Israel Report

November 2001         



Manley's Misguided Mission

Two editorials examining Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley's "Middle East Tour"

The Manley Art of Self-defence

by Andrew Coyne - October 31, 2001

Hawkish critics are descending upon the U.S. administration for pulling its punches in the war in Afghanistan, but sophisticated observers know the White House is constrained by the need to maintain unity among a diverse group of allies in "the coalition." Foremost among these, of course, is Canada.

Canada's strategic importance in the campaign has not previously been alluded to, but intelligence sources insist it has been a key player since Sept. 11, allowing U.S. planes to use Canadian airspace and providing tea and blankets to distressed American tourists. And while its government is thought to be broadly sympathetic to U.S. concerns, experts say it must nevertheless keep a wary eye on the Canadian "street." A prolonged military campaign -- say, anything over three weeks -- or unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties, and Canada's support, never a sure thing to begin with, might be withdrawn.

An indicator of Canadian unease can be found in a recent interview given by John Manley, the country's "Foreign Affairs" minister, who urged the United States to end the war quickly. "The focus on civilian casualties that will follow misdirected bombs and that sort of thing has the potential of being reflected in the streets in Arab countries," a government newspaper, The Toronto Star, quoted him as saying. "And it will make it more difficult for governments to support the broader effort against terrorism."

Seasoned Canadologists are divided on the precise meaning of his words. Canadian politics are famously murky, reflecting the shifting alliances and deep rivalries among the leading members of the ruling elite, several of whom are now jockeying to succeed the country's remote and autocratic ruler, if and when he retires or dies. It could be that the regime was simply deploying its time-honoured strategy of diverting the populace's pent-up frustrations, amid declining relative living standards and the continuing lack of democracy, toward the "Great Satan" to the south.

Alternatively, the country may be playing one of the diplomatic "double games" for which it is renowned. It is widely assumed Mr. Manley is carrying some sort of message from the Arab world to the Americans. Indeed, the government of Syria, where Mr. Manley was visiting at the time, echoed his words, warning the United States was losing the "moral high ground" in the war on terrorism. (Syria has long coveted the "moral high ground," not to be confused with the Golan Heights, as a base for launching attacks on Israeli civilians.)

Mr. Manley's own views on terrorism are evidently complex. On the one hand, he was forthright in condemning the attacks on the United States, suggesting a military response was fully justified. On the other hand, when it comes to terrorist attacks on Israel, well, that's different. "Whatever else you might say about Sept. 11," he told another interviewer shortly before embarking on his Mideast tour, "I'm not aware that it was a claim for some kind of territory on Manhattan Island. These are two different situations." So Israel should not think, just because a war on terrorism had been declared, that it should actually make war on terrorism, for example by hunting down the people who assassinated an Israeli Cabinet minister: The "tough message" Mr. Manley reportedly intended to deliver to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

On the other other hand, Mr. Manley also had a message for the Arab countries, for whom the suicide bombers who blow themselves up in Israeli discotheques and shopping malls are "martyrs" and "freedom fighters." In Iran, he politely asked the government to curb its support for terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, a message he repeated in Syria and Lebanon. Canadians "don't accept the notion of using violence to promote political objectives, particularly against civilian populations," he told a news conference in Beirut. Did his hosts share this view? "I think we respectfully disagree with one another." Reasonable people can differ, after all. Just so long as everybody stays in the coalition.

So: Ease up on the bombing in Afghanistan. Leave Hamas and Hezbollah off the list of targets. Oh, and don't go after other countries that are known to be sponsors of al-Qaeda, such as Iraq. "I've seen no evidence that would justify broadening the [military] campaign at the present time," Mr. Manley said. "If it exists, it hasn't been shown to us." The widely reported meeting between Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi spymaster in Prague; the training camp for hijackers in Salman Pak, a suburb of Baghdad; the evidence of Iraqi complicity in the 1993 Trade Center bombing; the anthrax attacks, using technology available only to the United States, Russia, and Iraq; and a conference in Baghdad of al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups, reported in The Daily Telegraph, just three weeks before Sept. 11:

Mr. Manley sees nothing.

Inscrutable people, these Canadians.

©2001 - National Post

Why John Manley Should Have Stayed Home

By Norman Spector - October 31, 2001

With his new responsibilities for Canada's borders, you have to wonder why John Manley has been jetting from Tehran to Tel Aviv this week. As he himself has candidly observed, Canada has been trading on its international reputation for two generations.

Nowhere is this truer than in the Middle East, where Lester Pearson was the last foreign minister to make an important difference. Now, Mr. Manley is part of the problem, sending out confused messages that can only erode Canadians' support for the war on terrorism.

He failed to challenge either Syria or Iran, which are on the U.S. list of terror-sponsoring states. Both glorify Hamas suicide bombers as "freedom fighters" when they blow up mothers and kids in a Jerusalem pizzeria. They maintain Israel is a terrorist when it responds.

When his counterpart averred that Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands is the root cause of the conflict, he did not point out that Iran has never recognized the state of Israel and regards its very existence as occupation.

It funds and arms Hezbollah, which attacks the Jewish state from Lebanon. That government objected to Mr. Manley's request that it crack down, even though he sympathized with the hard work that would be required. Not even avoidance of the word "terrorism" -- in favour of equating all violence -- could spare him a blistering attack by one Beirut columnist who described him as "icy," while another dismissed him, and Canada, as a U.S. lapdog.

In Israel, Mr. Manley criticized its surgical strikes into Palestinian territory. Since the bombing of Afghanistan is killing many more non-combatants, he plays into the hands of critics of our U.S. allies.

Mr. Manley maintains that you cannot compare attacks against Israeli civilians with the Sept. 11 atrocity. According to him, the sole purpose of Osama bin Laden is to wreak havoc, and there is nothing to negotiate with him since "he does not want a part of Manhattan." This suggests he does not understand either situation.

Insofar as the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is concerned, there is absolutely no difference between his and Hamas's goals. Neither is striving for a Palestinian state that would live in harmony beside the Jewish one. Both regard this territory as an exclusive Muslim trust, and believe that the existence of Israel is heresy.

Like Hamas, Mr. bin Laden has no scruples about targeting non-combatants. Both justify their actions by an extreme interpretation of Islam that also glorifies martyrdom -- and promises 72 virgins -- to young men who blow up teens at a disco or office workers in a skyscraper.

Mr. Manley says Yasser Arafat is the only "interlocutor that they have in order to try to build a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian issue." Since signing the Oslo peace agreement in 1993, Israelis have been trying to figure out whether this is true, or whether Mr. Arafat is running a Taliban-like regime that harbours terrorists. No one, including Mr. Manley, can yet say for sure whether he is prepared to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the Mideast, or share the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Israel has repeatedly demanded that Mr. Arafat break up Hamas cells and jail its operatives, as he promised at Oslo. It is only because he has failed to do so that Israel has moved to capture them "dead or alive." In the past year alone, proportionately more Israeli non-combatants -- Jews and Arabs -- have been killed than died in the U.S. on Sept. 11.

Hundreds of Palestinians have died needlessly. The good news is that most Israelis still understand that two peoples must share the land, and still hope that Mr. Arafat turns out to be their partner. That is why their government has not toppled him, and would gladly settle for the extradition of terrorists (which the Americans have refused even to discuss with the Taliban in Mr. bin Laden's case).

As chairman of the cabinet committee on security, Mr. Manley will soon have to grapple with a fraction of the terrorist threat that Israelis face daily. For now, he should simply remind them that, with a war going on in Afghanistan, this is the time for maximum restraint in the Mideast -- and for staying off television screens in the Islamic world. And he should be pressing Mr. Arafat to decide whether he is on the side of terrorists or with those of us who are fighting them.

Norman Spector served as chief of staff to prime minister Brian Mulroney during the Persian Gulf war. He is a former Canadian ambassador to Israel and Canada's first representative to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.

©2001 - Globe and Mail


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