Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jack Layton's First Big Test

With President Obama talking tough with Israel this week, Harper and his new international bully John Baird, made it clear that they would be standing with Israel.

No surprises there.

The gist of Obama's remarks were that the United States should only respect the original boundaries of Israel, laid out in 1967, as they move toward a two-state solution to peace. I think many Canadians would agree.

But the real test here is for Jack Layton. Does he, as a social democrat, support the Democrat president, or stand with Stephen Harper?

If he really wants to present a clear choice to neoconservatism, this is a perfect opportunity. Maybe he'll wait for poll results, or maybe he'll simply remain quiet, given tensions within his own party on the subject.

That was his first test on the issue and he failed.
Today, Tuesday June 15, is a day the NDP‘s Jack Layton will face a leadership test. He is poised to make a decision to punish one of his MPs and it could stain his leadership for a long time to come.

As reported yesterday in the Vancouver Sun and other Canwest papers the party is in a state of near hysteria over what should have been a minor flap ... In this case Vancouver East MP Libby Davies got bushwacked by a pro-Israel activist posing as a neutral -- if not pro-Palestinian -- blogger. After a rally for the Palestinians criticizing Israel's deadly assault on the aid flotilla, a man approached Libby asking for an interview. As she always does, because she never hides her views, she complied. He immediately set her up with what he called a "background question." He asked when the occupation began, 1948 or 1967.

Libby hesitated then said 1948. She made the point that the date was not important -- that whatever the date the occupation was the longest in the world -- and far too long.

The next day the interview appeared on YouTube. But in 24 hours it had gone nowhere -- just 28 views. Then the most vociferous supporter of Israel in the NDP caucus, Thomas Mulcair, got wind of it and it escalated out of control. He went on a relentless campaign to punish Libby. The spin he helped create was that if Libby believed the occupation began in 1948 then she, ipso facto, believes that Israel has no right to exist. Libby has always gone to great lengths to make it clear that she supports Israel's right to exist and the two-state solution endorsed by the NDP. But suddenly Jack Layton was in full-panic mode. He apologized to the Israeli ambassador. He hung Libby out to dry. He forced her to issue a public apology.
She had absolutely nothing to apologize for, and yet he made her apologize anyway.

As leader of the official opposition, however, he will be expected to say something. Does he risk division by challenging Mulcair or take a strong stand against Israeli Apartheid?

Blustering about the Liberals now, would only make him appear weak and indecisive.

He could just issue a statement awash in ambiguity, enough to keep the media at bay, but it would not be enough to separate himself from Stephen Harper.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like Layton is backing the Harpies. That's what it sounds like to me, Emily.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel