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Rae flip-flops over Palestine

August 7, 2008

Rae flip-flops over Palestine

OTTAWA, ON- Aug 6th, 2008- what began as a fairly balanced description of the historical record of the creation of Israel in Palestine, quickly became yet another bipartisan speech of the Liberal party. Strongly criticizing Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party’s actions in regard to Israel/Palestine, Liberal Party External Affairs critic Bob Rae failed to provide any concrete actions his own party intends to take.

“It was the emergence of modern Zionism that would set the stage for modern conflict,” He began. His proposed solution to this roughly century-long conflict is “recognition of two states, new governance for Jerusalem, limited right of return, and generous funding of a Palestinian state.”

Contradicting himself several times throughout his speech, Rae paid lip service to the social justice movement while adding to the pile of anti-Iran rhetoric.

“Iran’s president is a holocaust denier and refers to Israel by what can only be described as the most hateful of terms."

“Our role should not be of simple neutrality,” he said, adding, “Our friendship with Israel by no means can be indifferent to the Palestinian claim [for self-governance].” When challenged on his proposed plan of action, he reverted back to mediating and perpetuating the aging peace-process. Meanwhile, he admitted, “I don’t think the process today is particularly transparent.”

He further added to the confusion by concluding “it’s the parties themselves that are going to have to resolve the conflict.”

Stating and reiterating that he believes Canada should adhere to international law, principles, and values, he was not so adamant on Canada’s attitude towards the 2004 International Court of Justice ruling on the illegality of the Occupation of the West Bank, the construction of the separation wall, and the building of settlements.

“Obviously there is some ambiguity in the [UN] Resolution 242, which is obviously not accidental, which allows for some flexibility.” Yet, he stated that “a resolution of the conflict has to be dependent on withdrawal from the [Israeli West Bank] settlements. In order for a Palestinian state to be viable in cannot be a jigsaw puzzle.”

When asked to convey concrete description of what this means in practical terms, he elusively answered, “what is it that we’re going to be able to persuade Israelis to do?”

“If you say there is a universal right of return, I don’t think that’s on. It’s contradictory to the UN actually,” said Rae. His comment was in reference to UN Resolution 194 which does not deny the right of return, but actually stipulates that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return.”

Rae’s dodgy flip flopping between identifying as Member of Parliament, external critic, historian, lawyer, and the son of a former Ambassador continued throughout the question and answer period.

The audience clapped as various members asked pointed questions, leaving Rae with a mouthful of stumbles. Asked how he expects the Palestinian people to come to the negotiation table considering the desperate conditions they live in, Rae expressed “I don’t think anyone in the world is looking for a desperate deal. There’s no question the conditions in Gaza have deteriorated.” He added, “I personally do not hold Israel solely responsible for those conditions,” later admitting he did not visit the strip.

When questioned why, he explained “it’s difficult for international leaders to go to Gaza without it looking like a political move.”

Lia Tarachansky and Jesse Freeston are Ottawa based independent journalists, working with the Ottawa IndyMedia, Canadian Dimension, Rabble.ca, and The Dominion.

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