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Yes, I Can Support Israel and Be Liberal

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During the nine years I served as a Member of Parliament in Canada's House of Commons, I was at the forefront of the fight for same-sex marriage (which is now legal in Canada).

I supported complete decriminalization for possession of small quantities of marijuana.

I stood up for women's right to choose in any and all abortion debates.

I demonstrated and made speeches in Parliament against Canadian participation in George W. Bush's Iraq war.

I pushed for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

I am in favour of a (well-defined and regulated) right to end one's life in the case of painful, late-stage terminal illness.

Although I believe any government should be fiscally responsible, I also believe the state has an integral role to play in the economy, including to ensure fairness and some measure of equality with regard to income distribution.

And I am a well-known opponent of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

By any standard, one would think that all this makes me a liberal -- and it does.

Hijacking liberalism

Still, those self-styled liberals who accuse right-wingers of having "taken possession" of the word "Zionism" are trying to equate Liberalism with one-sided criticism of Israel. As if to be a true liberal, one must basically put the blame solely on the Jewish state for the current situation in the Middle East.

I refuse.

I will not let anyone tell me I am not a liberal because I believe that, while not being blameless, the State of Israel has been on the right side of the debate more often than not.

I believe in nations' right to self-determination. That is what I stood for in Canada's Parliament as an MP for the Bloc Québécois. While that right to self-determination is the foundation of the Jewish state, it must also be realized for the Palestinians. They too have a right to their own free, independent, contiguous, peaceful and democratic state beside Israel.

I have publicly supported Palestinian statehood so often that I have developed a reputation as a pro-Palestinian Zionist, a moniker I cultivate as a reminder to others that peace is not a zero-sum game.

But self-determination means taking responsibility for your actions. For the good things you do and the mistakes you make.

The same people who say they support Palestinian self-determination absolve Palestinians of any and all responsibility while effectively blaming Israel at every turn.

The two-state solution could have happened -- many times

The two-state solution could have happened a long time ago, if the Palestinians had really wanted it.

It could have happened in 1937 when the British Peel commission suggested partition and the Arabs (they weren't called Palestinians then) rejected it.

It could have happened in 1947 when the newly-created United Nations voted for partition, which the Jews accepted and the Arab world rejected.

It could have happened after the Six Day War when Israel offered to give back most of the territories it won in that war. But the Arab League in Khartoum responded with the infamous "Three Nos": no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel.

It could have happened at Camp David in 2000, had Yasser Arafat not simply walked out without making a counteroffer and instead attempted (at the very least) to instrumentalize the ensuing campaign of Palestinian violence.

It could have happened in 2008 had Abbas been willing to accept Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's generous offers.

The real world

It is not being liberal to make abstractions of the real world -- it is being naïve.

It is not being liberal, it is being naïve, if one does not factor in the Palestinians' and the Arab world's deep-seated and ongoing rejectionism of Israel.

It is not being liberal, it is being naïve, to forget that the Arab Spring did not produce Western-style democracies but has instead opened the door to Islamic fundamentalist groups that often espouse anti-Semitic and anti-Western interests and objectives.

It is not being liberal to not live in the world I've described above. It is pure naivety. True liberals must not disconnect themselves from reality, but rather leverage reality to change the world.

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only by being practical idealists (that is, by not losing sight of their goals while taking reality into account) will liberals be able to help achieve what they set out to accomplish: two states, one Arab and one Jewish, living side by side in peace.