Michael Ignatieff used this week’s English-language leaders debate to send dog whistle signals to anti-Israel voters.
One occurred at about minute 20:
Canada has lost its seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. First time it ever happened. …
Another at minute 29:
The fact remains, thumb Mr Harper, shop that you are the first prime minister in the history of Canada to lose the seat that we were eligible to occupy on the Security Council of the United Nations. … Talking about Kairos, help talking about aid agencies who work in Africa, you’ve muzzled them, you’ve shut them down. … For ideological reasons, you shut them down. When Rights and Democracy, an independent organization trying to represent human rights around the world, gave you a little trouble, you basically destroyed the organization.
The word “Israel” does not appear in these remarks. Friends of Israel who want to vote Liberal can continue to remind themselves that Ignatieff condemned “Israel Apartheid Week” in a speech at the global anti-Semitism conference a year ago.
But people who follow the issues more closely will hear a very different message encoded in Ignatieff’s remarks.
Kairos and Canada’s Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development did not become notorious by “working in Africa.” They became notorious because of their attacks on Israel and their too-close associations with anti-Israel extremism.
Nor were they “muzzled” or “shut down.” Kairos lost its government funding. Rights & Democracy had new directors appointed to its board.
Ignatieff’s speaking up for these two notorious groups says a great deal about his future intentions in foreign policy – especially when joined to his comments about the Security Council.
As a matter of fact, reported in this space, Canada lost out at the Security Council because of an internal deal within the European Union to put forward two EU candidates for the two Western bloc seats, rather than leave one for a non-EU Western country.
But it is an article of faith among Israel critics that the Security Council loss was Canada’s deserved punishment for over-friendliness toward Israel. And Ignatieff’s insistence on attacking Harper over the issue (he raised it twice in the English leaders debate) suggests that Ignatieff shares the Israel critics’ view.
Past Liberal governments have played a double game in the Middle East. Prime ministers and foreign ministers have declared friendship to Israel. Yet those same prime ministers and foreign ministers allowed their bureaucracies to pursue very different policies. And they funded NGOs that veered in even more strongly anti-Israel directions.
The Harper government ended these practices. There is not a big difference between what the Harper government and the previous Martin and Chretien governments said about the Middle East. But there is a big difference between what those governments have done. The Harper government’s actions have been consistent with its words. The Chretien and Martin governments’ actions were not.
Ignatieff took time in the leaders’ debate to signal that if he should become prime minister, the old ways on the Middle East would return.
Those old ways had Canada condemning Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, while still allowing Hezbollah to fundraise inside Canada.
The old ways had Canada denouncing anti-Semitism, then attending and funding UN conferences at which the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were distributed.
The old ways had Canada hailing Israel as an ally – even as Canadian taxpayer dollars founded NGOs that urged economic warfare against Israel.
That was the past. It could be the future again, or so Michael Ignatieff seemed to be signaling in the English leadership debate. Those signals were not intended to be received by the general voting public. But they were broadcast, and now they have been intercepted and translated for all to say. Canadian voters who care about Israel: you are warned.
Originally published in the National Post.