Thank you, Stephen Harper

Friends, I mean really true friends, are hard to come by.  They are with you not just when the times are good, but also when the times are bad.  They don’t abandon you.  They don’t follow the crowd and weaken their affection for you even when you have been less than perfect.  And when they have nothing to gain from a special closeness and can just as easily be “accommodating” as others who identify as friends, well, they are the sparkling jewels in your life that help you get through the darkest hours.

True friends don’t repeatedly need to say they have your back.  They just do, and you know it deep within your soul.

On November 4, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will officially resign his post just before the swearing-in of the Liberal Party that defeated Harper’s Conservative Party.

For those of us who are more than simply “pro-Israel,” who follow the news about Israel every day, who smile when the Jewish State shines for the even the most nondescript things and who cry when it is in pain on any level, we have lost a champion.

And for those who care about Israel only to a degree – behind their social agenda views and/or knee-jerk, lockstep political party support, for those of you who only add your voices in the midst of a hot war, but stay on the sidelines for anything else, whether you know it or not, you too have lost a true friend.  Because supporters of Israel on any scale depend on people like Harper to help carry the weight in a world which loads burden upon burden upon Israel’s shoulders.

We need not fear how leaders like Harper will react when Israel is having a crisis.  Harper was the kind of friend who wouldn’t just inquire if he could assist, but who would show up at your doorstep asking, “What can I do to help?”  Israel supporters, strong or lukewarm, Jewish or otherwise, have taken a hit.

Now look, Canada has the right to do as it pleases, of course.  The good people north of us decided that after nearly ten years of the Conservatives it was time for a change.  That’s natural for any country.  But what matters to those outside Canada is how it handles its foreign policy – for an American, its views related to, and directed toward the US, and for supporters of Israel, Canada‘s views on the Middle East.

Whenever someone becomes a leader of a country where Israel will be affected, I like many others, wonder if that person would pass the “kishka (guts) test,” meaning, does that person have a sentimental feeling for Israel in his or her guts.  One can tell by looking at a person’s past history and with whom he has associated, or his past actions where Israel and the Jewish people are concerned. Sometimes, you just don’t know and hope for the best.  Many times we have been disappointed, a very few times we been pleasantly surprised.

Stephen Harper could have acted the way most “friendly” leaders do, mixing it up, being amicable sometimes, critical at others, always ready to remind their “ally” Israel by harsh word or shameful disinterest, even during the most trying of times, that in truth, as far as they were concerned, Israel was on her own.  And this is what helped make Harper a true hero.  He could have been the same.  But he wasn’t, and he wasn’t afraid to let the world see the warmth he felt toward Israel and the Jewish people as a whole.

The Liberal Party claims to be pro-Israel.  But what kind of pro-Israel?  Will it be unflinchingly, unabashedly, boldly and without fear, pro-Israel like the Conservative Party has been?  Will Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, if not as fiercely supportive of the Jewish State as Harper has been – and that’s a tall order, be one of the better, truer friends?  Or will Trudeau be like Israel’s other lip service “friends,” looking way too quickly to find a balance between Israel and its enemies, even when events are so obviously one-sided against the Jewish State?

In an congratulatory phone call just the other day, Trudeau told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “there would be a shift in tone, but Canada would continue to be a friend of Israel’s.”  Huh?  Shift in tone?  What does that mean, and why shift?  And unlike Harper, Trudeau endorsed the Iran P5+1 nuclear agreement.  In my book, anyone in support of the nuclear deal with Iran automatically fails the kishka test.  Now these things don’t necessarily mean Trudeau won’t be a good friend to Israel.  But as a supporter of Israel, I think it’s fair to say, he ain’t no Harper.

And there are some other worrisome signs about Trudeau and his party, but hey, again, Canada has made its choice.

Harper and his Conservative Party supported Israel by word and deed in many ways too numerous to mention.  But just over these last few months alone, Canada was one of only eight countries to vote against the Palestinian flag flying at the United Nations.  In a slap in the face of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, Canada bolstered trade with Israel via CIFTA, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, wherein even Israeli goods made outside Israel’s Green Line border would benefit from expanded market access opportunities.

And not only did Harper, unlike any other Western leader, refuse to support the P5+1 nuclear arrangement with Iran, he decided that Canada would keep its sanctions with Iran in placeCanada had already broken diplomatic relation with Iran in 2012.  (Trudeau says he will restore them.)

Also, like only a handful of countries, under Harper, Canada has always supported Israel in the UN, and unlike other “friends” has never threatened otherwise.  He was stalwart and true.

Here are some excerpts from Harper’s address to the Israeli parliament when he visited Israel in early 2014:

We refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage. Now I understand, in the world of diplomacy, with one, solitary, Jewish state and scores of others, it is all too easy “to go along to get along” and single out Israel.  But such “going along to get along,” is not a “balanced” approach, nor a “sophisticated” one; it is, quite simply, weak and wrong.   Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we live in a world where that kind of moral relativism runs rampant.  And in the garden of such moral relativism, the seeds of much more sinister notions can be easily planted…

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…  Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that.  It is nothing short of sickening.  But this is the face of the new anti-Semitism…

You have taken the collective memory of death and persecution to build an optimistic, forward-looking land, one that so values life, you will sometimes release a thousand criminals and terrorists, to save one of your own.  In the democratic family of nations, Israel represents values which our government takes as articles of faith, and principles to drive our national life.  And therefore, through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.

Mr. Harper, every knowledgeable Israel supporter knew that you meant what you said about Israel and had a sincere, heartfelt feeling for the Jewish State.  And now with your time as Canada’s leader at an end, I say to you, you passed the kishka test, and with flying colors.  Time and again.

Thank you, Stephen Harper.

About the Author
Shia Altman who hails from Baltimore, MD, now lives in Los Angeles. His Jewish studies, aerospace, and business and marketing background includes a BA from the University of Maryland and an MBA from the University of Baltimore. When not dabbling in Internet Marketing, Shia tutors Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and Judaic and Biblical Studies to both young and old.
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