Richard J. Brennan Ottawa Bureau OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he has the bruises to prove Canada’s unwavering support for Israel in the face of growing anti-Israeli sentiment, an apparent reference to the country’s lost bid a seat on the UN Security Council.
“Whether it is at the United Nation or any other international forum, the easy thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric,” Harper told an interparliamentary conference on combating anti-Semitism.
“As long as I am Prime Minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take a stand whatever the cost,” he said.
Portugal and Germany won the coveted seats.
Harper’s position was in a sharp contrast to his government’s initial explanation for its lost bid, when it pointed the finger of blame at Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
Ignatieff scoffed at Harper’s latest explanation.
“To claim a defeat as a moral victory seems to me to be a mistake. To have lost the seat on the Security Council of the United Nations is a defeat,” Ignatieff said.
He said it made far more sense for Canada to defend Israel from the Security Council than from the sidelines.
Ignatieff told the gathering anti-Semitism is more than just a threat to Jews, “it is a threat to every one of us, all of humanity.”
Harper warned that if evil is left unchecked there will most assuredly be another Holocaust, citing what he called growing anti-Semitism around the world. Some 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II.
“Let us not forget that even now, there are those who choose evil, and would launch another Holocaust if left unchecked,” Harper said.
He said Jews increasingly are subjected to vandalism, threats, slurs and “just plain, old-fashioned lies.”
This allegation of increased attacks on Jews has been challenged by the group Independent Jewish Voices, which argues that to question Israel’s position in the Middle East does not make one an anti-Semite.
Harper raised concerns about the anti-Israeli movement even at universities.
Harper said while steps have been taken at home to combat anti-Semitism, the fight must taken offshore. “We must be relentless in exposing this anti-Semitism for what it is,” he said.
Michael Keefer, a University of Guelph English professor and author of Anti-Semitism Real and Imagined, told reporters later that claims of rising anti-Semitism in Canada and elsewhere are not supported in fact.
Keefer said the attempts by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat anti-Semitism and others to suppress any kind of dissent with respect to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is little more than an attack on freedom of speech.
Diana Ralph of Independent Jewish Voices said just as Jews are sensitive to their place in the world because of the Holocaust, they should be just as sympathetic when others are being persecuted.
“The fact the Holocaust was a terrible crime and terrible tragedy . . . it has absolutely nothing to do with justifying similar — not similar in the sense of the same scope — violations of human rights and of the people of Palestine,” she said.
Ralph claims real threat is from the new McCarthyism, and not from so-called new anti-Semitism.
“We believe that it is legitimate and ethically necessary for Canadians of conscience to criticize Israeli human rights abuses and to support non-violent remedies,” she stated.