Are Canadian MPs afraid to speak candidly and factually about Israeli culpability in the Gaza conflict?

Harper MPs toe the pro-Israeli line while other party MPs confine themselves to platitudes

No 622 Posted by fw, November 26, 2012

“Conservatives tacitly egged Israel on in its disproportionate violence, and the NDP and the Green Party limited themselves to handwringing over the dangers of an escalation in the conflict. CJPME observes that none of the federal parties has mentioned that Israel violated the ceasefire brokered by Egypt last Tuesday. Nor did any of them acknowledge that Gaza’s Palestinians have endured five years of an extremely harsh Israeli-imposed blockade which has impoverished and embittered Gaza’s civilians.”Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), press release, November 19, 2012

It is clear where the Conservatives stand on the latest Israeli-Gaza conflict – firmly on the wrong side of documented evidence about Israeli culpability. According to foreign affairs minister, John Baird, the Gaza conflict is not complicated: “You have a terrorist group launching rockets against Israel and it’s not — it doesn’t take much — you know, it’s not a complicated issue…”

On the other hand, NDP (New Democratic Party) critic, Paul Dewar, chided Baird for his “non-constructive” comments about blame. “What Canadians want to see,” said Dewar, “is how is Canada going to help build the bridge to solve the problem and have a lasting peace for the security of those who live in Israel and the peace and security of those who live in Palestine.”  Paul Dewar wants a durable peace, Straight Goods News video interview, November 21, 2012.

If this latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza is not the time for Mr Dewar, or any Canadian MP for that matter, to at least acknowledge, in CJPME’s words above – “that Israel violated the ceasefire brokered by Egypt last Tuesday…. That Gaza’s Palestinians have endured five years of an extremely harsh Israeli-imposed blockade which has impoverished and embittered Gaza’s civilians”  – if not now, will there ever come a time when Canadian MPs will not be afraid to speak factually about Israel’s culpability in the Gaza conflict?

Returning to Paul Dewar’s recorded video interview

First, playing it safe in a short interview, Dewar resorts to repeating himself, calling six times for a “durable peace”, once for a “lasting peace” –

  • “…we have to look at how are we going to find a durable peace.”
  • “I’ve noted that Mr Hague in the UK, I’ve noted that Ms Clinton in the US has talked about the next steps. And that is to have a lasting ceasefire and to look for a durable peace
  • “You have to work hard diplomatically to find a way to support a durable peace.”
  • “Does it [Baird's remarks] ensure that we’re going to go to the next steps to find a lasting durable peace?”
  • “It means that you’re going to offer yourself up to help build the bridge – being active participants for finding a way to get a durable peace.”
  • “…offering up for a lasting, just and durable peace.”
  • “…how is Canada going to help build the bridge to solve the problem and have a lasting peace…”

Second, Mr Dewar appears to be linking the NDP’s “next steps” to those of the UK and US when he says: “I’ve noted that Mr Hague in the UK, I’ve noted that Ms Clinton in the US has talked about the next steps. And that is to have a lasting ceasefire and to look for a durable peace.”

  • Surely Mr Dewar is not unaware that the US and UK are unequivocally locked into pro-Israeli policies and military support? More to the point, where is the historical evidence that Israel even wants “a lasting ceasefire and durable peace with Palestinians?” One thing we do know for certain is that Israel wants more Palestinian land for settlements and access to its natural resources.
  • Mr Hague leaves no doubt who the UK sides with: William Hague condemns Hamas rocket attacks on Israel — “Speaking on Thursday, Nov 22 the foreign secretary, William Hague, says Hamas bears ‘principal responsibility’ for the current crisis in Gaza and southern Israel, as attacks continue from both sides. He said the government ‘deeply regrets’ the loss of civilian life in the conflict and calls for Hamas to cease attacks.”
  • So, too, does Ms Clinton’s boss, President Obama, reaffirm which side the US is on: “There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we’re fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians.” —Barack Obama, November 18, 2012

Are these the two role models the NDP will follow in plotting their next steps?

Third, when finally pressed by an interviewer to be more explicit about what sort of action is required to solve “the problem”, Paul Dewar gives Canadians the benefit of his best advice –

  • “What needs to happen is the hard work of diplomacy. As I said the other day, I phoned every single diplomat that’s implicated in this file on Monday. And that’s what you have to do. You have to work hard diplomatically to find a way to support a durable peace.”
  • “Well first of all reach out to the Palestinians… let Palestinian representatives into Canada, make sure that we’re going to supply aid in places like Gaza where there is a challenge in terms of everyday life. It means that you’re going to offer yourself up to help build the bridge – being active participants for finding a way to get a durable peace.”
  • “The question is what can Canada do, what have we offered? That’s what’s problematic about this is that when people are looking for partners in peace they’re not calling us up are they? What Canada needs to do is to decide what role it’s going to play. One of the things they can do is to make sure that the aid can get to the West Bank and Gaza.”
  • “To make sure we’re offering ourselves up for peace negotiations and offering ourselves up in any way that partners see fit… offering up for a lasting, just and durable peace.”

For Mr. Dewar, “the road to a durable peace” seemingly starts with letting Palestinian representatives into our country and ensuring aid can get to Gaza and the West Bank. He’s non-committal about what “the hard work of diplomacy” will involve or what it will achieve. Without offering specifics, he says Canada has to decide “what role it’s going to play.”  Then, almost as an afterthought, he suggests that rather than deciding what our role will be, perhaps we can just “…[offer] ourselves up in any way that partners see fit.”

Is this the intellectual effort that is supposed to win the confidence of Palestinians abroad (or pro-Palestinians at home) in the NDP as a prospective player in the peace negotiations?

How did MPs get to this sorry stage in the debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Perhaps Paul Dewar’s timid comments are perfectly understandable given what happened to fellow NDP MP Libby Davies for her candid remarks in a June 5, 2010 video-recorded street interview — Stephen Harper called for her resignation and current NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said her comments were “grossly unacceptable.”

Recapping the interview — When pressured by blogger, David Katz, who seemed to be keen to put words in her mouth, Ms Davies, speaking from the heart and not the head, candidly and innocently enough offered some solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: first, drop the siege of Gaza; remove illegal settlements; dismantle the Wall; and return land to the Palestinians through a “negotiated or imposed settlement.” Ms Davies acknowledged that she is not an expert on the Middle East.

Asked if she supported the BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) campaign, MP Davies initially said she does not. But her subsequent off the cuff remarks were probably what got her into hot water –

There is virtually no information in the political arena or understanding about the BDS movement. People are actually afraid to speak out on this issue. The political reality in Canada is, I think, worse than any other country. Elected people who are sympathetic actually are afraid to speak out and so the whole notion of a BDS…I’m very excited that it’s grown in a civil society, but in terms of the political arena it’s not even being debated. Personally I support BDS but it’s not in the political arena. Somehow we have to make this issue something that can be properly debated in the political arena because it’s not. The fear, the censorship. I’m trying to open up that debate in the community and the political arena. People are worried about being criticized because if you’re perceived to be anti-Israeli occupation then somehow you’re also branded as being anti-Semitic. To me it’s sort of akin to being a new McCarthyism that’s taking place.

In his follow-up blog post, interviewer David Katz wrote this about Libby Davies:

She had no clue what she was talking about other than parroting a few lines at me getting flustered when I tried to push beyond them. This is of a particular concern, because as the second highest ranking member of the NDP, she will most likely receive a cabinet post if the NDP/Liberal merger goes ahead, and if she is ignorant in a cause she has been championing would it really be a smart idea to give her a ministry?

I beg to differ. With the exception of her error on the date the Israeli occupation started, I found Ms Davies’ candid heart-speak about “fear and censorship” in the political arena to be honest, refreshing and revealing. Too bad there aren’t more MPs just like her. Sadly, they appear to have been bullied into silence.

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s