While the pro-Israel community continues to deconstruct President Obama’s statements about the Mideast in trying to determine whether he is a true friend or not, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Jewish state’s most outspoken defender among world leaders is someone who may not be a household name for many of us.
No, we’re not thinking of Manny Mori, the president of the Federated States of Micronesia, the tiny country that votes in support of Israel in the United Nations — more power to him. But the more influential head of state who puts his commitment to Israel above popular politics at home is Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada. Most recently he is said to have blocked a proposal at the recent G-8 Summit in France to cite in the final communiqué that the pre-1967 borders should be the basis for Israel-Palestinian negotiations.
Whether or not that’s true — Harper’s office has not commented — it is clear that the Conservative Party leader, who was recently re-elected, has been a strong voice on behalf of Israel despite the fact that Jews make up less than 1 percent of Canada’s population, and most of them vote Liberal. He has countered critical positions of Israel voiced by France, Russia and others in international forums. And Canada has cast the only “no” vote against biased votes on Israel eight times in the last three years at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Last year, according to The Jerusalem Post, Canada was denied a two-year term on the UN Security Council “largely because of its reputation as a stalwart friend of Israel since Harper became prime minister five years ago.”
On a number of occasions the prime minister has spoken out against the new anti-Semitism aimed at Jerusalem and the “moral equivalence” equation in weighing Israeli actions versus those of Palestinian militants.
“A democratic state like Canada cannot be neutral,” he has said, [regarding the difference] “between a democratic state and a terrorist organization.”
In explaining his positions, Harper says “the easy thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of ‘honest broker.’ [But] Canada will take a stand [in support of Israel], whatever the cost. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are, in the longer term, a threat to all of us.”
The Hebrew expression “hakarat hatov,” showing gratitude and appreciation to a supporter, certainly applies here. It’s important for American Jews to be aware of the stance Stephen Harper has taken out of conviction to the principle of defending a democratic ally. Would that there were more like him.