Close friends: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa. (Photo: APIMAGES)
There has never been a speech in Israel’s parliament like this one. Last January, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Israel and expressed his friendship as no other major world leader has ever done.
In fact, Harper has backed Israel with such fervor that some scholars and diplomats “rank it as the most dramatic shift in the history of postwar Canadian foreign policy.”
Before Harper was voted in as Prime Minister in 2006, Canada’s leadership tended to maintain a neutral posture towards Israel. Now Harper says the Jewish state will always have Canada as a friend.
He describes Israel as a light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness.
WHY DOESN’T HARPER CRITICIZE ISRAEL?
Though he disagrees with Israel on a number of issues, such as the settlements, he refuses to criticize the Jewish state, saying he did not come to Israel to criticize the settlements, because that is what the whole world is doing. He pointed out that even when friendly nations praise Israel for some action, there is always a “but” that comes immediately afterward.
There are more than enough voices in the world slamming Israel and no reason why he should join the chorus, the Prime Minister said, unapologetic for his unabashed support of the Jewish state.
Talking to the media gathered from around the world in Jerusalem, Harper told them, “When I’m in Israel I’m asked to single out Israel. When I’m in the Palestinian Authority I’m asked to single out Israel, and half the other places around the world you ask me to single out Israel.” But, Harper added, “Let me emphasize that I am not here to single out Israel.”
CANADA ALWAYS VOTES FOR ISRAEL
The Prime Minister has not only talked the talk but he has walked the walk. He has sided openly with Israel in every one of its military operations since 2006, and has recently appointed a very pro-Israel ambassador to Israel.
His was the first country to cut aid when Hamas seized power in Gaza.
He was the first Western leader to withdraw from the second UN World Conference Against Racism, known as Durban II, saying that the Israel-bashing conference would “scapegoat the Jewish people.”
And Canada was one of only nine UN members (out of 193) that voted against the Palestinians becoming a non-member state. (A UN non-member state carries enormous influence and sway with this status.)
WHAT DOES HARPER GAIN?
Canada’s 375,000 Jews have been won over by Harper. Fifty-two percent of the Jewish population, historically liberal, voted for Harper in the last election.
However, observers agree that Harper has little to gain by standing with Israel. The Muslim population, three times the size of the Jewish population in Canada, gave Harper only 12 percent of their vote.
The U.N. Security Council rejected Canada’s bid to sit on the council. It was fairly obvious the principal reason was Canada’s strongly pro-Israel position.
So why does he do it? In his speech at Israel’s Knesset (see next article) Harper gave his reason: “It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s the moral thing to do. It’s a Canadian position of principle supported by the overwhelming majority of Canadians.”
As an Israeli journalist, Ron Csillag, put it, “Since his election in 2006, the Conservative prime minister has been full throated, unapologetic and seemingly indifferent to consequence in his support for Israel.”
Professor Henry Srebrnik, who got to know Harper when he was teaching at the University of Calgary, said, “I doubt there was any sudden epiphany when it comes to Israel, but more likely a growing, and probably somewhat religiously-based admiration for the Jewish state.”
Harper is Canada’s first evangelical prime minister in 50 years, and indeed, most observers accept that his faith plays some role in his support for Israel. Harper has credited his late father with teaching his three sons of the Jews’ biblical status as the chosen people.
As a young man, Harper was influenced by Christian thinkers such as C.S. Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge. He joined the Christian and Missionary Alliance, “an evangelical denomination headquartered in Colorado that stresses the authority of the Bible and the physical healing powers of Jesus but does not have an especially strong Zionist component,” according to Csillag.
HARPER AND THE PALESTINIANS
As is representative of all true mature Christians, Harper cares for the Arab people. Since the failed Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993, Canada has donated $650 million to the Palestinians—$350 million of that on Harper’s watch. On this recent trip to Israel, he visited Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and committed Canada to another $66 million for the Palestinians over the next five years.
Harper hopes for two states, living side by side in peace. Don’t we all? Israelis overwhelmingly dream of such a peace. However, because of the promises of God who gave this land to Israel, and because of the goal of Islam to make Jerusalem its Palestinian capital, and to create a world under Sharia law, and with the Koran’s commands to kill the Jews, the chances of peace between Jew and Muslim are next to nil.
THE BLESSINGS OF A RIGHTEOUS RULER
We can unequivocally state that Canada is blessed and will be blessed because of the stand of its head of state. Of course, a nation is judged or blessed in many different areas. But Genesis 12:3 is one of the strongest blessings and curses in the entire Bible.
Secondly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a practicing Christian. And God has given him favor throughout his nation.
As you read the Prime Minister’s speech to the Knesset in the next article, just imagine if the president of the United States or the presidents and prime ministers of Europe were giving such a speech.
It is very possible that the Palestinian Islamists would see the game is up, and the whining and the violence could no longer push the Western nations to pressure and isolate Israel through the UN and the growing anti-Israel sanctions and boycotts. If the democratic nations stood with Israel as does Canada, there just might have been a chance for a peace settlement. But, alas, it is not to be.
Kingdoms and rulers come and go. But the Word of God is eternal:
The kings of the earth take their stand,
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed [Messiah]
He who sits in the heavens laughs…
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury.
Israel will stand, but woe to those nations who in one way or another seek its demise. Today, there are very few world leaders (thank God there are some!) who know their Bible, and know their God, and know that the promised outpouring of God’s spirit on the nations involves the Jews returning to the Land of Israel and to the God of Israel through Messiah, the King of the Jews.
Those who do understand will be blessed.
On behalf of my wife Laureen and the entire Canadian delegation, let me begin by thanking the Government and people of Israel for the warmth of your hospitality. You have made us feel extremely welcome. We have felt immediately at home.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Canada and Israel are the greatest of friends, and the most natural of allies. And, with your indulgence, I would like to offer a reflection upon what makes the relationship between Canada and Israel special and important—because the relationship between us is very strong.
The friendship between us is rooted in history, nourished by shared values, and it is intentionally reinforced at the highest levels of commerce and government as an outward expression of strongly held inner convictions.
There has, for example, been a free trade agreement in place between Canada and Israel for many years, an agreement that has already proved its worth. The elimination of tariffs on industrial products, and some foodstuffs, has led to a doubling in the value of trade between our countries. But this only scratches the surface of the economic potential of this relationship. And I look forward to soon deepening and broadening our mutual trade and investment goals.
As well, our military establishments share information and technology. This has also been to our mutual benefit. For example, during Canada’s mission to Afghanistan, our use of Israeli-built reconnaissance equipment saved the lives of Canadian soldiers.
All such connections are important, and build strong bridges between us.
However, to truly understand the special relationship between Israel and Canada, one must look beyond trade and institutions to the personal ties of friendship and kinship. Jews have been present in Canada for more than 250 years. In generation after generation, by hard work and perseverance, Jewish immigrants, often starting with nothing, have prospered greatly.
Today, there are nearly 350,000 Canadians who share with you their heritage and their faith. They are proud Canadians. But having met literally thousands of members of this community, I can tell you this: They are also immensely proud of what the people of Israel have accomplished here, of your courage in war, of your generosity in peace, and of the bloom that the desert has yielded under your stewardship.
Laureen and I share that pride, the pride and the understanding that what has been achieved here has occurred in the shadow of the horrors of the Holocaust.
The understanding that it is right to support Israel because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland. Now let me repeat that: Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so.
This is a very Canadian trait, to do something for no reason other than it is right, even when no immediate reward for, or threat to, ourselves is evident.
CANADA OPPOSES INJUSTICE
On many occasions, Canadians have even gone so far as to bleed and die to defend the freedom of others in far-off lands. To be clear, we have also periodically made terrible mistakes as in the refusal of our government in the 1930s to ease the plight of Jewish refugees. But, as a country, at the turning points of history, Canada has consistently chosen, often to our great cost, to stand with others who oppose injustice, and to confront the dark forces of the world.
It is, thus, a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.
But, I would argue, support today for the Jewish State of Israel is more than a moral imperative. It is also of strategic importance, also a matter of our own long-term interests.
Ladies and gentlemen, I said a moment ago that the special friendship between Canada and Israel is rooted in shared values.
Indeed, Israel is the only country in the Middle East which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. These are not mere notions. They are the things that, over time and against all odds, have proven to be the only ground in which human rights, political stability, and economic prosperity, may flourish.
Likewise, when they are threatened anywhere, they are threatened everywhere. And what threatens them? Or more precisely, what today threatens the societies that embrace such values and the progress they nurture? Those who scorn modernity, who loathe the liberty of others, and who hold the differences of peoples and cultures in contempt.
Those who often begin by hating the Jews, but, history shows us, end up hating anyone who is not them. Those forces which have threatened the State of Israel every single day of its existence, and which, today, as 9/11 graphically showed us, threaten us all.
And so, either we stand up for our values and our interests, here in Israel, stand up for the existence of a free, democratic and distinctively Jewish state, or the retreat of our values and our interests in the world will begin.
Ladies and gentlemen, just as we refuse to retreat from our values, so we must also uphold the duty to advance them. And our commitment as Canadians to what is right, fair and just is a universal one. It applies no less to the Palestinian people than it does to the people of Israel.
Just as we unequivocally support Israel’s right of self-defense, so too Canada has long-supported a just and secure future for the Palestinian people.
HOPE FOR A PEACEFUL PALESTINIAN STATE
And, I believe, we share with Israel a sincere hope that the Palestinian people and their leaders will choose a viable, democratic, Palestinian state, committed to living peacefully alongside the Jewish State of Israel. As you, Prime Minister [Netanyahu], have said, when Palestinians make peace with Israel, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first.
Sadly, we have yet to reach that point. But, when that day comes, and come it must, I can tell you that Israel may be the first to welcome a sovereign Palestinian state, but Canada will be right behind you.
Ladies and Gentlemen, support—even firm support—doesn’t mean that allies and friends will agree on all issues all of the time. No state is beyond legitimate questioning or criticism. But our support does mean at least three things.
ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO EXIST—NON-NEGOTIABLE
First, Canada finds it deplorable that some in the international community still question the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel. Our view on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable.
Second, Canada believes that Israel should be able to exercise its full rights as a UN member-state, and to enjoy the full measure of its sovereignty. For this reason, Canada has spoken on numerous occasions in support of Israel’s engagement and equal treatment in multilateral [forums]. And, in this regard, I should mention that we welcome Israel’s induction this month into the western, democratic group of states at the United Nations.
Third, we refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage. Now I understand, in the world of diplomacy, with one, solitary, Jewish state and scores of others, it is all too easy “to go along to get along” and single out Israel. But such “going along to get along,” is not a “balanced” approach, nor a “sophisticated” one; it is, quite simply, weak and wrong.
Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we live in a world where that kind of moral relativism runs rampant. And in the garden of such moral relativism, the seeds of much more sinister notions can be easily planted.
THE NEW ANTI-SEMITISM
And so we have witnessed, in recent years, the mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain. We all know about the old anti-Semitism. It was crude and ignorant, and it led to the horrors of the death camps. Of course, in many dark corners, it is still with us. But, in much of the western world, the old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society. People who would never say they hate and blame the Jews for their own failings or the problems of the world, instead declare their hatred of Israel and blame the only Jewish state for the problems of the Middle East.
As once Jewish businesses were boycotted, some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel. On some campuses, intellectualized arguments against Israeli policies thinly mask the underlying realities, such as the shunning of Israeli academics and the harassment of Jewish students.
Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state. Think about that. Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: A state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish, as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening.
(At this point in Harper’s address, several Arab Knesset members, some of whom had earlier heckled him, got up and left the Knesset chamber. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset members stood to applaud Harper.)
(Editor’s note: Israel is the only Middle East country where Arab parliamentary members can heckle leaders—even foreign guests—giving speeches.)
UN TARGETS ISRAEL—IGNORES TOTALITARIAN STATES
But this is the face of the new anti-Semitism. It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel and attempts to make the old bigotry acceptable for a new generation. Of course, criticism of Israeli government policy is not in and of itself necessarily anti-Semitic.
But what else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to defend itself while systematically ignoring—or excusing—the violence and oppression all around it?
What else can we call it when Israel is routinely targeted at the United Nations, and when Israel remains the only country to be the subject of a permanent agenda item at the regular sessions of its Human Rights Council?
Ladies and gentlemen, any assessment—any judgment—of Israel’s actions must start with this understanding: In the sixty-five years that modern Israel has been a nation, Israelis have endured attacks and slanders beyond counting and have never known a day of true peace.
And we understand that Israelis live with this impossible calculus: If you act to defend yourselves, you will suffer widespread condemnation, over and over again. But should you fail to act you alone will suffer the consequence of your inaction, and that consequence will be final, your destruction.
The truth, that Canada understands, is that many of the hostile forces Israel faces are faced by all western nations. And Israel faces them for many of the same reasons we face them. You just happen to be a lot closer to them. Of course, no nation is perfect. But neither Israel’s existence nor its policies are responsible for the instability in the Middle East today.
One must look beyond Israel’s borders to find the causes of the relentless oppression, poverty and violence in much of the region, of the heartbreaking suffering of Syrian refugees, of sectarian violence and the fears of religious minorities, especially Christians, and of the current domestic turmoil in so many states.
So what are we to do? Most importantly, we must deal with the world as we find it. The threats in this region are real, deeply rooted, and deadly and the forces of progress, often anemically weak. For too many nations, it is still easier to scapegoat Israel than to emulate your success. It is easier to foster resentment and hatred of Israel’s democracy than it is to provide the same rights and freedoms to their own people.
I believe that a Palestinian state will come, and one thing that will make it come is when the regimes that bankroll terrorism realize that the path to peace is accommodation, not violence.
NO REMOVAL OF IRANIAN SANCTIONS
Which brings me to the government of Iran. Late last year, the world announced a new approach to diplomacy with the government in Tehran. Canada has long held the view that every diplomatic measure should be taken to ensure that regime never obtains a nuclear weapon.
We therefore appreciate the earnest efforts of the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. Canada will evaluate the success of this approach not on the merits of its words, but on the implementation and verification of its promised actions.
We truly hope that it is possible to walk the Iranian government back from taking the irreversible step of manufacturing nuclear weapons. But, for now, Canada’s own sanctions will remain fully in place. And should our hopes not be realized, should the present agreement prove ephemeral, Canada will be a strong voice for renewed sanctions.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude with this thought.
I believe the story of Israel is a great example to the world. It is a story, essentially, of a people whose response to suffering has been to move beyond resentment and build a most extraordinary society, a vibrant democracy, a freedom-loving country with an independent and rights-affirming judiciary. An innovative, world-leading “start-up” nation. You have taken the collective memory of death and persecution to build an optimistic, forward-looking land, one that so values life, you will sometimes release a thousand criminals and terrorists, to save one of your own.
In the democratic family of nations, Israel represents values which our Government takes as articles of faith, and principles to drive our national life.
And therefore, through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.
(Knesset Members and hundreds in the Knesset gallery rise to give Harper a standing ovation.)
Thank you for having us, and may peace be upon Israel.
January 20, 2014.
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