Political ideologies all come with some sort of baggage. As a Conservative, that baggage comes as the expectation that I whole heartedly support the state of Israel. After all, most if not all of my party does, and Stephen Harper has become one of the most vocal proponents of Israel on the world stage. As a result of this preconceived expectation of Conservatives, it comes as a surprise to both liberals and conservatives when I announce that I am in no way supportive of our ‘greatest ally’. In many ways being a Conservative and a vocal opponent of the state of Israel can be an alienating experience.
Here on campus, the recent recension of the BDS policy against the state of Israel has been labeled as a Conservative campaign, most notably due to the direct involvement of the Trent Conservatives and their relationship to a number of Pro-Israeli lobby groups here in Canada. I am in no way speaking against the recension, as I was a vocal supporter of the push to revoke it at the AGM, however I am disappointed that this argument has turned into the typical pro- / anti- Israel narrative, rather than one of academic freedom and inclusivity.
I feel it is important to present some background as to what would convince a very devout Conservative to turn his back on a primary component of his party’s foreign policy, and yet still defend the need to rescind the BDS policy.
This story begins in 2006 with Canadian Army Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, a Canadian UN peacekeeper station at a UN compound in southern Lebanon. The compound, a large white concrete bunker with black “UN” lettering painted on all sides, was located in El Khiam and overlooked Israel.
Here, Kruedener and his team of international peacekeepers had survived and observed the war in relative comfort, confident in their goal of fighting for international peace. On July 25, their compound came under heavy Israeli artillery fire despite being no where near Hezbollah positions. The artillery barrage continued throughout the day, and resulted in the UN Deputy Secretary at the time, Mark Brown, directly contacting Israeli officials several times during the attack. Despite these complaints, the attack didn’t stop.
In the evening, a third wave of artillery attacks began, resulting in twelve 155mm artillery rounds landing within meters of the base and four directly inside the compound, destroying the majority of the surface buildings. By now, UN Command in Lebanon was on the phone desperately shouting at the Israeli Defense Forces to stop their attack. General Alain Pellegrini of the UN forces in Lebanon is even quoted to have told the IDF “You are killing my people.”
With the bunker door destroyed and the surface buildings completely demolished, Major Kruedener and his team called for an evacuation that was scheduled for 7AM the next morning. In Kingston, Ontario, Kreudener’s wife received a phone call from her husband which could only be made out as static.
20 minutes later, an Israeli F-16 dropped a 1,000 pound GPD guided Joint Direct Attack Munition on the compound, right through the previously blown off door of the bunker.
Kruedener and the rest of UNTSO Team Sierra (Australian Peacekeeper Hans-Peter Lang, Finish Peacekeeper Jarno Makinen, and Chinese Peacekeeper Du Zhaoyu) were killed by that final strike.
The aftermath of the event rippled through the UN command structure. Having known about the events of that day, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan released an official statement:
“I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) of a United Nations observer post in southern Lebanon. This co-ordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long established and clearly marked United Nations post at Khiam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that United Nations positions would be spared Israeli fire.”
Canada formed a board of inquiry to investigate the attack but were refused access to information by the IDF. Despite this lack of information and cooperation from the state of Israel, the Canadian investigation found the Israeli Government and the IDF directly responsible. Due to cited “security concerns” this report was not made public, however recently has been published in a government archive.
Direct attacks are not the only events that have put pressure on the claim of Israel being our “greatest ally”. In 1993, Israel was caught selling western weapons secrets to the Chinese. In January of this year Israel attacked and killed Iranian military forces fighting ISIS, a group that is supposed to be an enemy of both Israel and western nations. They disregard the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons with justifications disproven by recently leaked Mossad documents showing that Iran was not developing nuclear weapons.
As a Conservative, I find it difficult to justify support for a country whose actions have repeatedly been against Canadian interests; I find it impossible to stand for fiscal responsibility yet be expected to blindly support hundreds of millions of no strings attached dollars being sent to Israel, and I certainly cannot justify calling Israel our ‘Ally’ when they refuse to sign any formal treaty or alliance stating so.
But despite my negative opinions of the state of Israel, I am still against the BDS movement. Why? Because this debate shouldn’t be about Israel. It should be about defending the freedoms and rights that UN peacekeepers like Kruedener and UNTSO Team Sierra died supporting it. We shouldn’t permit this debate to be hijacked by self interested lobby groups.
If we lower ourselves to supporting policies of exclusion we become no better than the state of Israel and its abusive actions and policies, Major Kruedener and his team will have died for nothing, and we will continue to perpetuate attitudes of intolerance and conflict.
You can support a free and inclusive campus and still be against Israel.