Canada Stakes Out Strong Pro-Israel Stand
Best Buddies: Canada’s Stephen Harper has quietly turned into one of Israel’s strongest international supporters.
Toronto — Canada’s foreign affairs minister, John Baird, reacted swiftly last month when word reached him that the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to Ottawa had promoted a YouTube video in which a Palestinian girl urged sympathizers to “destroy the Jews.” Linda Sobeh Ali’s re-Tweet of the video, Baird made clear, had ended her credibility as a diplomat in Canada.
Canadian reaction did not shift when subsequent reporting clarified that the offensive English subtitle had mistranslated the girl, who actually called on sympathizers to support a war devoted to “destroying oppression and kill[ing] the soul of Zionism.” Ali herself apologized profusely, saying she had re-Tweeted the poem without actually viewing the video herself. But the P.A. was forced to call her home.
It was just the latest example of Canada’s staunch pro-Israel stand under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The flap followed on Canada’s strong opposition to the Palestinian statehood initiative at the United Nations in September, further underlining Ottawa’s reputation as the most pro-Israeli of Western governments.
Harper’s stands have yielded a notable political result. In elections last May, Canada’s Jewish community gave Harper’s Conservative Party a majority of its vote for the first time. It is the kind of shift American Jewish conservatives have long dreamed of, fruitlessly so far, for the Republican Party.
“It has to do with the policies of the Conservative government,” said Ed Morgan, a law professor at the University of Toronto and board member of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “If those stay pro-Israel, a lot of Jewish votes will probably continue to swing their way.”
“It’s not because the Conservatives love the Jews,” said Toronto lawyer Sam Goldstein, who was defeated when he ran as a Conservative for Parliament in 2006. “They support Israel because it’s the right thing to do.” He says Harper views Israel as a country that shares Canada’s commitment to Western democratic values.
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