Israel has eagerly welcomed Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and with very good reason. Under Mr. Harper’s leadership Canada has become Israel’s staunchest friend in the world, with Australia coming in at a close second as exemplified by this week’s visit by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
In his speech to the Knesset this week, Mr. Harper declared that Canada will stand by Israel “through fire and water”. Here are a few snippets but read the whole speech if you didn’t read or hear it already:
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.
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.
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 values are not proprietary; they do not belong to one nation or one people. Nor are they a finite resource; on the contrary, the wider they are spread, the stronger they grow.
Likewise, when they are threatened anywhere, they are threatened everywhere. And what threatens them, […] 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, 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.
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. …
Third, we refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage. …
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. […] Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state. Think about that. Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: […] It is nothing short of sickening.
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 …
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.
You can watch the video of the speech at Elder of Ziyon.
What an incredibly inspiring speech! Yet shamefully, some Arab MKs, who had earlier heckled Mr. Harper, walked out precisely at the time that he talked about the anti-Israel boycotts – which as Israellycool points out, went exactly to prove Mr. Harper’s point!
Mr. Harper continued his advocacy on behalf of Israel when he chided the media for their bias against Israel:
“Yesterday in the Palestinian Authority, no one asked me there to single out the Palestinian Authority for any criticism in terms of governance or human rights or anything else,” Harper said, speaking about the press conference he’d held Monday in Ramallah side-by-side with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas. “When I’m in Israel, I’m asked to single out Israel. When I’m in Palestinian Authority I’m asked to single out Israel and in half the other places around the world you ask me to single out Israel.”
Harper’s rebuke made the Toronto Sun reporters rethink their stance:
Since August, 2005, 16,000 rockets have been fired into Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza. The Palestinians have forever — long before Jewish settlements in the West Bank started going up — rejected Israel’s right to exist.
Netanyahu spent a remarkable 10 minutes explaining to us why Harper was right, why those were the wrong questions.
“The core of the conflict is not settlements. The core of the conflict is not the absence of a Palestinian state. The core of the conflict is the persistent refusal to reconcile to an independent nation state of the Jewish people. That’s what this conflict is about,” Netanyahu said.
… Netanyahu explained. Journalists were missing the big picture.
… What are the concerns of many of the world’s leading Arab countries these days?
“The first is the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons. And the second is the spread of the Muslim Brotherhood. And in meeting those twin challenges, these (leading Arab) countries do not see Israel as their enemy but as being on the same side of a difficult conflict.”
Israellycool has a fabulous photo essay by Real Jerusalem Streets of Harper’s visit including some amusing behind the scenes photos of un-Israelily-dressed politicians.
Stephen Harper wowed Israel yet again at a state dinner on his last day in the country, showing off his singing talents:
On the eve of his last full day in Israel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper took to the stage at the state dinner at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening to show off his singing talents and his love for the Beatles.
Harper courageously performed “Hey Jude” in front of the audience, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara gleefully sitting near the stage humming along.
You can watch the video at the link.
I have to admit that Harper’s speech is one of the most inspiring and heart-warming speeches I have ever heard. Mr. Harper makes me proud to be an Israeli, proud to be a Zionist and proud to be a Jew.
And for that, as well as for being our closest friend in the international community, I say thank you Mr. Harper and thank you Canada.