Ignatieff’s Wink to Anti-Israel Voters

April 16th, 2011 at 7:36 am David Frum | 8 Comments |

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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.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • tommybones

    Let’s hope you are correct, David. Israel will never stop their massive ethnic cleansing campaign until enough western nations get in the way. If only the U.S. would do the same.

  • jonEphD


    Can you expand on the extent to which Kairos is anti-Israel? We are of course talking about Kairos the Canadian NGO (not Kairos-Palastine, a different organization, but one that Jason Kenney likely confused with the former).

    As far as I can tell, they decided against BSD of Israel, and instead focus on advocating for the justice of ordinary Palestinian citizens.


  • itzik basman

    Gee, what an exercise in over-subtlety.

    But the point taken, whether right or mildly paranoid, speaks to something else: the inadequacy of these Canadian debates.

    Why no specific, pointed questions on discrete foreign policy questions including Israel and the Palestinians?

    Which question goes to my overarching thesis: this is a Seinfeldian election: an election over (relatively) nothing.

  • UncleLew

    Unfortunately, the Harper government has espoused a position that all but ensures that Canada will not be taken as an honest broker. The Harper position is one of wilful blindness to Israel’s hardline and destructive policies, a position that benefits no one in a truly honest relationship.

  • hisgirlfriday

    Random question about Canadian foreign policy re: Israel from the peanut gallery:

    Does the Harper government provide foreign aid to Israel? If so, did Liberal governments? Just wondering how different US-Israeli and Canadian-Israeli relations are beside Canada historically being more critical of Israel and sympathetic of Palestinians in comparison to the US.


  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    If only the provincial know-nothings who comprise the Tea Party/Christianist axis would bother to learn a thing or two about geopolitics, they’d realize just how lucky America is to have a left that is comparatively moderate. Compared to Michael Ignatieff or Segelene Royal, President Obama looks a lot like Barry Goldwater.

  • John Frodo

    The loss of the seat had little to do with Isreal, it was mostly kyoto bashing by harper

  • Danny_K

    This article does not deliver on its headline. If you must comment on the Canadian election, could it at least be something newsworthy?