I felt it important to post this video on my blog. Like MundaneMatt, I am a Nintendo fan. If you grew up with Nintendo like MundaneMatt and I did, do yourself a favour and give this video a watch. It’s a welcome walk down memory lane.
Considering the attention Prime Minister Stephan Harper’s trip to Israel is receiving, I felt it was the appropriate time to post this term paper I wrote last year on Canada-Israel relations. It is a fairly long piece, and while it has not been updated to include recent developments, it is still worth reading, especially if you are unfamiliar with the history of Canada’s relationship with Israel.
By posting this paper, I hope to dispel the myths being perpetuated by the media. For example, despite what many have been saying, until Prime Minister Harper took office, relations between Canada and Israel had been, for the most part, tense. That’s not to say there wasn’t justification for certain steps Canada took against Israel at times, but many obvious mistakes were made due to a misguided policy of neutrality between the Israelis and Palestinians. At the very least, Prime Minister Harper has cleared up the confusion surrounding Canada’s foreign policy towards Israel.
With that out of the way, I want to say one more thing. As I have said previously, while I do not mind someone using my term paper as a starting point, DO NOT STEAL MY WORK! I worked far too hard for someone to come in and pass this off as their own work, and, if you don’t already know (how could you not know?), at the university level, plagiarism could get you expelled.
In November, 2010, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech to the Ottawa Conference on Anti-Semitism. Speaking of what he saw as a “new wave of anti-Semitism,” he cited speeches given by certain foreign leaders who threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” and pointed to the treatment of Jewish students at Canadian universities. In this speech, Prime Minister Harper stated,
We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism. And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism — healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack — is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them.
And I know, by the way, because I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the United Nations, or any other international forum, the easy thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of ‘honest broker.’ There are, after all, a lot more votes, a lot more, in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand. But, as long as I am Prime Minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost. And friends, I say this not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well if we listen to it, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us.
His remark about having the “the bruises to show for it” was likely a reference to the loss of Canada’s seat on the Security Council, which critics have blamed on his unwavering support of Israel in the face of increasing support for the demands of the Palestinians. Prime Minister Harper made it clear that Canada will stand against what he characterized as this “new wave of anti-Semitism” at the United Nations or elsewhere, “whatever the cost.” What makes this quote significant is that it essentially sums up the Harper government’s political motivations and Canada’s foreign policy toward Israel since the Conservative Party of Canada came to power in 2006.
Recently, the geo-political dynamic of the Middle East has seen dramatic changes. The popular uprisings or ‘Arab Spring’, which many had hoped would bring new found peace and stability to the region through democratic elections, has instead had the opposite effect. What has replaced this hope and optimism is now often referred to as the ‘Arab Winter’. The rise of Islamism throughout the Middle East has brought civil strife, throwing one country after another into chaos with opposing heavily armed militant gangs wreaking havoc. Western intervention into the region, notably NATO’s intervention into Libya in 2011, rather than stabilizing the situation, has seemingly made matters worse, leading to instability within the former dictatorship and surrounding countries like Niger and Mali. Egypt, once a trusted ally has elected an Islamist government and is now seen as a potential threat. President Morsi recently forced through a new constitution in the face of widespread opposition which has led to a renewal of violent demonstrations in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in the country. He also threatened that France would face consequences for its intervention in Mali to stop Islamist extremists from murdering innocents in their bid to take over the country. As the Middle East is further destabilized by this wave of Islamic fundamentalism, all eyes are focused squarely on Israel and how it may be able to deal with what appears to be an ever growing threat to its security. The situation in Syria has developed into an all out civil war and, in response to the movement of arms into Lebanon, Israel’s northern neighbour, Israel launched an air strike in Lebanese territory. Israel’s relationship with historically its staunchest ally, the United States of America, is seen as being strained at the moment. A number of media sources have reported on the testy relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, especially in relation to the threat Iran developing nuclear weapons. In this time of trouble for the Jewish state, it is important for it to have other close allies. Canada is not only an ally but a country that has been increasingly vocal in its support for Israel. This paper will examine how Canada’s relationship with Israel has changed since the election of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the challenges that face both countries moving forward.
2. History of Canadian-Israeli Relations
The history of Canada’s relationship with Israel is far different than what is usually reported. According to a recent CBC article,
Canada has supported Israel from the beginning and was one of the 33 countries that voted in favour of the 1947 United Nations resolution that led to the founding of the nation of Israel a year later.
Yet, contrary to this article by the CBC, Canada did not immediately support Israel’s right to statehood. In fact, Canada withheld de facto recognition of the Jewish state until December of 1948, after having abstained from voting when the issue first came to a vote in the Security Council. Lester B. Pearson, who was the Secretary of State for External Affairs at the time, had been upset by U.S. President Harry Truman’s quick granting of de facto recognition of Israel’s statehood. Though Pearson did personally support recognition, pressure from those within Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s cabinet over fears of a “clash with Britain” kept him from doing so. When the vote did come up in the Security Council in December of 1947, Canada abstained because of it did not want to be seen to be the deciding vote. Michael Saul Comay, the head of the British Commonwealth Division of the Israel Foreign Ministry, was very upset with the outcome of the vote, claiming that Canada was responsible for the rejection of Israel’s application.
Although Canada and Israel over many years have generally enjoyed friendly relations, there have nonetheless been times in the past when relations between the two countries have been strained. Though Canada would later support Israel’s right to statehood, relations between the two countries had begun on less than-friendly-terms. In 1967, following the Six Day War, Canada voted in favour of UN Resolution 242, calling for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank. Despite promising to move Canada’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during the 1979 election, Prime Minister Joe Clark, after pressure from Arab diplomats, derailed the plans. In 1982, in reaction to the Lebanese War, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said that he was “dismayed with the escalation of the conflict represented by the massive movement of Israeli forces into Lebanon,” undermining the Israeli war effort. According to the CBC,
The Israel-Lebanon war in the early 1980s, however, saw relations weaken, with Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau telling prime minister Menachem Begin that he could not accept “that the present military activities are justified.”
There was also the attempted assassination of Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, by Mossad agents carrying doctored Canadian passports in 1997. According to the CBC article cited earlier,
Canada has nonetheless remained a staunch backer of Israel’s interests, though a rift emerged in 1997 after it was discovered that Israeli agents had used Canadian passports to sneak into Jordan and assassinate a senior Hamas operative (a mission that ultimately failed).
Canada recalled its ambassador to Israel over the affair.
On October 7, 2000, Canada voted in favour of UN Security Council Resolution 1322, condemning Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, also known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, an important holy site for Muslims and Jews. Prior to the visit, Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami received permission for Sharon to visit the Temple Mount from Palestinian security chief Jabril Rajoub, who in turn received assurances from Ben-Ami that Sharon would not enter any of the mosques. Despite this, a day after the visit, on September 29, the Palestinian Authority closed down schools and bused students to the Temple Mount to participate in organized riots. The situation soon escalated and riots spread throughout Gaza and the West Bank. The violence continued throughout October, with Palestinians stoning worshipers at the Western Wall and attacking Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem with firebombs and automatic weapons. It was later revealed by Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority Communication Minister that the violence had been planned in July after Yasser Arafat returned from Camp David, having rejected American conditions for a peace process. An investigatory committee led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell released its report on the incident on April 30th, 2001. The Mitchell Report confirmed that “the Sharon visit did not cause the “Al-Aksa intifada.” The vote demonstrated Canada’s determination to maintaining an appearance of neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite good intentions of the resolution, it helped justify the violence that followed.
3. A Strengthening of Relations
Prior to Stephen Harper becoming Prime Minister, Canada’s support for Israel could be described as passive. As with previous Prime Ministers, Paul Martin supported the “two-state solution” for the Israelis and the Palestinians. Because of this position, past Prime Ministers have been wary of voicing support for Israel during disputes at the United Nations and instead, have chosen to maintain its neutrality with Israel and the Palestinians. For example, in 2004, under the direction of Prime Minister Paul Martin, Canada abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution demanding Israel abide by a World Court of Justice ruling to remove the West Bank wall. On this issue, 150 countries voted in favour of the resolution. Canada was one of the ten countries to abstain from voting, and the United States was one of the six that voted against the resolution. Canada’s decision to not support the resolution to remove the West Bank wall can be viewed as supporting the Israeli position. However, the fact that it did not join the U.S. in voting against the resolution, suggests that it wished to maintain an appearance of neutrality on the Palestinian issue. Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, expressed his profound disappointment regarding the outcome of the vote, saying ”Thank God that the fate of Israel and of the Jewish people is not decided in this hall.”
According to the Professor Paul C. Merkley of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, this attitude, which he referred to as “a lack of enthusiasm for Israel’s cause,” made Jewish Canadians unhappy as they would have hoped Canada would be more supportive of the Jewish state. When, in 2004, Prime Minister Martin sent Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew to Ramallah to attend Yasir Arafat’s funeral, Jewish Canadians were outraged. The Executive Vice-President of B’nai Brith, Drank Dimant, denounced the actions, saying “It’s scandalous. Is this going to be a new Canadian foreign policy, that we send our foreign minister to attend funerals of terrorists?” The situation only got worse when, on February 11, 2005, Foreign Minister Pettigrew returned to Ramallah to lay a wreath on behalf of Canadians at Arafat’s grave. This would become a real sticking point for Jewish voters during the 2006 federal election.
The basis for Stephen Harper’s support of Israel has been frequently questioned. Seeing that the Liberal Party was vulnerable with Jewish voters in 2006, Harper promised that if the Conservative Party of Canada was elected as the government, it would improve the way Canada treated Israel. This wasn’t the first time conservative politicians voiced support for the Jewish state. Prior to the merger that created the Conservative Party of Canada, the Alliance Party of Canada, led by Stockwell Day, had built up a large coalition of Jewish supporters because of its strong support for Israel. Harper’s support for the Jewish state, though perceived by his political opponents as a cynical strategy, was seen by Jewish voters as an expression of a deeply held conviction. As Gerry Nicholls, a communication consultant who worked with Harper at the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative think-tank stated, “I think this is one of those happy incidences in politics where personal principle collides with or intersects with political self-interest.”
Prime Minister Harper’s motivations for strengthening Canadian-Israeli relations have been scrutinized by many political and foreign policy analysts. To some, Canada’s support for Israel in the face of massive opposition at the United Nation is “tone deaf” and it undermines efforts to solve the region’s problems. The Prime Minister’s Office has yet to respond directly to these criticisms, however, Dimitri Soudas, who has worked for Harper for nearly a decade, voiced his own beliefs on the issue. According to Soudas, “In that region, Israel is an island of democracy and he [Harper] thinks that must always be protected.” This view has been echoed by other staffers who believe that Harper recognizes the threat Hamas poses to Israel and the threat anti-Semitism poses to the Jewish people and liberal democracies. In this, Harper believes he’s on the “right” side of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and regardless of international pressure, he is secure in his position and will not budge. That isn’t, however, to say the Prime Minister does not have support for his position. An Environics Research Group poll taken in January 2012 found that 48 percent of Canadians polled felt that the government’s policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict struck “the right balance” with only 23 percent saying it was “too pro-Israel.” Aside from his personal beliefs, it could very well be that Harper’s position is influenced by the views of Canadians regarding the issue.
Since becoming Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has strengthened relations with the Jewish state. Following the 2006 Palestinian elections that saw Hamas come into power, even before Israel, Canada was the first to come out and boycott the newly elected government. Harper also supported Israel ‘s decision to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon and its offensive against Hamas in the same year. At the 2011 G8 summit in Deauville, France, Canada was the only country that did not endorse Obama’s plan to use the pre 1967 borders as a prerequisite to negotiations. As Daniel LeBlanc of the Globe and Mail wrote,
Alone among G8 leaders, the Canadian Prime Minister refuses to embrace the U.S. President’s plan to begin peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis on the basis of a return to Israel’s de facto borders as they existed before its 1967 war with neighbouring Arab countries – a precondition, accepted by Arabs and by many previous Israeli leaders and Canadian governments, that would be necessary to get Palestinians back to the table.
In 2009, Harper was also the first to boycott the Durban II conference, arguing that it was a simply a forum to attack Israel. In the same year, his government also condemned the controversial Goldstone Report, saying that it unfairly blamed Israel for the 2009 conflict with Hamas. More recently, in 2011, Canada’s Defence Minister, Peter McKay, said to visiting Israeli Major General Gabi Ashkenazi, that “a threat to Israel is a threat to Canada.”
Recognition of the strengthening of ties between Canada and Israel have been discussed at length in the media. According to CBC News,
The election of Stephen Harper as prime minister in 2006 heralded a period of particularly strong Canadian support of Israel — stronger, in some respects, than that of Israel’s biggest patron, the United States.
Al Jazeera’s Jon Elmer expressed concern about these stronger relations between the two countries, stating in 2010 that, “While key Canadian diplomatic support for Israel dates back to the creation of the state, relations have never been stronger. Internationally, Canada’s support of Israel has arguably diminished its influence in the Middle East. Following the expulsion of its diplomats from Canada, a spokesman from Iran, a leading terrorist-supporting state, stated that Canada is now “under the influence of the Zionist regime” of Israel. As a result, there are concerns that Canada will now be targeted by terrorists supported by Iran, or other Islamic terror groups with the destruction of Israel as one of their main objectives.
This strengthening of ties, however, does not mean that Canada will support Israel on every issue. Days after standing with Israel against the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the United Nations, Prime Minister Harper told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that he disapproves of a plan to build more settlements east of Jerusalem. According to CTV News,
The Prime Minister’s office told CTV that the settlement expansion will ultimately hinder efforts to achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Harper also condemned Israel for taking unilateral action.
The article also discusses Canada’s decision on December 4 to continue with its humanitarian aid commitment to the Palestinians. This is in keeping with Canada’s commitment to fostering a “just and lasting peace,” as outlined on the government’s official website outlining its policies concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This demonstrates that, despite Canada closer relationship to Israel, it still remains committed to the goal set forth by previous governments.
4. American-Israeli Tensions
Stronger relations between Canada and Israel has caused some to raise questions concerning Israel’s relationship with the United States, traditionally the Jewish state’s strongest supporter. As noted by the CBC, Canada’s support for Israel since 2006 has been “stronger, in some respects, than that… [of] the United States.” This observation isn’t simply a comparison between relationships. Since President Barack Obama came to office in January, 2009, relations between the United States and Israel have become strained. Obama’s critics have long pointed to his past relationships with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his former spiritual advisor, who is well-known for making anti-Semitic statements, and Rashid Khalidi, the former director of the PLO’s press agency WAFA from 1972 to 1982 and advocate of the “one state solution” for “Palestine” (the Jewish state is destroyed and replaced by an Arab state). This perception of Obama has been intensified by his actions in office, notably his treatment of the Israeli Prime Minister during a visit to the United States in 2010. According to the Telegraph’s Adrian Blomfield,
He immediately presented Mr Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands designed both to the end the feud with his administration and to build Palestinian confidence ahead of the resumption of peace talks. Key among those demands was a previously-made call to halt all new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.
When the Israeli prime minister stalled, Mr Obama rose from his seat declaring: “I’m going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls.”
As he left, Mr Netanyahu was told to consider the error of his ways. “I’m still around,” Mr Obama is quoted by Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper as having said. “Let me know if there is anything new.”
Though early missteps like these may be overlooked as a result of being new in the job, they have instead become part of a growing trend from this administration. Whereas Prime Minister Harper has made an effort to define himself and his government as a staunch ally of Israel and the Jewish people, no similar effort has been made by President Obama.
On May 24, 2011, before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that, “Israel has no better friend than the United States and America has no better friend than Israel.” The speech not only outlined what steps Israel was and was not willing to take to achieve peace with the Palestinians, but it helped to reaffirm the Jewish state’s desire for good relations with the United States. Netanyahu’s words came as a surprise to those following recent events, most notably, because of Obama’s attempt at a Middle East peace proposal which would force Israel to return to the pre-1967 Armistice Demarcation Lines (incorrectly referred to by Obama and others as “borders”) in order for the Palestinians to have their own separate state. Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected Obama’s proposal, saying that returning to the Armistice Demarcation Lines would not only leave segments of Israel’s population outside its borders, but in addition, these borders were “indefensible.” President Obama and his administration, who have long tried to broker a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, have grown frustrated with what they believe is Israel’s inability to take necessary steps towards peace. According to officials within the Obama administration, the President believes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was a “political coward” that “doesn’t know what his own best interests are.” Adding to this, prior to President Obama’s March 2013 visit to Israel, Al Arabiya reported that he would not be bringing with him a peace plan because Israel is not interested in peace at this time. According to the report,
When President Obama was asked by a group of Arab-American leaders during a meeting last week on why he did not intend to launch a new peace process, the leader said that Israel was not ready to make concessions, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, cited an official, who was present at the high-level meeting, as saying.
The official, who kept his identity anonymous, said the U.S. leader was frustrated with fruitlessness of the peace process, claiming it would be pointless to pressure the Israeli government at this time.
This occurred shortly after the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognize a Palestinian state, a resolution on which America joined Canada, Israel and a handful of other countries to vote against it. While it is not possible to verify the veracity of the claim by Al Arabiya, the fact that the U.S. President did not put a proposal on the table for discussion suggests that Obama did indeed feel that it would be “pointless” to do so. Also, the fact that there was no denial or statement of clarification from the U.S. administration after the fact, reinforced the notion that the article was accurate. The undeniable impression created by this article was that the President of the United States, was placing the blame for the lack of progress on the peace talks squarely on the shoulders of the Israeli government of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Rather than having a positive effect on the peace process, as CNN’s Frida Ghitis suggested, the Obama visit would appear to have had the effect of undermining Israel’s position. In a recent interview, Caroline Glick, a senior contributing editor for the Jerusalem Post stated that the Israeli people “can’t figure out what he’s doing here” because they view him as “a hostile president overall.” In this same interview, she added, “Essentially his [Obama’s] goal is to empower the un-electable, incredibly radical left in Israel to put pressure on the Israeli government for whatever concessions he wants it to make to the PLO.”
In contrast to American criticism of Israel, Canada has taken every opportunity to show its support for Jewish state. In a recent speech to the Jewish National Fund of Ottawa, during the group’s annual Negev Dinner, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird expressed his own admiration for the Jewish state and its people, while speaking out against its critics, most notably the United Nations, and what he sees as a “new wave of anti-Semitism.”
Just as conventional anti-Semitism denied Jews the right to live as equal members of humanity, the new anti-Semitism denies the State of Israel the right to live as an equal member of the international community.
It’s because of this distorted thinking that over one quarter of all UN resolutions condemning a state’s human rights violations have been directed at Israel.
Despite its unwavering support, the problem with Canada’s position is that depends in large part on American and European support, neither of which is forthcoming of late. In John Baird’s latest speech to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he stated that the Palestinians will face consequences from Canada if they pursue Israel at the International Criminal Court, demonstrating that Canada will take action, even if it does so alone. Even if funding from Canada to the Palestinians is cut ($300 million over the next five years), it would not have nearly as significant an impact as it would if America promised to cut funding (approximately $600 million annually since 2008). If the United States administration’s perceived hostility toward Israel continues, it may find itself without American support, and Canada and Israel will have to look elsewhere for assistance to put meaningful pressure on the Palestinians.
5. From ‘Arab Spring’ to ‘Arab Winter’
The changing dynamic in the Middle East is nowhere more visible than in Egypt. As stated previously, many had hoped that the uprising which ousted Mubarak would lead to the establishment of a stable democracy. Despite concerns of Muslim Brotherhood involvement in the election process, many political pundits and foreign policy experts believed that the ‘Arab Spring’ would transform, not just Egypt, but the entire Middle East, bringing Western-style democracies and freedom to a region that has only known dictators and Islamic tyrants. In fact, many, including Dr. Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Subcommittee on Terrorism, HUMINT, Analysis, and Counterintelligence April 13, 2011, that it would be best for the United States if the Muslim Brotherhood was “integrated as a normal political actor in the various countries in which it operates.”
The optimism can be said to be dangerous naivety of the nature of many of the revolutionary groups that were being celebrated by Western intelligentsia and media. As Eric Trager, a contributor for ForeignPolicy.com wrote,
As the Brotherhood’s first year in power has demonstrated, elections do not, by themselves, yield a democracy. Democratic values of inclusion are also vital. And the Muslim Brotherhood — which has deployed violence against protesters, prosecuted its critics, and leveraged state resources for its own political gain — clearly lacks these values.
Far too many Western analysts were willing to believe what they had heard about the Muslim Brotherhood. At its core, despite assurances to the contrary, the Muslim Brotherhood is a radical political organization that uses religion to mobilize supporters. As of now, after a year of President Mohammed Morsi’s rule, Egypt is once again on the brink of collapse with protesters in the streets refusing to accept the last November’s election results and the threat of a military coup if the Islamist government can’t maintain order. A military coup would at least help preserve the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. If last November’s conflict in Gaza is any indicator, the Muslim Brotherhood, which not only denounced Israeli airstrikes but stood in solidarity with Hamas militants at the time, is intending to scrap the peace treaty with Israel once they have finally consolidated power in Egypt, which as Eric Trager noted, could take years.
As the situation continues to worsen in Egypt, the Canadian government advised Canadians visiting the region to “exercise a high degree of caution.” While it has yet to issue a travel advisory warning for Egypt as a whole, the Canadian government has advised against “all travel to the Sinai Peninsula, Port Said, Suez and Ismailia, with the exception of coastal resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh.” Despite Israeli concerns over the Muslim Brotherhood, Canada has yet to cut off ties with Egypt, like it did with Iran recently. This could be because of Canada’s long standing relationship with Egypt, as outlined on the Canadian government’s website.
The Canada-Egypt bilateral relationship is a mutually respectful and beneficial partnership, founded on a common interest in peace, stability and security in the Middle East, development cooperation, cross-cultural understanding and growing trade relations. Canada and Egypt established embassies in their respective capitals in 1954. Since that time Canada has enjoyed positive relations with this key Arab partner, which is an important actor in efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. The shared commitment for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East lies at the core of Canada’s relations with Egypt.
It is more than likely that until Egypt takes direct action against Israel, Canada will do what it can to maintain good relations. This long standing relationship, however, may not last as it is much longer.
Despite assurances from Middle East experts that the Muslim Brotherhood’s threats against Israel as mere rhetoric, those who have studied the Islamist organization, like Eric Trager has, believe otherwise.
From the Muslim Brotherhood’s perspective, however, Morsy preserved the movement’s anti-Israel agenda. He stood by his refusal to meet with Israelis by outsourcing those negotiations to Egyptian intelligence officials; the ceasefire strengthened Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood; and the Egyptian government accepted no new responsibilities to stem the flow of weapons into Gaza. Far from yielding to the reality of Egyptian-Israeli relations, Morsy simply deferred their reassessment so that he could focus on his more immediate goal — consolidating the Muslim Brotherhood’s control at home. Indeed, one day after the Gaza ceasefire, Morsy issued his power-grabbing constitutional declaration, and rammed through a new Islamist constitution shortly thereafter.
So far, there has been little to no evidence to refute this point. On January 1st this year, Roi Kais of Ynet reported that Essam al-Aryan, advisor to Egyptian President Morsi, had told London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat that Israel would be wiped out within a decade. Shortly after this scandal broke, a 2010 interview with Mohammed Morsi surfaced.
The clips, hosted and translated by MEMRI, show Mohammed Morsi in 2010 giving a speech to camera on negotiations with Israel. Morsi claims any negotiations are, “futile and a waste of time and opportunities”
He states, “No reasonable person can expect any progress on this track. Either [you accept] the Zionists and everything they want, or else it is war. This is what these occupiers of the land of Palestine know – these blood-suckers, who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”
Morsi, lauded for his role in brokering a peace between Hamas and Israel last year also states that there is categorically no place for Israel in the region and that the country should not exist. He said, “There is no place for them on the land of Palestine. What they took before 1947-8 constitutes plundering, and what they are doing now is a continuation of this plundering. By no means do we recognize their Green Line. The land of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, not to the Zionists.”
Despite the comments being condemned by the White House, no steps have been taken by the United States to address Israeli concerns. In fact, according to Elliott Abrams, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, the American aid program to Egypt has failed to keep up with changes within the country, instead acting on “auto-pilot.” If the aid is to be effective in persuading the Egyptian government into taking certain actions, whether it be to address the human rights issues within its own country, or to maintain the peace treaty with Israel, proper attention was be made to “the timing, conditions and composition of our [American] aid.”
Despite Canada’s long standing relationship with Egypt, it is in no position to persuade the Egyptian government to maintain a peace treaty with Israel. Without American assurances that it will take steps to better handle this situation, Israel must consider Egypt a serious potential threat.
6. Canada’s Position Moving Forward
Without any official announcements concerning the Canadian government’s foreign policy in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’, it is difficult to ascertain what Canada’s Middle Eastern foreign policy is at this point. This matter is further complicated by the ever-changing situation within the Middle East at present. As discussed earlier, Canada suspended diplomatic ties with Iran. After doing so, Canada then expanded sanctions against the country in the hope of targeting “98 additional individuals and entities” associated with the Iranian regime who are “surrounding and supporting Iran’s nuclear program.” Canada also drafted a resolution, co-sponsored by forty-two other countries, condemning Iran at the United Nations for its human rights abuses. In response, Iran’s UN ambassador Mohammad Khazaee tried to deflect this criticism of his country’s human rights record by calling Canada “racist” and “self-centred.” Canada’s position towards Iran, however, is simply a continuation of long standing policies. For example, this was the tenth year that Canada has led the now-annual resolution against Iran. Before suspending diplomatic ties with the Islamic regime, relations between the two countries have always been tense since Canada re-established diplomatic relations with Iran in 1996.
Because of the ever-changing situation within the Middle East at present, Canada’s policies appear case specific, not wide reaching general policies directed at many different countries. As the Canadian government reviews its aid to the Palestinians, Canada is likely being forced to reassess its relationship with other countries in the Middle East as the ‘Arab Spring’ sweeps across the region. For example, prior to the conflict in Libya which led to the ousting of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the Canadian government had launched a campaign to secure business opportunities for Canadian firms. As a reward for helping those who would take over leadership of the North African country Canada hoped to secure new business for Canadian firms. Aside from protecting civilians and promoting human rights, according to a newly released documents, the Canadian government got involved to protect Canada’s investments while hoping to secure new ones. With Libya now in turmoil, and the Canadian government issuing travel advisories warning against visiting the country, it is unlikely that it will be possible to secure new business opportunities.
Despite Canada’s active role in the region in promoting democracy and protecting human rights, critics of Prime Minister Harper have weighed in on Canada’s relationship with Israel. Jeffery Simpson of the Globe and Mail believes that Canada has abandoned it foreign policy for an “Israel policy,” stating,
In pursuit of regional stability, Canada, with Israel’s support, stationed peacekeeping troops in Gaza and the Golan Heights. In pursuit of humanitarian objectives, and with Israel’s support, Canada chaired the UN refugee-assistance group. In pursuit of economic interests, Canada signed free-trade agreements with Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Canada also urged restraint on both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, knowing that its influence was very limited, indeed…
…Now, however, Canada has only an Israel policy. The Harper government has plucked one element from previous policy – the well-founded defence of Israel’s security and legitimacy against those who question or threaten both – to trump all the other elements. As a result, Canada has traded a policy of outreach and balance (which previous Israeli governments appreciated) for one of being an echo chamber for the Netanyahu government.
In another article, Simpson also stated,
Whether Liberal or Conservative, Canadian governments strongly supported both Israel and peaceful Palestinian aspirations…
…No longer. Mr. Harper has taken a radically different approach. His government has become Israel’s pulling guard in the world. Inside meetings of la Francophonie and the G8, Mr. Harper has personally inserted himself – or instructed Canadian diplomats to insert themselves – to block resolutions even mildly critical of Israel, including references to the settlements. Mr. Harper has thus isolated Canada from its traditional allies such as the United States, Britain and France.
After last fall’s UN General Assembly meeting, Israel announced new settlements. Barack Obama’s administration criticized the move. So did the European Union. The German Chancellor personally phoned Mr. Netanyahu and asked him to desist. Canada said nothing.
Critics like Jeffery Simpson appear far more concerned with which side Canada is taking in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian struggle than addressing more urgent issues. A number of analysts have noted that the ‘Arab Spring’ is far from over. Jordan, one of Israel’s and America’s last reliable allies in the region, could be facing a revolution of its own over demands for economic and political reforms. Given the violent demonstrations which have occurred in a number of countries in the region, what has transpired in Egypt and Libya to date, the state of anarchy that appears to be settling in, and the ongoing civil war in Syria which threatens to spread to neighbouring countries, Canada’s foreign policy vis-à-vis individual countries will necessarily have to evolve as events dictate. The one exception in the region is Israel, a country with a stable society and a democratically elected government. Accordingly, with the future of many countries within the Middle East increasingly uncertain, Canada’s Israel-centered policy appears to make more sense.
In the past Canadian governments have tried to strike a balance between support for both the Palestinian cause and support for Israel. As a result, Canada’s position appeared to vacillate and at times appeared to contradict earlier positions taken by the government. Since Prime Minister Harper took office in 2006, however, the government has pursued a policy which is strongly supportive of Israel. This comes at a time where the United States, historically Israel’s closest ally and strongest supporter has elected a President who has at best strained relations with the Prime Minister of Israel. The Canadian government has been strongly criticized for having such a pro-Israel mid-east foreign policy. While some criticism of Canada’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel may be justified, given recent developments associated with the Arab Spring , it is difficult to see how a different, more balanced foreign policy would contribute to greater stability and a lasting peace with the Palestinians or others in the region.
“A Military Coup To Put Egypt Back On Track? We Can Think Of Worse – Investors.com.” Investors.com. Investors Business Daily, 30 Jan. 2013. Web. 6 Feb. 2013.
“A Short History of Canadian-Israeli Relations.” OpenCanada.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.
Aziz, Maha Hosain. “Is Jordan Headed for an Arab Spring?.” Bloomberg Businessweek. N.p., 25 Nov. 2012. Web. 6 Feb. 2013.
Brown, Nathan. “Congressional Testimony.” The Muslim Brotherhood. Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.
“Canada probes Israel passport claim.” BBC News. N.p., 5 Nov. 1998. Web. 1 Feb. 2013. .
“Canada-Israel relationship close and getting closer – Canada – CBC News.” CBC.ca. N.p., 2 Mar. 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.
Elmer, Jon. “Israel’s new ‘best friend’? – Focus – Al Jazeera English.” AJE – Al Jazeera English. N.p., 29 May 2010. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.
Ghitis, Frida. “Opinion: In Mideast, Obama knocks it out of the park.” CNN.com. N.p., 25 Feb. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.
Goldberg, David H.. “Myths & Facts Online – Canada-Israel Relations.” Jewish Virtual Library. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, n.d. Web. 3 Feb. 2013.
Gollom, Mark. “Harper’s support for Israel: Political, philosophical or both?.” CBC.ca. N.p., 7 Dec. 2013. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.
“Harper: ‘I’ve got bruises’ for pro-Israel stance – Canada – CBC News.” CBC.ca. N.p., 8 Nov. 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.
Hoge, Warren. “Remove Wall, Israel Is Told By the U.N. – Page 2.” The New York Times. N.p., 21 July 2004. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.
Kay, Zachariah. The Diplomacy of Prudence Canada and Israel, 1948-1958. Montreal, Que.: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996. Print.
Merkley, Paul. “Reversing the Poles: How the Pro-Israeli Policy of Canada’s Conservative Government May Be Moving Jewish Voters from Left to Right.” Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs. N.p., 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.
Morris, Don, and Chana Givon. “Transcript of Canadian PM Harper at Ottawa Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism.” Writing The Wrongs. N.p., 9 Nov. 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.
O’Connor, Larry. “Jerusalem Post Editor: ‘We Can’t Figure Out What He’s Doing Here’.” Breitbart.com. N.p., 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 5 Apr. 2013.
Saunders, Doug. “On Israel, Harper stands alone at G8 summit.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., 25 May 2011. Web. 6 Feb. 2013.
Simpson, Jeffery. “With friends like Harper, Bibi can do no wrong.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., 2 Mar. 2012. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.
Simpson, Jeffery. “At one with Israel: Canada and… Palau?.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., 5 Dec. 2012. Web. 3 Feb. 2013.
Solomon, Jay. “Obama Calls for Talks on 1967 Borders For Israel – WSJ.com.” The Wall Street Journal – Breaking News, Business, Financial and Economic News, World News & Video – Wall Street Journal – Wsj.com. N.p., 20 May 2011. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.
Trager, Eric. “Think Again: The Muslim Brotherhood.” ForeignPolicy.com. N.p., 28 Jan. 2013. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.
Larison, Daniel. “A year later, Libya is still a mess.” The Week Magazine. N.p., 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.
Al-Youm , Al-Masry. “Tahrir Square Friday calm before demonstrations.” Egypt Independent. N.p., 8 Mar. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
“Baird warns Palestinians of ‘consequences’ for pursuing Israel – Politics – CBC News.” CBC.ca. N.p., 6 Mar. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
Bard, Mitchell. “The Palestinian War (September 2000-September 2005) – The al-Aksa Intifada.” Jewish Virtual Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
Berthiaume, Lee. “Files say Canada protected bottom line in Libya.” Leader Post. N.p., 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
Blomfield, Adrian. “Obama snubbed Netanyahu for dinner with Michelle and the girls, Israelis claim.” Telegraph.co.uk. N.p., 25 Mar. 2010. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
Brachear, Manya. “The Seeker: Is Wright really an anti-Semite?.” The Swamp – Chicago Tribune – Blogs.. N.p., 11 June 2009. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
“Canada expands sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.” CTV News. N.p., 11 Dec. 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
“Canada-Egypt Relations.” Government of Canada. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
“Canada-Iran Relations.” Government of Canada. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
“Canada’s $300 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians now under review.” Macleans.ca. N.p., 4 Dec. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
“Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT). N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
Carlson, Kathryn Blaze. “Iran blasts Canada as “racist” and “self-centred” for moving UN resolution condemning Islamic Republic’s abuses.” National Post. N.p., 28 Nov. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.
Carlson, Kathryn Blaze. “No greater friend”: The bond between Netanyahu and Harper goes beyond statecraft.” National Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2013.
“Country travel advice and advisories for Libya.” Travel.gc.ca. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
“Egypt’s Morsi opposes French intervention in Mali.” France 24. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
“Embassy of Canada to Egypt.” Government of Canada. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
“Feds urge ‘high degree of caution’ for Canadians in Egypt.” CTV News. N.p., 27 Jan. 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
Goldman, Yoel. “Hezbollah denies reports of Israel airstrike in southern Lebanon.” The Times of Israel. N.p., 4 Feb. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
“Harper tells Israeli PM Canada doesn’t support settlement plans.” CTV News. N.p., 6 Dec. 2012. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
Hill, Calie. “Demonstrations in Tahrir Square: Two Years Later, What Has Changed?.” Diplomatic Courier. N.p., 5 Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
“Israel-U.S. relations strained as Netanyahu urges ‘red line’ for Iran.” CTV News. N.p., 11 Nov. 2011. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.
Kais, Roi. “Egypt official: Israel will be wiped out in a decade.” Israel News: Ynetnews. N.p., 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
Martin, Patrick. “Nearly half Canadians say Ottawa’s policy on Israeli-Palestinian conflict ‘strikes right balance’.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2013.
McParland, Kelly. “Obama lets the world know he’s given up on Netanyahu even as Israel’s isolation grows.” National Post. N.p., 16 Jan. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
Moran, Rick. “Egyptian President Morsi – Moderate Islamist.” American Thinker. N.p., 4 Jan. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
Muskal, Michael. “Netanyahu: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress.” The Los Angeles Times. N.p., 24 May 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.
Neuwirth, Rachel. “Barack Obama’s Anti-Israel Alliances [incl. Rashid Khalidi].” Campus Watch. N.p., 24 Oct. 2008. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
Pardy, Gar. “Tone Deaf Foreign Policy on Israel.” Prism Magazine. N.p., 3 Aug. 2011. Web. 5 Apr. 2013.
“Obama will not bring peace plan because Israel not interested.” Alarabiya.net. N.p., 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
“Palestine UN statehood vote: Hillary Clinton says upgraded status is ‘unfortunate and counterproductive’.” Mail Online. N.p., 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
“S/RES/1322 (2000) of 7 October 2000.” UNISPAL-United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
“U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians (FY 2012-2013).” Jewish Virtual Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
Young, Michael. “Egypt’s instability casts doubt on regional Islamist ambitions – The National.” The National. N.p., 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.
al-Mughrabi, Nidal. “Gaza: Egypt shows support of Hamas.” The Christian Science Monitor. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
Having been a big fan of Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider reboot, I was actually very excited at the announcement of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Not only would this version have all the additional content like character skins and multiplayer maps, but, according to Crystal Dynamics, this version was rebuilt for the next-gen consoles. In other words, this is not a simple port. The game’s FAQ website goes into further detail to address the various differences.
Are the graphical improvements really that great? What other “next-gen” features are you including?
Yes, we think the graphical improvements are pretty great. The team didn’t just up-rez the game. They pulled it apart and rebuilt it with new technology, finally allowing us to reach the vision for Tomb Raider that we always wanted.
You can see the sweat, mud, and blood on Lara. Her eyes are much more expressive and her hair realistic. We also improved gear movement in Definitive Edition – her axe will sway and necklace will react to movement as Lara traverses the island. The Endurance crew has been spruced up, too.
As for the island, we’ve added weather and lighting effects, extra vegetation, improved physics, reactive water surfaces, and more. Yamatai is now alive with motion. When Lara stops, the world keeps moving. We didn’t just improve the rain; we reworked it until it felt torrential – like another enemy out to get Lara.
If you want to get geeky, our gameplay is now in full 1080p, we have subsurface scattering on our characters, real-time particle lighting, Tress FX support for Lara’s hair, upgraded reactive water, full world simulation, and more. We’ve also completely rebuilt Lara’s head and face model from the ground up with a denser topology giving improvements on features for eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, etc. All of her textures are higher resolution as well.
As for other next-gen additions, The Xbox One allows you to use Kinect to change weapons, attachments, and navigate the menu with your voice. You can also rotate and inspect relics with hand gestures, and find new viewpoints by leaning into the world. The PlayStation 4’s Dualshock 4 controller lights up red and orange when using the torch, and quick flashes when Lara is shooting. The PlayStation 4 version also allows you to stream Tomb Raider to the PlayStation Vita.
Crystal Dynamics could have simply ported the game over from the PC, but instead they spent the time to provide the best possible experience. Remakes like Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition are the kind gamers should be applauding. That, however, isn’t what I have been seeing.
Rich from ReviewTechUSA recently released s video where he calls the game a “fraud”, ranting about how it’s not worth its sticker price. He isn’t the only one saying this, but his video is the one I’ll be focusing on. Not only does Rich ignore what we’re being told by Crystal Dynamics about the improvements made to the game, but he comes to this conclusion without having seen any real footage of the game (besides the trailer), let alone played it himself.
Finished watching? If you can’t, it’s understandable. While I don’t always agree with Rich, I usually enjoy his videos. This one, however, was really difficult to sit through. At the very least, Rich and others should have done some research concerning these graphical improvements before touting the superiority of the PC version. Leah B. Jackson, an associate editor at IGN, who has played the original Tomb Raider on a high-end PC, says that the Playstation 4 version is actually much better looking.
The first thing I immediately noticed is how different Lara’s head and face is in the Definitive Edition, which was a little surprising considering how iconic her new look has become. Her face mesh has seen an increase in density and as a result, the significant amount of new polygons in her face make her comes off as much more emotive and lifelike.
Every texture on Lara has been upgraded and subsurface scattering was also added to her skin, so that when the sun hits her skin it goes under it, giving it a beautifully realistic soft glow. When she’s tense or scared she’ll even start to perspire, causing her skin to have a sheen on it. When she gets wet, so does her skin and her clothing. Even the mud and her blood have been given graphic boosts, making for a much grittier version of the heroine in some sequences.
AMD and Crystal Dynamics’ TressFX, the technology behind Lara’s realistic hair in the PC version, is also coming to the Definitive Edition, and will be the first next-gen game to feature the luscious locks. To bring TressFX to console, it had to be completely overhauled and now it looks better than ever. As Lara’s running through the game, her hair flows in the wind naturally.
Just like with the information provided by the game’s FAQ, Rich ignored Jackson’s first-hand impressions. I’m not saying that gamers shouldn’t be skeptical of gaming news outlets like IGN, but I’m having trouble understanding why so many are willing to trust the opinions of people who haven’t even played the game. Rich and others who are attacking Crystal Dynamics for releasing Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition should have waited until they had a chance to sit down and play the game before criticizing it.
As bad as Rich’s video is, IGN’s “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition – PS4/PS3 Comparison and Analysis” video, which was released the next day, makes it look even worse.
Once again, Crystal Dynamics stated in the game’s FAQ that they had gone back and rebuilt it for the next-gen consoles. From this comparison video, it’s clear that Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition isn’t simply an up-scaled version of the game released last year. Yes, the TressFX hair simulation technology is being brought to the console form the PC, but, as stated in both Jackson’s article and this video, it’s been improved. Next-gen consoles are also getting upgraded textures, subsurface scattering and improved particle physics. These are graphical effects that weren’t available even to the PC version of the game. Simply put, this is a rebuilt game, not something those with high-end PCs have already experienced.
In the end, what one does with their money is their own business. If you enjoyed Tomb Raider and want to get Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, it’s your choice. I have already pre-ordered the game myself because I do wish to experience the “definitive version” of my favourite game of 2013. Don’t allow Rich or anyone else voicing an ignorant opinion make you regret what you want to do with your own money.
UPDATE: Raymond Croft (@RAYMUSIK93 on Twitter) has a post up on his Tumblr page defending Crystal Dynamics and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Raymond also posted two pictures (which he sent me and I posted below) that do a good job demonstrating the graphical differences between the PC and next-gen versions of the game.
While far from perfect (I would have preferred much larger pictures), they are still good enough to give us an idea of the graphical differences between the PC and next-gen versions of the game. While similar, there are a number of noticeable improvements, most notably the lighting, in the next-gen version. Until Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry does a proper comparison, this will have to do.
I recently started watching videos by InternetAristocrat, a YouTube user who discusses a variety issues, most notably social justice. His latest video, episode 2 of ‘The Hugbox Chronicles’ is what brought my attention to Kat Bailey and her most recent article, “Yes, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Did Make Me Feel Uncomfortable”. I recommend my readers give this video a watch before continuing.
Finished watching? What more can I say that InternetAristocrat has not? For starters, both Kat Bailey and USgamer owe Dave Cox, the producer of the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series, an apology. She purposefully misrepresented what he was saying to support her narrative that the “Family Scene” was “constructed with the intention of evoking sexual assault.” Cox has since responded to Bailey’s accusation, stating very clearly that the scene is not intended to be sexual, let alone evoke sexual assault.
That tweet, at the time of writing this post is fifteen hours old. When I asked Bailey about this on Twitter, she responded by saying that I didn’t understand the concept of subtext. Despite knowing of this tweet (I sent her the link to it during our exchange), Bailey has made no effort to correct or even amend her post. What does this say about her credibility? It’s obvious that she has no intention of being honest about the intention of the “Family Scene”. To Bailey, perverting the intention of this scene to push her social justice agenda (the tweet InternetAristocrat refers to), matters more to her than her credibility. Why should anyone trust a gaming journalist without any journalistic integrity?
If USgamer had any credibility, they would have already pulled this article or, at the very least, demanded Bailey set the record straight on the “Family Scene”. The fact that there hasn’t been any action taken by those in charge to address this issue speaks volumes. I understand that controversy helps bring traffic to the website, and with increased traffic comes increased advertising revenue, but how low are USgamer’s standards as to what is and isn’t acceptable that they’d allow this dishonest article to be published in the first place? This is the worst kind of click-baiting.
In the end, I have to say I share InternetAristocrat’s disgust with Kat Bailey and her dishonest article. She has hijacked the discussion about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 to push her social justice agenda, slandering Dave Cox in the process. If the gaming community wants to be taken seriously, it must be willing to call out these activists for their blatant dishonesty. That also means calling out gaming websites like USgamer that promote this kind of dishonest activism. Until gamers are willing to do so, this nonsense will only get worse.
UPDATE: Gavin Mannion at lazygamer.net has written an article addressing Kat Bailey’s piece. Would it surprise you to learn that Bailey, the social justice activist, wasn’t even honest about what occurs during the “Family Scene”?
However this can all actually be ignored as other journalists at the same event along with the developers have come out and stated that Dracula actually feeds of each of the family members not only the woman.
If Bailey had been honest about what actually happens, she couldn’t push her social justice agenda. As commenter Gideon Venter stated, “People look for causes to champion. And invent them when they find none.”
If you have a Twitter account, I’d recommend following Garry Kasparov, the Russian Chess Grandmaster. Aside from stories from his playing chess professionally, Kasparov tweets about issues that interest him. Suffice to say, Kasparov is what one might call a renaissance man (polymath).
I have tried regularly to get Kasparov’s opinion on aspects of issues he was tweeting about. I value different perspectives, especially from people who have had interesting personal stories. Today, after seeing a tweet Kasparov posted about video games, I decided to ask him whether or not he played them himself.
Blitz chess is a form of Fast chess, with games lasting, at longest, fifteen minutes. I haven’t played chess in years, so I didn’t know about this variation. I also didn’t know that one could play Blitz chess online (I knew about online chess however). Hearing that Kasparov played online, I followed up with another question. His response to that is below.
I have to agree with Michael’s follow-up tweet. I imagine those who played against Kasparov would like to have known that he was a Grandmaster. I don’t think I’ll be playing online Blitz chess knowing that he is playing anonymously. Some players might like the idea of challenging a Grandmaster, but not me. I’ll stick to games I know I have a chance at winning.
For those who play online chess, you’ve been warned. That player who just beat you may have been Garry Kasparov.
Finished watching? The first issue I wish to discuss concerns the thirteen different models. What is the point of having more than one? Not only are these Steam Machines competing with Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, but they are competing with each other. Before continuing on this point, let me add my own perspective to this. To start with, I’m not a PC gamer for two reasons. The first is that gaming PCs are far more expensive than game consoles. The second is, even if I had the money to buy one, I have no idea what kind of specifications I should be looking for. This is why I buy consoles. I don’t have to worry about specifications or whether I will need to replace parts anytime soon. There is no need to worry about any of that. When console gamers give these thirteen Steam Machines a look, as Rich said, they will be intimidated. How will they know which one to buy? Considering the prices of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, the iBuyPower and the CyberPowerPC models will probably be the ones that console gamers gravitate towards. Even with only these two choices, there will still be enough confusion as to which is better to keep many console gamers from buying either. Referring back to Rich’s point on this, the fact that there is not one, and only one Steam Machine undermines Valve’s original plan, which was to simplify PC gaming. How does this simplify PC gaming? The truth is that it doesn’t. The decision to have more than one will scare away console gamers, which brings up my next point.
Another issue raised by Rich in his video, which is the second I wish to discuss, concerns the Steam Machines’ varying specifications. To be more specific, will the Steam Machine that gamers purchase be able to play PC games a few years from now? As MundaneMatt stated in his vlog, since PC games become more and more demanding over time, Steam Machines will have a shorter life span than the other game consoles. Will it be worth it to buy one of the inexpensive models or should gamers buy the more expensive ones and hope they will get their money’s worth? Once again, these are not issues the Xbox One, the Nintendo Wii U or the Playstation 4 have to deal with. Console gamers don’t have to worry about whether or not the next Halo, Mario or Uncharted will be playable on these next-gen systems. These games are produced for a specific console, with that console’s hardware limitations in mind. If all Steam Machines were equally capable, even with varying features like addition hard drive storage, this wouldn’t be as big an issue. PC games would be produced with the Steam Machine’s limitations in mind, restricting developers from making games that couldn’t be played on these systems. As it sits right now, these restriction don’t exist, and because of that, PC game developers will be producing games in a few years time that only the more expensive Steam Machines could play.
The third issue, which I haven’t seen many people asking about, is what kind of gamer is Valve marketing these systems to? As I stated earlier, if your approach doesn’t simplify PC gaming for console gamers, who do you expect to buy this product? Even if console gamers wouldn’t be intimidated by the large selection of different Steam Machines, these consoles are being released after all other next-gen systems have launched. As MundaneMatt stated in his vlog, with a base model priced at five-hundred dollars, who could afford one after picking up an Xbox One or Playstation 4? If the Steam Machine is supposed to compete with the next-gen systems, why wasn’t it released earlier, before console gamers had bought their systems? For those who have yet to but a next-gen system, what incentive do console gamers have to buy a Steam Machine? In terms of games, it doesn’t have the first-party or third-party exclusives that the other systems have. Also, as MundaneMatt said, console gamers are generally not interested in PC games. Whatever games do catch the attention of console gamers are eventually ported over from the PC. Knowing this, why would a console gamer buy a system that doesn’t have many, if any must-have first-party or third-party exclusives? Despite wanting to appeal to console gamers, the Steam Machine would really only appeal to PC gamers, which brings up my final point.
Considering who will actually buy a Steam Machines, PC gamers, what is their incentive to do so? As I stated previously, the Steam Machines will not only be competing with Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, but they will also competing with each other. Add to that list of competitors PCs that already have the Steam service already installed on them. Gabe Newell may have thought his response to Xbox One sales numbers was smart, but it was actually pretty stupid. It demonstrates that neither he nor anyone else at Valve have thought this through. Assuming this number is even accurate, what is the incentive for these sixty-five-million people, who already own a PC capable of running the Steam service, to buy a Steam Machine? The luxury of being able to play PC games on their high-definition television (HDTV)? Most HDTVs have PC inputs, and most modern PCs also have HDMI outputs, so connectivity isn’t an issue. In fact, many people, including myself, already use their HDTVs as a monitor for their PC. How about access to exclusive titles? PC gamers would already have access to whatever first-party and third-party exclusives come to the Steam service. Would Valve deny those who don’t have a Steam Machine access to these games? I doubt would considering how many people use the Steam service. I could continue, but I’ve already made my point.
The warning bells are already going off. Gabe Newell may be a genius when it comes to PC gaming, but he doesn’t understand the console gaming market. IGN is already having their doubts after spending time with the Steam Machine controller, and the more gamers hear about Valve’s console(s), the less impressed they are. Despite Rich’s cautious optimism, I don’t think that I will be picking up a Steam Machine. I already own a Nintendo Wii U and a Sony Playstation 4, and if I had enough money and the desire to buy another gaming console, I would buy an Xbox One because it actually has exclusive games I would like to play. In the end, I don’t see any reason for anyone, especially console gamers, to buy a Steam Machine. It’s just thirteen poorly planned and horrible marketed boxes of unwanted frustration.
NihongoGamer posted this video of the PS Vita TV a few weeks ago. I have not been able to find much information about this new Sony device, so I found this video fairly interesting. Give it a watch.
Are you finished? Before discussing the system itself, I must address the inability of the system to play a first-party games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss (or any PS Vita title for that matter) on the PS Vita TV. Yes, I understand that they have touch screen controls, but I’d imagine a patch could be released so that the controller configuration could be reworked for the DualShock 3. If the controls can’t be reworked, than why wasn’t this addressed during development? Why wasn’t the PS Vita TV paired up with a DualShock 4 controller, which has a miniature touch screen? If PS Vita TV is supposed to be an essential companion for the PS Vita and the Playstation 4, issues like this need to be addressed.
Aside from this, I’m actually impressed with what I’ve seen so far. Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus looks very good on the larger screen, despite being a PS Vita title. The PS Vita TV will provide those who are not fond of mobile gaming with a, relatively inexpensive (estimated retail price of $100) system with a growing library of games, as well as digital copies of games from past consoles. Regardless of how this system connects to the Playstation 4, on the gaming library and price point alone, the PS Vita TV is something that has the potential to sell very well to both casual and hardcore gamers.
What are you thoughts? Leave a comment below.