Canada Takes Pro-Israel Stance At UN
Date: Saturday, November 18 2006
Steven Edwards, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, November 17, 2006
UNITED NATIONS - Canada under the Conservatives demonstrated a marked shift in favour of Israel in votes at the United Nations Thursday, registering its third change in a row on more than 20 Arab- and Muslim-sponsored resolutions that are annually critical of Israeli policy, but light on Arab responsibilities.
The switch from the way former Liberal governments voted is expected to continue when Canadian diplomats join those of other UN member states to consider 10 more of the annual resolutions next Tuesday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said in successive speeches his government would not endorse international resolutions on Arab-Israeli relations it considers unbalanced.
Arab and Muslim states use their developing world support to produce ''automatic majorities'' that slot the resolutions into the international record, then cite them to argue they have global support for their causes.
On many of the resolutions, Israel has typically received support only from the United States, a few U.S.-dependent Pacific island states, and frequently Australia but now Canada is breaking from its traditional siding with the Europeans on most of the issues.
''If this is a shift, and if the resolutions are largely unchanged from previous years, then it will have implications for our reputation around the world, and echoes in Canada as well,'' warned Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN under the Liberals who is now an international governance expert with two Waterloo, Ont., think-tanks.
''Canada is known for taking a fair-minded and principled approach to these questions, and when I was ambassador, Canada judged every resolution on its merits, taking into account the central issue they are trying to address, and the question of fairness.''
But pro-Israel and Jewish groups in Canada have for years lobbied that the resolutions are biased because they demand so much of Israel, but little from the Arab side in the search for Middle East peace and the current government appears to agree, prompting praise from Canada's Jewish community.
''We're very pleased Canada is staying the course and is now guided by a (new) set of principles,'' said Sara Freedman, a senior official with the Canada-Israel Committee. ''Doing so is putting the onus on the UN to be fair and equitable as they deal with the Middle East situation.''
The Jewish human rights activist group B'nai Brith Canada expressed similar satisfaction.
''It's anti-Israel time at the UN once again and Canada has taken up the challenge,'' said Frank Dimant, the group's executive vice-president. ''The changes to Canada's vote on Ethree resolutions so far demonstrates that the government will not be bound by traditional anti-Israel voting patterns, but will instead continue the principled course it has charted.''
Officials with the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations did not return calls for comment.
The resolution before the UN Thursday speaks of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and saw Canada abstain, whereas Canada endorsed the resolution last year under the Liberals.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 20, 2006]