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?