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by Conrad Black, National Post, Jan. 25, 2014
His address to the Knesset this week was one of the greatest speeches ever delivered by a Canadian leader
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s address to the Israeli Knesset this week was one of the greatest speeches ever delivered by a Canadian leader, ranking (in content if not delivery, though that was quite adequate) with Sir John Macdonald’s defence of his conduct in the Pacific scandal in 1873, Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s parliamentary response to conscription in 1917, and Pierre E. Trudeau’s speech at the end of the Quebec sovereignty referendum campaign in 1980. The content of the Knesset speech was generally accurately reported in Canada, but not widely recognized as a brilliant address, as a great milestone in the rise of Canada as a power in the world, a clarification of the moral basis of this country’s foreign policy, and as an episode that brings distinction on the whole country.
 The prime minister emphasized the historic connection between our country and the Jews, who have been in Canada for 250 years. He said that the pride in Israel exhibited by Canada’s 350,000 Jews is perfectly compatible with their Canadian patriotism. This was a worthwhile rebuttal of the hackneyed claim that Jews are compromised by “divided loyalties.” In its most extreme form, this libel became the basis of Hitler’s charge of treasonous betrayal in World War I, and of Stalin’s infamous persecution of Jews as “rootless cosmopolitans.”

 Mr. Harper declared: “After generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and the right to live peacefully in that homeland.” It was on this basis exactly that the United Nations created Israel, as opposed to merely admitting it as a member state, as the UN’s five founding members did with Canada and the world’s other nations. In the aftermath of the genocidal murder of half the world’s Jews in the death camps of the Third Reich (along with 6-million non-Jews), it was agreed that the Jews should have a homeland in the land of Israel.

 All the efforts to float a pluralistic Palestine or an unlimited right of return to Israel for the Arabs and their descendants who fled Palestine when Israel was founded, would inundate Israel with hostile Arabs and convert the Jewish homeland into another opportunity to persecute a Jewish minority. They are, intentionally or otherwise, just attempts to reduce the Jews, one more time, to the status of a stateless and vulnerable minority. Two generations after the Holocaust, the Jewish homeland, a desert country the Jews have made fabulously successful, would be repealed and the Jews would be left once more at the mercy of their most zealous enemies.

 Stephen Harper made the point that “Canada supports Israel because it is right,” and he explained that in its history, Canada often has taken principled positions and made sacrifices, not because it was itself under threat, but because it was correct to do so. This was in fact what Canada did in both World Wars, where, in an act unprecedented in world history, Canada, Australia and New Zealand sent large numbers of volunteers to overseas wars to fight for the cause of freedom, although none of those countries was under any threat (except, more than two years after the outbreak of the Second World War, when Japan threatened Australia and New Zealand).

 Harper acknowledged that Canada had entered the Second World War against Nazi Germany despite our nation’s failure to assist the Jews being persecuted in the Third Reich in the 1930s. In this, he accepted the moral failure of Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King, who, like the British leaders in the thirties, did not lift a finger to assist the Jewish victims of the Nazis (in contrast to the United States, where Roosevelt admitted nearly 20% of Germany’s Jews to the United States, and almost 20,000 Austrian Jews in one stroke, after the German takeover of Austria, and without the congressional authorization that the law technically required; and withdrew his ambassador from Berlin after the unspeakable pogroms of Kristallnacht in November 1938).

 Though Canada supports Israel because it is the right thing to do morally, Harper made the point that it is also the right thing to do strategically, because Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, and democracy, as he told the Knesset, is the only method of “assuring human rights, political stability, and economic prosperity.” Moreover, “When democracy is threatened anywhere, it is threatened everywhere … by those who scorn modernity, loathe the liberty of others, and hold the cultures of others in contempt. [We must] stand up for a free and democratic Israel or our retreat in the world will begin.” This was essentially the point that brought Canada into the World Wars, and this position is consistent with our history and character.

 “The Canadian commitment to what is right applies no less to the Palestinians [and to Canada’s desire for] “a just and secure future for the Palestinian people,” Harper added. He also declared that when the borders of a Palestinian state are agreed to, Israel would be the first country to recognize it, but Canada will be the second.

 The prime minister thus recorded that the principal obstacle to a Palestinian state is not Israel, but the Arab powers. Arab leaders have used the tragic fate of the Palestinians, which they have prolonged and exacerbated by keeping them teeming in wretched refugee camps, to distract the Arab masses from the despotism the Arab leaders have inflicted on their peoples while inflaming the pan-Arab world with the red herring of Israel.

 Mr. Harper deplored that “the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel” has been compromised by world leaders’ and diplomats’ desire “to go along to get along” with Israel’s enemies, and that this practice is regularly represented as “balanced” or diplomatically “sophisticated.”

 “Intellectualized arguments thinly mask underlying realities,” he said. “Some openly call Israel an Apartheid state. Think about the 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 worst racist experiment in history” is assimilated to the racist oppressions of South African Apartheid. It is, he fairly stated, “sickening … For too many nations, it is still easier to scapegoat Israel than to emulate your success. It is easier to foster resentment and hatred of Israel’s democracy than it is to provide the same rights and freedoms to their own people.”

 As if to illustrate Stephen Harper’s point, two Arab members of the Knesset heckled and shouted at him as the rest of the members of Israel’s parliament applauded the visitor. Exercising democratic freedoms they would not have in ethnically more kindred states, the two legislators stormed out of the chamber, which rose en bloc to give the Canadian prime minister a prolonged standing ovation.

 Harper did not discuss the specific issues that are now invoked to prevent progress in peace discussions, particularly the West Bank settlements. Israel demonstrated in Sinai and Gaza that it will concede settlements for real peace, but in the face of Arab claims of predestined demographic victory over Israel, gradually expanding the settlements is the best bargaining pressure Israel can apply, since, as a democracy, it cannot expel, coerce, or ghettoize the Arabs.

 Nor can it engage in any more spurious land-for-peace arrangements such as Oslo, where land Israel gained in wars the Arabs started and lost is conceded for ceasefires of brief duration (if any). Yet the settlements issue is frequently invoked by those, including most of the Canadian foreign-policy establishment and the opposition Liberals and New Democrats, in pursuit of the spurious “moral relativism” and “sophistication” that Harper rightly debunked.

 The prime minister’s speech concluded: “In the democratic family of nations, Israel represents values which our government takes as articles of faith and principles to drive our national life.” Expressed in this way, Stephen Harper and John Baird’s Israel policy is the first serious occasion in Canadian history when this country has taken a position sharply at variance with the United States and most of Western Europe, without truckling to powers antagonistic to the West, as Pierre Trudeau did with his sophomoric posturing as a neutral arms-control-promoter. Stephen Harper has turned Canada into Israel’s greatest ally; aligned Canada with democracy against despotism, with international law and the better traditions of the United Nations against racism, bigotry, genocidal polemics and Holocaust denial; has called the United States and the European Union back to their former and rightful views; and erased the shame of the appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s by the King government.

 We have finally got beyond the self-righteous fairy tales about peacekeeping and “soft power.” (You don’t need peace-keepers in either peace, or war, and soft power works only when there is a hard-power alternative.) All Canadians are ennobled by this espousal of, as the Prime Minister described it, what is morally imperative and strategically wise in the world’s premier crisis area.

 “Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you,” he told the Israelis. All Canadians, including those who sympathize with the Palestinians, should support him.

(Reprinted with the kind permission of the author…Ed.)

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