Diplomats target Harper government’s ‘blind’ support of Israel

According to a trio of active and retired diplomats, the Harper government’s unequivocal support of Israel has exacerbated tensions in the region and created a negative impact on the peace process.

“In the eyes of the Arab world, Canada has changed. There is no denying this reality. The facts are there for all to see,” Wael Aboulmagd, Egypt’s ambassador to Canada said at Carleton University on Monday evening.

“Blind, unquestionable support to either side cannot help bring peace to our region. In fact, a strong argument can be made that such unqualified support complicates matters, and in effect, strengthens the forces within each side who are opposed to compromise.”

Aboulmagd was joined at Carleton by Paul Heinbecker, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, and Dr. Abdulla Nasher, the former Yemeni ambassador to Canada. The three diplomats were invited to weigh in on the state of Canadian-Arab relations at an event hosted by the university’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

While the goal for the panel discussion was a more ecumenical overview, the Palestinian territories quickly dominated the discussion — and support for Canada’s foreign policy was hard to find.

“It remains an open sore in the Middle East, the idea that we should — that the Palestinians should get statehood only through negotiating directly with the Israelis, when the Israelis are showing little taste for negotiations,” said Heinbecker.

“It’s a bit like asking the lion and lamb to negotiate over dinner.”

Notable political attendees included the Liberals’ Stéphane Dion and the NDP’s Robert Chisholm, both of whom had to get a modicum of pleasure from the criticism they were hearing of the Conservatives.

That pleasure couldn’t have lasted long, though, as Heinbecker then said he believed the Israel-Palestine conflict isn’t a burning issue in the minds of most Canadians — and definitely not at the ballot box.

“You’re going to have this government until people get tired of it for some other reason. And in the meantime, I think it will be very difficult to move them off the position they’ve taken,” Heinbecker said. “Opportunities will be missed.”

Aboulmagd said the Canadian government’s change of positions on issues such as Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem, and the applicability of the Geneva conventions to the occupied territories has confused the Arab world.

All they really expect of Canada, he said, is impartiality.

“Canada, today, makes no secret of its overwhelming, unqualified, and unconditional support of the Israeli position in this conflict. … I can assure you that this unqualified support does very little too move the process forward or to convince Israel of the need to return to the negotiating table.”

Nasher, who initially spoke of Canada’s good standing in the Arab world, changed his tune slightly by the end: “I hope that the Canadian government will shift … to be more balanced and more fair and more just.”

This left it to Fen Hampson, the director of the Paterson School, to conclude on a more positive note. “I guess,” he said, “I’m a little bit more optimistic about some of the things we’ve heard about the Harper government’s foreign policy towards the region.”


4 responses to “Diplomats target Harper government’s ‘blind’ support of Israel

  1. I for one am not concerned with our reputation with countries such as Yemen and Egypt ( in it’s new incarnation). As for former ambassadors to the UN…. Canada is clear in it’s support for the only western style democracy in the region. When the various arab nations straighten up their acts, form free democracies and stop advocating war against Israel we will give them respect and support.

  2. Pingback: The Beast Marches on Jerusalem | Clay and Water

  3. Agreed, when Arabs states show diplomacy and normalcy, then maybe, but we all know this is a dream, the goal of Islam is to conquer and control by Sharia. Now that civil democracies know this, now its time to go to war to do something. Evil remains persistent in the world because of the forces of darkness who opening spew their hate and whose ideology is in full view and public knowledge.

    Israel has to be vigilant and on guard, so does Canada. Hats off to the Prime Minister, who is privileged to such information that if made public knowledge, you would really understand the goal of these among us.

    Mr. Harper is very wise, and he knows that Jews have did nothing but contribute to this world, on the other hand, Arab leaders do nothing but
    steal the dreams of children and women, and deny them a chance at freedom.

    Daniel Moshe Johnson

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