Turtle Bay

Canada takes sides in battle of ‘good and evil’

A month ago, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was engaged in an international competition to join the U.N. Security Council. This week, Harper said Canada’s loss to Germany and Portugal for two open Western seats was due to its passionate defense of Israel in an organization plagued by anti-semitism. The moral test facing Canada in ...

A month ago, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was engaged in an international competition to join the U.N. Security Council. This week, Harper said Canada’s loss to Germany and Portugal for two open Western seats was due to its passionate defense of Israel in an organization plagued by anti-semitism. The moral test facing Canada in the Middle East, Harper said, is nothing less than the struggle between "good and evil."

"Whether it is at the United Nations or any other international fora, the easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric. To pretend it is just about being evenhanded and to excuse oneself with the label of honest broker," Harper said in a speech on Monday at a two-day anti-semitism conference in Ottawa. "But as long as I am Prime Minister, whether it is in the United Nations, the francophonie, or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand whatever the cost."

"History shows us, and the ideology for the anti-Israeli mob tells us all to well if we listen to it," he said. "Those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us."

Harper’s speech came in response to a foreign-policy address by Canada’s Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff, and it underscored the degree to which Canada’s role at the United Nations has moved to the center of Canada’s foreign policy debate. Ignatieff accused Harper of orchestrating the most embarrassing political defeat on the world stage in the country’s modern history, and driving away many of the countries traditional friends, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. "As soon as the votes were counted, Stephen Harper started searching for excuses. First, he tried to blame me. Next, he blamed the secret ballot. Then he said he didn’t win because he has principles," Ignatieff said in his speech.

Ignatieff suggested that Harper abandoned Canada’s role as an "honest broker" between Israel and the Palestinians in favor of making Canada’s support for Israel a "wedge issue" in domestic political debate.

Follow me on Twiter @columlynch

Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy’s award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. @columlynch

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