Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baird's UN Rant Is A Museum Piece

Baird was the attack dog for the Harper government at the UN yesterday with his meandering rant that read like it was written by the Israeli ministry of international propaganda. Claiming people and nations who didn't support Israel were akin to appeasers of fascism and communism, Baird demanded that Israel's struggle against extremism and terrorism be recognized, along with its struggle to defend its borders.


Apparently nobody sent Baird the memo that Israel is illegally occupying other people's land, not the other way around. Nor that Israel has initiated more wars against its neighbours than any other country in the region. In fact, it would be worth pointing out that Israel, as a colonial settler state, constitutes in its majority people who are not indigenous to the region. They have, in other words, taken over someone else's land. This is all in the public record and non-controversial.

Baird knows this, as does Harper and Jason Kenney, who have both been on the trail this week attacking the Palestinian leadership for finally standing up and stating what has been obvious since shortly after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 - that negotiations with Israel are pointless appeasement. After all, Israel has accelerated its settlement building project since the Palestinians agreed to a negotiated solution to the Israel occupation, breaking both the spirit of the agreement and the letter of international law. As a result the two-state solution is all but dead as a realistic possibility, with close to half a million Israeli settlers now living in highly developed West Bank suburbs.

The reason for Baird's attack has nothing to do with ignorance and everything to do with playing to the band of Canada's homegrown Republicans. Most of the time foreign policy is a freebie, failing to rouse most Canadians to protest or even change the character of their vote. Harper and his cronies can say the most outlandish stuff, no doubt to many eye rolls and head shakes in the UN, because while the hard right in the Tories laps this stuff up with the Christian right believing that the ultimate domination of Jews over the ancient land of Israel will lead to the Return of Jesus (where he will then dispose of the Jews who fail to convert).

Playing to the Tories motivated, activist base at a time when Harper and Flaherty are intending on being "pragmatic" on government spending is a useful counterbalance to maintaining support where it really counts for the Tories. It's also true that these guys fully understand the important role that Israel plays as a watchdog for imperialism in the region. That role is under threat now more than at any time in Israel's history as a result of the Arab Spring, the mantle of which the Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas is now trying to seize for its own, rather more moderate ends. For Israel nothing could be worse than democracy in the Arab world. It has only been the restraints of domestic repression that have kept Israel from being utterly isolated in the region where the country is popularly seen for what it is: an invading, colonial regime with a racist disdain for the indigenous Arab population.

In addition to the explosive shifts in regional politics, there has also been the rise of Turkey, with a population the size of Egypt and a fast-growing economy. The US is also seeing a historic decline in its influence as its economic power  becomes relatively less important to the global economy and it has damaged its esteem and power of persuasion by its inability to get a handle on Afghanistan, the poorest nation on the planet. The rise of China is aiding this process as an alternative pole for developing nations. All this adds up to make Baird's speech look like the rantings of a cranky old man with a loose grasp on reality. But, then, that describes the core of Tory support so it will have done its job, even as it isolates Canada internationally as being led by extremists and, yes, appeasers.

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