It is an understatement to say that one is disappointed in Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech before the Israeli Knesset on January 20, 2014. In his speech, Mr. Harper demonstrated his blind bias on the side of the oppressor and his total and willful immersion in a state of oblivion when it came to the oppressed. Most notably, he ignored long-standing Canadian government policy on the most contentious issue of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Mr. Harper was one-sided, misinformed, and totally ignorant of the realities in the holy land. Every self-respecting Canadian would take the position that on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Mr. Harper speaks for himself; not for the millions of justice-loving Canadians.
With this speech, Mr. Harper proved to be a friend of the extreme right in Israeli politics; he confirmed the fact that he was a loyal friend of the Likud party and its leader Benjamin Netanyahu; not a friend of Israelis or Palestinians. Palestinians and Israelis need a true friend who can help them reach a historic reconciliation to resolve their conflict; not a cheerleader for the extremists on either side. Mr. Harper did not advance the cause of peace in the holy land. He encouraged more of Israeli arrogance and emboldened Netanyahu to continue violating international and humanitarian laws. Instead of promoting justice-based peace and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis, Mr. Harper offered his credentials as an ally of the extreme right-wing maximalists in the Israeli political spectrum.
It seems that Mr. Harper was appeasing the pro-Israel lobby in Canada hoping to gain some domestic political advantage for himself and his party; not honestly addressing the serious issues in one of the world’s most threatening conflicts. Equating anti-Semitism with criticizing unjust and illegal Israeli policies and practices was only one example of how confused Mr. Harper appeared to be. Insisting on describing the state of Israel as a “Jewish State” is another example of how ignorant Mr. Harper was of the realities of more than 20% of Israeli population; non-Jewish Israeli citizens whose second class citizenship continues to persist precisely as a direct result of that description. While strongly denying the apartheid nature of the State of Israel, he did not utter a single word about the daily injustices and routinely exercised discrimination that are imposed by the Israeli government against Palestinians – all under the protective umbrella of Israeli law. Mr. Harper dares – as only ignorant people can – to appoint himself as the new expert on apartheid; setting aside considered opinions of highly respected personalities who know a lot more than Harper about peace, justice, international law, and apartheid; such as President Jimmy Carter of the United States and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
Mr. Harper failed to talk about Israeli occupation of Palestinian land; he failed to even make a passing reference to the long-standing Canadian policy that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are illegal and constitute an obstacle to peace; he failed to acknowledge Israeli direct involvement in ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Palestine; he failed to even mention Palestine refugees; he failed to utter one word on military road blocks and daily humiliation of millions of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers; and he failed to acknowledge Palestinian reality and suffering that have been going on uninterrupted since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 on the ruins of Palestinian society.
All in all, Mr. Harper gave Canadians the perfect explanation of the reason behind rendering Canada – under his regime – irrelevant in the international efforts to bring about peace in that troubled part of the Globe. With his alliance “through fire and water” with the Israeli maximalists, Mr. Harper and his government have become part of the problem in the Middle East; not part of the solution.
Hope is the stuff from which life is made!