After another busy few days at Pardes I have had time to review the news from the week that has past, and I am pleasantly surprised to note the tone that the prime minister of my country, Stephen Harper, took in his speech to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (see Canada’s national paper, JPost, and YNet as examples). I have been less than impressed with diplomats who, in my opinion, have erred too much towards one extreme or the other, either condemning Israel’s actions unequivocally or supporting the state regardless of any future actions that ought to at least elicit criticism.
Given that context, Harper’s nuanced statements regarding the issues of deligitimization and anti-Semitism were a refreshing change. Unsurprisingly, since it is not exactly politically advantageous to come out with such a position these days, Harper couched his absolute support in terms that left no doubt that he had already taken a major political setback on account of his views. He stated that Canada had lost its bid to be accepted to the UN Security Council because of his insistence that he would not “go along with this anti-Israel rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of honest broker,” even though that is the easiest method.
Further, Harper’s absolutist terms were reserved solely for fighting anti-Semitism, as they should be. He stated clearly that “Israel, like any country, may be subjected to fair criticism,” which, again, represents a just and defensible position to take on an extremely entangled (and often entangling) issue. If the United States were not the political giant that it is today in that nearly all media focuses on it, I would be interested in seeing a dialogue between the heads of the two biggest countries in North America, as Harper’s position has given me pause to think about the validity of Obama’s; in the past all I really heard was the US’ stance on the issue, which has shifted considerably since Obama took office.
Even framing the issue as Harper did, scoring himself political points with those who value a strong moral stance, I still think that he is setting an admirable example for all politicians to take heed of: all forms of discrimination are unacceptable, and ought to be talked about in the absolutist terms that Harper employed.
Benjamin Barer is studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, one of Masa Israel’s 180 programs.