Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Civilian Deaths Are Not Equally Reprehensible

[April 11, 2002]

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, on March 6 I attended a major speech given by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Canada-Israel committee which elicited an extremely negative reaction for suggesting that civilian casualties regardless of their cause were equally reprehensible. In other words, making no distinction between civilians tragically killed as bystanders in the course of defensive military operations and civilians deliberately targeted and killed in terrorist attacks.

Understandably, members of the Canadian Jewish community, people who know personally many of those innocent Israeli civilians under daily threat from suicide bombers, snipers and rocket attacks, were extremely upset by these remarks. Only a few days later there was a vivid illustration of the folly of the minister’s remarks. On the evening of March 9, as Israelis came out onto the streets after the Sabbath, yet another horrifying suicide attack killed 11 Israelis in a Jerusalem cafe one block from the prime minister’s residence.

I rose in the House on March 11 to ask the minister whether in light of this new terrorist attack, and we have seen many more since then including a suicide bombing which took the lives of 26 Israelis as they celebrated a Passover Seder Supper, military action to root out terrorists was the moral equivalent of those terrorists killing innocent civilians?

The minister responded with indignation to this question saying that he had not suggested any moral equivalence whatsoever. Unfortunately, both as the former chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and now as minister, he has been guilty of embracing the worst kind of moral equivalency when it comes to Canada’s relations with countries ranging from Iraq, Cuba, the United States and Israel.

In the days after the September 11 attacks the minister made comments endorsing the absurd root causes theory of terrorism, blaming the attack on New York City on some combination of poverty in the Arab world and U.S. foreign policy. This notion is interesting, considering that most of the September 11 hijackers came from privileged backgrounds in Saudi Arabia, a country which has been a prime beneficiary of U.S. foreign policy.

More recently we have seen the minister’s moral equivalence theory crop up again in his hasty press comments from Barbados last week. The foreign affairs department had no comment when the Netanya Passover bombings occurred. However, when Israel in the wake of this terrible provocation responded by attempting to root out terrorist cells it still knew to be at large Canada quickly joined in the international condemnation.

Canada’s position vis-à-vis Israel often seems to be one of «cet animal est méchant: quand on l’attaque il se défend».

The minister accused Israel of employing “disproportionate force” in its actions on the West Bank while merely calling for Arafat to condemn terrorism. Counting on Arafat to condemn terrorism makes a fundamental mistake. Yasser Arafat is not a helpless bystander who cannot control more radical elements who commit terrorism, nor is he even a silent, passive endorser of terrorism. He stands at the head of a hierarchy including his al-Aqsa brigade which organizes and plans its own terrorist acts and deliberately tolerates similar acts by others.

Canada calling Israeli actions disproportionate when we have seen the evidence over the past two weeks, invoices for suicide bombs discovered in Arafat’s offices, bomb factories found in secret tunnels, terrorists on Israel’s most wanted list who have been in and out of Arafat’s revolving door jails captured, is another error.

The minister is once again playing the dubious game of moral equivalence. Canada is engaged in a war on terrorism in Afghanistan which we have endorsed. It is led by the United States. That has not been criticized by the government as moral equivalence.

In closing, I would like to quote Frank Dimant of B’nai Brith Canada when he said last week:

It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a double standard in the war on terror. When Americans are attacked, Canada supports and even participates in an unremitting campaign to eradicate the terror…. When Jews are attacked, when every day brings another suicide bomber–

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Ms. Aileen Carroll (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to my colleague on this issue.

The number of recent victims of the conflict in the Middle East since it began 18 months ago is some 1,500 dead on both sides. Many thousands have been injured. People’s livelihoods have been destroyed and mutual trust has been shattered as the habits of dialogue which once existed over the last decade between the Palestinians and the Israelis have been abruptly abandoned. The only way to end this conflict is to convince the Israelis and the Palestinians to cease their fighting and to resume negotiations and dialogue.

Canada makes no moral equivalency between suicide bombings and the response to terrorist attacks. We have consistently condemned all forms of terrorism while we have repeatedly affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself and to protect its citizens. However, an escalation of this conflict will not result in any solution to the underlying problem. Innocent civilian casualties, regardless of their background or religion, regardless of anything of differentiation, are not justifiable. Canada condemns the death of all innocent civilians.

We have strongly and repeatedly urged Chairman Arafat to take all necessary action to prevent further terrorist attacks, including the horrific suicide bombings which are an affront to us all. The use of suicide bombers against innocents is intolerable, a perversion of all religious faiths, an offence against humanity, and a tactic that is never acceptable including in resistance to occupation. Employing children as instruments of war to target the innocent is a moral outrage. It must stop.

Chairman Arafat and those in positions of authority who fail to prevent such practices bear the gravest personal and political responsibility. The world sees post facto condemnations for the empty gestures for what they are. We have called on the Palestinians to bring justice to those who are responsible for such atrocities. When the speaker of the Palestinian legislative council visited Ottawa recently, we indicated to him that there is no alternative to such action if legitimate Palestinian aspirations are to be realized.

The Canadian government will continue to urge the Palestinian leadership to eradicate terrorism. Canada does not finance the Palestinian Authority through CIDA which was mentioned earlier. Canada’s development assistance program in the West Bank and in Gaza is entirely administered through credible Canadian partners and international organizations such as the World Bank, or it is managed by our missions themselves. These funds aim to alleviate poverty and promote development and are subject to very strict criteria. By encouraging such measures to reduce poverty and yes, promote democracy, our assistance is indeed a tool to promote peace and tolerance.

In closing, Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Peres have both expressed their appreciation for Canada’s assistance to the Palestinians as they encourage us to increase that support, recognizing as they do, that it is economic development which will be a necessary condition for peace and stability.