Friday, August 1, 2014

Harper's Policy On Gaza: The Canadian Toll

While the cost of the Israeli invasion of Gaza is almost incalculable in turns of human suffering and loss of life, there is another casualty in all of this, one that is far less obvious and, in the eternal scheme of things, I suppose, of lesser consequence: Canada's psyche and reputation, both of which have been perhaps irremediably scarred.

The Mound of Sound has written a great deal lately on the ongoing carnage, and he has been hard-hitting in his condemnation of the leaders of all three major Canadian federal parties. All have either overtly or implicitly consented to the slaughter of the innocents, and for the worst of all possible reasons: political expediency.

And by that complicity, they have compromised all Canadians as they invite us to share their warped perspective that Israel is committed to peace, and that the casualties in Gaza are solely the fault of Hamas's rocket fire. Of Israel's grossly disproportionate response to those rockets, nothing is said. "Harden your hearts" seems to be the message, one that will be received with gratitude by some and confusion by others.

As well, of course, our long-reputed neutrality and honest-broker reputation is in tatters internationally.

Earlier this week The Star's Thomas Walkom offered this evaluation of the Harper regime's position on the bloody conflict:

Canada’s bully-boy approach to Gaza may be politically expedient for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But in terms of bringing peace to the Middle East it is not helpful. If anything, it makes matters worse.

To this Canadian government, events in the Palestinian territory are black and white. On one side are those that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird calls Hamas “terrorists.” They are uniformly bad.

On the other is the state of Israel trying to protect its civilians from Hamas rocket attacks. It is uniformly good.

There is no room for nuance and little for history. The Canadian government approach does not take into account the bitter war that led so many Palestinians to flee the newly created state of Israel in 1948.

Nor does it contemplate Israel’s equally bitter occupation of the West Bank since 1967, an occupation carried out in defiance of the United Nations Security Council.

Walkom, I believe, accurately and concisely gets to the heart of Harper's motivation:

This prime minister has two types of foreign policy. Both are short-term. Both focus on immediate, domestic political goals.

His first approach is to favour countries useful to Canadian resource companies. Resources explain Harper’s otherwise inexplicable free-trade deal with Colombia, a country of little importance to Canada except for the fact that Canadian mining companies operate there.

Not to mention, of course, Columbia's abysmal human-rights record, a pesky detail of no apparent consequence when it comes to Harper's promotion of mining interests.

It also explains Ottawa’s decision to focus foreign aid on Mongolia. Vancouver-based Turquoise Hill Resources (formerly Ivanhoe Mines) is majority owner of a gigantic copper and gold mine in that Central Asian nation.

Harper’s second foreign affairs strategy is to take hardline positions that will win favour with specific voting blocs in Canada. This explains his vigorous support of Israel. It also explains his equally vigorous opposition to Iran.

And so the Canadian people have become pawns and victims in Harper's unholy quest to bolster his sagging popularity and movtivate his base to turn out at the next election.

Domestically, you will be hard pressed to find another such transparent example of true evil than that.


  1. Lorne, as I read your post I felt very sad. Israel is carrying out dreadful brutality against Palestinians. All Harper government is saying is that 'Israel has the right to defend itself'. I suppose Palestinian youth have 'deadly weapons' - pieces of rocks which they throw at the Israeli invaders. Israel is threatened by these 'deadly weapons' and it has the right to defend itself according to emperor Harper. Incredibly troubling.

    1. The entire situation is incredibly troubling, LD. The world seems to be spinning out of control on so many fronts, and as it does, it tries to take all of us down with it, encouraging us to 'take sides.' The only side that has validity, of course, is the side that respects the dignity and sanctity of life, a value that seems to have lost its moral claim on far too many, in no small part because of the people we have chosen to 'lead' us.

  2. I can understand Harper taking his one sided stand. He is just throwing more red meat to his rabid base and ensuring that they still vote for him despite his umpteen scandals (which would have angered at least some in his base).

    For the life of me, however, I cannot understand the stand of both the Libs and the NDP. While there may not be many votes to be gained on foreign policy, and especially on an issue as divisive as Israel-Palestine relations/conflicts, there are votes to be lost by taking such a one sided stand in favor of Israel. Both these parties would have been better off if they had either: (a) taken a balanced stand and criticized the loss of civilian lives on both sides and demanded a cease fire before negotiations, or (b) not say anything at all if for whatever reason they are afraid to take a balanced approach.

    I suspect this is an eye opener for many center-left voters for both parties who will be asking themselves if they really want to replace Harper with either of these two Harper Lights. The Green Party at least was not afraid to speak out against the one sided carnage and had quickly disassociated itself with its own President's unfortunate stand on this issue.

    Some NDP members/voters occupied Paul Dewar's office in protest yesterday. I suspect we will soon witness the equivalent of the anger/angst demonstrated by the gang of 34 Provincial NDP members in the last Ontario election.

    As for the Libs, I suspect their stand is not going to increase the number of Jewish Canadian votes either because the really strong Pro Israel votes will stay or go to Harper while the fairer minded or more moderate Jewish Canadian votes who oppose the occupation and/or treatment of the Palestinians will be rudely awakened by the realization that there seems to be little difference between Junior and Steve in terms of mid East (foreign) policy.

    It would be really interesting if the U.N. finally finds the gumption to refer the killing of women, children and babies in Gaza to the international court dealing with war crimes. What would both Junior or Tom (he certainly is no Tommy) or their respective parties say in that case?

    Or would they also, like Harper, start attacking the credibility of the U.N. too?

    1. Thanks for your insightful comments, Anon. I agree that it would have been best, had either of the two opposition leaders had any moral courage and integrity, for them to have "criticized the loss of civilian lives on both sides and demanded a cease fire before negotiations,"

      Reasonable and critically-thinking Canadians are bereft of any choice in our parties with the exception, as you note, of Elizabeth May, who seems to have retained her principles thus far. However, my observation of politics over the years leads me to conclude that the closer a party is to power, the greater the betrayal of principle. That certainly and obviously applies to Trudeau and Mulcair. Would May fall into the same moral quicksand? Perhaps one day we shall find out.

  3. Lorne, you're quite right my friend. Sad state of affairs.