It is indeed rare in today’s world to hear any prime minister say about the United Nations: “There are, after all, a lot more votes 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.”
For many people abroad, Harper’s statement came as a surprise. His government, however, has a long record of pro-Israeli actions and statements. He was barely in power when he withdrew Canada’s financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority government when Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh became its prime minister in 2006. Harper supported Israel in the 2006 Lebanon War. In that year, Canada also opposed a resolution condemning Israel at the gathering of French-speaking nations. To reach unanimity the text was modified and didn’t mention Israel. Canada was also the first country to announce that it would not attend the Durban II Anti-racism conference in 2009 in Geneva.
Canada has indeed paid for this pro-Israeli attitude. In the recent elections for a seat in the Security Council it was defeated by Portugal. Portuguese sources said that Iran and Venezuela together made an effort to promote the country’s election to the Security Council. One will have to follow Portuguese Mideast policy to see whether the country will pay back Iran and Venezuela or ignore them now that it has been elected.
Will US follow Canada's example?
Opposition Leader, Michael Ignatieff of the Liberal party, made a very positive speech as well. One of the remarks of this historian and former Harvard professor was: “We should seek to end the parade of one-sided resolutions at the United Nations. We should use whatever influence we have to restore the balance in the work of the United Nations human rights bodies. We don’t claim that Israel is perfect but singling out one country for repeated denunciations while ignoring the human rights abuses of others is a flagrant misuse of the United Nations.”
The problem with the Liberals - which traditionally draw the majority of the Jewish vote - is their record toward Israel. Under the last Liberal Prime Minister, Paul Martin, then-Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew went to Arafat’s funeral in November 2004. At that time, it was already widely known that Arafat had personally authorized and financed suicide attacks against Israeli citizens in the years after he received the Nobel Prize for peace. In 2005 Pettigrew laid a wreath on Arafat’s grave.
Irwin Cotler, the driving force behind the Ottawa conference, was Justice Minister on behalf of the Liberals in the Martin cabinet. He succeeded to bring parliamentarians from 45 countries to Canada. His accomplishment in establishing - as an opposition parliamentarian - the Canadian Parliamentarian Commission for Combating Anti-Semitism as an interparty body was even more major, in view of the partisan atmosphere in Canadian politics. The commission report will be ready this spring and I have been told by some of its members that it will inter alia devote attention to the substantial problems of anti-Semitism at a variety of Canadian campuses. The Parti Quebecois, which promotes sovereignty for the French-speaking province left the Commission midway. Yet its leader attended the Ottawa conference and did not cause problems.
When attending such a conference so much is going on, that one can only see part of it. In one of the commissions I attended, the question was raised whether one will ever hear US President Obama or Foreign Minister Hillary Clinton make statements like Harper’s. These remarks were well in place because Obama was at the time in Indonesia and criticized Israel’s plan to expand settlements and remained silent about the fact that 25% of Indonesia’s Muslims share the world view of Osama bin Laden and 13% support suicide bombing. The American president there also made the ridiculous remark that Indonesia’s democracy and tolerance should be an example for the world.
Genocidal anti-SemitismA crucial issue in the discussions at the conference was the genocidal anti-Semitism coming out of parts of the Muslim world. Many examples of hate mongering by Muslims were mentioned. One of the pioneers of the parliamentary combat against anti-Semitism has been British Labor Parliamentarian John Mann who represents a constituency almost without Jews. He has explained that Jews helped his grandparents in difficult times and that story was passed on through the generations in his family.
At the gala dinner where Mann spoke, he mentioned that the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK had called for the defeat of six candidates whom it considered pro-Zionist. Four of these lost in the last elections, though not necessarily because of this. This opposition to pro-Israelis happens elsewhere as well. A former Portuguese European Parliamentarian told me that the Iranians managed to get him off the Social Democrats’ list of candidates in the last European election because of his pro-Israeli positions.
Despite all, the attention to Muslim mass murder threats, violence and hate mongering, the Ottawa Protocol accepted by the conference doesn’t mention the word "Muslim." The political climate in Canada is such that the text would be decried as Islamophobic despite all the evidence of the major genocidal forces in the Muslim world. That is as much a sign of the times in which we live as the fact that many prominent non-Jews start to understand that anti-Semitism threatens their societies.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published eighteen books, several of which deal with anti-Semitism
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