By Nicole Halseth, News Editor
According to an article by CBC News, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke fiercely in defense of Israel Monday [20 January], accusing critics of anti-Semitism, vowing to stand with the country, and drawing heckles from two legislators who eventually stormed out of his speech to the Knesset.”
In his closing speech to Israel’s parliament, Harper said “through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.” He was rewarded with a standing ovation from most of the crowd. In his speech, Harper also discussed the history between the two countries and stated that Israel and Canada share many democratic values. The Prime Minister also discussed the relationship between Canada’s and Israel’s military forces, stating that they share both information and technology in order to work together.
Harper is the first Canadian prime minister to address the Knesset, the legislative branch of the Israeli parliament.According to the CBC, Harper “accused Israel’s Western critics of moral relativism,” said they single out Israel “to go along to get along,” and called this approach “weak and wrong.” He continued to address criticism of Israel, saying “some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel… most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state. Think about that. Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that. A state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history… that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening.” He even went so far as to say this criticism is “the new anti-Semitism,” though he did concede that “criticism of Israeli government policy isn’t in and of itself ‘necessarily anti-Semitic.’”
Harper then discussed the issue of a new, peaceful Palestinian state. He stated that along with Israel, Canada hopes “the Palestinian people and their leaders will choose a democratic Palestinian state that lives peacefully alongside Israel.” The Prime Minister also announced $66 million in aid for Palestinians.
Harper continued by addressing the possibility of further sanctions on Iran. He stated that he hoped Iran would turn away from the pursuit of nuclear weapons, but that the existing sanctions would remain in effect until more progress towards that goal is made. In regards to the role of Israel in relation to Iran, he expressed sympathy over Israel’s situation, and stated that many of the threats Israel faces are the same as those faced by western countries.Harper was welcomed to the parliament by a red carpet. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, greeted Harper with “welcome to Israel, dear friend.” Netanyahu also claimed that Israel was appreciative of Harper’s support.
This trip is part of a broader visit to the Middle East. This declaration of loyalty is another step on the long path of support Harper has shown for Israel in his foreign policy since his rise to power.