By Mike Blanchfield, Globe and Mail, Sptember 27, 2011
“We supported the aspirations of those peoples who sought for themselves and their countries brighter futures during the Arab Spring that just passed,” said (John) Baird (Canada's Minister of External Affairs.
“But we will not go along with the unilateral actions of the Palestinian Authority.”
Baird repeated Canada's call for a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The no-holds-barred address also took aim at the UN itself, for allowing despotic regimes to hold memberships on, or occupy the chair of, major committees.
“The greatest enemies of the United Nations are not those who publicly repudiate its actions,” said Baird.
“The greatest enemies of the United Nations are those who quietly undermine its principles and, even worse, by those who sit idly, watching its slow decline.”
Baird backed that argument by citing North Korea's recent rotating presidency of the UN conference on disarmament, which Canada boycotted, along with Iran's vice-presidency of the General Assembly and its seat on the commission on population and development.
Baird's unflinching defence of Israel was another reminder to the Jewish state that it has a friend in Canada.
Last week in New York, Prime Minister Stephen Harper affirmed his support for Israel in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
And Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told another UN gathering that Israel is being targeted by a “new anti-Semitism” that is “now disguised as anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Israel, but it ultimately espouses the same old hatred and intent.”
Baird said Canada would not “go along with appeasement of the former (Moammar) Gadhafi regime” in Libya. And it has imposed tough new sanctions on Syria because it cannot “go along” with the Assad regimes killing of its own civilians.
There is very little or either substance or of style from this man that leaves a positive impression. He is and has been the "attack dog" of the Harper government. He answers for Mr. Clement over the G8 expenditures, as an asignment designed to squash opposition criticisms into political dust. He covers for the government whenever it faces mounting criticism that the Prime Minister does not want to get his hands dirty by responding.
And yet, there is much in this speech to commend readers at least to "think deep thoughts" about the surprising juxtaposition of Canada's support, for example, for the people of Libya, without abandoning the people of Israel.
It is a broad brush approach that will need much more nuance in negotiations. And there will be those who argue that Canada has abandoned its traditional "honest broker" role in attempting to mid-wife peace between the Israeli's and the Palestinians. However, the times have changed significantly and perhaps Canada's unequivocal and unilateral support for Israel is what is needed in order to "balance the scale" at this time.
Ironically, I never imagined using the words "balance" and "Baird" in the same sentence...and I did it by hedging it with "perhaps".
This government can only operate within a "black-and-white" reality...and this is one of those extreme responses to what is perceived by the right as extreme "Islamicism" to use Harper's word, although that puts Canada squarely in the U.S. camp, where Canadian leaders have not always been comfortable, and rightly so.
We were all so proud and comfortable when Prime Minister Chretien said "No" to Canadian involvement in the U.S. war agaisnt Iraq.The times certainly "are a changin'" to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan.