How can we be 'balanced'?
by Robert Fulford

(The National Post, 23 July 2016)

When Ottawa announced that Vivian Bercovici will no longer be ambassador to Israel, The Globe and Mail elicited a few happy remarks from Ferry de Kerckhove, a former diplomat who has served as Canadian ambassador to Egypt and Pakistan. De Kerckhove said the gang at Global Affairs would be feeling "total, total elation" over the news of Bercovici's dismissal. Since her appointment in 2014, he said, she had become the mouthpiece for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"She showed no balance at all," he said.

"Balance" is what a veteran diplomat like de Kerckhove sees as the key to a successful career in his business. No one will argue that Bercovici was a model of balance. But it was de Kerckhove's implicit endorsement of this principle that jumped out of the news story.

"Balance" implies that the opinions of two antagonists should be regarded as morally equivalent. It would mean that our ambassador would consider that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are similar entities, with similar goals and similar methods, to be taken seriously in a similar way.

But how could an ambassador manage that? How could Canada do that? Would we want to?

In many ways Israel lives by the same principles as Canada. It is a democracy, with rival political parties. Its government lives under constant scrutiny, as governments should. It has independent judges, a free marketplace, freedom of speech and media. It has academic freedom. In all these ways, Israel is unique in the Middle East.

These are the bones of Israel's public life, as they are of Canada's. They form the basis of our national identities. But the Palestinian Authority has none of those attributes.

It has no articulate political parties, no sign of an independent judiciary, nothing in the way of self-criticism in its education system. Instead, it holds itself together through a pervasive sense of resentment -- and through violence. It cherishes its wounds and soothes itself by wounding Israel.

Since the 1940s, the Palestinians have been effectively at war with Israel. PA President Mahmoud Abbas talks peace when he talks at all with Israel, but his quasi-nation is still conducting a particularly vicious kind of warfare, which Abbas approves of or ignores.

It is an unpredictable, as well as underhanded conflict, a violent attack on the nervous system of Israel. It breaks out, undeclared, when a bus suddenly blows up or a bomb consumes a restaurant and its patrons -- or when one individual Palestinian suddenly draws out a knife and kills a stranger who is identified as a Jewish citizen of Israel. And it is almost always a war against civilians, children and women as well as men.

I was in Israel during the Second Intifada in 2002, and I was astonished by the fact that the Israelis were so calm. They had more than the usual amount of security, but otherwise they went about their business. They weren't particularly interested in discussing the terror. They were excited, in normal ways, about sports, politics, TV and (a special interest of many Israelis) archeology. They were not letting fanatics from the West Bank interfere with real life. They were acting as citizens of a democracy should act. "Intifada" means "shaking," but the Israelis chose not to be shaken.

The random murders committed by Palestinian terrorists are not treated, back home, as a necessary evil. The terrorists are greeted with exuberant gratitude and their families accept congratulations even if their son or brother died while killing others. And if an anti-Israel atrocity occurred three or four decades earlier, the murderer can still be treated as a hero.

Last Sunday, for example, the Palestinian Authority installed a monument to Ahmad Jabara, who killed 15 people and injured 60 in 1976 by leaving a refrigerator packed with explosives in Zion Square in West Jerusalem. An Arab-American, Jabara was sentenced to life in prison for murder. After 27 years, he was released by the Israeli government as a peace gesture to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

He died of a heart attack at age 78 in 2013.

Now he's treated as an example for all time. A bust of him in white marble sits in a square in Ramallah, in the West Bank, looking suitably noble. It's labelled "Monument for the heroic martyr prisoner Ahmad Jabarah." At the unveiling, a Palestinian official declared that the purpose of the monument is "to implant in the minds of our sons and daughters that we are continuing to be loyal to the path of the martyrs."

Should a Canadian treat with balance a community that teaches young people to revere terrorist martyrs? Sympathy, perhaps, or some level of understanding. But balance? No.

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