JSpaceCanada is hosting a series on “Israel, Palestine and Future of Canada’s Foreign Policy”
The Honourable Bob Rae, Interim leader of the Liberal party spoke June 2011 (see summary below)
The Honourable Paul Dewar, Foreign Affairs Critic for the New Democratic Party spoke in October 2012 (See Summary before summary of Bob Rae’s talk)
Conversations were begun in the Fall 2012 to arrange for a member of the Federal Conservative Party to speak
ON OCTOBER 9, 2012 HON. PAUL DEWAR SPOKE AT JSPACECANADA EVENT AT MNJCC
On Oct 9, 2012, Paul Dewar, Foreign Affairs Critic for the NDP, spoke in front of a packed crowd at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. Dewar described his vision for Canada’s role in promoting peace in the region and offered some practical measures to help Canada get there. This was the second in JSpaceCanada’s speaker series entitled “Israel, Palestine, and the future of Canada’s Foreign Policy”. [See summary of Bob Rae's remarks from June 2011 below.]
Introductions: Sarah MacRitchie and Mika Gang, youth members of the JSpaceCanada Coordinating Committee, opened the event and moderated the question and answer session at the conclusion of Dewar’s talk. Francine Dick, also on the coordinating committee, introduced Paul Dewar, stating his mother, Marion Dewar, also a politician was an inspiration to her as a young feminist. Before beginning his political career, Paul was an elementary school teacher noted for his award winning work with special needs children. Later he served on the executive of the Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Teachers Federation, where he no doubt fine tuned his political skills. Paul was elected as an MP for Ottawa Centre in 2006, re-elected in 2008 and re-elected again in 2011, when he won with over half the popular vote. Paul currently serves as opposition critic for Foreign Affairs, a position which keeps him very busy as there is certainly much to oppose and criticize.
Paul Dewar speaks: Dewar opened with a vote of thanks to JSpaceCanada, and stressed the importance of the organization:
“I welcome the effort to have this kind of dialogue not only with those who agree with you, but those who disagree with you as well. It has been hard for people to discuss these issues, including young people trying to discuss them on campus — so thank you JSpaceCanada for creating this space and opportunity for dialogue. As the Foreign Affairs spokesperson today I welcome the opportunity to have a dialogue. It is critical that we find spaces to discuss strategies for finding sustainable solutions to peace in the Middle East.”
Paul began with a story about his personal connection to peace building:
“I grew up in Ottawa in an area that would be considered a suburb. Growing up, I was far away from the Middle East conflict. But I grew up to be appreciative of the situation because of my neighbours – Jewish and Arab. The conflict was far away from our daily lives, but the amazing part for me was that our neighbours got along perfectly well. As a young boy it made me strongly believe that Jews and Arabs are not destined to dislike and mistrust each other. It was true in my neighbourhood. I saw it. And I thought, why not in the Middle East? The essential premise that peace among Jews and Arabs is possible is my underlying belief. And I am committed to peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs both here and in the Middle East”
Setting the stage for peace
“This event reminds us that we must reach out to find partners, maintain respect and make sure that achieving peace is not about scoring political points. Peace is possible, and it is our responsibility to achieve it. Our official policy as a party clearly states that we will work with partners for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.
“Canada has much to contribute to achieving lasting peace and prosperity in the region. Under the current government we have not played the constructive leadership role towards achieving that goal. The context of this talk is the spirit of change and renewal that has absorbed the Middle East in the past 2 years. The ‘Arab Spring’ has created a new context for this goal who could have predicted such a seismic shift? In December 2010, a 26-year old vendor with no money and no connections to power in Tunisia felt so helpless against the regime in his country that as a last desperate act he set himself on fire. So many people in the region identified with this merchant’s desire to have oneself recognized as a human being with dignity — something we take for granted here.
“You can be sure that the governments were all caught off guard with what happened in Tunisia and then Egypt, Libya, Syria, Morocco, Lebanon…. where people continue to refuse to bow down. In all of these countries we hear the voices of people who for the first time dare to say they want justice and peace; people who defied extremists to cast their votes. The desire to determine one’s destiny is universal. And, it comes at high cost.”
“We can imagine the Middle East free of conflict. We can imagine those young people who use the latest technologies to break the barriers. The path to democracy and peace is hope. The other path is fear , with a democratic façade, but in reality re-entrenchment of extremist narratives, nuclear proliferation, more conflict and more lives lost. Canada must not be a bystander. We must commit ourselves to what lies ahead. This is where our values as Canadians can be promoted and projected. We know what peace and security look like.
Key steps to pursuing peace in the Middle East
1. Security in the region through renewed negotiations and reconciliation for two states living side by side with 1967 borders and appropriate land swaps.
“When Peres was visiting Ottawa, he said ‘we know the way, what we need is the will’. I say, if we don’t find the will we risk losing the way. Further delays undermine public support. Peace Now executives said the general population on both sides recognizes that no other realistic models for peace exist; but as time goes by, it becomes more difficult to imagine peace talks. The longer without peace talks, the longer without resolution. We need to act now and not let it slip through our hands. Responsible leadership does not undermine the only sustainable solution for peace, it strengthens it. We need to promote it, not just support it. True peace this time will require trust building and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Canada must be a leader in that process. NDP are working for partners in peace for that reason, respecting the partners and bringing them to the table.
2. Nuclear non-proliferation as a priority for regional security.
“The region is filled with conflict, with Iran’s nuclear ambitions posing a real threat to peace and security and a risk to stability in the region. We must ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and at the same time we must avoid military conflict with Iran. We cannot ignore them as long as they spread antisemitism and threaten Israel. Nuclear non-proliferation is a priority for NDP. A pre-emptive strike is not the answer. We will promote these values, work with partners and work toward multi-lateral agreements. Canada should be part of the ongoing negotiations and active with the UN. But our lack of involvement in recent years prevented our being part of the Security Council. We need to regain our credibility internationally.
3. Supporting emerging democracies.
“We must help the emergence of fledgling democracies in the Arab world; but democracy is a lot more than the ballot box. The dreams and aspiration of the Arab Spring must be supported by helping to develop constitutions and institutions that promote and protect the universal values of peace and democracy. This will not be realized while corruption continues to occur and minority rights and women’s rights are undermined. Our country has much to contribute to emerging democracies. We have managed to maintain peace and prosperity. If willing, we can offer practical solutions to other nations. We must be part of that success story by supporting economic growth and recovery. By doing so, we can open up markets for our own economy. In this historic moment in the Middle East, we stand between hope and extremism; and Canada’s principles of peace, order and good government can guide us to a path of hope.”
Q & A moderated by Sarah MacRitchie and Mika Gang
Q: Does nuclear-free zone in the Middle East include Israel?
A: Yes, there is already a process with ongoing discussion of these issues. It is not going to happen tomorrow, but if we are going to see stability in the region we have to rid it of the nuclear threat. There are countries that chose not to have nuclear arms and countries that support it.
Q: What is your plan B?
A: There is no plan B, there is urgency! If we don’t do this now and wait longer, we lose our shot at the only plan that exists – the 2-state solution with previous borders and appropriate land swaps. I don’t think anyone who has looked at the issue on the ground has come up with a viable plan B. Canada needs to join others and not just to state our position but to push for it.
Q: What can we do to educate others about the real role of the UN and re-gain Canada’s credibility and role in peacekeeping, considering the current anti-UN propaganda and the powers operating today?
This is a good question. In his speech to the UN, John Baird quoted Khalil Gibran, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr… but it was all out of context. That speech was more about wagging the finger but not about what we are going to do about it. We need to show Canadians that our own constructs of peace have merit in the eyes of the world. We helped build the UN! Why not quote some prominent Canadian contributors to the UN, like John Humphreys? We have to convince Canadians that it is better being there than not. Let’s support the model we have or come up with a better one. Canada is now ranked 52nd among the peacekeeping countries, whereas we used to be first. We have a lot to offer on the ground. Canada is needed there to support a mission to train on the ground. We need to focus on what it is we can do, and talk about our history in connection to the UN and be proud of it.
Q: Could you distinguish your stance on the Middle East conflict from that of Bob Rae who spoke previously at JSpaceCanada event? It sounds similar.
A: Our focus right now is to push this forward and get Canada more involved. The Liberal party may not disagree, but I have not heard them talk about nuclear non-proliferation for example. We should be doing the work. Right now we have to get to international sites on other tickets. How we do it is probably the distinguishing characteristic.
Q: When it comes to a potential war with Iran, where is the “red line”?
A: Nuclear-free Middle East means stopping the advancement of Iran with regards to nuclear weapons, but it also means avoiding military conflict. The problem with the red line is it assumes you can put one down. The question needs to be, how do we avoid further nuclear acquisition? I want to see Canada pursuing nuclear non-proliferation, yet we are not doing it. We have some of the best minds in the world. We are a non-nuclear state. Why not push that more?
I must underline the importance of avoiding a military strike on Iran. Change does not happen overnight. The sanctions on Iran are starting to work, at the same time the technology is being further developed. If we note this is happening, we should note that it should be stopped.
Q: Should promoting a two-state solution include energetic denunciation of the settlement activity? There is even dissention within Israel on this issue. Has the NDP noted the shift in Canadian public opinion against the settlements?
A: Addressing the international law includes the settlements. Let’s work towards finding partnerships for peace. We know the settlements are illegal; we need to focus on what can stop it. We must focus on what is possible. It is not helpful to continue to do what has already been done and proved ineffective. We need to replicate strategies that have been successful, such as the Norway example. There are those who use any opportunities to criticize Iran, and this sometimes could be seen as not dealing with the real issue which is focusing on peace negotiations. Let’s look as what is possible and what we want to achieve. Let’s focus on the policy and position we do have — anything else could be seen as a distraction.
Q: How can we boost our pride, identity and credibility as Canadians internationally, given some of the decisions of the current administration?
A: We do it by engaging, by promoting our arts, culture and our students abroad. By showing up, by having people out in the world engaging and reclaiming who we are as Canadians. The conflicts have changed, but the need for conflict resolution has not. There is a lot of innovation needing to be done in peace building and conflict resolution. We should be leaders in this area.
Q The current government’s position on the Middle East has been on their website for years, but what is new and what has been done?
A: We are focused on action. It is not about simply supporting a two-state solution, it is about doing something to get there. There is urgency. We need to demand of our government, no matter what colour it is, to stop the rhetoric and move to real action.
Q: How can we be heard by the extreme left and extreme right when their interests are invested in issues like corporate interests and real-estate developments?
A: To quote Joe Clark: “Trade only gets you so far. Diplomacy takes you further and to where you want to go.” We can look at what has been done on the ground in the region itself for effective strategies and solutions. Sometimes the diversity of opinions in Israel is greater than here. We need to disagree respectfully as opposed to using value judgements about the people doing the work.
Q: How can Canada be an effective arbitrator in the region given our perceived alignment with the US and some of the anti-Western sentiments? I am concerned about our reputation abroad.
A: We need to focus on developing our lifelines – numerous networks of people in Canada and around the world. I think people still believe in Canada, and they can still criticize our government while believing in us. My question to you is, what can you do about our reputation? I want Canada to be the country that people can knock on its door and say ‘we need help, please come!’ And we are the country who can do it, because if not us then who?
Thank you to Paul Dewar, MP: Eduardo Harari, a member of the JSpaceCanada Coordinating Committee, gave the vote of thanks to Mr. Dewar, to a vigorous round of applause and presented him with a framed series of beautiful photos from Israel and Jordan, taken by our own Nan Weiner.
[Notes transcribed by Ilaneet Goren and Karen MockPhotos by NJ Weiner]
ON JUNE 10, 2012 HON. BOB RAE SPOKE at JSpaceCanada event held at the Narayever Synogogue
Introduction of Hon. Bob Rae was given by Dr. Karen Mock (Part of this introduction is provided below)
When I heard that Bob had accepted our invitation to speak on the topic of Israel, the Palestinians and the future of Canada’s Foreign Policy,
It could have been written by a member of JSpaceCanada! It summarizes our philosophy so well. I’ll read the last few paragraphs:“Canada’s friendship with Israelis deep and permanent. But that friendship does not mean we Dr. Karen Mock introduces the Hon. Bob Raecan be indifferent to the Palestinian claim to a viable state. The logic of the UN decision in 1947 to accept partition clearly implied there would be not just one but two states in the old Ottoman and British Mandate. We should be supporting the creation of a Palestinian state and show more leadership in expressing what it will take to get there.”“For the longest time Canadian foreign policy in the Middle Easthas been bedeviled by the notion that we must be either “pro-Israel” or “pro-Arab”.We should be both. Our ties of emotion and friendship are deep with many countries, and we must be proud of our own history, our diplomatic achievements and commitments to human rights and international law.”“Canada diminishes itself when it is less than it could be, when it chooses to see the world through a narrow lens, and when it turns every foreign issue into a partisan stance instead of an opportunity for statesmanship.”
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the true Canadian statesmen of our time, the Honourable Bob Rae!
Bob Rae: Thank you for the kind introduction. I’m not used to hearing myself quoted, unless it’s in an attack ad on TV, out of context!
I want to commend JSpace for wanting to raise more voices of influence when it comes to Israel and Palestine. There are so many more nuances and the situation is so much more complicated than most Canadians realize.
After every trip I make to Israel, I am always struck by how there is far more diversity of opinion in Israel than here in Canada. Here there seems to be only two extremes of opinion. We need to understand what is and isn’t antisemitic – it is not antisemitic to criticize the policies of the government. It is antisemitic to vilify only Israel and to delegitimize it as a state or call for it to be dismantled. And it is important to recognize the history and nature of Zionism and the creation of Israel. It has to be understood as social democratic event in the history of Jewish people and Europe There are enormous challenges in the Middle East, and not just since 1948 or 1967, but since 1867! While Jews have populated the area throughout history, the arrival of large numbers of immigrants to Palestine over the years caused huge reaction and upheaval. We have two groups of people, each with a legitimate claim to a piece of real estate, a land that has tremendous historical resonance for both peoples! Partition in 1947 was recommended by a Canadian judge; and it was not a new idea. It had previously been rejected by Arabs, until the UN re-introduced it and developed it further and the vote passed, with the intention of creating two states. One state won’t work – you can’t have one group of first class citizens & one group of second class citizens. You either have to have two democratic states of equal citizens, or one democratic state, with equal citizens. Any solution which denies legitimacy of the other side will ultimately fail — it will not/cannot be a steady or reliable solution In Canada we must try to create a climate where we can have a reasonable discussion and debate (without the excesses of ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ and without denying Palestinians the right to self-determination and equal treatment). While years ago there seemed to be more hope, in my recent trips I have noticed a real feeling of disillusionment within Israel — after collapse of Oslo and the impact of the second Intifada. But we can’t give up. We need to have real negotiations. We can’t ask people to do something they cannot do — that belies any real negotiation, any give and take There are changes we are witnessing in positive directions – for example, in the West Bank, there is a growing economy — real people, in real businesses, in real cities, such as Ramallah. The situation has dramatically improved, and many Palestinians are working to build the economy — (There are even a few Canadian soldiers there helping to build an infrastructure, police training, etc.) – to provide the basis of viable operations of a state
When people think the situation can’t be resolved, there is a trend to use the term ‘conflict management’ – that is accepting the conflict and somehow managing it. This creates ongoing tension among those in conflict, because people are not dealing with the grand objective, but merely ‘manage’ the ongoing problematic situation. What we need are practical measures that will actually resolve the conflict. But there is a messianic quality to the extremists on both sides of the argument. Arafat was in both camps — trying to resolve the conflict and at the same time getting caught in the rhetoric All efforts of Oslo couldn’t define how to get to a solution – the practical aspects. Abbas is more down to earth and more practical, but he’s wrestling with ‘what will the rest of Arab World think?’ The weight of people is on his shoulders. There are now more violent forces at work in the region, while at the same time as there is a desire for more democracy. The immediate future? The lion and lamb are not lying down just yet … There are too many who don’t want reason to prevail As Irwin Cotler says, we need to understand the culture of violence in the region, and the culture of hatred (eg. attitudes in Egypt where the majority believes the Jews were responsible for the attacks on 9/11) So we shouldn’t engage in wishful thinking or fantasies – a few examples
When we find a solution to conflict between Israel and Palestine, all the rest of the problems in the region/world will be resolved — fantasy! Somehow Israel’s experience with attempting to settle and allow military occupation since 1967 is different — and shouldn’t be subjected to same resentment as every other imperialist occupation ever – wishful thinking! Palestinians are interested in economy, not politics—NOT so! They are deeply interested in politics, they want a country. Never underestimate their underlying drive, we must understand the power of that claim.
There is still much hard work ahead, we need to keep at it, and Canada can and should play a role.
Mr Rae took questions from the floor. Q&A’s Moderator – Issie Lyon, JSpaceCanada Chair
A. The consequences for the state of Israel are far worse if there is a one state solution – not viable to have one state . The notion of a Jewish state is threatened . (outlined in Benny Morris’ book, ‘Two States or One?’)
Q. Is there a moment here that can’t be lost by developing younger generation?
A. Canada is the only country without a Rights and Democracy type of org. for developing democracy and governance. What are kids learning in school? Levels of fantasy have deep roots and real consequences. Need to work with the education systems. Youth work must also come from Israel and Palestinian society
Q. Worried as JSpace developing, when funding is jeopardized for groups not aligned with the current government ideology
A. There is something wrong happening now — singling out of environmental charities, and others. Political conformity aggressively pursued in a way never seen before in Canada.
Q. What is our current relationship with the Arab League? Are there still demands for pre-conditions?
A. No preconditions asked for now –Israel is ready to negotiate without them. Palestine still wants all settlement construction to stop. Canada does not have credibility with Arab League—we have no ambassador there. We must understand there is more than one narrative, and they need to be considered in order to have any credibility at all.Q. Could you comment on Iran?
A. There is a general deep concern that the world should have. But what to do is the challenge. Netanyahu: Iran is existential threat to state of Israel, and necessary steps should be taken to stop them. Peres: We must consider the consequences of our actions – need to think it through, what next? Iran is deeply repressive government, violence increasing internally against their own people, pitting Shia vs Sunni; most of their neighbours very upset
Q. What is the implication of the Arab Spring for Israel?
A. Practical consequences need to be looked at— lots of big questions — partner needs to be Egypt. The Sinai is a security nightmare. Arms are being transported to Gaza. We must begin a real discussion with emerging governments. Important to enhance our credibility and regain our significant peacekeeping and negotiating role.
[Mr. Rae’s address was greeted by extended applause from the near capacity audience at the Narayever Synagogue!]
Hart Schwartz made the opening remarks
Notes transcribed by Karen Mock, June 11, 2012Photos courtesy of NJ Weiner