxious to dampen down such rumours and unrealistically high expectations.
Nevertheless, while there may not be a new initiative to accept displaced Palestinians, Canada includes many people from the region annually as part its normal refugee and immigration program.
As further evidence of Canada’s official support of the Palestinian Authority, as reported by CBC News:
Canada was contributing [to the Palestinian Authority] $300 million over five years, or $60 million a year, in a program that expired in June.
Since the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 and the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Canada has provided more than $650 million in development assistance for the West Bank and Gaza.”
And, during his visit to Mahmoud Abbas’s compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, PM Harper announced a further $66-million in humanitarian aid and economic development funding.
That Canada would favour the only democracy with the rule of law in the region should surely come as no surprise. And since Canada has supported Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state for several decades, PM Harper’s position is consistent with those of past Canadian governments. Moreover, that pretty broad support for international terrorism has come from, as the PM points out, many of Israel’s enemies, certainly precludes Canada from taking the side of others over Israel, or even remaining neutral. Canadian lives, after all, have been lost to international terrorism.
Time will tell what, if any, part Canada plays directly in any eventual peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. In the meantime, PM Harper has proved his statesmanship here. Sure, there were a couple of hecklers during his historic speech to the Knesset, but his words were applauded enthusiastically by an overwhelming majority of those in attendance—progressives and conservatives alike stood as they applauded the PM.
A final thought regarding the notion that criticism of Israel’s government policy can be construed as anti-Semitism. From what I see on the Internet from Arab and other Middle East media sources, and from what I’ve learned firsthand from those who have travelled in the region in the last decade, anti-Semitism is rampant there as is criticism of Israeli.
The tone in the region was set when—until 1967—Jordan controlled the holy places and cultural institutions in Jerusalem, not only Israelis were barred form visiting the area, but all Jews from all countries. In fact, they were barred from entering Jordan period. Tourists entering East Jerusalem had to present baptismal certificates or other proof they were not Jewish. “The Jewish Quarter and its ancient synagogues were systematically destroyed, and gravestones from the Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives were used to build latrines for Jordanian army barracks.” [Wikipedia]
Try living as a Jew in most Arab countries—probably, most Muslim countries—and you’ll quickly understand what bigotry means. Vile cartoons and news media articles and reports—even passages in children’s text books—malign Jews. That is they refer directly to Jews, and are not limited to Israelis. Every form of discrimination against Jews was and continues to be practiced and wildly condoned, including expulsion and death.
Moreover, no other country in the world but Israeli is so singled out for harsh, biased censure in the United Nations and by Canadian labour unions and college campuses when—God knows, there’s no lack of cause from all regions of the Globe to do so. So, yes, some—perhaps a lot—of anti-Israeli criticism raises to the level of anti-Semitism.
On this trip, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proved again he is a statesman of abundant talent.