As the conflict rages in Israel and Gaza, so it does, in a different way, worldwide. As is always the case when Israel is involved in a conflict, the rage level escalates swiftly among commentators, social media, street activists, politicians and diplomats. While both sides are engaging in heated and contentious “debate” – we should take nothing away from Zionists’ ability to engage in slapfests on social media – something darker is emerging.
Protests in France and Germany have been especially grisly. In Paris, one synagogue was firebombed while, at another, Jews were forced to barricade themselves inside the shul as a mob attacked with bats and chairs. Jewish-run businesses were ransacked in a Paris suburb. In Germany, overt neo-Nazis are marching daily, some chanting, “Gas the Jews.” “Anti-Israel” rallies worldwide are rife with anti-Jewish imagery and messaging. Individual Jews have been assaulted around the world. One man in Australia, badly beaten, told media that the antisemitic onslaught he experienced after going public was worse than the assault itself.
There are certainly examples of anti-Jewish prejudice amid the public discourse in Canada, though we have seen nothing near to what is happening elsewhere. In fact, the brightest spot in the whole sad global discourse around the conflict comes from right here in Canada. For the better part of a decade, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been an unequivocal voice of reason and support for Israel’s right – obligation, he said – to defend its citizens from terrorism. Our foreign policy has been steadfast in defending our closest ally in the region, and the only democracy there, amid a cacophony of vitriol and hatred.
Significantly, what was a few years ago considered a surprising and unusually unambiguous position has become the dominant Canadian political consensus. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has issued a statement echoing the Conservatives’ strong support for Israel.
More remarkable has been Thomas Mulcair’s extraordinary success at turning his New Democratic Party from what was once a nest of Canada’s most vocal anti-Israel zealots into a moderate party in line with the other two mainstream parties. He has done this in the face of a small but venomous clutch of extreme Israel-haters. A writer on the website Rabble recently referred to “Mulcair’s abhorrence of Palestinian rights.” (We have been known to employ some extravagant semantics in this space, but for a really eccentric level of rhetoric almost unknown since the fall of the Berlin Wall, head over to Rabble for a nostalgic walk down memory lane.)
Mulcair’s accomplishment, of course, is derided by Israel’s enemies as proof that the craven Zionists have finally got their talons into the last of the major parties’ platforms. In reality, it is an acknowledgement that Canada’s body politic has recognized, alas, that morality and pragmatism demand that we stand with our allies and against those who seek to slaughter them. There is nothing novel in this – what was novel was the years when we went off the rails trying to play an “honest broker” role between a democratic, peace-seeking, pluralist Israel and the genocidal terrorists determined to destroy the country and kill its citizens.
There is a place for extreme views in a democracy – in extreme, fringe parties. Which may explain why Green party leader Elizabeth May is right now taking up an anti-Israel cudgel just as the rest of the civilized political spectrum is affirming the only position mainstream, moderate parties can justify.
There are tactical reasons, too. Israel-bashers insist that Harper’s Israel policy (and now that of the Liberals and NDP) is a sop to win Jewish votes, which suggests they are as bad at math as they are telling terrorists from allies. The “Jewish vote” in Canada is miniscule and shrinking, while the number of new Canadians coming from places where hatred of Israel is something akin to a birthright is growing.
While the three main parties are doing the right thing, the Greens seem ready to welcome those who have been left out in the cold by a consensus that our country should stand with democracies when they are under assault from terrorists. It may be a political strategy for a tiny party seeking a foothold, but it doesn’t seem like a moral one.