Published: Thursday August 3, 2006
Good for Peter MacKay. It is not every politician who would go so far as to call the terrorist group Hezbollah "a cancer on Lebanon," as our Foreign Affairs Minister did Tuesday before a House of Commons committee. And Mr. MacKay was right, too, to pledge that Canada will support no Middle East ceasefire that does not include the disarmament of Hezbollah, on the basis that a cessation in fighting "cannot be a temporary solution to allow for the rearmament of a terrorist body." His remarks were the latest examples of the Conservative government’s principled stance in current hostilities — a far cry from the Liberals’ feckless feigned neutrality.
As several eminent military historians told the National Post this week, it is a myth that Canada has always taken a "neutral" stance during conflicts in the region. Until the Liberals were elected in 1993, Canada had usually taken "a moderately pro-Israel stance," according to David Bercuson, a military historian at the University of Calgary. We have not, mind you, always sided with the Jewish state: During the 1956 Suez Crisis, for instance, Canada opposed the occupation of the Anglo-Egyptian canal favoured by Israel. But throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, as Israel battled for its existence against neighbours and a plethora of terror groups, Ottawa offered mild to enthusiastic support. As Prof. Bercuson put it: "It’s basically the last [Liberal] government that shifted Canada’s position … to a sort of ‘We don’t want to take sides’ stance."
Under the Liberals, Canada failed to oppose annual UN resolutions that condemned Israel as racist and war-mongering, while being silent on the atrocities perpetrated by Arab dictators and terrorists. We permitted the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to fund hate-mongering textbooks and school lessons in the West Bank and Gaza. We knowingly looked the other way when Palestinian leaders took our development money and either secreted it to their personal Swiss bank accounts or used it to buy rockets and guns to kill Israeli civilians rather than building roads and schools or feeding their own people.
While the Liberals might want to fool themselves into believing that this amounted to neutrality, it was in effect wilful blindness. And far from earning us the "honest broker" position the Liberals claim, it cost us our credibility and thus our ability to influence events in the region.
The Liberals are still at it, too. While complaining for nearly a month about the pro-Israel stance taken by Stephen Harper’s government, they voted Tuesday with the other opposition parties not to hear witnesses from the region after Mr. MacKay finished his 90 minutes of testimony before the Commons foreign affairs committee. Many of the witnesses were expected to be critical of Hezbollah and complimentary of Conservative efforts to extract Canadian citizens from the war zone. But rather than risk having their "neutral" stance revealed as a naive or biased one, the Liberals worked with the NDP and Bloc to silence witnesses who had seen what is truly going on in this war.
Even front-running Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff, once a strong advocate of a vigorous war against terrorism, has seemingly abandoned his principles in favour of holding on to his supporters within the party. In a drippy op-ed in Tuesday’s Globe and Mail, Mr. Ignatieff bemoaned the damage the current war is doing to Canada’s multicultural ideals and ethnic communities, proposed an immediate ceasefire and chastised the Conservatives (whose position is similar to the one he himself held until seeking the top Liberal job) for failing "to stake out the positive role that Canada could play in defusing the crisis."
The "positive" roles sought by the Liberals are hardly worth emulating. If Canada is to have any influence over peace in the Middle East, the honest approach taken by the Conservatives is the only option.