Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Liberals and Israel: Friendship Based on Frankness

The Liberal Party and Israel: a friendship based on
frankness

STÉPHANE DION

Special to Globe and Mail Update

Some members of Canada’s Jewish community, including some
prominent Liberals, are reportedly unhappy with the
Liberal Party’s position on the Middle East.

Following the position adopted by our interim leader, Bill
Graham, many candidates for the leadership of the Liberal
Party criticized the position taken by the Harper
government — Stephen Harper’s unconditional approval of
the Israeli government’s military strategy, his apparent
indifference to the plight of the Lebanese people, and his
refusal to call for a rapid cessation of hostilities.

When one believes a friend to be mistaken, one should say
so. In 2003, for example, the majority of Canadians and
their Liberal government did not approve of the American
invasion of Iraq. The government refused to take part,
against the advice of Mr. Harper at the time. This was not
because we chose to ignore Saddam Hussein’s crimes, but
because we believed that such an invasion could only
create more violence for the Iraqis and more political
difficulties for the United States. The evolution of the
situation over the past three years tells us that
America’s best friends are not those who encouraged it to
invade Iraq.

In 1982, a previous Israeli government decided to invade
Lebanon. A few years later, a majority of Israelis
believed the invasion had created even more hostility
against Israel among Lebanon’s population (notably the
creation of Hezbollah), had resulted in unnecessary
Israeli military casualties, and had accomplished none of
the political objectives set out in 1982.

Today, Israel’s population is united because, in times of
war, solidarity with a country’s soldiers tends to drown
out voices of dissent. But a few Israeli military and
security experts have already criticized the current
military operation. They believe the number of civilian
Lebanese casualties and the breadth of destruction will
increase support for Hezbollah, and that its nature as a
guerrilla movement means its infrastructure cannot be
dismantled through aerial bombardments. The result, in the
medium term, can only be an even weaker Lebanese state and
a strengthened Hezbollah.

If, in a few months, it clearly appears that the current
crisis has made possible real progress for the security of
both Lebanon and Israel, I will be overjoyed and will
gladly recognize that we were mistaken in our analysis.

If, on the contrary, it is clear that it has produced only
death and destruction and not really improved anybody’s
security, then perhaps those who criticize us today will
recognize that, by worrying about Lebanon’s fate, we were
being lucid friends of Israel.