PM Harper addresses the Israeli Knesset

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.

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2 Comments

  1. I have been haunted by this blog post. One thing really upset me.
    I have not seen Harper’s speech or the Canadian coverage of the story that you are referring to. I don’t know what the media bias was or probably how badly placed the comments of these individuals was or how offensive (sounds like it!).
    However, I think it’s very dangerous, hateful and counter-productive to lump people into derogatory groups as you do in the second to last paragraph. I understand that you are angry but it is unfair to assume that every person belonging to an ethnic group has the same immoral terrorist bents. Being anti-war, pro-peace isn’t as black and white as you purport. The great majority of people abhor terrorist acts. Also, within Israel not everyone is happy or comfortable with every government or military policy and yet they live in and support Israel.
    I truly believe that dehumanizing others is a slippery slope. It is a tool that is used to justify unthinkable acts throughout history. It poses a great danger to civil society and law and order.
    When we humanize others, we foster an environment where they too can accept our humanity and this prevents warfare, apartheid and terrorism. I have always held high the teachings of Gandhi, Mandela and MLK. I think my 8th grade English project on the Civil Rights movement really affected my thinking/philosophy. Non-violence is the way forward, tried and true. When we love others and accept their diverse views and share with them rather than removing their humanity, then we make the world a better and more tolerant place. We talk, we try to seeing things from another perspective and this makes us all wiser. I hope one day a solution will be found to ease the suffering in the Middle East. I don’t think it can be achieved by war but rather by peace building.
    I try to practice peace building in my life. I am friends with many diverse people. I try to be kind and helpful when I can and to share and listen to others points of view. I try to also show others that just because I am named what I was named at birth, that I am more than what my name might bring to mind (in the last decade). I could change my name but then… I would not be taking on bias and making a difference one person at a time.
    I am intolerant of intolerance from all sides. If I hear a biased, unfounded argument from a family member or friend, I challenge it. This is part of my resistance.
    I don’t want to be a troll and I don’t want to argue but this has really profoundly bothered me.

    • First of all, Ayesha, thank you for your comment. Insofar as comments contribute to open-minded discussion, they’re welcome here.

      I assure you, the goal of this post is not to haunt, and I regret that that’s the reaction it left you with. On that note, though, I ask you to please re-read the paragraph that you have issues with. If you read it literally, as I intended it, you will find that it is not “lumping people” into any groups. Rather, it is referring to people who have “lumped themselves” into those groups (peace-loving, anti-war) but yet support barbaric measures designed to kill non-combattants.

      Here’s the quote:

      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.

      To be very clear, just because one is part of a certain ethnic group does not automatically make them terrorists. You said it, not me. I understand that you might be sensitive to this leap that many others have made, but I challenge you to quote where I made it… because I didn’t.

      That being said, in good conscience, I can make no apologies for my comment because, in fact, those who cheer terrorism of any kind, including the specific, documented, and factually accurate examples I mentioned, are complicit in that terrorism.

      Again, they are complicit through their actions and support for it, NOT because they are members of a certain ethnic group.

      I hope this clarifies my position on this issue, and I thank you again for your comment.

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