GALI TIBBON / AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Prime Minister Stephen Harper listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Israeli parliament Monday.
Re: ‘Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you,’ Jan. 21
‘Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you,’ Jan. 21
During his recent speech to the Israeli Knesset, our prime minister publicly declared that country to be Canada’s close friend and ally, the only country in the Middle East to be rooted in the ideals of “freedom, democracy and the rule of law.” In addition, he equated criticism of Israel with a “new anti-Semitism.”
Is freedom confined to one group while denied to the indigenous population? What sort of democracy is it that suppresses reasoned dissent in favour of an ideology characterized by militarism, racism and expansionism? How does rule of law apply to a state that consistently defies resolutions of the UN Security Council, international law and world opinion at large? And since when do we designate any state above criticism?
Without taking sides in the thorny Middle East issues, Canadians might well wonder about Stephen Harper’s unequivocal position on Israel. As the ranking military power in the Middle East, the fourth on the planet and the only country in the region to possess nuclear weapons, Israel needs no encouragement from Canada to engage in further adventurism. By allying himself so closely with Israel, Mr. Harper has engineered a radical departure from traditional foreign policy, one that is inconsistent with Canadian values and one that cries out for explanation.
But aside from the sanctimonious and silly nature of Mr. Harper’s rhetoric, it did not emanate from any groundswell of Canadian public opinion nor any resolution in Parliament. Thus, one perceives the irony of his speaking about democracy on the one hand, while acting egregiously undemocratically, on the other.
Mr. Harper has taken great liberties in speaking on behalf of the Canadian people. If Canadians respond to such irresponsible and blatant hypocrisy with utter contempt, it is richly deserved. Democracy is more than something that occurs one day every four years.
Sandy Antal, Cameron
If Mr. Harper thinks he represents the people of Canada, he will be in for a shock come election time. Seeing a public official showing such preferential treatment to just one side was truly sickening. Does he not realize, that as Canadians we pride ourselves on living in a multicultural society that promotes harmony and freedom? His trip with 200 like-minded folks, paid for by us, is insulting and should be investigated.
When Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected prime minister of Israel, many of us had that sinking feeling that peace in the Middle East was not about to happen any time soon.
Mr. Harper should take his queue from Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary, who is a wonderful example for the people of Canada. A member of a minority who keeps his religious beliefs to himself and thus is able to do his official duties so well.
All Harper has done is to invite extremism to rear its ugly head and threaten our peaceful existence in our cities.
It is my hope, that all Canadians, including the Jewish community, remove the Conservatives from office in the next election.
Robert Murray, Toronto
Wouldn’t it be just peachy if Steven Harper defended Canada’s environment, health care, public service and Aboriginal people “through fire and water”? We just might have a great and happy nation.
Ellen Manney, Toronto
The orthodox Jewish philosopher Yisaiyahu Liebowitz warned the Jewish people in the early seventies about turning the Western Wall into a religious and political theme park: “From Kottel to Discottel,” as he put it. MP’s Adler, Oliver, and Prime Minister Harper just did that, desecrating the holiest site in Judaism with a “million dollar shot.”
Eric Mendelsohn, Toronto
As a member of the Canadian Jewish community, I have not earlier spoken out about the Prime Minister’s one-sided support for Israel for fear of repercussions. But his latest performance before the Israeli Knesset, which was aimed as much at the Jewish Canadian voter as it was at Israeli politicians cannot be ignored.
There are members of the Jewish community who are single-issue voters and that issue is solely Israel, even to the extent that I’ve heard people tell me that they will vote Conservative in the next provincial election because the Conservatives support Israel, despite the fact that foreign policy is solely in the realm of federal politics.
What Jews need to remember is that Harper is an evangelical Christian whose religious beliefs not only include the “return” of all Jews to the land of Israel (see Dow Marmur’s article in the Sunday Star) but also that Judaism is an archaic religion and that all Jews will eventually turn to Christ as their savior.
Those Jews who support Harper only because he supposedly supports Israel (and this includes the Canadian Jewish Congress) have gone to bed with someone who would gladly see the end of their religion.
The Jewish community (which never was homogeneous) in the past largely supported progressive politics and many leaned left. It is really sad to see Jews supporting the kind of political agenda that Harper has espoused.
Stephen L. Bloom, Toronto
Evidently in dealing with politics in moral terms Mr. Harper invoked the principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest numbers to justify Israel’s collective interest to which must be sacrificed the minorities’ happiness.
Would that he applied the same moral imperative in Canada.
E. M. Chop, Toronto
Does Stephen Harper know that he doesn’t need to travel very far to be sympathetic, understanding and helpful to historical victims of genocide? In fact, he doesn’t need to move an inch.
Kerry Lobo, Toronto
I fully support the right of Israel to a secure existence, but there is nothing moral about an imperative to support Israel if it does not include a reference to the right of the Palestinians to political and economic autonomy. There is no moral imperative to support Israel without remembering the ongoing killing and injuring of Palestinian civilians, many of them children, by Israeli occupation forces.
There is no moral imperative to support Israel without advocating for Palestinian villagers cut off from their land and their access to drinking water by illegal Israeli settlements.
Stephen Harper claims to be a friend of Israel, but a real friend would tell the Israelis that their rights will never be secure and there will be no peace in the land as long the inhumane occupation of the Palestinian Territories continues.
Glenys Huws, Toronto
Stephen Harper’s unequivocal support of Zionist Israel puts Canada and Canadian lives in harm’s way. Pre-Harper Canada was respected for taking a reasoned and moderate approach to Middle East affairs. As a newscaster remarked, Harper’s speech to the Knesset might have been written by Israel PM Netanyahu.
Not all Israelis are Zionists and many strongly oppose their Zionist government. Harper’s servile and lickspittle address makes Canadians prime targets for extremists.
James Reid, Vineland
In the past, Israel has done some good things, and some bad. For a representative of our government to pledge unconditional support for Israel, as Harper did in his speech to the Knesset, regardless of what Israel might do in the future is at the very least foolhardy. And I deeply resent the implication that holding this opinion makes me an anti-Semite.
I certainly shall remember this slander at the time of the next federal election, and hope that many other people do, as well.
Edwin R. Kammin, Scarborough
Hanna Kawas says Harper should have condemned Israel because it’s “a settler colonial state.” Leaving aside the fact that the relationship between Jewry and Israel long predates anti-Western theories about colonialism, pretty much every English-speaking democracy, Canada included, started out as a “settler colonial state.” So to decry Israel on that basis is to decry Canada, too.
Which was rather the point of the prime minister’s Knesset speech — that Canada and Israel have much in common, and, faced with many of the same enemies, ones who loathe our common commitment to democracy and freedom, much to defend.
M.G. Alter, Toronto
In an online discussion of what is referred to as Godwin’s Law, one author wrote: “It is generally accepted that whoever is the first to play the ‘Hitler card’ has lost the argument as well as any trace of respect, as having to resort to comparing your adversary to the most infamous mass-murdering dictator in history generally means you’ve run out of better arguments.”
The author quite rightly goes on to argue that there are indeed circumstances in which referring to the ideas and actions of Hitler are appropriate when discussing the actions of others, and I would suggest that responding to the perpetrators of genocide would be one.
However, given our Prime Minister’s comments to the Knesset on Monday, perhaps we need a corollary – maybe “Harper’s Inappropriate and Illogical Continuance of Godwin’s Law” – which states: The first person to call all critics of Israeli government policies and practices anti-Semitic loses the argument and any trace of respect.
Of course anti-Semitism exists in this world and needs to be vigorously challenged and condemned. And certainly there are people who oppose the very existence of Israel based on anti-Semitic attitudes. But does Harper honestly believe that Jews within Israel who speak up against their government’s settlement policies are anti-Semitic or helping to promote and support anti-Semitism?
What’s next? Back in Canada he may shortly declare all opponents of the tar sands and pipelines as traitors because they choose to obstruct the economic development of our country.
Paul A. Wilson, Toronto
The worst perpetrators of anti-Semitism are the supporters of the current regime of Israel and I am embarrassed and offended to be counted, as a Canadian, by my prime minister, as one of those.
Hugh Allin, Newcastle
I was watching Seinfeld the other night, the episode where Uncle Leo calls everyone that disagrees with him an anti-Semite, when it occurred to me that Uncle Leo is our Prime Minister.
I wish everyone would quite using the “anti-Semite” slogan as Jews and Arabs are all Semites? I hold a neutral view on the state of Israel, and wish everyone could just get along. But Mr. Harper is going to have to explain the “strategic importance” of Israel to Canada. I just don’t see it.
Gord Deane, Mississauga
How dare Stephen Harper equate the anti-Semitic boycotts of Jewish businesses by the Nazi movement with the modern-day critics of Israel. To be critical of the Israeli government’s policies does not make one an anti-Semite. I recognize Israel’s right to exist but I oppose the Israeli government’s terrible treatment of the Palestinians. That government will not change its policies without outside pressure. Harper should be concerned about the human rights of Palestinians.
Michael Connolly, Toronto
President Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work promoting world peace. He is trusted by world leaders and frequently asked to monitor elections in volatile parts of the world. He is respected around the world. He has condemned the occupation of Palestinian land and repeatedly called Israel policy apartheid.
Steven Harper’s record speaks for itself. He has called anyone who agrees with President Carter’s definition an anti-Semite.
Consider Carter’s devotion to human rights and world peace and Stephen Harper’s record. Who do you trust?
Howard Wilson, Toronto
I have never been more ashamed of our federal government. Today I am embarrassed to be a Canadian. To the Palestinians, I am sorry Mr. Harper does not speak for all Canadians.
Michael Cocksedge, Toronto
Your Jan. 21 editorial criticizes Prime Minister Harper for pointing out that it is up to the Palestinians to choose peace, “as if the choice were up to them alone.” Truly, it is. For Israel to turn over the West Bank to the Palestinians today would be national suicide.
Israel cannot afford to give up control of the West Bank as long as the Palestinians continue to pursue a “piece by piece” plan of getting their state and then using it as base to launch rockets against Israel (witness Gaza).
Until the Palestinians publicly and communally renounce their goal of a “right of return” that would flood Israel with Arabs and turn it into an Arab state, and stop mourning Israel’s very existence as a “disaster” (naqba), there is indeed no hope for real peace.
Once the Palestinians fully accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, Israel’s government has publicly affirmed its readiness to move towards a real peace.
David M. Sherman, Toronto
Mr. Harper badly needed some time in the sun after being surrounded by the forces of darkness (many of his own making) in Ottawa in 2013. His resounding defence and support of Israel gives him a bit of that time in the sun. Harper may be out of step with the majority views of Canadians on some things, but his stance on Israel is most definitely in step with core Canadian values and culture (the CBC and the League of Misguided Academics notwithstanding).
The list of those values is long, but endorsing democratic governments and backing the little guy surrounded by hostile neighbours would be high on that list.
R. G. Knox, Water Valley AB
We expect from our Prime Minister an attitude of “my country right or wrong.” What we don’t expect is that it be applied to any other country.
Richard Rix, Toronto
Harper shows you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, column, Jan. 20
Rabbi Marmur twice questions “being naive.” Indeed his willful naivité is amazing.
He partially cites the 1917 Balfour Declaration, ignoring its call for a Jewish “national home” in Palestine not a Jewish state, omitting its warning “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” and obfuscating its predating the League of Nations formally awarding the Palestine Mandate to Britain by several years.
However, his deliberate omission of the post-Second Coming Christian Zionist agenda requiring Jews to convert to Christianity or die goes way beyond mere naivité. Beware Harper!
Bernard Katz, Toronto
What universe is Dov Marmur living in? He applauds Ambassador Vivian Bercovici for describing Israeli Prime Minister Natanyahu as “a respected leader who has enhanced national security, immeasurably,” and Stephen Harper for his “deep commitment to Israel that is not tainted by expediency or political opportunism.”
Far from being “respected,” Netanyahu is roundly criticized by almost all national leaders (except our own of course) for his Fortress Israel mentality, his expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and his refusal to engage in any meaningful peace process — all of which have substantially decreased national security. And if Harper really is committed to Israel (i.e., to its right-wing government) because he’s a Christian Zionist, I fear for us all.
As Dov Marmur states, Christian Zionism holds that “Jesus’ Second Coming is contingent upon the Jews returning to their homeland.” When all the Jews are “returned,” then the Rapture can begin. Well, thank you very much. Israel is not my homeland and I don’t want to be “returned” anywhere, let alone be taken up in the Rapture.
Zionism, whether Jewish or Christian, and whatever its historical legitimacy, has become a justification for the occupation of Palestinian land and the domination of one people by another. I would remind Rabbi Marmur of the words of Deuteronomy, “Justice, justice, must you pursue in order to inherit the land that the Lord has given you.” Can Israel seriously claim to have earned this right?
Stephen K. Levine, Professor Emeritus, York University
Rabbi Marmur mentions Palestinian hard line in his article but neglects to tell us of the thousands of illegal settlements Israel has built on Palestinians land. Canada, shamefully, has remained silent on that issue — choosing to be more loyal to the Israeli hard right rather than doing the right thing.
Naeem Siddiqi, Markham
Like Israel, Canada is hostage to a right-wing party whose ascendancy was determined by a fractionated centre-left. This same factor could also determine the re-election of Rob Ford. The NDP and Liberals had better get it together to engineer strategic campaigning.
The more than half of the Jewish community who are zealously supporting Harper had better ask themselves how it makes sense to enrage Arab extremists even as you dismantle gun control in your own country and set up conditions for lone terrorists and other unstable men to covertly arm themselves.
Mr. Netanayahu and Mr. Lieberman are far too smart to let that happen in Israel, which now has better gun laws than we do.
Ron Charach, Toronto
Stephen Harper’s got his nose in something all right, and it isn’t a tissue issue.
Richard Kadziewicz, Scarborough
Considering Harper’s very pronounced pro-Israel bias, perhaps a better title would have been “Israel’s unbalanced Canadian friend.” Regarding balance, how is it that you can so liberally quote pro-Israel types like Shimon Fogel and Linda Frum, yet leave out voices on the Palestinian side who might ask how our Prime Minister’s lofty moral sensibilities would not find something wrong with millions of Arabs having to pay for horrendous historical injustices committed in Europe.
Bob McKercher, Toronto
Can someone please explain to me why the Harper government continually demonstrates such slavish devotion to Israel? It does not appear to be terribly relevant to Canada’s economy or well being and there are many other nations that deserve greater recognition as a “light of freedom and democracy.” So the question (at least in my mind) is whether or not Israel is of greater importance to Canada or the Conservative party.
Randy Gostlin, Oshawa