Canada's recent decision to change its vote to "no" on three anti-Israel UN resolutions was both praised and criticized in the media.
In a Nov. 30 speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Canadian Charges d'affaires Gilbert Laurin said the language of the resolutions "creates a sense of imbalance, and seems to suggest that it is only Israel that has obligations...The responsibilities of other actors, including Palestinians, are often not sufficiently emphasized, nor are references to Israeli security needs. Canada will not support resolutions that use emotive language in place of straight facts."
Many people � even UN diplomats � ignore the fact that UN Security Council Resolution 242, which underlines all peace-making efforts between Israel and Arab states, calls for Israeli territorial compromise in the context of peace and security guarantees from its neighbours.
The annual ritual of anti-Israel General Assembly resolutions makes a mockery of this stipulation. It also highlights how the genuine peace-making efforts of the UN have been hijacked by non-democratic states intent on punishing Israel.
The Winnipeg Free Press editorial "Canada stands firm" (Dec. 6) noted that these resolutions are meant "to vilify and isolate Israel" and "contribute nothing to the peace process. In fact, they undermine efforts to achieve some sort of lasting agreement between Israelis and Palestinians."
The Free Press commends Canada for "attempting to inject not only morality but much-needed reality into the UN debate on the Middle East. In doing so, it is not taking sides among groups of Canadian voters. It is recognizing that a settlement in the Middle East must be based on an accommodation that recognizes the rights of all involved." And that recognizes the obligations of those involved as well, it should be added.
In "Canada makes an about-face on Mideast" (Toronto Star, Dec. 4), columnist Haroon Siddiqui in effect criticized Canada's "pro-Israel shift" for "[breaking] away from the overwhelming consensus of the international community, including Europe."
Siddiqui noted that "Canada said the resolution[s] put the onus on one, not both parties." "But," he immediately added, "the [General] Assembly put the greater burden on the party engaged in the illegal occupation."
Contrary to Siddiqui's claim, Israel's presence in territories it captured in its 1967 war of self-defence is not "illegal." As has been pointed out many times in this space, under Resolution 242, Israel's presence is legitimate (i.e. legal) pending a negotiated exchange of land for peace. (This is the policy long favoured by the majority of Israelis and pursued by successive Israeli governments.) Siddiqui's error on this critical fact is often repeated by others, and it skews his entire analysis.
By adhering to the facts, Canada was absolutely right to demand that resolutions concerning the Israel-Palestinian conflict place expectations on both parties.
On Dec. 6, a day after a suicide bomber in Netanya killed five Israelis and injured about 50, Toronto's CFRB talk radio station discussed Canada-Israel relations.
Substitute morning host Peter Sherman strongly defended Prime Minister Paul Martin's Nov. 13 assertion at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in Toronto that Israel's values are Canada's values.
"Why do I think that these values are similar? Because...we're talking about the only legitimate democracy in that entire [Mideast] region. And we're a democracy. Both Israel and Canada are imperfect, as all democracies are," Sherman said.
"Our prime minister made a statement that is patently true. If you want to democratize other countries in the Middle East, by all means go ahead. I would say that as imperfect as both Canada's and Israel's democracies are, the thing we have in common, and very strongly so, [is that we] are democracies. We do speak freely, we write freely, we engage in discourse and discussion and they don't do that in Iran, and they don't do that in the [United Arab] Emirates, and they don't do it in Syria."