Stephen Harper, we are told, has received a rock star welcome in Israel. Leaving aside for the moment the diversion it creates from scandal at home, one should be very uncomfortable about what Harper is stirring up in the Middle East. Jeffrey Simpson writes that, while successive Canadian governments have always supported Israel,
none, however, has gone as far in embracing Israel as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government – to the point of distancing Canada from traditional allies in the United States and Europe, abandoning even the pretense of balance and nuance, and contributing to Canada’s defeat (for the first time) in seeking a seat on the UN Security Council (a seat won the next time by Australia, whose governments had also been strong supporters of Israel but not as abrasively as the Harper government).
The reason for the shift has everything to do with the man himself. Harper does not base his policy on experience or knowledge:
His deep commitment does not spring from personal experience or considerable reading about the Middle East and its history – indeed, while he was leader of the opposition, foreign diplomats in Ottawa who managed to secure a meeting (often difficult) with him were struck by how little interested he was in any international issues.
Mr. Harper sees the world, like Canadian domestic affairs, in rather Manichean terms, wherein the forces of good and evil are arrayed against each other, with threatening enemies everywhere, prepared to pounce on any weakness. The forces of good are democracies, especially of the Anglo-Saxon variety and a few others, including Israel. The forces of darkness and instability are other kinds of political systems.
For Harper, it's a battle between good and evil. And he, of course, is on the side of good. He is in all things a fundamentalist -- in economics, politics and religion. And, as is so often the case, he is fundamentally wrong.
Incidentally, John Gray and I are not related. But we share the same name and -- in this case -- the same opinion.