On Tuesday night I went to a meeting of Liberals in my riding and heard Michael Ignatieff speak.
It was a small gathering (250) so there was plenty of opportunity to get to know the new Liberal leader. Many of the questions were challenges to his statements about the Gaza conflict. Ignatieff is careful to blame Hamas and defend Israel and this did not sit well with many of the constituents in my riding who are from the Middle East and South Asia.
There has to be a way to stand up for principles without taking sides. Today's column by James Travers in the Toronto Star makes a good case [Don't take sides but do take a stand].
Canada, with its polyglot population and its military fighting fundamentalism in Afghanistan, is more interested in Middle East conflicts than it is able to influence them. At best it can exert pressure on all sides not to reduce future peace prospects by making the immediate situation worse.Sounds good to me.
What's possible is relatively straightforward. Canada should be as forceful in holding Israel accountable for its actions as Hamas. And when the shooting stops it should invigorate honest-broker efforts to address the inequities and injustices that inevitably spawn violence.
While no panacea for a conflict layered in complexity, it would at least reaffirm values and principles that in the past informed Canadian Middle East policy. Beyond Israel's security, they include its legitimate expectation to live without fear and the countervailing requirement that Palestinians be released from decades of bondage in their own land.
Not taking sides does not mean not taking a stand. Unequivocal support for Israelis and their safety does not require equivocation on Palestinian human rights and political freedom.
Canada can best serve Israelis and Palestinians by finding its voice when it's time to say "enough."
Jennifer Smith of Runesmith's Canadain Content makes the same point in her letter to Ignatieff [Dear Mr. Ignatieff].