'Canada stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel' - Macleans.ca

‘Canada stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel’

‘I want to depart from the traditional role as government spokesperson,’ John Baird said last night. Here’s his speech


The prepared text of John Baird’s speech at Jewish National Fund Negev Dinner last night.

Ambassador Ziv, Rabbis, Honoured guests:

Thank you for the warm welcome; I am truly humbled to be tonight’s honouree.

I want to begin by thanking tonight’s Dinner Chair Barbara Farber who has been a great friend and supporter of mine for many, many years. I am deeply grateful to you Barbara, your husband Len and your son Steven who recently served in my office. Your support and friendship over the years is deeply appreciated – as are all of your efforts in both the Jewish and general community.

Tonight, I want to try something different. I want to depart from the traditional role as government spokesperson.

Instead of sharing the views you’ve likely heard before – from me, the Prime Minister, or any of my Cabinet colleagues, who are all strong supporters of the Jewish State, I want to share something a little more personal.

I want to share reflections on how I came to be such a strong supporter of Israel and why Israel holds such a special place in my heart.

At the outset, let me just say that true friends are measured by whether they are there for you when you need them most…whether that support is steadfast, even when it’s not popular or expedient to do so.

And, as we have seen this last week, these are indeed challenging times.

Hamas is targeting innocent civilians with an onslaught of rockets. It’s a despicable act of terror, and yet, as Israel responds, as it has every right to, it is the target of condemnation.

Canada, however, stands by Israel’s side.

Sadly, doing so invites a litany of hatred. Moments after I put out a statement standing with Israel, supporting its right to defend itself, I received a barrage of vile reaction, most of which twisted the facts to such an extent, that truth was beyond recognition.

On Twitter, one person said I supported the burning of children in Gaza. Another accused me of playing settler-colonial diplomacy with the lives of Palestinians.

Views like this are rooted in ignorance, or worse…much worse.

In this context, my support for Israel is quite obvious, but it’s an explanation that calls on me to share some of my personal history.

I grew up right here in the Nation’s Capital. It was a peaceful, middle-class upbringing. In truth, it was a privileged existence and one I’m thankful to have had. I’ve lived my whole life in Nepean.

I’ve never had to fight to prove that I belong here…that this community defines who I am.

I’ve never had to fight a war to defend my right to live in this community.

I’ve never been exiled from my home.

I’ve never had to rebuild my nation.

I only point this out by way of contrast to the phoenix-like rising of the modern state of Israel, from a barren desert to the dynamic country we see today.

After 2,000 years of bitter exile, Zionism – the national expression of the Jewish people gave voice and shape to a dream that never left the Jewish conscience: the return of world Jewry to its ancestral homeland. It is quite simply breathtaking to behold what people like Theodor Herzl, Eliezer Ben- Yehuda and Chaim Weizmann accomplished against all odds. It’s simply a miracle to behold.

Seventy years ago, my grandfather left Canada to fight the Nazis in the Second World War. I’m deeply influenced by his contribution to combating an evil which sought to exterminate the Jewish people…that moment in history when the Devil almost drove a stake through the heart of humanity.

The heavy spirit, the knotted stomach, and the paralysis of shock I felt as I learned details of the horrors of the Nazi era have been ingrained in my soul; they shook me to my core and have become part of my DNA.

To think that humankind was so vulnerable, that a sick and flawed theory on racial supremacy could use the full might and power of a state in a twisted and depraved attempt to eradicate a whole race of fellow brothers and sisters…scarred me, and stays with me today.

My scar is merely figurative. It will never be as deep, or as real as the one that left its mark on a man I recently met in Boston…a Holocaust Survivor…a man who was thrown into the depths of hell and climbed back…a man, who like all European Jews, was targeted for merely existing.

After I spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, this gentleman approached me and told me something I’ll never forget. He clasped my shoulder from behind, slowly took my hand with both of his…looked me in the eye, and said “I wish there were more people like you before the war.”

I have never been prouder to be a member of Stephen Harper’s team; I have never felt a greater honour.

I tell you this story because just as I felt honoured, I also experienced deep sadness.

Yes, the horrors of the Holocaust are behind this one man. But the hatred that caused it, has cast itself in a new form.

Rather than target him personally, it targets the Jewish state.

That Israel is still the subject of hatred is deeply disturbing and one of the forces that drives my support for the Jewish State.

In choosing not to stand idly by as the age-old hatred of the Jewish people has been transferred to the “collective Jew,” I have been speaking up against the new anti-Semitism that is so pervasive today.

It targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world.

It is perversely couched in the language of human rights.

Just as conventional anti-Semitism denied Jews the right to live as equal members of humanity, the new anti-Semitism denies the State of Israel the right to live as an equal member of the international community.

It’s because of this distorted thinking that over one quarter of all UN resolutions condemning a state’s human rights violations have been directed at Israel.

It purposely blurs the lines between Palestinian civilians and Hammas terrorists.

It turns a blind eye to the fact that if any other state were suffering from terrorism as Israel does today; there would be no question of its right to defend itself.

This is a self-evident right, indeed a responsibility in every case except when the question turns to Israel’s obligation to protect its citizens from rockets attacks.

In the vernacular, Israel is portrayed as the aggressor because it fits the narrative ironically echoed by so much of the media: “It all began when Israel retaliated”…

Worse still, when this new anti-Semitism expresses itself in the call for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people, it is no longer hate-speech, it is incitement to genocide. And we have to name it for what it is.

We cannot dismiss the Iranian regime’s calls for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth as mere hyperbole.

History has taught us that genocide is preceded by hyperbole. In fact, the genocidal horrors of the Holocaust were made possible by the deliberate incitement of hatred against and demonization of the Jewish people.

Our job then, is to expose this new anti-Semitism for what it is.

For a country like Canada, the easy thing to do would be simply to go along with anti-Israeli sentiment, to get along with other countries.

It would be easier to pretend that engaging in anti-Israeli rhetoric is being somehow even-handed, and to excuse it under the false pretence of being an honest broker.

Yes, it would be much easier for us to simply “go along to get along.”

But as I have said frequently, Canada will not “go along to get along.” Not under this Prime Minister’s watch and most certainly not under my watch as Canada’s Foreign Minister.

Canada upholds Israel’s right to exist—as a Jewish state—in peace and security.

On this point, there is no space for moral equivocation or ambivalence. We are compelled as a country of free citizens to speak clearly.

We have the right, and therefore the obligation, to speak out and to act.

Canada will not accept the attempt to judge Israel by a different standard than any other state, we will not passively observe the effort to delegitimize and isolate it within the international community, nor will we stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory or its people.

Canada stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel.

Israel is an inspiration…the only democracy in the region…

It is a leading innovator in so many fields, despite so many challenges…

It is a champion of civil rights in a region that far too often defines repression…

Simply put, Israel is worthy of our support because it is a society that shares so many values with Canada – freedom…democracy… human rights and the rule of law.

And I’ve seen this first-hand.

As some of you know, Tel Aviv is one of my favourite cities in the world. Every time I visit the city, I am always impressed with the beautiful harmony with which Jews of different backgrounds and different levels of observance live together…a city that co-exists as its official name – Tel Aviv-Jaffa – with an Arab minority. I recall one Friday afternoon standing in the junction where the Carmel Market and Sheinkin Street meet, watching the microcosm of Israel playing itself out: Jews and Arabs interacting in the market; young secular men putting on a Tefellin at Chabad booths, people who were free to love who they love without any fear of persecution. As I took this all in, it reaffirmed what I already knew: those who label Israel a racist state are simply wrong.

Earlier I talked about the phoenix-like rising of Israel. Of course, we can’t talk about making something spectacular with nothing more than a vision, without talking about Tel Aviv and Meir Dizengoff.

He was a man with a bold vision to build a new Jewish city out of almost nothing – a city, I might add, that couldn’t have been built without JNF funds.

Dizengoff and Tel Aviv symbolize the rebirth of the Jewish people in their historical homeland.

As a city that absorbed so many Jews who survived the Holocaust, Tel Aviv’s founders built a city that became the financial and cultural centre of a nation reborn.

This is not merely a commercial place, but an emotional space, bearing a cosmopolitan presence mingled with pioneering memories.

Which gets us to the focus of this evening’s celebration: the important role of the JNF. Its contributions to the State of Israel are deeply connected to its rebirth. The JNF is unparalleled in its work, both in the historical role it played in the creation of Israel, and in the role it continues to play in bettering the quality of life within Israel – for all…rural and urban Israelis alike; Jewish, Arab and Christians alike.

I wouldn’t know as much as I do about the work of the organization were it not for my personal friendship with national director – Josh Cooper – who has been a friend of mine for over a decade. I commend the leadership of JNF for having selected such a capable and dynamic individual to lead the organization in Canada.

I’ll conclude by looking forward.

More than 60 years ago, Israel appeared as a light in a world emerging from darkness.

Against all odds – and despite concerted efforts by some – the light has not been extinguished.

It burns still.

And it burns ever brighter when upheld by the principles of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

There is room for more light in the world, especially as the darkness of swirling regional uncertainty threatens to close in.

Working together, we strengthen and affirm these important principles in word and deed.

And we declare our choice to use our freedoms and shared humanity for good.

May that light shine ever brighter.

Thank you.

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‘Canada stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel’

  1. This is missing the point by miles. Israelis are the aggressors, they occupied Gaza and stole the land by new settlements. To free themselves (referring to Palestinians) from this occupation you call the aggressors victims and the victims aggressors. What a shallow and sad argument indeed. No wonder you fail to see that the Zionist state is going down slowly but surely.

    • The Israelis pulled out of Gaza unilaterally in 2005, and sent the IDF in to forcibly remove all Israeli settlers who refused to leave voluntarily. There’s an argument to be made that Gaza should still be considered “occupied” given the Israeli control of their airspace, and embargo of their borders, but “settlements” haven’t been an issue in more than half a decade vis a vis Gaza.

  2. Baird is an extremist and thinks supporting the aggressors will fulfill some biblical prophecy and that somehow Jesus wants this.

    • On what planet are you living that the Israeli’s are the aggressors? Maybe if you actually followed current events you’d realize that Israel is simply responding to a MONTHS long series of rocket attacks on it’s civilian population. I suppose you’d suggest they just sit back and take it? Get a clue.

  3. Yes, how dare Hamas shoot rockets back at the people who are bulldozing their homes and give them no right to vote.

    • Unless you want to hold all Israelis personally culpable for the actions of the IDF and the Israeli government I’m almost certain that those rockets aren’t hitting “the people bulldozing their homes…”. Hell, at least one of Hamas’ rockets hit PALESTINIANS in the West Bank.

      • Did Israeli’s not elect their government? Did the government hide it’s intentions during the campaign?

        • I guess if you figure that Israeli civilians should just expect to have rockets fired at them because they elected Bibi, fair enough. If that’s how we’re going to look at it though, what should the Palestinians in Gaza expect, having elected Hamas?

  4. What a pandering fool. Unlike our government, I recognize that the mess in the middle east is not black-and-white, and that all sides are responsible for the violence and bloodshed. By so explicitly taking one side against the other, this government has largely squandered any credibility it may have had, and can’t expect to play any significant role in helping bring about meaningful change in the region.

    Israel DOES have the right to defend itself from terror attacks, but the Palestinians also have a right to security and to pursue their lives, safe from colonization and oppression, in a land of their own.

    The Harper government’s stance is an utter disgrace. The same way it would be if they were standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Hamas calling for the destruction of Israel.

    The situation is far too complex and nuanced for the likes of Baird, and invoking the spectre of anti-semitism to stifle any legitimate criticism of Israel is a tired old trick.

  5. True friends call their friends out when they are being dicks ” even when it’s not popular or expedient to do so.” Sometimes people lose sight of that, but those people must never ever be made foreign minister.

  6. So, is Baird the most undiplomatic Minister of Foreign Affairs we have ever had?

    • +1 – I can’t believe what just read. It’s absolutely nauseating. There is no nuance, nothing that approaches what might even be considered as diplomatic. It’s just pandering, world class ass kissing. I am so disgusted by this man — the fact that he is the Foreign Minister of Canada and that he claims to speak for Canadians.

      And I’m really not impressed by Baird’s effort to turn any criticism of Israel into the “new antisemitism”..

      Canada will be one of few countries that will vote against a Nov 29 UN General Assembly motion granting “Observer State” status to Palestine. Israeli’s Netanyahu has promised more settlement expansion if the vote carries. And Baird has ‘advised’ Abbas and the Palestinians, in his role as Foreign Minister, to just let the current peace process work.

      Maybe he’s after a ‘Statesman of the Year’ award like Harper.

      OK John Baird, give us your rendition of ‘Imagine’ – just like Stephen Harper did.

  7. By lying to Canadians about the racist bylaws and operations of the JNF, John Baird is promoting a tax fraud upon the Canadian Treasury. The racist nature of the JNF has been public knowledge in Israel and around the world for decades. Indeed in 2005, the Attorney General of Israel ruled that the Government of Israel will no longer do business with the JNF because of the discriminatory practices of the JNF, as clearly stated in the following articles from The Jewish Daily Forward:


    When John Baird says the JNF acts for “Jewish, Arab and Christians alike”, he is out and out lying, and he knows it.

  8. Canada will need the mother of all apology tours after these guys finally get out of office. I just keep telling myself “they’re micro-targetting certain ridings, it’s not real foreign policy…” over and over again.

  9. Islam is the extremist, Israel will prevail.

    • Yeah right, that’s why the Israeli’s keep sticking their fingers in the eyes of Palestinians by constructing settlements on their land right?

      The ONLY reason Zionists keep building there is because they believe the land is theirs. I mean what other conclusion could someone even come to? Who builds an entire community on someone else’s land, moves in and then defends it, if they don’t think they own it? How can anyone expect to negotiate a peace in good faith with that kind of nonsense going on?

      Meanwhile the Muslim hierarchy uses the confusion, the poverty, the ignorance and the indoctrinated religious servitude of Palestinians to push the people into acts of aggression, all of it made easier by Israel’s willingness to take advantage of the situation.

      Nobody has clean hands in that region at all, and its clear to any rational observer that both sides take advantage where they can. No one is interested in peace at all.

      • Not only did the Israelis pull out of Gaza unilaterally in 2005, they also sent the IDF in to FORCIBLY REMOVE all the Israeli settlers who refused to leave voluntarily.

        Settlements are still an issue broadly, but not wrt Gaza. Not only did the Israelis not “keep building” in Gaza, they forcibly tore down what the settlers had built, and they did that more than 7 years ago.

        • And what, you expect the Palestinians to understand the nuance of this? That settlements are still an issue, means that settlements are still an issue, and who knows when the Zionists will be able to bully another round into Gaza? The Zionist movement obviously still considers this THEIR land after all, and the Palestinians bloody know it. They have no reason at all to trust Israel’s word on anything.

          Do I expect Israel would get any traction either way? Probably not, but then they aren’t going to be able to do what they really need to do in any case, because the Zionist movement won’t let them.

          And that isn’t even approaching the issue that the Islamic right is even less likely to do what they would need to do in order to foster a peace.

          The religious crazies on both sides make all current approaches a complete impossibility.

          The only thing I could see working at all would be for the world to literally step in, separate these idiots, ensure they both have a working state and then stick around for at least a generation or two and ensure they leave each other the hell alone.

          Even then, the Muslims of the Middle east would likely start a war.

          So let’s be really really honest shall we? We never should’ve created Israel in the first place. It’s OUR fault. All the outcomes were predictable from the word go. We appropriated some land and gave it to the blood enemies of those in the region, and then act surprised that it resulted in massive ongoing bloodshed.

          And then we all want to pretend a solution of any kind is the least bit viable.

          Freaking briliant.

          • And what, you expect the Palestinians to understand the nuance of this?

            What’s to understand? The settlements used to be there, and NOW THEY AREN’T.

            I realize that people in Gaza may not have seen the same CNN footage that we did of the IDF subduing orthodox Jews in Gaza and forcibly removing them from their settlements (in some cases before bulldozing the settlements) but those scenes were happening IN GAZA. What subtle “nuance” would be involved in noticing that the settlers you were livid about all got dragged back across the border by the IDF and aren’t in Gaza anymore?

          • You’re applying the logic which comes with an informed and removed perspective, which is fine, but certainly doesn’t represent the average perspective there. After all, have they stopped building/expanding all settlements in the future state of Palestine? No. Thus, as you state, it’s still an issue in their minds.
            Moreover, as I pointed out, they have no reason to believe that significant segments of the Israeli voting population don’t still support “the return”–which they demonstrably do–and pretending that a simple removal therefore that can be counted on as permanent in any sense rings hollow.
            You pretend somehow that the factions there can be construed as “rational actors” when one can clearly demonstrate that this isn’t true in any sense.
            And so we return to the central point: the ideologues will ensure no lasting peace can hold, and while religion continues to have this sway, the problem will remain intractable.

    • With well informed and thought out comments like these, I don’t know why we have not attained peace in the region after 65 years of ‘disagreement’ and 35 years of occupation.

  10. Oh for the love of pete.

    So much time and energy expended in this nonsense. How much more will we waste?
    What I see are two groups who refuse to come to agreement, not because the problems involved are so intractable, but because the religious factions within each are bound and determined to have THEIR version of reality, THEIR version of prophecy, THEIR version of GOD, viewed as the only true one.

    You cannot argue with fanatics. It doesn’t matter what kind of fanatic your dealing with. It doesn’t matter that one cloaks itself faux-rationalism while the other claims victumhood, as this has nothing to do with WHY they continue to fight.

    Honestly, if not for religion this entire situation wouldn’t exist at all and would’ve been settled years ago.

    • I think you’re quite right to call it a never-ending quagmire with crazies on both sides, but reducing it to only religion is too simple. IF the issue was ONLY religion, or ONLY history, or ONLY politics, or ONLY economics, it probably would have been solved a long time ago.

      • I wouldn’t say it’s ONLY religion that is at issue here. However, it is obviously the key sticking point.

        After all, every other factor has obvious and reasonable solutions that both sides have agreed to in principle.

        However, unless or until the Muslims stop considering the Jews to be infidels that deserve to be wiped from the earth, and unless or until the Zionist voting block stops trying to engineer “the return” at any cost no matter how dire, nothing can be done. Nothing at all.

        So its not so much that religion is the only problem, but rather it is the key barrier–and an absolutist one at that–generating points of view so completely entrenched that it is unable to adapt or be rationalized, utterly preventing resolution of the other obvious problems.

        But this isn’t really so surprising is it? How can you expect rationality from people who can honestly look you in the eye and tell you GOD gave them this or that thing or piece of land? How can you expect rationality from people who take mythology seriously in any form?

        You can’t. You know it and I know it. And thus the problem.

    • Yup.

    • How much more time will take? Sadly, my ‘wager’ is on 23 more years.

      And I believe that ‘factions’ is the key word and the correct word in your submission.

  11. If we want God to bless our nation, we should continue supporting Israel……
    Genesis 12:3………
    I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

    • Is that sarcasm? Please tell me that’s sarcasm.

      • Did not God divide the land of Germany after they destroyed so many Jewish people…….

        • Um, no.

  12. Well written Mr. Baird, it is good to know your personal rationale behind the support of Israel is from the heart.

    • No, it’s from further down

      • Big toe?

        Knee cap?

        • Heh….pulling it out of his ass.

  13. John Baird does NOT speak for all Canadians. He needs a history lesson.

  14. The only reason anybody pays any attention to the ME is because of the oil.

    We dress it up with words like ‘democracy’ and ‘Jesus’ ….but it’s all about the oil and the bucks involved.

    If we found X….a new kind of fuel, tomorrow….we’d all be out of there two days later, and they could blow themselves to kingdom come after that for all anyone would care.

    • Theres no oil to exploit in the Levant. Next uninformed idea please

    • Maybe at one time. But in the last war we seemed to prefer paying obscene amounts of money to Qatar to build bases there for our decade long quagmire. Surely there must be more to it than “we need a dependent ally in the middle east because of its resources.”

      • Why would we need bases there if oil was useless?

  15. Baird is totally correct and has my total support.

    • Birds of a feather….

  16. The left in Canada and the west is so full of bull! You guys will go after the Israelis no matter what they do. You jerks would be only too happy to see all the Jews driven into the sea which has been the real arab goal since before 1948. You think that than the middle east will be calm if Israel disappears and the west just jumps through the arabs’ hoops. What garbage! In 1948, the arabs planned to fight each other over the land of Israel once they wiped out Jews. The Eygptians planned to take it for themselves. The same went for Jordan and its famed Arab Legion(the most professional of the arab forces). In Israel, you have a democracy where arab citizens vote, hold office, and enjoy a higher standard of living than anywhere else in the middle east. There are even arab parlimentarians who sit in Israel’s Knesset and call for the overthrow of the Israeli state. How tolerant have the Palestinians been to their Christian minority? How much is freedom of expression or freedom of the press allowed to those palestinians in Gaza who oppose Hamas? None, that I can see.The arab desire to kill Jews goes back before Israel was even a nation. Read up on the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who was an ally of Hitler. Or how about the division of Muslims who fought for Hitler in WW2 and was guilty of quite a few war crimes? The sad truth is that much of the modern left is anti-semitic(that and your love of big government gives you two things in common with your buddy Hitler). Also, the modern left operates under the bias that the palestinians are an oppressed third people and therefore their bad behavior must be held to a different standard than a first-world state like Israel. Therefore, the left ignores such things as the many Jews that immigrated to Israel after the middle eastern countries they were born in seized all their wealth and gave them the option of leaving or dying. Or how about the fact that Israelis worked hard and grew their country rom 1948-1967 while arab armies and irregulars regularly shelled them(especially from theGolan Heights), sniped at them(anti-sniper barriers in Jerusalem from1948-1967) and conducted cross border raids(often killing unarmed women and children? Oh yeah EmilyOne, there are other energy options to middle east oil. One is the oil sands and the other is the shale drilling(two things that your leftist buddies want to shut down). Hey, but why let logic get in the way of leftist doctrine? To the modern left, the best buddies radical islamists have!

    • Nice rant I guess, as far as insane non sequiturs go anyway.

      We–the west–took a people we nearly let die to the last man and stuck them in a region surrounded by enemies who hate them more than hitler and have even less compunction about wiping them out. Big favour we did them there eh?

      Short of all out war in which we wipe out the Muslims in the middle east then, what’s YOUR bloody solution?

      • He wants to wipe out all the Muslims.

    • I was going to address this rather unhinged rant (ever heard of paragraphs?), but you broke the “Hitler rule”. By invoking the Fuhrer to slander those you don’t agree with, you have renounced your right to be taken seriously. And Hitler as a leftist? Idiot.

  17. Being head of Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry it’s clear that he must be fully briefed on what is happening Middle East. Given that, it’s incredible that he can take such a one sided, good vs evil view.

    Mr Baird is an embarrassment, and is unfit to represent Canada internationally.

  18. “After 2,000 years of bitter exile, Zionism – the national expression of the Jewish people gave voice and shape to a dream that never left the Jewish conscience: the return of world Jewry to its ancestral homeland. ”

    A 2,000 year old cultural link to the land (there is no verifiable ancestral link, since people marry/convert into/out-of religions) did NOT give European Jews a right to the land under any international convention of self-determination.

    This is an absurd justification for supporting the creation of Jewish state on a land that in 1850 was 90-95% non-Jewish.

    It’s like the other inhabitants of 19th century Palestine didn’t matter. This is a flagrantly racist ideology of aggression and denial of human rights.

    • Yup, a decision made by guilt ridden western leaders who gave into religious stupidity, ultimately creating a massive issue that has gone for and will go on for generations.