Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and a convoy of Canadians left on a delegation to Israel last week. During the delegation, on January 20th, Prime Minister Harper was given the honour to address the Israeli Knesset. Unexpectedly, Harper made an appeal to Canadian ethics concerning support for the state of Israel and presented the world with a view on the matter worth paying attention to. However, his speech was generally not well received. Among many criticisms in the past week Harper has been accused of destroying the Canadian image, supporting an apartheid regime, trying to gain electoral votes, and feeding a self serving agenda, among others. Yet, these accusations are false laden.
Harper should instead be accused of a lack of charisma, imprudent presentation and unreservedly romanticizing a sensitive issue that served to deter his audience from focusing on his actually very Canadian message, to focusing on his impossibly binary and rhetorical staging of it. After hearing Harper’s speech I was immediately provoked and wondered: Who is Stephen Harper to assume what’s “right” or what’s “good” and “evil”? I wasn’t alone in my thoughts. Liberal MP Irwin Cotler also picked upon on Harper’s unfortunate performance, stating “… it is not so much support for Israel – this has been a cornerstone of Canadian foreign policy for 35 years- that’s damaging the country, but the bluntness with which it is presented to the world. My critique of the Conservative government is not the principles that they espouse, but the manner in which they give expression to those principles.” This is a case of the age old saying; it isn’t enough to have the right answer, it matters how you say it too. This is where Harper has actually failed us, rather than in his ethical position concerning Israel.
This becomes clearer, when you look at a different way the same message was conveyed by a different member of the convoy. In an interview with the Times of Israel, Canadian Minister of Natural resources, Joe vigrx plus in stores Oliver clarifies Harper’s message. He states, “If there’s a conflict between a democratic ally and terrorist group that wants to destroy it, we don’t see greys. The moral relativism that is sometimes a big factor is not what guides us… when you confront a situation like one sees at the United Nations constantly, where Israel is singled out for special criticism to the exclusion of massive abuses in all parts of the world…it’s very obvious you’re dealing with double standards.” Harper’s own speech tried to convey this, yet the message was lost in his imprudent use of the term “anti-Semitism”. Whether it truly can be called a new form of anti-Semitism is arguably an exaggeration, and was not an appropriate topic of debate for this particular delegation. However, his point is not totally unsubstantiated. Israel is not unique in the world when it comes to questions of human rights, yet the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has adopted roughly 226 resolutions spanning from 1947 – 2012 condemning Israel for its actions concerning Palestine. That is more resolutions than have ever been adopted for all of the other states combined!
It is something to think about especially because Israeli democratic structures are no facade. For example, according to acclaimed American political scientist Arendt Lijphart, the parliamentary democracy of Israel is a well oiled machine in some respects. It has enviable political party discipline, a plurality of political parties and a purely proportionate electoral system which is highly representative. Thus, Harper’s claim that, “… any judgment of Israel must begin with understanding…” is warranted.
Harper’s presentation was regrettable, but his conviction is not officially anti-Canadian. Most of us do want to protect democracy, most of us do think that democracy, freedom and the rule of law are as Harper said, “… the things that, over time and against all odds, have proven to be the only ground in which human rights, political stability, and economic prosperity, may flourish.”
– M’Lisa Colbert
Image: Some rights reserved by DFATD | MAECD