- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2001

The Canadian government's ambivalent attitude towards Israel reminds me of the chap who when asked whether he had any difficulty making up his mind replied, "Well, yes and no."
A few weeks ago I. H. Asper, one of Canada's most powerful press barons, denounced "Canada's shameful and wrong-headed policy on Israel, as represented by its pro-Palestinian votes at the United Nations." He called Canada's Foreign Affairs Department "historically anti-Israel."
Mr. Asper is executive chairman of the geographically omnipresent CanWest Global Communications Corp., Canada's largest publisher of daily newspapers, which owns a 50 percent interest in the daily National Post. Mr. Asper called it "a dismaying sight our Foreign Affairs minister, John Manley, either a prisoner of naivete or political opportunism, embracing this war criminal, Yasser Arafat, on Mr. Manley's recent visit to the Middle East." The Canadian government has long been an outspoken critic of Israel and has adopted what can only be described as a "neutralist" policy against Israel.
And yet just a few years ago Jean Chretien, leader of the Liberal Party, said: "Israel stands alone as a beacon of popular democracy in the Middle East … Together we can make the relationship between Canada and Israel stronger than ever."
Mr. Chretien became Canada's prime minister in November 1993. His rhetoric is still pro-Israel but his foreign office seems to be pursuing its own policy independent of a prime minister who, on the occasion of Israel's 50th birthday in 1998, said: "There can be no peace without a secure state of Israel."
What inspired Mr. Asper's attack on what he called Canada's "sanctimonious" foreign affairs apparat is its U.N. votes last autumn and in April, votes which condemned Israel for using "excessive force" against Palestinians and which expressed "grave concern at continuing Israeli settlement activities."
Canada's foreign policy establishment has been left-oriented and therefore anti-Israel ever since the late Pierre Trudeau became prime minister in 1968. In fact, Ivan Head, Mr. Trudeau's Henry Kissinger, boasted that Canada's foreign policy was being shaped as the "cutting edge of the international left."
Israel has been a target of the left, in which I include almost from Israel's very beginnings the Canadian foreign office, even though Israel's economy is labor-dominated and socialist-oriented. This anti-Israel leftism was also anti-U.S. Mr. Trudeau criticized U.S. foreign policy for fighting communism in the Western hemisphere by accepting "the support of the most brutal of military dictatorships," but Mr. Trudeau loved Fidel Castro's dictatorship. On a 1976 visit to Cuba he hugged and greeted Mr. Castro with the cry, "Viva el Commandante Fidel Castro." This love was so great as to bring Fidel Castro a year ago to Canada to attend Mr. Trudeau's funeral.
Mr. Manley has replied to Mr. Asper's attacks in the Toronto National Post. Canada's anti-Israel votes in the U.N., he claims, "are not against one party or another but rather reflect established principles of international law." International law or not, of 690 resolutions voted in the U.N. General Assembly, almost two-thirds 429 were directed against Israel.
Mr. Manley's never-never-land prose is published at a time when more than 600 Israelis have been killed and thousands wounded by the PLO and its terrorist allies since the Oslo accords were signed on Sept. 13, 1993; at a time when the United States has suffered terrorist attacks on the USS Cole, U.S. embassies in Lebanon, Kenya and Tanzania, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the Marine barracks in Beirut; at a time when the G-7 countries are planning to meet on an ocean liner, somewhere no doubt in the Antarctic where the only danger would come from the penguins. The Canadian Foreign Office is apparently unaware of these events since Mr. Manley's apologia is more suited to fairy tales.
Mr. Chretien is the first serving Canadian prime minister to have visited Vad Hashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial to the 6 million Jews slaughtered by the Nazis. He ought really to involve himself in Middle East developments and put an end to his Foreign Office anti-Israel tactics deployed in the name of an international law which does not exist in the Middle East.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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