Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Singling out Israel Is 'Weak, Wrong' Form of New Anti-Semitism: Harper

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Singling out Israel Is 'Weak, Wrong' Form of New Anti-Semitism: Harper

Article excerpt

Blaming Israel is new anti-Semitism: Harper

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JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned Monday of a new age of anti-Semitism, staking new ground in his allegiance to Israel by telling the country's parliamentarians that those who oppose the Jewish state are little more than hateful anti-Semites.

The loathing for Jews that resulted in the "horrors of the death camps" of Nazi Germany was crude and ignorant, Harper said in a historic speech to the Knesset, the first such address before the Israeli parliament by a Canadian prime minister.

"But in much of the western world, the old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society," he said.

"People who would never say they hate and blame the Jews for their own failings or the problems of the world instead declare their hatred of Israel and blame the only Jewish state for the problems of the Middle East."

Harper's speech was greeted by several prolonged standing ovations -- and one dramatic outburst that served to illustrate the tense relations that characterize the Jewish-Arab relationship in the troubled region.

"Israel is an apartheid state," shouted Ahmad Tibi, an Arab-Israeli member of parliament who then stormed out of the Knesset, followed by a colleague.

The pair angrily strode from the chamber after Harper assailed the "twisted logic" of making such a comparison to South Africa's racist regime.

Throughout his speech, Harper looked back into history, touching not just on the Holocaust but Canada's own refusal in the 1930s to help Jewish refugees, something he deemed a "terrible mistake."

He spoke of the founding of Israel as a place where people could "seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history."

While criticism of Israeli government policy isn't anti-Semitic, Harper said, criticism that targets only Israel while ignoring violence and oppression in its neighbours is unacceptable.

"It is, thus, a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular," Harper said. "But, I would argue, support today for the Jewish state of Israel is more than a moral imperative. It is also of strategic importance, also a matter of our own, long-term interests."

Harper said the forces that have threatened Israel "every single day of its existence" threaten all countries, "as 9-11 graphically showed us."

The prime minister said he refused to single out Israel for criticism, saying it is easy to follow the international crowd and focus only on one country -- a "go-along-to-get-along" approach he described as both weak and wrong.

But Canada would be quick to welcome a new sovereign Palestinian state if its leaders chose democracy and peace, he added.

"Just as we unequivocally support Israel's right of self-defence, so too Canada has long supported a just and secure future for the Palestinian people," Harper said. …

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