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Baird lauds Israel at Ottawa Negev Dinner

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Pictured, from left, are JNF Ottawa president Oliver Javanpour, Sen. Linda Frum, Ottawa Negev dinner chair Barbara Farber, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, JNF national president Frank Wilson and JNF eastern region executive director Gail Grief.

OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird clearly and unequivocally confirmed the Harper government’s commitment to the State of Israel at the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) Ottawa Negev Dinner, where he was the honoree.

The Nov. 20 event had been sold out, with a waiting list, weeks in advance, but it took place against the backdrop of fighting between Israel and Hamas in and around Gaza.

“As we have seen this last week, these are indeed challenging times,” Baird told the audience at the National Gallery of Canada. “Hamas is targeting innocent civilians with an onslaught of rockets. It’s a despicable act of terror, and yet, as Israel responds, as it has every right to, it is the target of condemnation. Canada, however, stands by Israel’s side.”

Speaking of his personal, longstanding support of Israel and the Jewish People, Baird described his comfortable, middle-class upbringing in the Ottawa area.

“I’ve never had to fight a war to defend my right to live in this community. I’ve never been exiled from my home. I’ve never had to rebuild my nation. I only point this out by way of contrast to the phoenix-like rising of the modern State of Israel, from a barren desert to the dynamic country we see today.”

Baird spoke of what he called the “new antisemitism” which, he said, “targets the Jewish People by targeting the Jewish homeland, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world… just as conventional antisemitism denied Jews the right to live as equal members of humanity, the new antisemitism denies the State of Israel the right to live as an equal member of the international community.”

Alluding to criticism from around the world and some Canadians about the government’s support for Israel, Baird reiterated his frequent stand that “Canada will not ‘go along to get along.’… Canada upholds Israel’s right to exist – as a Jewish state – in peace and security. On this point, there is no space for moral equivocation or ambivalence.”

Guest speaker Rex Murphy, a CBC radio and TV personality and National Post columnist, expressed his incomprehension and disgust with the treatment of the Jewish People and the State of Israel, after all the suffering of the past.

Citing the many times in history that the Jewish People have been threatened with annihilation, he pondered the existence and resurgence of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment.

“What is it about Jews and Israel that so combine to bring about such animus? How can it come to pass that the people injured are in this present moment the only people threatened with extinction again?”

Funds raised at the Negev Dinner will support research and development stations in the Negev.

Numerous MPs, senators and other dignitaries, including Israeli Ambassador Miriam Ziv and former ambassador Alan Baker, also attended the event.

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