Rathgeber 2_0

Has the Conservative government of Stephen Harper privately reached the conclusion that the West Bank and Gaza are now integral parts of Israel? A passing remark in a blog post by an Alberta Conservative Member of Parliament suggests this may be so.

In his July 28 post, Brent Rathgeber, MP for the riding of Edmonton-St. Albert, wrote: “Canada, the United States and the United Nations all support a ‘Two-State Solution,’ in which the existing Israel would be partitioned to allow displaced Palestinians a sovereign nation of their own.” (Emphasis added.) Rathgeber then goes on to set out his arguments for why this approach “remains impractical.”

It is certainly true that the United States and Canada support the idea of some kind of two-state solution for the region, and under the circumstances this is probably the best the world can hope for in terms of securing a peaceful future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

But since no one in the U.S. or Canadian governments seems to be suggesting officially that Israel within its 1949 borders should be partitioned to accommodate a new Palestinian state, one wonders what else Rathgeber could have in mind.

Now, this may be reading too much into a passing comment in an unedited blog post by a backbench MP from Alberta. It may simply mean that Rathgeber misunderstands his own government’s position. Or he may be speaking of the pre-1948 borders that were proposed for Israel. Who knows?

But it seems at least possible that Rathgeber’s chance remark reflects an interpretation of Israel’s borders that prevails behind closed doors in Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative caucus — that the West Bank and Gaza, the territories that would have to comprise any future Palestinian state, are not occupied territories but part of “the existing Israel.” It would not be out of character for the Harper Conservatives to develop policies, in the words of Jesus Loves Me, simply because “the Bible tells me so.”

This is not the United States, after all, which following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 returned to provisional membership in the “reality-based community.” No, this is Harper’s Canada, where our government remains powerfully attracted to the idea of basing policies on fantasies, both secular and religious. In Canada nowadays, in the words of that still-anonymous Bush White House aide, “when we act, we create our own reality.”

And so our government wishes to eliminate the mandatory long-form census, along with any danger it might uncover scientifically measurable facts at variance with the conclusions of the prevailing Harperite ideology.

And in the face of hard evidence that crime rates are falling, the Harper government bases its law ‘n’ order wedge policies on “the increase in the amount of unreported crime.” And how do they know, you wonder, if the crimes in question went unreported? Well, just trust them! After all, as Stockwell Day, a man who is said to believe that dinosaurs and men strolled on earth together 6,000 years ago, says, “There’s no question.”

There are other points in Rathgeber’s dissertation with which reasonable people can strongly disagree. He seems not to be aware, for example, that three to six per cent of the Palestinians are Christians, his justification of the naval blockade of Gaza by Israel is misinformed, as is his suggestion that the sole goal of the elected Hamas leadership in Gaza is “annihilating the Jewish State.”

But on the whole, the tone of Rathgeber’s post is neither irrational nor particularly mean-spirited. This suggests he is not personally driven by the loony apocalyptic dispensationalism of others in the Conservative caucus such as Stockwell Day.

But this in turn suggests that the troubling key proposition that underpins his argument is so widely held in government circles as to amount to an assumption of fact. If that it so, while hardly surprising, it means Canada under the Harper government can make no positive contribution to resolving the tragic situation in the Middle East.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...