October 17, 2006
Re: Grits’ Ignatieff takes heat over ‘war crimes’
comment, Oct. 12
In the wake of Michael Ignatieff’s recent faux pas, it
has been amusing to watch the Liberal leadership
candidates queue up to declare their love for Israel.
Mr. Ignatieff referred to the Israeli massacre of 28
civilians in the Lebanese town of Qana as a war crime.
He then promptly lost his Ontario campaign co-director
and drew the ire of many of his party cohorts. In
fact, Mr. Ignatieff has only dared to use a term that
numerous human-rights groups and the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour have used
to describe the events.
At the merest hint of anything but adulation of
Israel, Liberals recoil in horror, distance themselves
from the offending statements, and then go scurrying
to the B’nai Brith or the Canadian Jewish Congress to
beg forgiveness. First it was Dalton McGuinty doing
damage-control when Orleans MPP Phil McNeely spoke his
mind. Then it was the federal Liberals being contrite
after Denis Coderre suggested that Israel’s
destruction of much of Lebanon’s infrastructure just
might have been a disproportionate reaction to the
capture of two of its soldiers. This after comments by
Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj ruffled a few feathers
among Israeli lobbyists, and sent his party elders
reeling. No such apologies were apparent when Mr.
Ignatieff first said that he would lose no sleep over
Israel’s massacre of innocents in Qana.
This effective censorship of political dialogue is not
limited to statements by MPs.
In 2004, under a Liberal government, the Canadian
Raio-television and Telecommunications Commission
imposed a de facto ban on Al-Jazeera broadcasts in
Canada by requiring any cable system carrying it to
guard against “abusive comments,” after much pressure
from pro-Israel groups. Ironically, the same
Al-Jazeera is available to viewers in Israel, where
sensibilities are apparently more robust than ours in
the face of “abusive” perspectives.
On such a contentious and complex issue, with
suffering, victims and culprits on all sides, surely a
more diverse discourse is warranted, and indeed
needed. If Canada is to chart its own Middle East
policy course rather than have one dictated to it by
lobbyists, and if human rights and honest brokerage
are to remain at the foundation of such a policy, it
would be best if there were a viable political
alternative to the New Conservatives. Sadly, the
Liberals appear unwilling to offer such an