This morning, Eastern time, I sat in my recliner (can’t do much else these days ) and watched my Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, do what no other Canadian Prime Minister has done before him, address the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.
Before I go on, let me say proudly: I am a Jewish-Canadian, I am pro-Israel and, though I am a firm believer in judging each issue on its merits and not blindly voting based on ideology, I am (on many issues) a supporter of Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative Party. For some readers, that alone (or any single one of them, really) will be enough to make them sigh (or worse) and click away from my blog in search of Leftier pastures. They’ll likely head straight for their favourite echo chamber where everyone agrees with their views. Mark Unleashed is not such a place.
It was an eloquent speech where he reaffirmed Canada’s friendship to and support of Israel. I nodded in support a few times, notably when Harper said: “Canada supports Israel fundamentally because it is right to do so.”
I appreciated, too, when the Prime Minister addressed world opinion of Israel, saying:
“…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.”
It was an historic speech. In a time where the United States, Israel’s most powerful ally, is governed by a President who has largely abandoned historic American support for the Jewish state, Canada has abandoned its sit-on-the-fence approach, which for decades tried to please all sides but succeeding only in showing itself to be unprincipled and incapable of taking a moral stand.
Throughout the Canadian broadcast, cameras panned 3 targets. 1) The Prime Minister at the podium, speaking. 2) The Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, and 3) the seats occupied by 2 Arab-Israeli MKs (members of the Knesset). This is significant because despite allegations of Apartheid, mostly by people who don’t understand what it means, Arab-Israelis are full Israeli citizens who have all of the rights of citizenship in Israel including, as we saw here, the ability to be elected to and sit in parliament.
Sadly, the Canadian media did not say anything to make this clear to Canadians watching at home. Instead, when these 2 Arab MKs started shouting in the middle of Harper’s speech, they changed the headline at the bottom of the screen to read “Harper Heckled at Israeli Knesset”. Because that’s what is important, obviously.
These Arab MKs did not applaud at any point (that we were shown) during Harper’s speech, not even when Harper mentioned that Canada looks forward to the day where it, along with Israel, can recognize an independant, peaceful, Palestinian state. Well, you may answer, they probably knew that the tone of the rest of the speech would be staunchly pro-Israel. This is not the first time they’d heard of Stephen Harper, right?
So why were they even there? From watching the entire speech, I would argue that these Arab MKs were waiting for an opportunity to pounce. After all, they chose one of the most odd moments. Of all of Harper’s comments, talking about anti-Semitism cloaked as anti-Israel criticism and “the twisted logic of calling Israel an Apartheid state” were not the most pro-Israel points Harper made. Weird moment to choose. But they knew that they needed to distract the world media from this historic visit by a Western leader who unforgivingly supports Israel, and hijack the media narrative. They needed to give the media something ELSE to report, something ELSE to open the story with.
The media tends to do that, eh? In addition to pandering to their listeners and readers, they give notoriety to those who disrupt and cause a scene. Whenever there’s a kidnapping or a shooting, they profile the killer, not the victims. Backwards, don’t you think?
But what is most absurd about this outburst is that these Arab MKs mere presence in the Knesset disproves their disruptive words. The simple fact that Arab-Israelis are able to be elected, sit in the Knesset, and scream out “Israel is an Apartheid state” PROVES, ON ALL BY ITSELF, THAT IT IS NOT ONE. Arabs and their elected representatives have full freedom of expression in Israel, yet they represent a culture where, by and large, (and yes, there are exceptions) such behaviour is not tolerated and would likely have grave consequences.
A Jew could NEVER hold a position of governance in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and I can go on. Firstly, because Jews are not treated as equals in these countries unlike how Israeli-Arabs are treated in Israel. But if they were able to (hypothetically, of course), imagine what would happen to one of them who dared interrupt a speech in Syria by Ayatollah Khomeni. Death. No less. Freedom of expression in these countries, especially when it involves dissent against government interests, is unheard of, and the notion is even laughable. But in Israel, it’s part of the fabric of society.
As we stand today, I fail to comprehend how so many educated people still hold such an anti-Israel bias. Is it ignorance? Is it anti-Semitism? Is it hatred passed down from previous generations? Is it the classic underdog scenario? Or is it just fashionable to do so because so many others do?
Whatever it is, I hope that people open their minds and see what is really going on, who they are truly supporting. I will never understand how people who loudly claim to be pro-peace, and anti-war, can support people who cheer those who blow themselves up on packed Israeli-public transit buses, launch rockets into civilian populated areas, and use their own children as armour for PR purposes. We are not going to have peace as long as we support parents teaching their children how to shoot a gun before they learn how to kiss.
Whatever this anti-Israel sentiment is based on, I am glad, and proud, that my Prime Minister is standing tall, against it, on the World stage.