01.20.2014 12:30 PM

Did Harper actually say criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic? (updated)

In fairness to him – and, for what’s worth, I kick the Hell out of the Conservative leader and Canada’s conservative Jewish leadership in tomorrow’s Sun  papers – I don’t think Harper actually said that.  Some media have headlined it that way, but I think his definition of “anti-Semitic” is quite a bit narrower.

Here’s the key section of his Knesset speech, as provided by the ever-helpful David Akin.  What do you think?

“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.

For this reason, Canada has spoken on numerous occasions in support of Israel’s engagement and equal treatment in multilateral fora.

And, in this regard, I should mention that we welcome Israel’s induction this month into the western, democratic group of states at the United Nations.

Third, we refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage.

Now I understand, 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.

Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we live in a world where that kind of moral relativism runs rampant.

And in the garden of such moral relativism, the seeds of much more sinister notions can be easily planted.

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.

On some campuses, intellectualized arguments against Israeli policies thinly mask the underlying realities, such as the shunning of Israeli academics and the harassment of Jewish students.

Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state.

Think about that.

Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish, as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism.

It is nothing short of sickening.

But this is the face of the new anti-Semitism.

It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel and attempts to make  the old bigotry acceptable for a new generation.

Of course, criticism of Israeli government policy is not in and of itself necessarily anti-semitic.

But what else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to defend itself while systematically ignoring – or excusing – the violence and oppression all around it?

What else can we call it when, Israel is routinely targeted at the United Nations, and when Israel remains the only country to be the subject of a permanent agenda item at the regular sessions of its human rights council?”

UPDATE: Akin zeroes in on the problem with the speech – it actually seems to suggest that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.  Which is, clinically, insane.  Now – again – I can’t actually believe Harper meant to say that.  But if he did – and, remember, Akin and colleagues are all there, and I’m not – then he has done a huge disservice to Israel.  And he has thereby left himself looking like a lunatic. For instance:

Does that mean, inter alia, Nelson Mandela was an anti-Semite?

Does it mean most American Jews are, too?


  1. doconnor says:

    “Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish, as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism.”

    Next thing you know people will say the first major country founded based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law not only had slavery and had it longer then every other developed country.

    Just because it is ironic, doesn’t make it untrue.

  2. Ian Howard says:

    Harper forgets Israel is still a democracy and many in Israel are more than just frustrated with Netanyahu’s government. That he refuses to single out Israel for criticism has more to do with domestic politics than any concern for the future of Israel. No doubt he would consider Ben Gurion an anti semite for his belief that to be an Israeli you had to live in Israel.
    Stephen Harper lecturing on moral relativism is unbelievable but this comes from a man who probably handed Nigel Wright the pen to write the cheque.

    Even if Netanyahu pretends to be on the verge of signing a framework agreement, which he would destroy later, he must not be rescued, not even for a second. Eighteen years since he orchestrated “with blood and fire we’ll drive Rabin out,” Netanyahu is systematically bringing fascism to Israel, even as he entered the home and bed of the murder victim.

    Livni, Lapid and everyone from Labor who will support Netanyahu should know this: The destruction of democracy, abuse of barefoot refugees in the cold, hatred of blacks, trampling the poor, all this evil is on your hands. There’s none so despicable as collaborators.

    http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.563937 Dec 17 2013

    “The name Israel differentiates between the sovereign Jewish people in its homeland, called by the name of Israel, and the Jewish people in the world, in all the generations and in all the land, who are called the “Jewish people” or the “people of Israel.” That’s what David Ben-Gurion wrote to Brandeis historian and philosopher Simon Rawidowicz in 1954.


  3. Derek Pearce says:

    Generally good speech, I agree with almost all of it. But Israel is kind of an apartheid state (for lack of a better term). And I’m not talking about Zionism (I don’t believe that leftist claptrap that “Zionism is racism”), but to truly be a model of western democracy Israel has to sign on to a two state solution and be done with the territories.

  4. dave says:

    Yeah, he did.

    Cotler and Kenney will be happy. This speech echoes the recommendation of that bunch of MP’s C and K gathered to be a committee that picked a few witnesses, and recommended that ‘Saying Israel practices apartheid is like denying the holocaust.’

    Next stop, crim code amendment trial balloons!

  5. SD says:

    I am fine with referring to Israel as an apartheid state. No, it doesn’t show the visible signs like the former apartheid state of South Africa. One will not see signs above water fountains stating “For Jews only.” However, there is a more insidious form of apartheid where people are treated differently and unfairly based on their nationality. Jewish Israelis have the right to live in most parts of Israel and in much of the West Bank. Arab Israelis do not have the right to live anywhere in Israel as much as of the land is held in trust for Jews. Arab Israelis also do not receive as much funding per child for education as do Jewish Israelis. Palestinians are like the blacks in the former apartheid South Africa. Their rights to movement is severely restricted. They may not move freely within the West Bank and Gaza. They may not move freely into Israel proper. They may not move freely to and from another country without Israel’s approval.

    The old definition of anti-Semitic consisted of people who hated Jews. Now, the new definition of anti-Semitic consists of people who some Jews hate. They must hate me for calling Israel “an apartheid state.” If they wish to call me “anti-Semitic,” I will take it as a badge of honour.

    • SD says:

      I do wish to make it clear that my criticism of Israel is not because I want to make it disappear, but to make Israel a better state.

  6. KP says:

    Is is still OK to think Bibi is an asshole?

  7. Iris Mclean says:

    Harper’s born-again fundamentalism is shining through?

  8. T.W. says:

    To answer your question as seen through the eyes of the Dear Leader;
    Yes, Mandela is indeed a vicious anti Semite and those American Jews criticizing Israel are not anti-Semite’s…..they’re self-hating Jews.

  9. Al in Cranbrook says:

    “No state is beyond legitimate questioning or criticism.”

    “Of course, criticism of Israeli government policy is not in and of itself necessarily anti-semitic.”

    Can’t see how one could be any more clear than that.

    • dave says:

      A part of the speech I like is where, after bringing a couple of hundred people in his huge entourage to make his historic Knesset appearance and go on about Canada’s unique tough stand with Israel, he complains about somebody else displaying exceptional attention toward Israel.

    • Cameron Prymak says:

      Who determines the legitimacy of the question?

  10. GPAlta says:

    Peter Beinart and Max Blumenthal have both been widely labeled anti-Semites by the same logic that Harper is using here. I don’t think that Harper’s words or ideas are shocking to the AIPAC crowd at all.

    Be prepared for Harper’s 2015 election campaign to imply that all Liberals are anti-Semites, just as Harper has done in the past: http://www.thestar.com/news/2009/11/19/pms_jewish_pitch_hits_a_new_low_critics_say.html

    Harper’s definition of “new anti-Semitism” is also similar to that of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism”

  11. Other Hockey Dad says:

    Anyone who doesn’t want GLBT literature in elementary schools is automatically branded “homophobic” by progressives. So why not just brand anyone who criticizes the Jewish state “anti-semitic” ? Simple, effective, gets the point across. Oh, what…it’s OK to use a broad brush shorthand in some cases, but not in others ?

  12. Mark Surchin says:

    I think Akin is wrong. Seems entirely consistent with the definition of the “new anti-Semitism” that came out of Europe and which a group of our own Parliamentarians looked at recently–even if one doesn’t agree with it, I think it is inaccurate to say Harper has expanded it.

    Whether anti-Semitic or not–and I argued otherwise to Parliament…


    I think it is wrong for a growing group on the left to be arguing that a state that defines itself as a “Jewish state”, exactly as it was envisioned, is within any borders per se an “apartheid” state.

    • dave says:

      Couple of reasons I demur from your reference and from what you say:

      Israel has been careful not to define its borders. That might make the expansion they keep making a bit more of a problem than It is now. They seem to like to look legal in their expansions.

      One of the fellows who heckled our PM, and walked out, says Palestinian Israelis are about 20% of the population. I have seen reference to laws there that differ between Palestinian Israelis and their fellow citizens.

      I see a single regime which controls the area and peoples from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. It uses legalese of one kind or another to pretend they don’t control it all. Within that area of control, they definitely have two (probably more) tiers of membership under their control.

      That is why I think that Mandela, Tutu and Carter et al might be on to something when they suggest apartheid.
      (Yeah…ok…I know, I shouldn’t use name dropping, …)

    • Ian Howard says:

      Israel can be a democratic Jewish state as was intended or it can continue to expand into territories where the Arab population will make Jews a minority in Israel. A Jewish state without democratic values is not what it’s founders intended.
      Avigdor Lieberman does not intend to protect the rights of minorities, he intends to make sure they wind up living in another country. Call it what you want but to me it is a repudiation of everything Israel was meant to be.
      When you think god has given you your marching orders no matter what faith you believe in your enemy becomes less than human.

      • dave says:

        Sometimes I fantasize a single state, probably with some kind of federal system of provinces, a capitol region around Jerusalem, a home for all the peoples living there, egalitarian, with respect for their mix of ethnicities, traditions, faiths…wouldn’t that be a beacon of light for the region.

        • Ian Howard says:

          Might as well wish for the discovery of a warm beating heart in that eternally frozen cavity that is known as Harper’s chest.

  13. Mark Surchin says:

    And my the way Max Blumenthal is a clear anti-Zionist. Beinart is a proud Zionist highly critical of Israeli government policy. They have very little in common. Now we could argue that Blumental meets the definition of the new anti-Semitism (which Harper most certainly didn’t create), or that Beinart supports apartheid by believing in a “Jewish” state, but this will not resolve the conflict there. It will however permanently fracture the left here.

    • GPAlta says:

      My point is that both Beinart and Blumenthal have been labelled anti-Semites, not Zionist or anti-Zionist. Both are openly described as Jewish anti-Semites and excluded from any discourse. The truth however is that there is no evidence that either is actually a bigot.

  14. Richard Besserer says:

    Re: American Jews; I believe the term of abuse is JINO, Jew In Name Only. In other words, only hard-bitten Kahanists and JDL members (apparently) qualify as “real” Jews.

    Oh, by the way, at least one of the Harper delegation is a JDL member—Julius Suraski, otherwise known (if at all) as a vehicle repair shop owner from North York and local Rob Ford cheerleader. No word if Ottawa paid any of his expenses.

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