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Friday, December 19, 2014

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An expiry date for ‘never again’?

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Avrum Rosensweig

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent trip to the Land of Israel, our Eretz Yisrael, appeared to be a mission, a Haj of sorts, a trip he saved as the dessert during his days as prime minister of the country.

It was unusual to watch because, along with the traditional pomp of such trips, there was excess baggage that no doubt worried the grounds crew, the question of whether Harper’s newly painted, blue Polaris CC-150 military aircraft could take off. But it did so, pageantry and all.

So many of us appreciated the fervour of Harper’s visit (referred to by Jonathan Kay as “manic” in the National Post, Jan. 21) and his words of support for our homeland, Israel, and her values. We’re tired of the malodorous and foul smelling anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment permeating the United Nations and the majority of the world’s nation-states, and our prime minister successfully swung that pendulum back, at least a few positions, to allow supporters of Israel to experience great pride.

But while large segments of the Canadian Jewish community embrace Harper as the world’s most vocal head of state in support of Israel, isn’t it healthy and wise for them to be similarly multi-dimensional in their outlook on the man, his party and its national policies? Shouldn’t we strengthen our political selves by grappling with his entire ideology and body of work?

As constituents, isn’t that the judicious thing for us to do – for Harper, for our country and for our people?

For if we don’t, if we simply see our prime minister as a one-issue leader whose very vocal support of Israel eclipses the ramifications of his very damaging national policies, are we not, indeed, undermining who we are as Canadians and as lovers of Israel? By telling our current government all is well as long as you care about Israel in the way you do, aren’t we negating our influence and commitment to other important values such as pikuach nefesh – the preservation of human life – within our boundaries, and assistance to the poor?

Once again, I thank the government of Canada for investing so heavily in its re-cent trip to Israel. I call upon our com-munity to remember the prime minister’s fervent speech to the Knesset, but at the same time, to reembrace our commitment to “never again,” particularly having to do with today’s refugee claimants to Canada who are regularly turned away from our hospitals, and more seriously, our shores.

I ask that you look closely at the situation of the Roma right now, those who walked beside us to the ovens of Auschwitz but today are without a homeland. Ponder very seriously how it is our government minimizes the persecution levied at the Roma people in Hungary and the European Union, and how we are okay with its cold and dispassionate refugee policies. Where is our sympathy and compassion for the refugee, as embodied in our love for Israel and the millions of refugees who came to Her shores?

When we watched Harper at Yad Vashem, why did we not challenge our-selves on our promise to help those who came after us to this nation, Canada? Once we were finished celebrating our prime minister’s trip to Israel, why were we not inclined to call our members of Parliament demanding an explanation for the preservation of shanty towns we call native reserves and the below average medical care extended to our Aboriginal Peoples? Is this fair to our government, to our community, to our native brothers and sisters?

Does “never again” have an expiry date?

Support for a leader requires balance and thoughtfulness. While Canada’s backing of Israel will not ensure Israel’s overall security and global acceptance or our place in the world, it is sensible to be supportive of “Harper to Israel.” But to be a constituent, an attentive Jew, a well-balanced national and global citizen, we must also challenge the hell out of him on other aspects of his leadership, including laws and policies affecting the “stranger” – the men, women and children, like our ancestors, who are the most marginalized and alone within our borders today. That, too, is a Jewish value.

Am yisrael Chai. The nation of Israel lives.

Oh Canada! We stand on guard for thee.

Avrum.rosensweig@veahavta.org 

 

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