Once a crook, always a crook – or, why I sometimes support capital punishment

June 15, 2010

In News

Conrad Black, National Post · Saturday, Jun. 12, 2010

Stephen Harper has shown foresight and political courage by turning Canada into Israel’s greatest friend in the world.

Let us remember a few facts: This dreadful mess in the Middle East arose because the British sold the same real estate twice, simultaneously, to the Arabs and the Jews. They compounded this sleazy practice by denying access to Palestine to many helpless Jewish fugitives from the Nazis before, during and just after the Second World War.

Israel was set up as a Jewish state in 1948 by unanimous vote of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, on the motion of the Soviet and American ambassadors. This was the ultimate legitimacy: Israel was created by the UN; other countries merely were admitted.

The minimalist Israel that resulted immediately was attacked by its Arab neighbours, but was militarily successful and expanded its frontiers. It was attacked again by Egypt, Syria and Jordon in 1967, but again prevailed on the battlefield. King Hussein of Jordan, having lost the West Bank to Israel, handed over representation of the Palestinians to Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, who tried to seize Jordan and eject Hussein, unsuccessfully, in 1971. Arafat had no interest whatever in peace, as that would demote him from a key figure in the world’s greatest crisis zone to head of a dusty postage stamp of a country.

He negotiated various agreements, but never delivered on any of them, and finally made it clear in the second Camp David discussions in 2000 that he wanted the right of return to Israel of at least eight million displaced Palestinians and their descendants, and the complete demographic destruction of the Jewish state. Arafat mercifully died, and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, has conditionally conceded the Jewish state’s right to exist. Israel has helped produce tremendous economic growth in the West Bank, which is now on a comparative fast track to statehood. Its Premier, Salam Fayyad, has agreed that the Palestinian right of return should be to the West Bank, not to Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

Gaza, meanwhile, is in the hands of Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, which denies Israel’s right to exist and has fired 6,000 rockets at Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Israelis are difficult, and their country has made some serious mistakes, especially in successive forays into Lebanon. For 30 years after its victory in 1967, Israel rejected any notion of Palestinian statehood, but accepts it now. It must be said that this status gain for the Palestinians is the fruit of terrorism, as nothing less would have moved the Israelis.

The Jewish state deserves recognition, peace and security. The Palestinians can earn the same, but they have no right to pursue the extinction of the Jewish state and the explicit massacre of its population. The only solution to the competing British promises to the Jews and Arabs is, and always was, two states. That solution is now almost at hand.

Israel is an admirable democracy, has fought courageously for its life, has built a small, barren, beleaguered country into an advanced prosperous state. Even so, too many Western leaders–including Barack Obama — sometimes truckle to militant Muslim sentiment when the two sides clash, as they did last week off the coast of Gaza. But not Mr. Harper.

All Canadians can be proud that the country has a prime minister who does not grovel to the received international opinion on matters such as the Middle East. (He rendered the same service on the global-warming debate by not signing Canada prematurely onto one of the Doomdsay scenarios, that have become the subject of scientific reappraisal.) This is a huge improvement on the trendy pandering of Pierre Trudeau: the Third Way, North-South, his absurd arms-control proposals, facilitation of Castro’s war-making in Angola, veneration of the Nyerere economic miracle in Tanzania (a 90% decline in per capita income). On these matters, Stephen Harper has been a prophet with honour.

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