Wake up, Mr. Ignatieff, please wake up

Dreamland. It’s a bad name for the Middle East. Dreamland, though, is a very good title for Roy Rempel’s 2006 book about “Canada’s pretend foreign policy.” (Disclaimer: I helped edit it and have an ongoing relationship with the publishers, while Roy now works for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.) On reading it I added a “dreamland” category to my files and it gets bigger each day.

Dreamland is a place where the enemies of the West cannot be defeated militarily or politically and Canada is a neutral nation that speaks with a voice like thunder. Where something called “pressure” is forever building on right-wing politicians to do what left-wing journalists want and we trust news stories filed under the watchful eye of Hezbollah guys with guns. And Michael Ignatieff, a certified Deep Thinker, just hurled a thick sheaf of nonsense into my file with his Aug. 1 statement on the Middle East.

One cannot even take seriously his initial warning that “Hezbollah’s strategy is to lure Israel into an escalation of violence that will radicalize the Arab world and cause Israel to lose its remaining international support.” Would that be the Arab world where the grand mufti of Jerusalem spent the Second World War in Berlin urging Hitler to bomb Tel Aviv? Where the secretary-general of the Arab League in 1948 predicted “a war of extermination and a momentous massacre”? Where the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is widely available, government newspapers explain how Jews put the blood of gentile children in Purim pastries, and the answer to any problem from corruption to poverty is a public chant of “Death to Israel, Death to America”? Shall we take policy advice from a man who fears the consequences if these people now get “radicalized”? Phooey.

Mr. Ignatieff predictably continues: “In this terrible struggle, Israel cannot win, Hezbollah cannot lose and Lebanon perishes.” Why can’t Israel win? It’s won every war so far. But our new leading public intellectual blithers on: “In the 1990s, the Clinton administration managed to keep all parties focused on a peace process leading to a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Say, didn’t that process end at Camp David in 2000 with Yassir Arafat rejecting a two-state solution, denying the Temple of Solomon ever stood on the Temple Mount and launching the second intefadeh?

Next we get Mr. Ignatieff’s own “solution” that, improbably, manages to be even more absurd: “Canada … should call for an immediate ceasefire, authorized by the Security Council. It should line up with the Europeans and moderate Arab states … Israeli forces would withdraw, aerial bombardment would cease and Hezbollah would stop rocket attacks and incursions into Israeli territory. Once a cease-fire has taken hold, Canada should propose the deployment of an international naval, air and land force to prevent the movement of missiles and other military technology into Lebanon…. authorized by the UN Security Council to seize any weapons destined for Hezbollah or any non-state actor … Such a force would not engage in direct confrontation with Hezbollah or with the Israelis but patrol a buffer zone between them.” We’re lost in the “woulds” of dreamland here. Hezbollah won’t stop trying to kill Jews until someone does “engage in direct confrontation” with them. It’s the whole reason we’re in this mess.

Mr. Ignatieff winds up (or down): “As a nation of immigrants from the zones of war, we have a special vocation for peace, and it is by exercising this vocation that we maintain our unity as a people. We have a voice that other countries listen to. Let us use it.” I didn’t even know most of us came from war zones, and if other countries listen to our voice, how come Cuba got more votes for the new UN Human Rights Council than we did? But see, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about the Middle East. It’s about us. We maintain our unity as a people by yelling into our own navels in response to foreign crises. It’s both goofy and repellent.

Anyway, our House of Commons foreign affairs committee just voted not to endorse the European Union call for a “sustainable ceasefire.” The word “sustainable” was excluded because, said NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough, “The whole point is to stop the killing now.” The whole point? People in politics often disregard the long run, but outside dreamland they generally don’t boast about it.

In Reality World, Israel’s prime minister says he’ll accept a ceasefire once the international force deploys. Which will be when it’s ready to confront Hezbollah directly or after Israel finishes doing so.

Sorry, Mr. Ignatieff. There’s no snooze button here. You have to wake up.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson