Why Israel has a friend in Harper

WELLS: Canada has been silent on the debate over Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound ship


Amir Cohen / Reuters

Most of the world didn’t notice where Benjamin Netanyahu was standing when he announced he was cancelling his White House visit to handle the crisis over the bloodbath on the Gaza flotilla. But of course he was in Ottawa. Stephen Harper was standing beside him. The location was no accident. And it makes this week’s deadly confrontation between Israeli commandos and the people on those boats a Canadian story, too.

This is the second time a Canada visit by Netanyahu was disrupted. A mob of demonstrating students and agitators forced the cancellation of his speech at Concordia University on Sept. 9, 2002. Netanyahu’s visit this week was his first to Canada since that fiasco. A lot has changed in the meantime.

The Economist chronicled some of the changes in an article last week, calling the two countries “unlikely allies.” It quoted Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s hardline foreign minister: “It is hard to find a country friendlier to Israel than Canada these days . . . No other country in the world has demonstrated such a full understanding of us.”

The Economist’s piece lists the elements of the Harper-Israel rapprochement, including his description of Israel’s behaviour during its 2006 war against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon as “measured,” and his government’s decision to halt core funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, a move the U.S. has not matched. The magazine even mentioned Harper has cut funding to Kairos, the ecumenical Christian charity, “alleging that the group was anti-Semitic.” This led Alykhan Velshi, the communications director for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, to exalt on Twitter: “The PM’s principled foreign policy getting noticed!”

Which is odd, because the last time somebody—the Toronto Star—asserted it was allegations of anti-Semitism that got Kairos its funding cut, his boss Kenney wrote to the Star to insist nothing could be further from the truth. “I did not accuse Kairos of being anti-Semitic,” he wrote. “A cost-sharing program with Kairos was not approved because it did not meet CIDA’s current priorities, such as increased food aid.”

Which is odd, because 12 days before he told the Star he didn’t call Kairos anti-Semitic, Kenney was in Jerusalem calling Kairos anti-Semitic. “We have implemented a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism,” he said. “What does this mean? We have defunded organizations, most recently like Kairos, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott.”

Back when Brian Mulroney was PM and national unity was the hot topic, ministers only had to travel as far as Montreal to say the opposite of what they were saying in Ottawa. These days double-talk requires a passport. One of the first reports of changes to the board of Rights and Democracy ran in the Jerusalem Post under the signature of Gerald Steinberg, a conservative Israeli analyst who’s a friend of the new Rights and Democracy chairman, Aurel Braun. Steinberg’s entire thesis was that the changes at the agency are part of a Harper government realignment of policy on the Middle East away from criticism of the Israeli government. It was, he said, all about the Middle East.

Steinberg’s column has not been rebutted by Rights and Democracy. But when layabouts like me started taking his argument at face value, we were harshly lectured by Braun and crew in the National Post, under the headline, “It’s not about the Middle East.” Perish the thought. “Conflict entrepreneurs in the Canadian and Middle East political trenches could not resist interfering,” Braun and his loyal board colleagues sniffed.

We are being given the runaround. The Harper government is advertising a much harder line on Israel to allies there and at home than it is willing to admit to the broader public. This is not quite what a principled foreign policy looks like. But then, the Harper government often advertises how much fight it has in it, while preferring to avoid fights.

The Rights and Democracy transformation was all plenty of fun until it received too much scrutiny in unusual places, like this column. That troubled agency has been awfully quiet lately. In mid-February its new rulers announced they were “acting to ensure financial transparency” by commissioning a financial audit by Samson Belair/Deloitte & Touche. Results were promised within two weeks. It will soon be four months, and the Deloitte audit is nowhere to be seen.

But I digress. On the crisis at hand, the Gaza flotilla violence that my colleague Michael Petrou chronicles elsewhere in this issue, there is a very robust debate, everywhere, about whether it makes a grain of sense to airlift commandos onto a ship in international waters as an effective expression of any country’s national sovereignty. Or whether the resulting lopsided carnage either reflects Israelis’ respect for human rights or advances their strategic interests. That debate is rampant, today, in the cafés and newspaper columns of Israel.

But there is silence from the government of Canada and a conspicuous silencing wherever the government of Canada can extend its influence. Ze’ev Sternhell, a leading authority on fascism, wrote in Ha’aretz that elements of the Netanyahu government have endorsed “a crude and multifaceted campaign . . . against the foundations of the democratic and liberal order.” In Israel, Sternhell survived a pipe-bomb attack by a crazed settler. In Canada, I think he’d have his funding cut off if he were a prominent member of an NGO.


Why Israel has a friend in Harper

  1. "This is not quite what a principled foreign policy looks like."

    Unless you accept that lying is a principle of the Harper Government (see Harper, Cannon, Kenney, etc. for examples).

    "It will soon be four months, and the Deloitte audit is nowhere to be seen."

    If you want to see it in a year or two, file an Access to Information Request.

  2. The article, while interesting, doesn't exactly address the issue posed to in the title: Why DOES Israel have such a good friend in Harper?

    • I was thinking the exact same thing…

      • I thought it was quite clear: because he is advertising a harder line than he is willing to admit. They are more pro-Israel, and doing more, than is considered seemly to admit in Canada by many. And Israel likes it.

        EDIT: Oh wait, now I understand. There's no explanation of why Harper is doing this. Sorry for my confusion. :)

    • Well there are people that would say it's because Harper is a religious fanatic involved with groups that advocate the inevitable apocalypse and so on…

      I think the article tries to stay away from such assumptions and simply indicates that the government's actions speak very loudly: the CPC is sold to Israel. Why try to figure out why when we don't have the facts? These kinds of debate always end with name calling.

      • I believe the answer to WHY Harper is so pro-Israeli is easy. His base is the Western Christians. By supporting Israel, he is increasing his support amongst the aging religious folk. By supporting Israel, he isn't losing votes amongst the pro-sanity crowd, as they already are either looking for alternatives, fed up with Iggy and Jack, or live in Quebec.

    • You're all looking for complicated answers, but it's simple. Right-wingers are supposed to like/support Israel, so they do. No critical thinking involved. It's like asking someone from Montreal why they cheer for the Canadiens.

      • It really has become part of the culture war (I'm surprised David didn't mention the 'War on Christmas' ;-)

    • Mike T, the reason why Israel is such a good friend of Canada's is because we have common values and enemies. And also, Israel is the only DEMOCRATIC nation in the middle east. Oh, all you anti-Israel people forget this FACT.
      Do you remember 9-11? How about these Toronto 18 Terrorists. Or the London bombing. They all have the same common denominator…. Their religion. RED FLAG!!!!
      Mark Styne is right. I suggest you pick up his book and educate yourself!

      • Styne? Or do you mean R. L. Stine? I loved those Goosebump books!

      • Poor fellow wandered out of the Steyn section and couldn't find his way back in.

      • As counter-argument to your points:

        Hamas was democratically elected.

        Timothy McVeigh.

    • Really ? Why does Harper do anything ? Winning electoral coalition, of course. He wants Jewish voters to vote Conservative rather than Liberal.

      • What? Harper is involved in some type of electoral coalition?

    • The Harpers would support any far right government. They are neo-conservatives and the more neo-conservative the Isreali government gets the better.

      Support for Isreal is more than an electoral strategy. The Harpers like Netanyahau. They beleive his approach is the correct one and are probably a little jealous they cannot act more like him in Canada. And that is why they are danagerous. Because they believe their stupid crap is actually really smart.

      Harper had a hissy in the House of Commons when Canada didn't stand shoulder to shoulder with Bush and invade Iraq. So what do you expect? He's a moron.

  3. "The Economist chronicled some of the changes in an article last week, calling the two countries “unlikely allies.”"

    Canada is the fourth most Jewish country in the world, doesn't seem that unlikely to me.

    "That debate is rampant, today, in the cafés and newspaper columns of Israel. But there is silence from the government of Canada"

    The Canadian media is I think regarded as the, um, most silent media in the entire world on the Israel issue, they should bear most of the blame. Although that is changing,. Thomas Walkom's recent piece in the Star was extraordinary and courageous.

    I'd like to add 3 points: one, Canada's voting record at the UN on Israel matters began to shift under Martin and before Harper. Two, there is this quote from an Israeli consul general suggesting both the Liberals and Conservative are basically the same on Israel: "Canada is today a very close friend of Israel, with both a friendly government and opposition. We just had the premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, in Israel,” Gissin said. – http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?i…. Three, the Liberal party has traditionally been the party of Jewish Canadians, whose support of the Liberals has been nearly unmatched, witness Irwin Cotler's record breaking pluralities in winning his seats. While some of that support has bled Conservative, Jews still by and large support the Liberal party and always will I suspect. With high profile Jews very sympathetic to Israel like Bob Rae and Irwin Cotler in their caucus I don't see how it is possible they would be tougher on Israel than the Conservatives, with the notable exception of Iggy, who not long ago wrote that a military solution should be imposed on Israel. Nuclear armed Israel.

    The activists who were killed by Israelis did not die in vain. Things are changing and Israel has never been so isolated.

    • Canada is the fourth most Jewish country in the world.

      What does that mean?

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews#Demographics. Note that by percentage of population we'd actually be the third most Jewish country behind only Israel and USA; I was using absolute numbers.

        Wells wrote a good piece I think but he didn't answer his own question, ie why Israel has a friend in Harper. I think this data is relevant to answering that question.

    • But most Jewish people do not vote according to how a political party treats Israel. In the United States most Jewish people vote Democrat, despite the Republican Party being close to the Likud and Israel's far right. Under George W Bush the Republicans share the Jewish vote actually dropped.

      Historically, most Jewish people have voted for moderate political parties like Canada's Liberal party. The reasons why are obvious. The Liberals were traditionally the party of Catholics and various immigrant communities, many of whom were Catholics, while the Tories were the party of white Protestants, making the Liberal party more receptive to immigrants and sympathetic to their concerns – making them doubly attractive to Jewish voters.

      Harper's embrace of Israel is probably more reflective of his neo-conservatism than his electoral cynicism and his electoral cynicism is massive.

      • "But most Jewish people do not vote according to how a political party treats Israel."

        Interesting theory, but there'd have to be some difference between the parties on Israel to test this theory, and as my quote above demonstrates, there isn't, either in Canada or the States.

        Grits, page 100: "The party's Montreal organizers thought that (Trudeau) wouldn't be acceptable in any of the available French-Canadian ridings because of his anti-clerical reputation, so a complex arrangement was worked out with the Montreal Jewish community's Liberal elder statesman, Lazarus Phillips." In other words, he was too radical to be elected anywhere but an ethic community with a history of radical politics, not very different from Justin running in Papineau, as it happens. I'm not sure where "moderate" enters the equation here.

  4. I was doing alright with this article until the last paragraph when you suddenly throw a bunch of unrelated bits together, with the result of somehow smearing Harper as a fascist, and that cutting off funding is as heinous an act as firebombing someone.

    Also, you quote a "leading authority on fascism". Who comes up with this designation? I can forgive CNN and Fox for spontaneously dubbing someone a "leading authority" based on their being the only talking head they can find at five minutes notice, but in article like this, it looks like a bit lame.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeev_Sternhell

      There's a little too much to summarize effectively, but it's certainly worth reading for anyone who suspects Sternhell as a viable authority.

  5. So many misguided souls who simply don't have the wherewithall to understand or believe Israel will be blown off the map IF their maniacal friends win. War may start in the middle east but with the divergent opinions here it won't be long until we are involved, likely amongst ourselves. The race to the bottom continues.

    • one of the few sensible comments here.

    • You're probably right. If the people of Gaza were allowed food, medicine and cement it wouldn't be long before Israel completely disappeared.

      • It's not the food they are worried about (or stopping for that matter) as evidenced by their policy of transporting goods once inspected on to the strip) it's the missiles and various other naughty bits that accompany the food that are the problem.

        • can i ask about something…….
          who deserves the land of "israel" ?????
          please give a reasonable answer based on facts , !!!!!

    • Right… well in that case why doesn't Netanyahu (and Harper) come out and admit that he doesn't favor a two-state solution, but a one-state solution: Israel. This slippery/cowardly doublespeak is something both governments hold in common, apparently. Probably because most of their policies couldn't survive open debate and discussion… so instead things are implemented secretively and incrementally.

      You are quite right that it won't be long before the conflict spreads here… the longer a lasting resolution is put off, the more instability and insecurity will be felt elsewhere. It's bad for everybody and it needs to be resolved.

  6. We finally have a leader who supports its allies. Boogard is correct about the shift starting with Martin. Cretien was NO friend of Israel, he shook hands with a terrorist (the Hamas leader during the Francophone conference). Good for Mr. Harper!! We have a lot in common with Israel: common enemies, technology, trade, etc. We have NOTHING in common with these backward Muslim countries, they want to control the world. Keep up the good work Mr. Harper!!!

    • Allies my ass, Israel is a beggardly third world nation with no constitution, no trial by jury, a heavily censored (by the military) press, a unicameral legislature based on PR – an abstraction of democracy – and is the most widely villified state on the planet due entirely to their actions. They are heavily dependent on foreign aid, they are not part of NATO, their level of corruption in government is orders of magnitude greater than Canada's, and have never fought side by each Canadian or American troops in battle. They are not allies in any way, shape, or form. Wells' invocation of fascism is actually legit in this instance; Avigdor Lieberman and his party are race-based nationalists with little regard for democracy or international norms.

      Are they a liability to the USA and Canada? Let's ask the Mossad chief:

      "Mossad Chief Meir Dagan said on Tuesday that Israel is progressively becoming a burden on the United States.

      "Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden," said Dagan, speaking before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

      Canada's support of Israel's ghastly actions does in fact seriously erode our standing in the world and it also jeopardizes the safety of Canada and Canadians. Tell you what: if Israel and Israelis donate billions of dollars to Canada to help us in our time of budgetary crisis I might consider them friends or even allies, but as it stands it is a one way street, with Israel leeching money and our reputation and Canada getting nothing but grief in return.

      • Boogard, do you know what a third world nation is? All you have to do is go to Israel and see its neighbours. You talk about censorship, how about these backward Muslim countries?? How about the recent Danish cartoon incident? How about the latest South Park incident where they dipicted Mohommed?? PLEASE!!!
        Nice quote. I can find a quote as well endorsing Israel by someone in Syria or Iran if needed.
        Does a third world nation have technology like Israel? Do they develop technologies like Israel?
        Your anti-Israel comments are pathetic and only support those Muslim terrorists.
        Think about this next time you turn on your computer using INTEL technology, this technology was developed in Israel.

    • Who exactly are our common enemies?

      • Evil ;)

    • I've seen your comments on other articles relating to the subject, and, although I'm not surprised, with a name like yours – you are ignorant and bigoted.
      Although I don't necessarily side with "backward Muslim countries," Netan-yahoo and the right-wing Israeli government is just as much a terrorist organization as any other group in this conflict, and disproportionately so. They just happen to be funded by rich western allies (including our tax dollars). You and Harper may have a lot in common with Israel, but many Canadians do not, and many of them are even from your so-called backward countries, or are simply well-educated and free-thinking.
      Harper has done very little good work for Canada, unless you are white, rich, conservative, and want to control the world (or, at least, Canada).

      • I don't hate white people – I am white.

        I do dislike conservatives who prop up Harper and scream all-caps profanities. I'm disappointed, your previous post was so much more enlightened.

      • Justin, great comment given you never met me. Ignorant! How??
        I agree that the right wing movement in Israel are not as flexible as the rest of the population, but labelling them as terrorists is wrong.
        And these backward Muslim countries do not get UN support that we pay into???
        At least now we Canadians have a leader that is not a disgrace to the rest of the world (i.e. Cretien!)

    • um <raises hand politely> Turkey is an ally too.

    • "he shook hands with a terrorist "

      And while the US fought for and won it's Freedom (the American Revolution), those same Yanks were labelled 'terrorists' by the British. So what exactly is your point? By my estimation, even Harper has shaken hands with the leaders of the US. Or is it different now that they are so powerful? If a terrorist is someone who is under-funded, under-armed and who still fights with whatever they got, then every underdog in the world is a terrorist. It's time we start backing the 'little guy' rather than the 'big powerful guy'. Heck, even if you're jewish, dont you revere David more than you do Goliath? Funny thing is Israel IS Goliath now, and they dont even seem to realize that. Or perhaps they do, and that is the ultimate irony in it all? Im glad Chretien chose the side he did, just as I am glad he kept us out of Iraq. After all I've seen and heard, HArper and Cannon are talking puppets for the Jewish Lobby. And that does not define 'leader' to me.

      • Further to my comment on 'terrorists', Ill compare the reasons why the British deemed the yanks to be terrorists, with how we label terrorists in our society today: The main reason for the labelling in the late 18th century was simply because the US, unable to fight the british fight (, dominated by numbers, lining up in rows and rows, firing innaccurate weapons at an opposing 'line' and hoping for the best) quickly adapted and found their own way to fight the war – Guerilla tactics. Surprising and raiding convoys en route to the battlefield; fighting in close quarters amongst trees and overgrowth; CAMOUFLAGE!!! These drastic changes to the way wars were previously fought left the British unable to plan, defend or attack according to their standard rules of engagement. Thus, they labelled their opponents 'savage' and 'ruthless'. Now compare that to what our North American Leaders claim about 'radicals' in the Middle East. The parallels are shocking. My how quickly the Americans forget their ancestry. And as for us Canadians, we shoulda stuck to peace keeping. Thats what the world needs more than wars.

  7. "A mob of demonstrating students and agitators forced the cancellation of his speech at Concordia University on Sept. 9, 2002. Netanyahu's visit this week was his first to Canada since that fiasco."

    Are you sure? I swear I remember seeing him doing a one-on-one with Michael Coren while he was still opposition leader and the vote was at least a year away. Maybe 3 years ago? Definitely not 8 years ago.

  8. Stick to hockey.

  9. I believe that Mr. Harper is pandering to the religious right who form an important part of his grassroots support. They would be terribly unhappy with Mr. Harper should he take a stance that was critical of Israel in any way. While our PM is able to keep his agenda under cover much of the time, it is his view on Israel in this situation that show us his true leanings.

    • This answers the WHY, if anyone was still guessing.

  10. Wealthy well fed Europeans and Americans vactioning in other people's misery. These people are despicable and dangerous; their anti semitism and anti Americanism are very well displayed. The Irish might have an excuse after all they absolutely wallow in terrorism in between getting peace prizes from Norway. Israel should stand up to these soldiers of Allah and not let them spread their vicious world view on anyone but their rich friends in Washington DC and Los Angeles.

  11. Not going to get into the debate here, since the debate never seems to end anyway…

    I just wish to voice my support for the Israelis and I pray that Harper stands strong in his support of Israel as well.

    • The essence of the conflict: don't debate it, just pray.

    • And hey! Why bother educating yourself, when you can form rash, poorly-informed opinions, and throw your hands together in prayer instead? It amazes me, with all of the inteelect in this world, that religions still exist! i understand the personal faith aspect (as I am a VERY faithful person), but the majority of "mainstream" religions in this world today are no different than you're standard, drink-the-blue-koolaid cult that spends it's entire existence convincing people like yourself that you're right and everyone else is wrong. There's lots of good things in religion, but nowadays, those good points are seriously over-shadowed by the greed and power of a small group who utilize religion to keep people like Ryan 'under control'. Wake up, you have strings in your back, puppet!

  12. "wake me up when the shooting starts (and the arabs get their asses handed to them again)"

    Dude, that's exactly what happened. 9 of 'em (this time). Wake up already! That goes for the rest of you, Canada!

    • They were Turks, not Arabs.

    • Yeah, not a bad article. However I am loathe to admit that Palestinians renouncing 'terrorism' is reasonable. When the article labels their politically elected leaders as terrorists, I think it has missed the boat. In reality, if you are to make that statement, you must make the same for Israel – condemn it's elected leaders as terrorists, because surely it's easy to see how many more PAlestinians die each year at the hands of ISraeli's, when compared to the number of ISraeli's who lose their life at the hands of palestinians (the numbers arent even within an order of magnitude). And all those deaths are based on random, innaccurate rocket fire that is RARELY corroborated, nevermind being an effective tool of Palestinians. There is a fine line that shouldnt be crossed, but once you call one side of the 'war' terrorists, you have chosen your side. This is a war, and there are two sides. One side is superior to the other, and I expect nothing less fro mthe weak, when faced with the oppression that is forced upon them. Fighting a war on your own land should never be considered terrorism. PEriod.

  13. Results were promised within two weeks. It will soon be four months, and the Deloitte audit is nowhere to be seen.

    Maybe I'm nitpicking here, but they actually said three weeks. From the February 19th press release:

    Samson Belair/Deloitte & Touche representatives will begin the audit immediately, and expect to report with recommendations in three weeks. Results will be made public as soon as possible after the report is accepted by the board of directors, Gauthier said.

    Of course, since more than fifteen weeks have now passed, it hardly seems to matter. What happened to the frickin' audit, Mr. Gauthier?

    • Was it you that mentioned once to be cautious about journalists who use three ellipses?

      Full quote from the Economist article (the unquoted clause replaced by the three ellipses by Wells are bolded)

      “It is hard to find a country friendlier to Israel than Canada these days,” said Avigdor Lieberman, Mr Netanyahu's ultranationalist foreign minister, on a trip to Ottawa last year. “No other country in the world has demonstrated such a full understanding of us.” http://www.economist.com/world/americas/displayst

      Golly gee! The way Wells quoted it, you'd think Lieberman was talking in context about the recent boarding of the Gaza bound ship, and R&D.

      And what to make of the fact that the Economist articloe was written in Ottawa? Another member of the cliquish PPG free lancing? Yeah to Manufactured Consent!

      But, to give Wells the credit he is due, he did keep his word. Three weeks ago to the date today, he tweeted that he would blog about R&D unless the board released the audit. The catastrophe in the Mediterranean was a bonus, and provided a convenient subtitle. I believe it is called a "hook" in the business.

  14. The Guardian reports that of the nine activists known to be killed (six are still missing) only one had a single gunshot wound. The nine bodies had a total of thirty gunshot wounds. Some of them were shot in the back of the head.

    It was not self-defense, it was murder.

    • "…The results revealed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back…"

  15. whether it makes a grain of sense to airlift commandos onto a ship in international waters as an effective expression of any country's national sovereignty. Or whether the resulting lopsided carnage either reflects Israelis' respect for human rights or advances their strategic interests.

    Talk about totally missing the point. The blockade has nothing to do with sovereignty. Secondly, there was no carnage until this particular boat came along. Thirdly, it has nothing to do with national interests.

    It has everything to do with safety. It's the same reason there is airport security with x-ray machines. Israelis are tired of missiles raining down on their towns and their heads. It's about dead Israelis. It's about safety. That is what it's about, and there's never been any indication otherwise. Wells thinks he's cornered the market on being disingenuous.

    Is Wells suggesting the airport x-ray machine is an expression of Canada's sovereignty, or is it just a safety measure? Is the airport x-ray machine an advancement of Canada's national interest?

    • How many people have airport x-ray machines shot?

      • You missed the analogy. I'll have to spell it out for you. The xray machine is the blockade. The terrorist walking through the machine with a bomb is the terrorist on the boat hiding his Iranian-supplied missiles.

  16. If one has to choose sides between Israel and Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah, the choice is patently obvious, if you beleive in democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, equality of the sexes (the list goes on), in short democratic and western values, you back Israel.

    if you reject those things you back Hamas and Hezbollah, and return to an age of darkness. We've had one Holocaust in the 1940's, which was arguably the lowest point in recorded human history. Opposing Iran and its proxies in trying for an encore is a duty to not only our brothers and sisters in Israel but to all humankind.

    • jarrid, if one has to even think there is a choice between Israel and Hamas-Hezbollah, there us something wrong.

      • I agree. And I also think there is something wrong with why so many people fail to see it that way.

        Many Canadians are woefully ignorant of what's happening in the Middle East. The media doesn't help cure the ignorance either. Hezbollah and Hamas have completely radicalized southern Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. Iran is using Palestinians for their own demented ends. People don't seem to get that, including, sad to say, people like Paul Wells. He thinks the Conservative Party's support for Israel is because of the influence of social conservatives in the party. Chantal Hebert thinks the same way,actually makes reference to it on her blog today. I appreciate Middle East politics isn't Paul and Chantal's area of expertise but one hardly needs to be an expert to see what's happening out there.

        Harper's stance on Israel has everything to do with clear-minded rational behaviour based on a full understanding of the facts and the stakes in the middle east. You certainly don't need to be a social conservative to appreciate those things. Your reference to Peter Kent's speech underlines this rather nicely. Peter Kent hardly strikes me as a social conservative.

        • "Harper's stance on Israel has everything to do with clear-minded rational behaviour based on a full understanding of the facts and the stakes in the middle east."

          Harper's stance on Israel has nothing to do with anything other than a willingness to do and say whatever it takes to win elections.

          • That's a pretty cynical comment. Also, I don't think it makes all that much sense. Jews tend to vote for left of center parties, the Democratic Party in the U.S. and the Liberal Party in Canada. And I should probably add overwhelmingly tend to vote that way. If Harper's pandering, the most that'll happen is that he'll get a somewhat higher percentage of the jewish vote. No way more than half. The jewish vote is such a small demographic in this country that you're talking switching, what, two or three seats. As I said it makes no sense.

            Conversely, backing Israel in its time of need is simply the right thing to do. I don't think it's more complicated than that.

          • I didn't say it was a particularly smart or good strategy, I just said it was Harper's strategy.

        • I would include you, jarrid, in that list of Canadians who are woefully ignorant about the Middle East. I also doubt your reading comprehension.

    • But we don't have to choose between them. I have problems with both the current Likud government of Israel and Hamas.

      • Ah, yes. The moral equivalency argument. The same argument that gave cover to the Soviet Union's regime while it oppressed its own people and other nations for some 70 years.

        • So your logic is essentially that we should commit genocide on anybody who disagrees with us. It's the only way to be sure?

          • I think jarrid agrees with you.

    • just because one side is bad doesn't make the other good. that's Bush logic.

  17. We either support Israel or we support the Muslims that want to destroy both us and them. I don't see how we can walk in the middle….Israel has been the subject of a truck load of lying propaganda. Compared to the harsh dictatorial Islamic countries, Israel is a beacon of light and decency. Give them a break! Siding with Islamic extremists is tantamount to siding with Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin. Kudos to Harper for standing with Israel.

    • Fortunately, one doesn't have to choose sides, one does what one does with the Hells Angels and Rock Machine: condemn and denounce either one depending on their latest atrocity.

      • Boogard, one does have to choose sides. Open your eyes, read the papers. This religion wants to control the world (see Saudi Arabia and these other backward hypocritical countries) and want their culture to dominate the world (see Amersterdam, Sweden, France). Good for Quebec to pass a law forbidding people to cover their face!!! Canada and the rest of the west should follow this.
        How can you compare terrorism to the Hells' Angels?? Do the Hell's Angels believe in 72 virgins (another farce!!). Do they believe in suicide missions? If there is ANY reason to support Israel, it is because of the above. WAKE UP!!

  18. Odd. This comment appeared to "take" when I submitted, but then it became nowhere to be seen. Maybe it was the link I included. Here we go again, without any link:

    Putting the whole R&D mess aside (really it's time to take that whole beast out to the woodshed, like, over a decade ago), It seems many are puzzled why Canada should be an ally to Israel.

    Here is a pretty good answer to The Economist and its "unlikely ally" nonsense:
    (please google "peter kent economist israel canada" and check out the first item)

    • "All politics is local".

      Here's a tip. If you are not familiar with Kent's Thornhill riding – take a virtual tour. Go to google maps, select streetview – pick the centre of the riding (Bathurst st – http://www.peterkent.ca/media/Thornhill%20Riding%… ) and have a look around. Notice any non english writing on signs, or significant places of worship?

      • With all due respect, the title ["unlikely ally"] couldn't be more wrong. As vibrant and democratic states in which the rule of law and human rights are observed and revered, Canada and Israel are the likeliest and the most natural of allies.

        I hope you are not suggesting that the above is a lie-filled rant whose sole purpose is to pander to a certain demographic who needs to feed on such a lie-filled rant.

        The truth is something that should be freely spoken anywhere and to anyone, my friend.

        • Despite the many challenges…however elusive it seems in the face of state-sponsored hate…we must maintain our belief that a fair and lasting peace is attainable… that Israel will, one day, live in peaceful co-existence with its neighbours – that a viable peace will become a reality for all the peoples of the Middle East.

          I'd like to hear more from Peter Kent about what this peaceful co-existence looks like.

        • Was "thou shalt not lie in politics" part of the Ten Commandments, or is your interpretation of the new testament?

          Here, some background reading – it takes Wells' observations of the Conservative's target marketing from his earlier Macleans column/book further, without this R&D obsession that has poisoned his recent work, in my opinion.

          Susan Delacourt and Alex Marland

  19. Well Mr. Wells – at least no-one has throw the anti-semetic epithet at you yet…but wait – I'm sure its lurking there somewhere (maybe even in the one comment that was already deleted!)
    Why are Harper and the current Israeli regime friends – and increasingly isolated ones at that? Because – to most informed observers – they are both neocon warbirds!
    Why is Netanyahu now boxed in a corner – and under pressure – from even former staunch friends like the US Administration who have been trying to broker peace – in the best interests of all sides? Because Netanyahu – like Harper – keeps making ideological decisions that reduce his credibility and his options.
    One such criticism in prestigious US journal – where the neocon term is used – where Netanyahu is called a thug (heck – Harper has been called soulless but never the th- word – yet) and an indication that the US Administration is prepared to recognize HAMAS and send peace negotiator George Mitchell there for the first time – as a direct result of Bibi's dumb over the top stunt! http://www.thenation.com/blog/gaza-its-not-about-

  20. And a less inflammatory view from today's WaPo by Scott Wilson essentially saying that Israel's agenda and strategy is increasingly in conflict with Obama's approach – driving a divide between him and Netanyahu – rather than re-building trust – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/arti

  21. "Israelis Celebrate 'Death to the Arabs' After the Attack on Aid Flotilla to Gaza."

    • Where did you get this quote from? How about all the "celebrations" in these backward Muslim countries after 9-11?? This is why we should support and do support our allies!

    • I know I was celebrating…

  22. Who cares if they've been inspected by Turkey? A lot of things can happen after the boat leaves Turkey. Are you serious?

    So what if they're filtering Gaza and not Israel? Who cares? If missiles are raining down on your country, you have the right to impose a blockade.

    But does this justify in principle that Israel can disregard a sovereign state's sovereignty to protect its own security?

    Are you kidding me? You must be joking right? You're asking if it's OK to instigate a blockade when missiles are raining down on your head. You must be joking.

    Here's a hint: if someone is about to shoot you in the head, you have the right to try to seize his gun. Doesn't matter if you're in international waters, doesn't matter whose gun it is, you're still allowed to seize it. Even if you don't yet know whether he will pull the trigger – if he's pointing it at you and he's shot others like you in the past, you're allowed to do something. You don't have to meekly step inside that railway car, like the Jews did on their way to Auschwitz, you don't have to wait until you're in the gas chamber before you react. You're allowed to take action to protect yourself.

    Excuse me Hamas, now that we've handed over complete control of Gaza for nothing in return, and now that you've used that gesture to use Gaza as a launching point for missiles at us, and you've declared that we have no right to exist so the missiles will never stop, we'd like to ask you permission to intercept those missiles before they reach your hands…. please? Oh, you say we're not allowed, because it's international waters? But what about launching missiles at us, is that not a violation of international law? Oh, you say that international law applies to us and not you? OK. You say that a boat inspection is much worse than a missile landing on your house? OK.

    Your comments are absurd. I feel dumber after reading them.

  23. I think you fundamentally underestimate the hatred that Arab Muslims hold for Jews. Your distinction between Hamas and Palestinians is disingenuous. The Palestinians elected Hamas. Palestinians don't want to make peace with Israel, they want to exterminate Israel. No amount of cajoling Hamas or the Palestinians will work, this has been proven for over 60 years. You are deluded.

    One other thing… I think you are biased in your analysis. If you seriously believe that the Israeli blockade is the biggest impediment to Palestinian prosperity, then you need a rethink. Take a look at the region. Take a look at Gaza before the blockade. Take a look at Egypt. Also consider that Egypt is enforcing the blockade as well (yet there are no rockets being fired at Egypt, strangely enough). If the Israelis removed the blockade, then you'd find something else to complain about. If the Israelis seize land, they are criticized. If they give land away, they are criticized. If the borders are open, they are criticized. If there is a wall they are criticized. If they put in a blockade, they are criticized. It does not matter – no matter how Israelis attempt to defend themselves, small-minded and deluded people like you, who have not a clue about the true nature of Palestine and the middle-east will come along and utter the most childish and absurd commentary about the situation. This conflict existed long before the blockade and your elevation of the blockade to a mythical status is puerile. The blockade is nothing, it has only existed for just a few years out of the 80 years of conflict. You're crazy if you think the blockade has any real impact.

    The poverty in Palestine has nothing to do with Israel, and in fact what little economic activity they have can be attributed to Israel. Palestine is like any other Arab nation in the region. The first thing they need to do is to stop killing each other. Palestinians are more a threat to each other than Israelis are to Palestine. Members of Fatah were exterminated by Hamas in Gaza – dropped off building, shot in the head, exterminate one by one. You have such a deluded view of the region. Take a look at Egypt, Syria, Lebanon. Let me guess, you have not the slightest idea what is going on in those countries. Yes, I thought so.

    • "I think you fundamentally underestimate the hatred that Arab Muslims hold for Jews." Is your post a reflection of your own hatred of Arab Muslims?

      Incidently, Turks are not Arabs.

    • Let me ask you this. If the situation were flipped, and a modern, powerful and liberal democratic Muslim state were heavily blockading a part it completely surrounded of a small Jewish state that was governed by an extremist group called, say, Irgun, which was firing rockets over the border that 90% of the time hit random open fields and caused no reported injuries or damage, would your position be any different?

      • Of course not. What a bizarre question.

        What difference does it make how may rockets kill people? Are you seriously suggesting that the success rate of the rockets has an impact on your reasoning? Every time you post something you say something truly bizarre. Are you saying that if the rockets kill hundreds then the deaths of the nine so-called activists is justified, while if they kill only dozens then it's a different story? You have some bizarre thoughts.

        Set aside the fact that you've actually failed to flip the situation. The small state is Israel, not Palestine. Palestine has far more people, and once you consider how much of Israel is desert, and you toss out the Golan Heights which is considered part of Syria, then it's easy to see that the Palestinians have as much territory as Israel. Then you might consider the fact that Israel itself has 20% of its population composed of Palestinians, while there are very few Jews or Israelis living anywhere else in the middle east outside Israel. I'll ignore the fact that you fail to realize this. At this point you will do your mental mind-flip to convince yourself that the West Bank does not count for some bizarre reason.

        Set aside the fact that you continue to focus exclusively on the missiles from Gaza, when in reality they are one threat amongst many, to a country surrounded by enemies, a country that was invaded in 1948 and 1967 and would have been destroyed many times over had they not taken actions, like this blockade, to defend and preserve themselves.

        Set aside the fact that Muslims today (the majority anyway) are incapable of creating a a modern, powerful and liberal democratic Muslim state (which is plainly obvious), because they are incapable of separating religion from state (that's the main reason among many), thus making democracy and liberalism impossible. If they were able to overcome this substantial hurdle (only Turkey has come close to doing so out of dozens of Muslim-majority countries, and they are headed in the wrong direction), then of course I would not change my position. For some reason you seem to think that liberal democratic states have an obligation to destroy themselves. If somehow such a state were to exist, the last thing it should do is allow itself to be destroyed.

  24. I never said that the Palestinians were a single block of public opinion, so keep your contradictions to yourself. I would never say something so stupid.

    People like you are most dangerous, attempting to justify racism and hatred with mealy-mouthed words that amount to nothing. I suspect you are a politician, the way you can write so many words that say nothing. You have a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature. It's the kind of misunderstanding that got 6 million Jews exterminated in the first place.

    • Where in any of this am I justifying racism?! Nowhere do I suggest that Jew or Arab are any better or worse than anyone else. In fact, the whole underlying principle of my argument is that all humans are moral equals and should be treated as such. How in God's name does that make me racist?

      I'm starting to think you're just ignoring reality or reason to protect the ideas you hold, because what you conclude from my arguments are not what I would logically draw from them. Furthermore, that you would bring up the unimaginable tragedy of the Holocaust in this… have you no sense of proportion or decency sir?

      For the record I am offended you would suspect me to be a politician. I'm a masters student in computer science, and while I find politics very important, I have neither the charisma, nor the stomach for the dirty game that is politics.

      But yes, I suppose we must differ in our understanding on human nature. I must be too optimistic in my belief that all human beings, freed from their ignorance and allowed to see past their selfish instincts (both of which they are born with), can understand that we all stand to gain from allowing everyone to achieve their full potential in life. And that includes all Israelis and all Palestinians.

      And that also includes both you, random poster on the Interwebs, and me as I type here procrastinating from more important things. If thoughts like that make me dangerous, then so be it.

      The only reason I use so many words, when I could insult you with far fewer, is because I'm trying to share some sort of understanding, hoping that with more careful logic, I can convince you that my ideas may have some merit. Judging by your response, I can only conclude my efforts are wasted.

      Hopefully, it's only because I'm not a good enough communicator, or my ideas are somehow wrong. Those I can change perhaps. But if it's because you're too close-minded to look outside your own comfortable position, then there's nothing I can do about that, and I'm sorry to have wasted both our time.

      • Of course I'd bring up the holocaust. Look, I think you really need to study some history, including the origin of the state of Israel amongst other things. The history of the modern state of Israel is not a simple matter, but you seem to be oblivious to pretty well all of it.

        By the way, for a peace-and-harmony kumbaya type of guy, you seem to get offended rather easily.

        • Strange, because I've read about a fair bit of the history. For instance, I know that the modern state was established after much grief and effort by Zionists in 1948 after a UN declaration officially justifying its existence to the world. I know that there's a long, long, history before that of the Jewish homeland, of Israel and Judah and all that stuff in the bible, in the oral tradition, in one of the few cultures to have survived being dispersed around the world for so long (it's actually an amazing accomplishment when you think about what the Jews have gone through).

          I know about the many defensive wars Israel has fought against Arab states trying to annihilate it, and how just about each time, Israel kicked their asses against seemingly impossible odds.

          And I agree the history is not a simple matter. They were taking land from people already living there, in part to make up for a terrible, horrendous tragedy that the UN felt justified giving them that land. But to the people living there already, it was kicking them off land they'd lived on for quite a long time. And yes I know that Palestine is a recent invention, and that before the British mandate, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. It still doesn't make it easy for Arabs living there to leave.

          As far as I'm concerned, all sides have legitimate grievances, which is what makes this conflict so complicated to look at, and not a black-and-white, "Israel = Good Guys, Arabs = Bad Guys".

          As for getting offended, I'm mostly just frustrated… moment of weakness I guess.

  25. Like other commenters, I have to take issue with the headline, but for a different reason: I'd say it's Likud and other members of Israel's radical right that have a friend in Harper. To Israel as a country, what they have in our PM is an enabler of their country's thuggish and short-sighted current government.

  26. Why? I'll tell you why. Two reasons.
    1. Because the White House, State Department, the Pentagon and the Israeli lobby tell him to.
    2. Harper and many of his ilk are born again fundamentalist Christians, who believe literally in their so called holy book, that the second coming of their so called saviour is imminent and it only needs the Jews in jeruselum and a nuclear holocaust in that area to purge the world of unbelievers, convert the jews to Christianity or incinerate them along with the unbelievers and the gays etc.
    These are also the people, like Stockwell Day, who actually believe that humans walked with dinosaurs and the world is 6000 years old.

    This is the kind of insanity, and the kind of people, that leads our foreign policy in the middle east. Everything else is just window dressing.

    • Where do you base your comments on? How about Cretien being a fundamental catholic? What does this have to do with foreign policy??

      • uhhhhh. Practically all foreign policies are fundamentally based on religious beliefs. Dumb-dumb!

        I dont necessarily agree with Desmond, but I certainly can't figure out how David doesn't see where religion and politics (especially foreign policy) mix. Like, holy crap, every war in the history of mankind is based in some way or another on religion. And look at what we have here in the middle east today – Arabs vs jews. Tell me that isnt religiously based, David! Oh and btw – if you're David, who's Goliath? Lemme guess…. Palestinians, right? Cause they are 'oh-so powerful' and 'oh-so mighty' and 'are the biggest threat to ISrael's existence'. Pfffft give your head a shake, King David! The temple came down centuries ago, and that was the best thing that happened to mankind since king tut ate the cake! Just words.

  27. I'm very unimpressed with this article. It does very little to meet the premise of it's title 'Why Israel has a friend in Harper'. It sounds entirely like a columnist complaining about duplicity and double-talk being expressed to the media.

    Please stop whining about it and find some real answers worthy of an article.

  28. Israel is the only country in the middle east worth being a friend to.

  29. As Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party represents the second largest party in Israel, does Mr. Harper suggest that the coalition government is illegitimate, or does that just apply in Canada?

  30. Paul Wells is perplexed at the close Harper-Netanyahu relationship. He needn't be. John Diefenbaker was very close to Israel, so was Lester Pearson and Brian Mulroney. They understood that Israel represents the moral conscience of mankind. They knew that it was surrounded by barbarian enemies. Thus, they rejected the brutal policy of the Foreign Affairs bureaucrats who constantly counselled "even-handedness" in favour of the communist-backed Arab revanchist nations. Thus too, they repented of the monstrous policy of our country's war-time Prime Minister Mackenzie King. This fawning admirer of the Nazi Fuehrer sent thousands of helpless Jews seeking asylum at our shores to their concentration camp deaths.

    • No country which kills unarmed civilians can claim to be the moral conscience of mankind. No coubntry which commits war crimes like dropping white phosphorous on Gaza can claim any sort of morality or conscience.

  31. Under World Cup Soccer schedule regading Mr Monroes sladerous comments

    I would just like to say that perhaps your view of what a real American is is perhaps a little narrow. Is being born in the USA not enough to qualify as a real American? "____I HAVE MADE NO COMMENTS REGARDING THIS IN MY PREVIOUS__ POST____"About the American team being 3rd rate, well, perhaps you are a little misinformed"____ONCE AGAIN I MADE NO COMMENTS ABOUT THIS!____TO ASSIGN COMMENTS TO SOMEONE THAT THEY DID NOT MAKE IS SLANDER.____

  32. In case you haven't seen it, a very good essay, in which Gerald Steinberg gets a mention at the end.
    ‘J'accuse': Dreyfus in Our Times
    Jacqueline Rose Vol. 32 No. 11 · 10 June 2010

  33. I see all those overly concerned with a person's religion are out in full force – condemning Harper for having a religion because as we all know, politicians are never to even think religion.

    Maybe Harper supports Israel for no other reason than it is the only democracy in the Middle East and it is surrounded by Islamic countries who have clear intents on wiping Israel off the face of the earth (and have attempted to do so on many many occasions). That alone sound like a good enough reason to me. But clearly the MSM doesn't think those are good enough.

    The MSM needs to look closely at their own motives.

  34. Interesting that all comments supporting Israel get a thumbs down and all denigrating it get a thumbs up. I wonder what the take would be if the roles were reversed between the Israeli's and Palestinians? I suspect that Israel would still get the thumbs down.