John Baird, the Canadian foreign minister who announced his retirement from politics this week, was more than a very good friend to the State of Israel.
Baird is proof positive that it is possible to engage in moral diplomacy in a cynical world. He demonstrated that it is possible to be solidly pro-Israel and simultaneously gain a respected role on the international stage and maintain excellent ties with the Arab world.
No country has been as trailblazing in its support of Israel in recent years as Canada. Baird and his boss, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have spoken out and acted to defend Israel, without apologies or hesitations. They have never felt the need to be politically correct and to “balance” their statements with (im)moral ambiguities about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Canada was the first country in the world to cut ties with and aid to the Gaza government when Hamas seized power in 2006; the first country to withdraw its support from the infamous anti-Israel U.N. conferences known as Durban II and III; the first country to robustly defend Israel in the four wars it has been forced to fight in recent years against Hezbollah and Hamas; and a leading voice in defense of Israel at the G-8, G-20, U.N. Human Rights Council, and International Atomic Energy Agency.
Over three years that it sat on the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Canada stood alone in defense of Israel, eight times casting the only “no” vote against unfair condemnations of Israel. Canada would not, Baird said, “go along, just to get along” with politically correct, but morally perverse, de rigueur condemnations of Israel.
Baird personally cast Canada’s vote against U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood, with Canada being one of only nine countries that voted against the proposal.
“We took a principled stand,” Baird saod. “We believe that statehood is a product of peace with Israel, and the Palestinian Authority is trying to go around Israel to the U.N. to get what they couldn’t get at the negotiating table.”
Canada also has led the world in expressing deep skepticism of the interim agreements between the P5+1 and Iran, and in insisting that the scope of the talks must be broadened to include Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and its systemic violation of human rights.
The importance of the moral stances that Harper and Baird have taken in recent years must not be underestimated. They have emerged as voices of critique, courage and principle in a world that is in danger of losing its conscience about Jews and Israel.
In a recent interview, Baird said the Harper government does not support Israel to win votes — he pointed out there are more Muslims and Arabs than Jews in Canada — but rather “because it is the right thing to do. I think when you do the right thing, in the end you will meet with success.”
“In our view, liberal democracies and international terrorist groups are not equal. They do not deserve equal treatment. True friends are …read more