( THE SCENE: Evening, Oct. 11, 2006. In the centre of a darkened room stands Michael Ignatieff, candidate for the Liberal Party leadership. He is agitated and confused.)
MICHAEL IGNATIEFF: (shouting into the darkness) “Where am I! Who brought me here? I demand to know what’s going on!”
( After a brief pause, a calm but menacing voice answers.)
VOICE: “You have no right to demand anything, Mr. Ignatieff. On the contrary, it is we who will be demanding certain things of you.”
IGNATIEFF: “‘We?’ Who is ‘we?’ Do I know you?”
VOICE: “Yes, of course you do. Everyone does, though few have ever met us. We are as well-known to Canadians as hockey and maple syrup. They see us every day in their media, and when the government speaks, our voice is clearly discernable.”
IGNATIEFF: “What are you–”some sort of ventriloquists?”
VOICE: “Interesting analogy, Mr. Ignatieff. Yes, you might say that. We put words in peoples’ mouths and work closely with all sorts of ‘dummies.'”
IGNATIEFF: “I don’t know what you want with me, but I want out of here…wherever ‘here’ is.”
Voice: “All in due time, Mr. Ignatieff. All in due time. First, you must confess your heresy and atone for the harm you have done us.”
IGNATIEFF: “Heresy?! Atonement?! What is this–”the Ventriloquists’ Inquisition?
VOICE: “Another interesting analogy.
( A short distance in front of him, Ignatieff hears a door open and close and several pairs of feet enter. The room is suddenly flooded with light, and Ignatieff has to turn away and shut his eyes. As his eyes adjust to the blinding light he makes out a large, raised tribunal bench at which five brown-robed figures are seated. There are no windows. Ignatieff is indeed before the Inquisition–”Canada’s Zionist Inquisition. “Welcome, Mr. Ignatieff,” said the Grand Inquisitor, the figure in the middle whom Ignatieff recognizes as the source of the disembodied voice. )
GRAND INQUISITOR: ( Still calm and menacing) “Becoming clearer to you now, Mr. Ignatieff? I thought so. What do you have to say for yourself?”
IGNATIEFF: “About what? My statement today that Israel committed a war crime in Qana? What’s there to say? Israel carpet-bombed entire villages with cluster bombs. An IDF rocket unit commander in Lebanon called the attack ‘insane and monstrous.’ Israel did commit a war crime. It’s the truth.
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Do not presume to lecture us on matters of truth, Mr. Ignatieff! We tell you what the truth is. If politicians and media in this country were free to speak ‘the truth’ about Israel, it would not be able to expand its occupation of Palestine and violate international law with impunity.”
IGNATIEFF: “It was wrong for me to tell the truth about Israel’s attack on Qana, even though Israelis themselves had already done so–”is that it?”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “It was wrong for you not to support our truth, Mr. Ignatieff. What someone says in Israel, Europe or anywhere else doesn’t matter to us. Israel’s survival depends on the unquestioned political, economic and military subservience of North America. Without it, Israel would die.
“Do you know how hard it is to portray Israel as a law-abiding democracy when the Internet is full of uncensored pictures of bombed-out Arab villages and dismembered Arab children, to say nothing of reports of Israel’s use of banned weapons? The attack on Qana was insane and monstrous, but that’s not the point. Arabs are supposed to die in large numbers, but anonymously and invisibly. Because of your naÃ¯ve–”and dare I say, disloyal–” outburst, the anti-Israeli image of Qana has been given credence, and we are forced into damage control. We hate being in damage control, Mr. Ignatieff!”
IGNATIEFF: “I…I have always been loyal to Israel! I am a staunch friend of Israel, and if I become Prime Minister, I will ensure that Canada stands firm with Israel. Look at my record!
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Yes, Mr. Ignatieff, your service to Israel has been exemplary. ( Opens a dossier) On Aug. 2, three days after Israel bombed Qana and killed 54 Arabs in a single missile strike, you had no problem selling our truth to the Toronto Star. “This is the kind of dirty war you’re in when you have to do this and I’m not losing sleep about that.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, but then you recently went on the Quebec radio show ” Tout le monde en parle, ” and apologized: ‘I showed a lack of compassion. It was a mistake and when you make a mistake like that, you have to admit it. I was a professor of human rights, and I am also a professor of the laws of war, and what happened in Qana was a war crime, and I should have said that.’
“No, you should not have said that! Your preoccupation with the Liberal leadership race has clearly caused you to lose focus and fixate on your own ambitions. You can make amends now if you recant.”
IGNATIEFF: “How can I? As you said, anyone with an Internet connection can find out what Israel did to Qana, and Canada has the highest Internet use per capita of any country. Besides, if I retracted a statement that is essentially accurate I’d look ridiculous, and lose the leadership for sure.”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “What happens to you is of supreme indifference to us. We didn’t give a second thought to the career of your fellow Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj before we made an example of him for suggesting Canada negotiate with Hizbullah. He went to Lebanon on a fact-finding mission and saw the devastation first-hand, making his offence much worse.
“Words are more deadly than bombs to Israel, Mr. Ignatieff. Bombs merely give Israel a convenient excuse to attack, and milk the image of the poor, victimized Jewish State. Words, on the other hand, can change the way whole societies think. That’s the last thing we want. We can’t promote the image of Israel as a law-abiding democracy when politicians like you suddenly express sympathy for Arab suffering.
“B’nai Brith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress ( gestures to the two inquisitors on his left) as well as many other agencies and loyal politicians work tirelessly to prevent Canadians from learning about the political, economic and/or military consequences of Israel’s actions. In the case of Mr. Wrzesnewskyj, no sooner had he made his statement than our MPs, led by Scott Brison and Carolyn Bennett, pounded him into dust. Wrzesnewskyj is now marked as “anti-Israeli,” and would be lucky to be named Minister of State for Office Supplies in any future Liberal government. I’m surprised that his fate made no impression on you.”
IGNATIEFF: “Oh, it did! It did! I would never show support for any anti-Israel political organization….
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Political!?”
IGNATIEFF: “Terrorist!, I, mean ‘terrorist!’ organization. Forgive me.
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Why should we, when you make no efforts to atone for your attack on us?
IGNATIEFF: “I didn’t mean to attack you.”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Your motives also do not concern us. Will you recant?
IGNATIEFF: “I can’t.”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “I see. ( He subtly nods to the two inquisitors on his right. They pick up their folders and descend the tribunal bench.) Then we must be more persuasive. ( The inquisitors now stand on either side of Ignatieff.) I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, Mr. Ignatieff, but you leave us no choice. To the inquisitors: Show him the instruments of torture.
(The first inquisitor shows him a front-page mock up of the Globe and Mail, with a headline that reads, “Ignatieff stands by anti-Israel remark.” )
IGNATIEFF: “N-o-o-o!” ( The second pulls out a mock-up of the National Post: “Ignatieff supports terrorists.” ) “No-o-o-o! ( Ignatieff sits in agony as he contemplates the possible future that awaits him. )
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Bring in the witness.” ( The door at the far end of the room opens and a woman enters escorted by an acolyte. ) You are a delegate to the leadership convention?”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Are you an official delegate for Michael Ignatieff?”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Do you still plan to support him?”
WOMAN: “No. I can’t support anyone who would accuse Israel of committing a war crime.”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Do others in the party share your view?”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “What do you think Mr. Ignatieff should do?”
WOMAN: “He should drop out of the race and resign from the party. The Liberal Party has no room for anti-Semites.”
IGNATIEFF: “That’s slander! I won’t stand for…”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Be quiet! to woman: Continue.”
WOMAN: “He should also recant his charge and apologize to Jews everywhere.”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Thank you. You are excused.” ( She is escorted out of the room and the inquisitors return to the tribunal bench. ) to Ignatieff: You see? If you expect to have any political career, you must recant your slur against the Jewish State. The delegate is quite correct in her assessment of the damage you have done to yourself. I have it on good authority that your Toronto campaign manager has decided to quit your campaign. Furthermore, Heather Reisman, and Irwin Cotler’s wife Ariela are so furious that they have quit the Liberal Party.
“You have made powerful enemies, Mr. Ignatieff. Heather is a founder of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, and Ariela is a staunch Likudnik who used to be secretary to Menachem Begin. For her part, Ariela has told us you lack moral integrity and have sacrificed the truth–” our truth–”for political gain. We agree, and so I ask you again–”will you recant?”
IGNATIEFF: “I understand that Liberals, especially Jewish Liberals, could take offence at what I said, but attacking me is not going to help the party or Israel. A critical friend of Israel is more valuable than a mindless sycophant like Stephen Harper, who is so servile and unsophisticated that he is more of a liability than an asset. Surely, you would fare better under a politically competent Liberal government that knew how to support Israel without alienating educated voters and the national media.
“Remember how good things were when Paul Martin was prime minister and Irwin Cotler was minister of justice and your biggest voice in Cabinet? Canada’s voting pattern in the United Nations changed overnight to staunchly pro-Israel without any of the collateral damage we see today.”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Yes, Harper is a moron and his cabal of Christian reactionaries is an embarrassment. Although his obedience to Israel is total, his minority government likely won’t last much longer, and he could never form a majority. So, like you, we understand that a compliant Liberal government would be in Israel’s long-term best interest. We just aren’t sure you’re the one to lead it.”
IGNATIEFF: “I assure you I am.”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Your assurances aren’t good enough.”
IGNATIEFF: “To show my loyalty, I will go to Israel next month to learn first-hand the Israeli view of the Qana bombing. I will also henceforth only use the term ‘war crime’ in a general sense, and never again single out Israel for criticism. I have learned my lesson.” *
GRAND INQUISITOR: “Not good enough, Mr. Ignatieff. Either you recant, or we will have to give our blessing to a more acceptable leadership candidate–”Bob Rae, perhaps.”
IGNATIEFF: “I’ve known Bob a long time. He’s a great guy, but he’d be a disaster for the party. He’d spend the country into oblivion the way he did Ontario when he was premier.”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “That doesn’t concern us. He’s popular with both the centre and left wing of the party and he comes across as erudite and charming. Moreover, he’s loyal to Israel and his wife is Jewish. When you consider that Harper is such a colossal screw-up, Canadians would return to the Liberals to power even if the party were led by a semi-literate hamster. As we see it, Rae’s the best choice to defend Israel’s interests.”
IGNATIEFF: “But, but…”
GRAND INQUISITOR: “That will be all, Mr. Ignatieff. May the voters take pity on your political soul.”
( With that, the Grand Inquisitor rises, followed by the others, and all exeunt through hidden doors behind the bench as the room fades to black and Ignatieff is left standing alone in the darkness. )
* Since this article was written, the Canada-Israel Committee, one of the Inqusition’s other agencies, has told Ignatieff that he is not free to visit Israel until after the leadership convention for fears the visit would create a media circus. So it is said; so shall it be done!