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In historic speech to Knesset, Canadian PM Harper argues criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic

It is poetic that on Martin Luther King’s day, Prime Minister Stephen Harper should make such a declaration in the spirit of Martin Luther King, a fierce Zionist.

Speaking at the annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly in 1968, Dr. King said:

“The response of some of the so-called young militants does not represent the position of the vast majority of Negroes. There are some who are color-consumed and they see a kind of mystique in blackness or in being colored, and anything non-colored is condemned. We do not follow that course … Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”

“In historic speech, Harper argues criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic,” Sun News, January 20, 2014

JERUSALEM — In a historic speech to the Knesset here, Prime Minister Stephen Harper provided his clearest rationale yet for his decision to be Israel’s strongest friend on the global stage and went so far as to argue that criticism of the state of Israel amounts anti-Semitism.

Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to address the Israeli legislature. The chamber was filled with MKs — members of the Knesset — and the galleries were filled as well with more than 200 members of the prime minister’s official Canadian delegation.

In the speech, Harper explained why Canada supports Israel and, in doing so, made an argument for why other Western democracies ought to do the same.

“Because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland,” according to a copy of the speech provided to journalists beforehand.

“Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so. This is a very Canadian trait, to do something for no reason other than it is right even when no immediate reward for, or threat to, ourselves is evident.”

Harper said Canada has a long history of supporting democracy, human rights, freedom and the rule of law.

“It is, thus, a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.”

If Canadians accept that principle, Harper argued, then Canada must stand for Israel, the only country in this part of the world that shares Canada’s values.

“Either we stand up for our values and our interests, here, in Israel — stand up for the existence of a free, democratic and distinctively Jewish state — or the retreat of our values and our interests in the world will begin.”

Harper then said Canada’s support for Israel translates into action in three ways.

“Our view on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and nonnegotiable,” Harper said, listing the first principle.

Second, Harper said Canada will fight for Israel “to enjoy the full measure of its sovereignty” at the United Nations. Currently, Israel is excluded from many regional councils and, by extension, cannot be a member of bodies, such as the Security Council, which reserves seats for representatives from various regional bodies.

Finally, he said his support for Israel means Canada will refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage.

“It is all too easy ‘to go along to get along’ and single out Israel,” Harper said.

Others who do that, Harper said, end up on a slippery slope of moral relativism.

“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,” Harper said.

Harper said this new anti-Semitism disguises itself in language that pretends to be “sophisticated” or as “intellectualized arguments against Israeli policies.”

He said “this is the face of the new anti-Semitism.”

Finally, he argued that criticism of the state of Israel is itself anti-Semitic and therefore hateful.

“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?”

The following is the full transcript of remarks made by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Israel’s Knesset on January 20th, 2014.

“Shalom.

“And thank you for inviting me to visit this remarkable country, and especially for this opportunity to address the Knesset.

“It is truly a great honour.

“And if I may, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my wife Laureen and the entire Canadian delegation, let me begin by thanking the government and people of Israel for the warmth of your hospitality.

“You have made us feel extremely welcome.

“We have felt immediately at home.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Canada and Israel are the greatest of friends, and the most natural of allies.

“And, with your indulgence, I would like to offer a reflection upon what makes the relationship between Canada and Israel special and important because the relationship between us is very strong.

“The friendship between us is rooted in history, nourished by shared values, and it is intentionally reinforced at the highest levels of commerce and government as an outward expression of strongly held inner convictions.

“There has, for example, been a free trade agreement in place between Canada and Israel for many years an agreement that has already proved its worth.

“The elimination of tariffs on industrial products, and some foodstuffs, has led to a doubling in the value of trade between our countries.

“But this only scratches the surface of the economic potential of this relationship and I look forward to soon deepening and broadening our mutual trade and investment goals.

“As well, our military establishments share information and technology.

“This has also been to our mutual benefit.

“For example, during Canada’s mission to Afghanistan, our use of Israeli-built reconnaissance equipment saved the lives of Canadian soldiers.

“All such connections are important, and build strong bridges between us.

“However, to truly understand the special relationship between Israel and Canada, one must look beyond trade and institutions to the personal ties of friendship and kinship.

“Jews have been present in Canada for more than 250 years.

“In generation after generation, by hard work and perseverance, Jewish immigrants, often starting with nothing, have prospered greatly.

“Today, there are nearly 350,000 Canadians who share with you their heritage and their faith.

“They are proud Canadians.

“But having met literally thousands of members of this community, I can tell you this:

“They are also immensely proud of what the people of Israel have accomplished here of your courage in war, of your generosity in peace, and of the bloom that the desert has yielded, under your stewardship.

“Laureen and I share that pride, the pride and the understanding that what has been achieved here has occurred in the shadow of the horrors of the Holocaust;

“the understanding that it is right to support Israel because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland.

“Let me repeat that: Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so.

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