Saturday, March 1, 2014

Manichean Madness


"If you're searching for the single government in the world that the Abbott government most resembles... turn your gaze to Ottowa. If the Abbott government has a model, it is the Canadian government of Stephen Harper. This week, I met his gregarious and engaging Foreign Minister, John Baird. 'Stephen Harper has a very high regard for Tony Abbott,' he told me, and went on to extol Canada and Australia's shared values... In foreign affairs, the two governments have a very similar world view... One of the biggest changes Abbott and his Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have made from the previous Labor government is to reverse Labor's anti-Israel voting pattern at the UN, and restore the pro-Israel pattern that had prevailed under the Howard government... Why does Canada support Israel? [I asked Baird] 'It's the only liberal democracy in the region. In the great struggle of our generation, against international terrorism, it's often on the frontline.' I ask him if anything Israel is forced to do to defend its security qualifies its status as a liberal democracy. His answer is straightforward: 'No. It lives in a tough neighborhood. If there were 5000 or 10,000 rockets raining down on Canada or Australia there would be enormous pressure on the government to act..." (Our Canadian connection, from the Anglosphere to the Middle East, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 27/2/14)

No, dear God no, not Canada:

"Canada's government is now the most undiluted, fervent supporter of Israel... in the entire world. The Harper government would wear that description as a badge of honour... Why has this government gone beyond all previous Canadian ones in supporting Israel? It is something visceral and personal for Mr Harper. His deep commitment does not spring from personal experience or considerable reading about the Middle East and its history - indeed, while he was leader of the opposition, foreign diplomats in Ottowa who managed to secure a meeting (often difficult) with him were struck by how little interested he was in any international issues. Mr Harper sees the world, like Canadian domestic affairs, in rather Manichean terms, wherein the forces of good and evil are arrayed against each other, with threatening enemies everywhere, prepared to pounce on any weakness. The forces of good are democracies, especially of the Anglo-Saxon variety and a few others, including Israel. The forces of darkness and instability are other kinds of political systems. Mr Harper expressed that Manichean world view when speaking to the Negev [JNF] dinner in Toronto last month. Israel, he said, is 'a light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness.' That dichotomy - light versus an entire 'region of darkness' - is of course how many Israelis see their country, a democracy surrounded by enmity and instability. Such a world view, applied to the Middle East, leaves no room for nuance, balance or understanding of complexity, just a dualistic clash between good and evil..." (No room for nuance in Harper's mindset, Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe & Mail, 18/1/14)

Or, as our Stephen Harper-lite, Tony Abbott, would put it, between 'goodies and baddies'.

But maybe there's a chink of light in Abbott's Manichean madness. Could his Catholicism possibly act as a restraining influence of sorts when it comes to going all the way with Israel?

Take the evangelical Harper's recent pilgrimage to Jerusalem, for example. His entourage reportedly included 21 mostly orthodox rabbis (as well as scores of other Jews), and anywhere between 10-15 evangelical pastors, but keeping in mind that Canada has a 40% Catholic population, only one Catholic. (See Why did 10 evangelical leaders fly with Harper to Israel? Douglas Todd,, 28/1/14)

I guess we'll just have to wait and see whether the 'Judeo-' triumphs over the 'Christianity' in Abbott's professed Judeo-Christianity. For which, see my 16/12/13 post Time to Get Serious, Tony!


Peter D said...

Hey Merc, did you see Sheridan's impassioned defence of poor old Israel (against the crude anti-Semites from Four Corners) on the back page of the "Inquirer" section of the Weekend Australian, March 1-2? And John Lyons will be making a reply next weekend.

MERC said...

Hi Peter. I have seen it, and will get around to addressing it, if that's the right word for responding to frothing madness.