The Harper-Israel love affair.


U of R student and professor offer their take

Article: Eman Bare – News Writer

Canada’s newly appointed ambassador to Israel, Vivian Bercovici, is another bold step for the country’s Conservative government. While Canada’s unwavering support of Israel comes as no surprise, the question being raised is, what does this mean for peace talks?

The appointment came shortly before Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first visit to the Middle East, where he plans on meeting with both Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

Bercovici is a Toronto-based lawyer, as well as a columnist for the Toronto Star. She is a strong supporter of the Israeli cause, and highly critical of the right to a Palestinian state.

Despite this, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, stated during a press conference that Bercovici would serve the country well in her new role, many are skeptical as to how critical she will be as the new ambassador.

Questions are being raised amongst Canadian political analysts and politicians alike as to how appropriate Bercovici is for the role. The NDP foreign affairs critic stated in an interview with the National Post, that he questioned whether she was the best person for the role, considering the sensitivity of the issue.

Openly criticizing the Arab and Muslim world in her columns could cause strain with the Palestinian Authority.

Although appointing someone with a more diplomatic approach, as the new ambassador to Israel would have stirred much less controversy, political studies professor Jim Farney suggests that openly supporting Israel is in the best interest of the Conservative Government.

“If you look at some swing ridings in the GTA, the Jewish community represents a swing vote. This is a way for the Conservatives, who have traditionally not done well at all in that community, to signal that they care.”

But what does this mean for the many Jewish-Canadians who do not support Israel? Farney says they are not the Conservative government’s targets.

“The Jewish people who do not support Israel are unlikely to ever support the Conservatives, and from an electoral perspective, who cares right?”

Debra Schubert, a Canadian woman of Jewish descent, could not agree more. “Her background does not really coincide with working towards a peaceful resolution, especially since she is writing anti-Islamic rhetoric in the newspaper,” says Debra Schubert, a Canadian of Jewish descent who is also an active member of Students Against Israeli Apartheid.

It is unknown whether Canada is interested in any sort of a peace plan between Palestine and Israel. When asked where Canada stood in terms of illegal Israeli settlements in regions of Palestine, Mr. Baird replied by stating that Canada would not condemn the process, and only support it.

It is these settlements, however, that caused the Palestinian Authority to walk away from the last peace talks. The Palestinian government and international law views these settlements as being illegal as well as destructive to the Palestinian state.

“Canadian foreign policies usually try to take a more balanced approach,” says Farney. We do not have the capacity to be Israel’s biggest supporter in terms of funding, but we are certainly their strongest.”

This past year, the European Union, Teachers Union of Ireland as well as the American Student Association all endorsed a boycott of Israel and its illegal settlements. Although the controversy surrounding Israel is growing rapidly in the international community, it seems evident that the Canadian governments’ support is only getting stronger.

As peace talks resume this January, with the help of American Senator John Kerry, it is questionable how successful they will be considering Israel’s recent announcement of settlement expansion. In a conflict where the main issue is a land dispute, expanding illegal settlements does not make peace anymore likely. Additionally, Canada appointing an ambassador that openly discredits the Palestinian government, Palestinians’ right to land and writes biased columns endorsing one government over the other will not help either.

Canada needs to return to its former diplomatic self, and leave their love affair for Israel out of politics.

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