Israel was born on May 14, 1948. The newly birthed nation had time for only a few breaths before her Muslim neighours – Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq – hurled themselves on her in a war of annihilation. However, Israel repulsed the invaders and survived to fight four more major wars, plus innumerable minor conflicts, over the next 58 years. Indeed, the one and only Jewish state in the world has survived to this day only by constant vigilance and daily struggle against those who deny her very right to exist.
Israel has often felt alone in her contest to survive. Long before she became prime minister, Golda Meir expressed this well in a comment made in 1958, “Everybody in the world has a sovereign and cultural family except us. Everybody in the United Nations is grouped into blocs bound by a common geography or religion or history or culture, except us. They vote in solidarity, like family. We belong to no family.” During her relatively short history, few nations have stood with Israel in her quest to survive and to prosper.
Our own country of Canada has no right to be proud of the way she has at times treated Jewish people. During World War II, anti-Semitism was rife in this country. In 1939, Canadian officials turned away the SS St. Louis, with its cargo of 900 Jews escaping the slaughterhouse of Nazi-controlled Europe. During the war years, Mackenzie King, a Liberal prime minister, allowed only some 4,000 to 5,000 Jews to immigrate. In a speech given in 1995 to Holocaust survivors in Toronto, Jean Chretien said, “We turned our backs on Jewish refugees from Europe when we could have saved lives.”
During the recent war in Lebanon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a principled and courageous fashion, showed unequivocal support for Israel as a sovereign nation that had the right to defend herself against terrorist attack. Meanwhile, Liberal leader wannabe, Bob Rae, called for Israeli “restraint” and for a more “proportionate” response. The current Liberal leader, Bill Graham, laid in with a call for a more “nuanced” governmental position. More recently, another Liberal leader wannabe, Michael Ignatieff, has claimed that Israel committed a war crime during the conflict.
It is also instructive that during previous Liberal administrations, the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations was mandated on numerous occasions to vote against Israel, siding instead with despotic, tyrannical regimes. Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich, president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis, commented recently about the Liberal position under former prime minister Chretien: “Their position on Israel was one of moral relativism, that neither side was more wrong or right than the other.”
It appears to me that Liberals and Liberal governments have sought desperately to project a neutrality on conflict between Jews and Muslims. They have tried diligently to apply “moral equivalence” to the actions of both the terrorists and those who seek only to defend themselves. Whether they accept the charge or not, the bottom line for them has often been that Israel’s right to defend herself against terrorist acts is actually no different than the original terrorism. To most fair-minded people, this position is both astonishing and ludicrous. Simple justice has always held that violence in the cause of self-defence is morally justifiable. This is just as true for nations as it is for individuals. How could so many smart people have missed such a simple point?
It is almost politically correct these days to be anti-Israel. Even in “liberal” and “tolerant” academe, there are calls by some to boycott Israeli academic institutions. And some of the mainline Christian churches have demonstrated an anti-Israel policy. For example the Toronto conference of the United Church of Canada supported an Ontario labour union’s decision to boycott Israel, while the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted at it 216th Annual Assembly to divest from and boycott Israel in support of the Palestinian cause. The Church of England synod has also voted for disinvestments from Israel.
It should be noted that in various conflicts, Israel has committed her share of wrongs and is by no means above criticism. For the prosecution of war and self-defence, after all, is a messy business. But there is a more basic question in the face of so much anti-Israel bias. Who will stand with Israel today in her simple quest to survive and prosper as a nation?
I believe Liberal governments of late, individual Liberal MP’s and some Liberal leadership hopefuls have been tried and found wanting. It’s most refreshing, however, to see the government standing in a principled way for the beleaguered nation of Israel. Finally, I can be a proud Canadian in seeing my government support the right of a free and democratic nation to defend herself. By all means, let’s strive to have balanced foreign policy. God forbid we should do so by molly coddling terrorism.