When it comes to the Middle East, too often there's been an inability to distinguish between the despot and the democrat, the arsonist and the firefighter, among those who should know better.
Too often the politics of principle have yielded to expediency, and truth has been thrown to the wind.
And too often moral courage has been trumped by moral ambiguity at best, cowardice at worst.
Of moral courage, Mark Twain wrote 110 years ago in reply to an inquiring newspaper editor:
My Dear Sir, But you are proceeding upon the superstition that Moral Courage and a Hankering to Learn the Truth are ingredients in the human being's makeup. Your premises being wild and foolish, you naturally and properly get wild and foolish results. If you will now reform, and in future proceed upon the sane and unchallengeable hypothesis that those two ingredients are on vacation in our race, and have been from the start, you will be able to account for some things which puzzle you now.
Since becoming Canada's prime minister in 2006, when it comes to the Middle East, you've brought "Moral Courage and a Hankering to Learn the Truth" to your administration.
That same year, when Israel responded to the killing and kidnapping of its soldiers on the Lebanese border by targeting Hezbollah, you spoke up for Israel's right to defend itself, citing Hezbollah as responsible for the violence and asserting that the terrorist group sought Israel's destruction.
When, later that year, the 53 French-speaking countries known as the Francophonie met, Canada vetoed language to condemn Israeli violence against civilians in Lebanon because it failed to mention Israeli civilians targeted by Hezbollah. You stated: "The Francophonie cannot recognize victims according to their nationality. Recognize the victims of Lebanon and the victims of Israel."
In 2008, during a radio interview on the eve of Israel's 60th anniversary, you spoke with characteristic clarity:
What I see happening in some circles is an anti-Israel sentiment, really just a thinly disguised veil for good old-fashioned anti-Semitism, which I think is completely unacceptable. We learned in the Second World War that those who would hate and destroy the Jewish people would ultimately hate and destroy the rest of us as well, and the same holds today.
When, a few months later, terrorists attacked a Jewish center in Mumbai, you described the murder of six people, including the rabbi and his pregnant wife, as "affronts to the values that unite all civilized people." When a new rabbi was quickly installed, you declared that the Jewish people will "never bow to violence and hatred."
In January 2009, when the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council called on Israel to stop its military operation in Gaza, Canada alone voted against. (Note: The United States was not on the Council at the time.) Your representative explained: "It was regretful that the current draft resolution did not condemn the rocket attacks on Israeli civilians."
That spring, when the UN planned to convene the Durban II conference in Geneva, a follow-up to the anti-Israel hatefest of 2001, you were the first to declare that Canada would not attend. And now, as Durban III approaches this September, you have again taken the same position.
When, in the fall of 2009, the UN General Assembly endorsed the infamous Goldstone Report, Canada was one of only 18 countries that voted against, while 114 were in favor and 44, including, notably, France and the United Kingdom, abstained.
The next year, when Canada lost a bid for a rotating seat on the UN Security Council, you attributed the result to Ottawa's pro-Israel stance. You declared that, if this were the price to pay for supporting a friend, you were willing to pay it. As a Winnipeg newspaper editorialized, "We don't have a seat because we didn't dance to the UN's hypocritical tunes."
When, the next month, parliamentarians came to Ottawa for an international conference to combat anti-Semitism, you gave a stirring address. Here's an excerpt that particularly struck me:
When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stance.... I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the UN or any other international forum, the easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israel rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of "honest broker".... There are, after all, a lot more votes - a lot more - in being anti-Israel than in taking a stand. But, as long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israel mob tell us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us.
And when the G8 leaders met in France a few days ago, you again bucked the trend. Drawing from President Obama's May 19 speech, the final communiqué's draft language called on Israelis and Palestinians to begin talks on the basis of the 1967 lines, with mutually-agreed territorial swaps. You, however, pointed out that President Obama's speech touched on other critical elements as well, including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and Palestine as a non-militarized state. Therefore, it was inappropriate to "cherry pick," as you successfully insisted, selected elements of the president's speech for the G8 statement.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for demonstrating that, when it comes to the Middle East, "Moral Courage and a Hankering to Learn the Truth" aren't "on vacation" in Ottawa.