Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the Knesset on Monday, delivering a historic speech. This is the first time a Canadian Prime Minister has spoken at Israeli’s national legislature. Harper defended Israel and spoke out about the emergence of a more subtle type of anti-Semitism and how the world needs to start showing their support for Israel as a home for the Jewish.
In his speech, Prime Minister Harper emphasized the long standing ties between Canada and Israel, bringing to mind the free trade agreement, but emphasizing how their friendship goes beyond that.
Harper also reflected on the 1930s, in which Canada rejected Jewish refugees, but talked about how Canada has since changed; now they are a country that has opposed injustice and stood against it with like minded others. Just as Canada supports the right to self-defense in Israel, Canada supports “a just and secure future for the Palestinian people.”
Harper brought to the forefront how calling Israel an apartheid state was “twisted logic” and “outright malice.” He mentioned how the state was founded on freedom and democracy so Jews can live in prosperity away from what he called “the worst racist experiment in history that is condemned…in the language of anti-racism.” Harper used the word sickening to describe this.
Harper was met by two hecklers, Ahmad Tibi and Abu Arar. Tibi told CBC News that Stephen Harper’s speech was “biased” and was not balanced in how he described Israel.
“Democracy of Israel is a selective democracy, ethnic democracy,” Tibi told CBC. “Canada is a democracy and people are equal without relation to their ethnic background. Here, there’s a problem with that.”
The rest of the Knesset, however, gave Stephen Harper’s historic speech a standing ovation. A speech delivered that accused western critics in Israel of moral relativism and how they “go along to get along” as part of singling out Israel. Harper also addressed the critics who have called his government’s foreign policy as simplistic and unsophisticated.
The part of the speech that drew the ire of the two hecklers was when he called out the anti-Semitics as being more subtle in their actions. Stephen Harper stated that people who don’t admit they hate or blame the Jews, would then express how they hate Israel and direct the Middle East’s problems to the Jewish state.
Tibi mentioned how Harper avoided talking about Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Canada opposes Israeli control over these territories, and Harper avoided all together from criticizing Israel for its policy on that issue.
“If he is talking about freedom, why [is he] totally neglecting the absence of freedom of the Palestinians under occupation? It is a double-standard,” said Tibi. “These words are moral double-standard from the prime minister of Canada.”
Tibi had more to to say about Stephen Harper and the historic speech he delivered. “Israel should be defined as a state of its own nationalities. There are two nationalities in Israel. One is [the] Jewish majority, one is [the] Arab-Palestinian minority,” said Tibi. “We are not transparent. We are not nonsense, nobody. We are community, we are minority and we are a national minority. Saying that Israel is the Jewish state is neglecting our existence, our very existence and our narrative, and I will not accept that.”
By Kollin Lore