Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was blunt in her assessment of last week’s UN General Assembly resolution condemning Israel for the recent violence along the Gaza border: “This resolution blames everything on Israel,” she said. The resolution, she correctly noted, “is totally one-sided. It makes not one mention of Hamas, who routinely initiates violence in Gaza. Such one-sided resolutions at the UN do nothing to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
“Gaza is an important international matter,” she added, before reprimanding UN officials for their obsession with castigating Israel: “But what makes it different and more urgent than conflicts in Nicaragua, Iran, Yemen, Burma or many other desperate places? Because we haven’t gathered here to discuss any of these urgent issues.” Haley supplied her own answer, in case it wasn’t already obvious to her audience: “What makes Gaza different for some is that attacking Israel is their favourite political sport.”
Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Marc-André Blanchard, was also candid in his assessment of the UN’s latest anti-Israel resolution, arguing that it was incomplete because it didn’t mention Hamas. “Hamas and other terrorist groups have been inciting violence and hatred,” Blanchard said, “and this should be clear in the resolution. The resolution explicitly names Israel, while failing to name any other groups involved.”
Quite right. And that makes it difficult to understand why Canada abstained instead of voting against the UN resolution. Having identified the same inherent imbalance that Haley condemned – further, having supported a failed U.S. amendment to the resolution that would have censured Hamas – why didn’t Ottawa take a stand and vote no?
Granted, the anti-Israel resolution was bound to pass, one way or the other – such is the reality at the UN. Perhaps the Canadian delegation calculated there was no benefit to opposing the resolution, given the inevitable result.
Those wishing to be charitable to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government might further argue that voting against the resolution could seriously hurt Canada’s chances at winning a seat on the Security Council, where Ottawa could make more of an impact defending Israel. But that is a generous reading of last week’s events, and many Canadian Jews will not be feeling particularly generous toward the Liberals after this abstention and last month’s statement about the Gaza fighting, in which the prime minister called for an independent investigation, saying, “Reported use of excessive force and live ammunition is inexcusable” – an obvious reference to Israel, without even once mentioning Hamas.
In last week’s CJN, Dalhousie University political scientist Steven Seligman argued that the Trudeau Liberals have generally continued the previous Conservative government’s positions vis-à-vis Israel. And yet, for many Canadian Jews, Stephen Harper remains the gold standard while Trudeau is viewed with suspicion, even downright hostility. Certainly, some of that is rooted in perception – but perception matters, perhaps as much as reality.
The Trudeau Liberals might not be able to do much about the strong bond between Canadian Jews and Harper’s Conservative governments. They can, however, establish a similarly positive relationship with Canadian Jews. Given their recent record, though, that’s going to take a lot of work.