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The United Nations and Israel

Israel Deserves Better from UN

Brian Mulroney's speech to the United Nation's Association of Canada (excerpts)

October 30, 2001

The United Nations has long been an indispensable cornerstone of Canadian foreign policy, the central pillar of Canadian multilateralism since the end of the Second World War.

It is a measure of Canada's commitment to the UN, and the high regard in which it is held by the world community, that we have been elected to two- year terms on the Security Council on six occasions, on average once a decade, since the founding of the United Nations.

But no organization is without fault or failing, and the UN membership has made its share of egregious errors, particularly in the pursuit of its objectives in the Mideast, and on the issue of human rights and racism.

The UN Human Rights Commission has lost its way, singling out Israel for censure on human rights violations. At its annual hearings in Geneva last spring, the Human Rights Commission had a separate agenda item for Israel, while covering 60 other countries in the subsequent agenda item.

One item dealt with Israel, the next with human rights violations in the rest of the world, including Canada. This is contrary to the spirit and letter of the UN Charter, which proclaims "the sovereign equality" of all UN members.

Furthermore, because of its exclusion from the five regional groups from which commission members are drawn, Israel has been prohibited from serving on the Human Rights Commission and other vital UN committees. It is a welcome development that Israel has finally been placed in the Western Europe and Others Group, WEOG, to which Canada also belongs.

And while Israel is effectively shunned, other countries with terrible human rights records are serving on the Human Rights Commission, including Libya, as vice-chair, and Syria. These are states that sponsor terrorism.

Then there was the UN sponsored Durban World Conference on Racism.

The Durban conference was a sham from the beginning, but it quickly degenerated into a despicable forum for anti-Semitism, qualifying Israel as an apartheid state and, in the NGO forum, equating Zionism with racism.

Instead of boycotting this ridiculous conference, Canada sent the largest delegation of any country in attendance, primarily NGOs who delighted in trashing our own country's human rights record, as well as Israel's, in the eyes of the entire world. This is a uniquely Canadian form of political masochism, and our government ought to stop feeding the hand that bites it.

Stripped of their intellectual pretensions, of the cloak of human rights, these ritual denunciations of Israel are themselves a pernicious form of racism. And the ultimate irony of the attempts to isolate Israel at the UN is, of course, that the modern Israeli state was born at the United Nations.

The state of Israel was in a very real sense created by the UN partition resolution in 1947. Mr. Pearson played a central role and cast Canada's vote in favour of the partition of Palestine and thus, the political legitimacy of Israel. Canada was among the first nations to recognize Israel.

From that day to this, Canada's policy has always been that Israel is entitled to live in peace within secure borders. We have also recognized the need for a Palestinian homeland, (the US policy has evolved to "state" which means others will soon follow) one in which the Palestinians can grow and prosper in dignity while acknowledging the absolute requirement to co-exist in peace with their Israeli neighbours.

The peace process is fragile and frayed, but any comprehensive settlement must be based on those principles, indeed no durable solution is possible without them.

Canada has long recognized this. The path to peace in the Middle East lies through mutual recognition, and the creation of trade flows between Israel and its neighbours. Trade builds more than prosperity, it cements partnerships, and promotes stability. Trade is an investment in peace. Both sides must recognize this.

It has been said that terrorism has no motive but terror. But Islamic terrorism does have an agenda-Israel, Palestine, the de-stabilization of the Government of Saudi Arabia and the presence of the West in the Muslim world. We have this from a usually reliable source: Osama bin Laden. In his videotaped diatribe from his cave in Afghanistan he said: "Israeli tanks rampage across Palestine…and many other parts of the land of Islam, and we do not hear anyone raise his voice or reacting."

Three days later, Al-Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was even more direct: "Let America know," he said, "that the battle will not leave its land, until it exits our land, and until it stops supporting the Jews and lifts the unjust sanctions on Iraq."

This is what it always comes back to with the fundamentalist Islamic terrorists-Israel's right to exist, and the right of the United States and other sovereign democracies such as Canada to support its right to exist.

In the world of moral equivalency, there is much hand wringing about the root cause of terrorism. This is dangerous intellectual nonsense. Bin Laden wasn't born in a refugee camp, nor were any of the suicide terrorists. Bin Laden is an extremely wealthy man of privileged background, and the suicide hijackers were all affluent and well educated.

The root cause of terrorism is terrorists. We must hunt them down, bring them to justice, seize their assets and destroy their networks.

This is not a war between Western and Mideast cultures, it is not a battle between rich and poor nations, and it is not a conflict between faiths.

It is simply a choice between right and wrong, between good and evil.

At stake is nothing less than democracy, our values, and our very way of life.

Never has the United Nations been more needed than now, in this hour of peril for all of humanity.

Truly, the UN, in the poet's words, is the world's "haven of hunger, harbour of hope."

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