Taking a moral stance?

07.25.06

L. Ian MacDonald thinks that Harper’s position on the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon is one born out of conviction, not out of politics:

As Harper said: “There is a crisis because of the actions of Hamas and the actions of Hezbollah.” Exactly. Who kidnapped Israeli soldiers? Who fired rockets into Israeli neighbourhoods?

This is an interesting point of departure – the prime minister dares to speak truth, not to power, but to terror.

You can be certain that Harper’s unambiguous language was not written at Foreign Affairs. They don’t do plain speaking over there. They also like to be on both sides of this issue.

But the prime minister is making foreign policy himself, and he is realigning it significantly in the Middle East, as well as with the United States, to reflect first principles.

He can’t be doing it for the votes. The Jewish community in Canada votes overwhelmingly Liberal. Israel never had a better friend in Canada, until now, than Brian Mulroney, and it never got him anywhere with Jewish voters. There are also twice as many Muslim as Jewish voters in this country, and they’re not happy with Harper choosing sides. This is not even to mention the anguish in Canada’s Lebanese community, largely based in Montreal and Ottawa. As many as 50,000 Canadians, holidayers and dual citizens alike, found themselves stranded in the middle of a war zone last week.

If there’s no political gain in it for Harper, the only reason for him to be taking such a clear stand in favour of Israel is that he’s acting out of conviction.

MacDonald, who, it must be said, is a very intelligent man even on issues on which I disagree with him, is not giving Israel carte blanche. Far from it. He believes that Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s provocation is “disproportionate”. Okay, he’s entitled; a fair number of Israelis believe the exact same thing. But he’s applauding Harper for taking the stance that, proportionate or not, Israel’s reaction is one of defence against a terrorist organization, and that no moral equivalence can be drawn between the two.

Politicians who speak their minds are a bit of an anomaly in this country. Canadians aren’t used to them, and many aren’t quite sure what to make of Harper. I’ve never been a fan of Harper, but I do have to give him credit on this one. Trouble is, his “moral stance” is unleashing such a backlash that it threatens to cancel out the original intent. Would a waffling Liberal government have made itself such an easy target for criticism? Sure, that’s a backwards analysis. But think about it: If hatred of Israel gets stirred up into an even bigger frenzy because Harper is a convenient target as a right-winger who backs Israel, then who benefits in the long run?

In an early episode of The West Wing, Joey Lucas (played brilliantly by Marlee Matlin) bursts into Josh’s office demanding to know why the DNC is choking off funding for her candidate, who is trying to unseat a far-right Republican. The answer? Josh explains that “Every time he comes out with one of his declarations about brown people crossing the border, the DNC slaps it into a direct mail campaign and he’s good for two or three million dollars.” In other words, the Democrats get more mileage out of having a convenient poster boy for the far right to attack than they would get out of winning the seat.

Well, politics often work that way, unfortunately. In Quebec, for instance, support for sovereignty goes up during the years when the Liberals are in power, and down during the years when the PQ is in power. Why? Because it’s easier to attack from the opposition than to govern from the majority.

Is Harper, by signalling his clear intention to stand behind Israel in this conflict, doing more harm than good in a realistic sense, even though he’s theoretically doing the right thing? I wonder.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 John Palubiski 07.25.06 at 3:12 PM

Look, I don’t think Harper’s stance on Israel will vault him into a majority because I don’t think the M.E. struggle is as important enough that most electors would use it as THE criteria for chosing a gov’t.

The Libs and NDP have courted the Muslim vote more than the Conservatives, so any hard feelings on the part of this community would not translate into much of a difference at the ballot-box for Harper.

His stance will insult the academics (universally left) a few journos and a small group pundit gad-flies that make a living bandishing the threat of an imminant coup d’état by rightwing fanatics.

That said, Harper is not acting out of a feeling his position is “safe”. I think he’s doing it out of conviction.

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