Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Stumbling on the world stage-Harper and the Middle East

[July 18, 2006]

The events of the past week in Lebanon have been troubling for some Canadians and tragic for others. The deaths of eight Canadian citizens in the Israeli bombardment have caused widespread consternation, especially given that in Harper’s view, Israel is simply taking a "measured response". Let’s be clear, the taking of civilian lives, whether by Hezbollah terrorism or by Israeli military action, whether by design, or as part of what today’s politicians euphemistically call "collateral damage", can never be justified.

I strongly believe that in the current period of global instability, especially in the context of the Middle East, Canada has a unique opportunity to assert itself as a moderate and engaging voice on global and regional issues and to solidify and expand its influence on the world stage. With that influence however, Canada also has a responsibility to be the voice that stresses diplomacy and opens lines of communications with world leaders.

We should be taking it upon ourselves to open up lines of dialogue with nations such as Iran, Israel and Syria, whatever their past or future intentions, in order to follow a path of constructive engagement and to look for positive ways of resolving conflict.

From the machinations of the past week however, it has become obvious that Canada’s attempts to create its own strong and independent voice in the global arena, and the chance to act as the honest broker, are in danger of being squandered by the foreign policy manoeuvres of the Conservative government.

At the G-8 leaders meeting, Mr. Harper unequivocally wrapped himself around the US policy of unqualified support for Israel’s military actions. While it has always been important to maintain good relations and where appropriate, support the actions of the United States, the Conservative government’s inability to articulate its own policy in the Middle East and attempts to curry favour with the Bush administration cannot and should not supplant Canada’s existing foreign relations capital, nor our potential to be a sober and moderate voice of reason in the world.