Sunday, October 31, 2010
Canada stands tall
By David Warren
The Ottawa Citizen
There was a moment this week in which I felt very proud to be Canadian. There could be moments like that in any week, but this one was unusual for its cause. It was something done by the government, that invoked principle, and required courage. That made it something rare, to be savoured.
Pride is not always a sin, incidentally. Vainglory is sinful; conceited arrogance, very bad; the kind of pride that attempts to diminish God, downright satanic. The Greeks knew hubris as the deadliest of moral errors; Saints Gregory and Thomas rightly identified self-exalting pride as the "queen bee in the hive" of human depravities. And its vices are manifest in every kind of presumption, down to the most venial claim to be able to do something not within one's competence. (Modern politicians make their livings on such claims.)
But a certain satisfaction in a job well done -- we can wink at that. And when the satisfaction is in a job well done by someone we usually regard as a duffer, well, there might even be something holy in it.So let us not miss this opportunity to praise the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper. He cost Canada a coveted seat on the UN Security Council, by refusing to sell out Israel. He withdrew our candidacy when it became apparent that the bloc vote of Arab and Islamic states (about a third of the UN membership) had been turned against us; thereby conceding the seat to Portugal, with her more flexible policy of moral appeasement.
In the course of scotching our bid, Harper allowed the announcement of an important trading agreement between Canada and Israel to go ahead, the very day before the vote. This could easily have been disguised or elided.
He likewise demurred on an attempt by the United Arab Emirates to link landing rights for commercial aviation to foreign policy positions.
In addition to organizing opposition to Canada's Security Council bid, the Emirates have now unilaterally withdrawn Canadian access to Camp Mirage, which we have been using through the last decade in the deployment of our troops to Afghanistan.
In a further move as characteristically petty and childish as it was shoddy, the UAE refused overflight permission to a plane carrying our defence minister home from a visit to Afghanistan.
Among all western nations -- not excluding the United States -- Canada has taken the clearest stand in defence of Israel's legitimate rights and interests. We have paid, and we will continue to pay for this. And we should take genuine pride in paying for our defiance of efforts by the Arab and Muslim bloc at the UN to isolate Israel, and make her a pariah.
Words cannot express my contempt for Michael Ignatieff, and other opposition members, who have tried to cloud what they know is a stand on principle.
Canada is not "tilting to Israel."
Our government is rather maintaining a policy that has been consistent for more than six decades, since the state of Israel was created by the same United Nations after the Second World War.
We have affirmed and continue to affirm Israel's right to exist, as a Jewish nation -- just as she was from the beginning. And in a region where there are many squalid governments, and almost all formally claim to be "Islamic states" -- where all except Israel belong to the only explicitly religious international bloc (the Organization of the Islamic Conference) -- we rightly refuse to dignify objections to what they call "Zionism."
The most abhorrent suggestion is that, by refusing to abandon our obligations to Israel, the Harper government is dabbling in "Islamophobia." This term, through frequent repetition, has become the standard Left-Islamist smear against anyone who contradicts them.
As A. Barton Hinkle, sage of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, was reminding us this week, the term is fraudulent in every possible way. Far from designating some "fear of Islam," or of Muslims, it is applied exclusively to people who have the courage to oppose their most unreasonable demands. Moreover, it is used as cover for very obvious fear of Islamist reprisals, in the media and elsewhere. The term is thus an Orwellian inversion.
As Hinkle and several others have argued, the perfect example of real "Islamophobia" was provided by prominent newspaper editors across the U.S. the Sunday before last, who pulled an inoffensive syndicated cartoon by Wiley Miller, which merely raised the subject of cowardly self-censorship. (See Internet.)
Our own freedom depends, now and always, upon the refusal to scare so easily; and conversely, on a willingness to pay the price for principled stands.
It depends on unambiguous displays of solidarity against those who advance their cause by intimidation. It depends on "manning up."
Neither western nor any other civilization was built or nurtured on bedwetting fear.
David Warren's column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
David Warren, once editor of the Idler Magazine, is widely travelled - especially in the Middle and Far East. He has been writing for the Citizen since 1996. His commentaries on international affairs appear Wednesdays & Saturdays; on Sundays he writes a general essay on the editorial page.