Richard Friedman
Jewish Federation director, Journalist

Canada’s Harper reflects Holocaust hero’s courage

Sometimes things so apparent don’t seem apparent at first. This truth crossed my mind as I was thinking about Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper.

Harper has distinguished himself by his understanding of Israel’s unique security dilemmas and the anti-Semitic nature of the mounting attacks on the Jewish state, and his willingness to speak such truths and advocate for Israel in the international arena — even in venues where such support for Israel is not popular or convenient.

What became apparent is that his courage is akin to that of King Christian X of Denmark during the Holocaust, a comparison that becomes clear when you ponder the implications of Harper’s leadership on behalf of Israel.

The depth of Harper’s emotional commitment and support for Israel was reflected in the news coverage of his recent visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

In a story in Canada’s Globe and Mail headlined, “Backing Israel a ‘moral imperative’ for global democracy, Harper says,” reporter Campbell Clark noted that Harper refused to condemn Israeli settlements in the disputed West Bank as illegal. “Any attempt to have me, while present in the Middle East, single out the state of Israel for criticism, I will not do,” said Harper. He said it with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas next to him.

Clark noted that Harper “has made backing Israel a governing credo,” insisting it is not only a “moral imperative” but “also strategically important to democracies around the world.” Harper, the reporter added, also has criticized the “moral relativism” of those who seek an even-handed approach to the Middle East as misguided and wrong.

Sharing his views on the outbreak of a new form of anti-Semitism, Harper told Israel’s parliament, “In much of the Western world, the old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society… 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.”

When it comes to Israel, Harper has been speaking out since his election in 2006. At his first G8 summit “he shocked delegates by rejecting a resolution calling for restraint in Israel’s attack on Lebanon, instead drafting his own ‘Canadian resolution’ supporting the Israeli cause,” according to the Globe and Mail.

Media reports speculate that there are a range of reasons why Harper is so supportive of Israel. They run the gamut from Canada, with its vast oil and gas reserves, being immune to oil pressure from the Arab states; to the influence of his father, who so anguished by the Holocaust that he made his son promise that he would always stand up for the Jewish people; to the simple fact that supporting Israel, the Middle East’s only authentic democracy, is right and just and to do otherwise rewards terrorist groups and despotic regimes that want to destroy the Jewish state.

In thinking about Harper, I was reminded of the courageous and legendary King Christian X, king of Denmark  during the Holocaust. The king’s outspoken support for his country’s Jews and bravery in their defense, inspired the Danish people to stand up for Denmark’s Jews as well. As a result, the Nazis were unsuccessful in their attempt to eradicate Danish Jewry.

Many years ago, during a lecture I heard at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust, the point was made that what happened in Denmark proved that the Holocaust could have been prevented. If more European leaders had been courageous enough to stand up on behalf of their country’s Jews, it’s likely substantially fewer Jews would have been murdered.

Today there are still those who want to murder Jews because they are Jews. These groups include the Iranian-backed terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, other radical Islamic movements, and single perpetrators, such as the gunman who killed a rabbi and three Jewish students at a Jewish day school in France in 2012. There are powerful forces on the planet who would gladly continue Hitler’s work.

If more world leaders followed Stephen Harper’s example, and years ago stood up boldly to regimes, terror groups and movements that not only want to eliminate Israel but also weaken the West, conditions in the world might be different. Harper’s outspoken support for Israel continues to be a singular beacon. And that’s good news and bad news.

About the Author
Richard Friedman is Executive Director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation in Alabama. He also is a well-known Alabama journalist.
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