MONTREAL — Israel has the right to defend itself by itself from the forces of evil that surround it, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said recently at a fundraising event for Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
He affirmed that the Harper government will not waver in doing what it considers to be right in Middle East policy, despite “the litany of hate” it has endured for its support of Israel.
Some of this response is due to ignorance, but “even well-meaning people sometimes lose sight of what is right,” he told a gala dinner organized by the Canadian Associates of Ben-Gurion University attended by close to 400 guests, held at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim.
Federal bureaucrats, Baird said, had warned him not to be too pro-Israel or the Arab countries would retaliate with a boycott.
That has not happened, he said, adding that “some of my closest counterparts are from Arab countries.”
The Harper government supports the creation of a Palestinian state through direct negotiations between the two parties with no pre-conditions, he said.
“We do not believe that unilateral action by one side is justified by the unilateralism of the other side,” he said.
He also said Israel’s “Jewishness must be recognized as a fundamental tenet of its existence” by the Palestinians.
Canada is supporting the economic development and security of the Palestinian territories with $300 million in funding over the next five years, which Baird announced during his visit to Ramallah in April.
He termed anti-Zionism the new form of antisemitism directed not against individual Jews but “the Jewish state, the collective Jew…while being couched in the language of human rights.”
He called Iran “the biggest threat to world peace” today, responsible for the deaths of thousands through its financing of Hezbollah and Hamas.
“If it behaves like that without nuclear weapons, imagine how it would with them,” Baird said.
Canada continues to pursue tough economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts to dissuade the Iranian regime, but agrees with U.S. President Barack Obama that “all options be kept on the table.”
The dinner, in honour of Larry Nachshen, raised money for BGU’s crisis intervention centre in Be’er Sheva, which trains students how to respond to natural disasters, epidemics, and acts of terror and war.
BGU president Rikva Carmi said the development of the centre, launched a few years ago, has taken on new urgency since the Negev city was hit by Palestinian rocket attacks last year and in 2011.
Nachshen experienced one of those attacks while visiting in the campus last fall and was highly impressed with how well the students provided practical and psychological support to the area’s residents.
Carmi said the centre, which offers a master’s degree, can serve as a model to the world in emergency preparedness.