Baird bares teeth in offering defence of Israel at UN
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, September 27, 2011 6:56AM EDT
OTTAWA - Canada used its United Nations speaking slot Monday to lambaste opponents of Israel as no better than the appeasers who allowed fascism and communism to flourish before the Second World War.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird delivered Canada's views to the General Assembly in a speech that put meat on the bones of the Harper government's unflinching support of Israel.
"Just as fascism and communism were the great struggles of previous generations, terrorism is the great struggle of ours. And far too often, the Jewish state is on the front line of our struggle and its people the victims of terror," says a prepared text of Baird's remarks.
"Canada will not accept or stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory and its citizens. The Second World War taught us all the tragic price of 'going along' just to 'get along."'
Baird made no direct mention of the Holocaust in which six million Jews died at the hands of Nazi Germany. But he evoked the era when he quoted Winston Churchill as saying "an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Baird reiterated Canada's opposition to the recent Palestinian bid to secure UN recognition as a state.
The UN Security Council became seized with the matter on Monday for the first time after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas delivered his own forceful speech advocating the move.
"We supported the aspirations of those peoples who sought for themselves and their countries brighter futures during the Arab Spring that just passed," said Baird.
"But we will not go along with the unilateral actions of the Palestinian Authority."
Baird repeated Canada's call for a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The no-holds-barred address also took aim at the UN itself, for allowing despotic regimes to hold memberships on, or occupy the chair of, major committees.
"The greatest enemies of the United Nations are not those who publicly repudiate its actions," said Baird.
"The greatest enemies of the United Nations are those who quietly undermine its principles and, even worse, by those who sit idly, watching its slow decline."
Baird backed that argument by citing North Korea's recent rotating presidency of the UN conference on disarmament, which Canada boycotted, along with Iran's vice-presidency of the General Assembly and its seat on the commission on population and development.
Baird's unflinching defence of Israel was another reminder to the Jewish state that it has a friend in Canada.
Last week in New York, Prime Minister Stephen Harper affirmed his support for Israel in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
And Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told another UN gathering that Israel is being targeted by a "new anti-Semitism" that is "now disguised as anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Israel, but it ultimately espouses the same old hatred and intent."
Baird said Canada would not "go along with appeasement of the former (Moammar) Gadhafi regime" in Libya. And it has imposed tough new sanctions on Syria because it cannot "go along" with the Assad regimes killing of its own civilians.
Baird also took aim at the UN for past resolutions that have criticized Israel, votes that Canada has boycotted in the Harper era.
"Canada will not go along with a double standard that castigates some UN members for alleged failings while ignoring the notorious abuses of others," said Baird.
He said the Harper government plans to follow through with its election promise to create an office of religious freedom within the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa.
He said Canada will not "go along or look the other way when a minority is denied its human rights or fundamental freedoms."
As examples of persecuted religious groups, Baird cited Christians in China, Egypt and Iraq, as well as Buddhists and Muslims in Burma.
He added: "Gays and lesbians threatened with criminalization of their sexuality in Uganda. And other minorities subjected to persecution, oppression or violence."