Harper’s support for Israel not without its criticism
PM’s speech full of praise and defence of Israel, not much else.
By: Michael Capitano, Staff Writer
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech to the Israeli parliament may have been historic and fierce; his strong, seemingly blind support for Israel was not without its critics. While his speech was met with a standing ovation in Knesset, it was not without its hecklers, who caused a minor disruption and walked out in the middle of the speech.
Ahmad Tibi, a deputy speaker and leader of the Arab Movement for Change, along with fellow party member and Arab-Israel Abu Ara, were not impressed by the foreign policy stance Harper took in his speech.
He described it as, “biased, non-balanced, and that’s why Canada has a very marginal role in the Middle East,” in an interview with CBC News.
According to Tibi, “that democracy of Israel is a selective democracy, ethnic democracy. Canada is a democracy and people are equal without relation to their ethnic background. Here, there’s a problem with that.”
These comments are directly in contrast to the tone of Harper’s speech, which constantly drew comparisons between the shared values of Canada and Israel.
“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.
“In the democratic family of nations, Israel represents values which our government takes as articles of faith and principles to drive our national life.”
The story he told of Israel was one of triumph through adversity.
“I believe the story of Israel is a great example to the world. It is a story, essentially, of a people whose response to suffering has been to move beyond resentment and build a most extraordinary society. A vibrant democracy, a freedom-loving country with an independent and rights-affirming judiciary. An innovative, world-leading “start-up” nation,” he said.
Harper spoke out against the criticisms of Israel, going as far as to label it a, “new anti-Semitism.” He argued that condemnation has been too harshly focused on just Israel for trying to uphold its value and having to endure and defend itself from, “attacks and slanders beyond counting, [never knowing] a day of true peace.”
He dubbed Israel as a scapegoat for the failings of other nations and professed his belief that peace, not violence, will one day surround relations between Palestine and Israel.
Although Harper’s speech has been praised as acknowledging and validating the challenges that Israel have faced, most criticism has come due to the lack of nuance he displayed in his discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially for overlooking Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory.
“If he is talking about freedom, why [is he] totally neglecting the absence of freedom of the Palestinians under occupation? It is a double-standard. These words are moral double-standard from the prime minister of Canada,” Tibi said.
“Israel should be defined as a state of its own nationalities. There are two nationalities in Israel. One is [the] Jewish majority, one is [the] Arab-Palestinian minority. We are not transparent. We are not nonsense, nobody. We are community, we are minority and we are a national minority. Saying that Israel is the Jewish state is neglecting our existence, our very existence and our narrative, and I will not accept that.”
Michael Capitano is a second year law student at Osgoode Hall Law School. He is an aspiring novelist and essayist. He enjoys spending most of his time reading, writing, and posting sharing interesting things.