There are moments when I feel this column could be solely used as a vehicle to refute left-wing Jewish criticism of the Tories.
The temptation regularly exists to critique centrist/progressive commentators who claim to understand what former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Tories are up to. They often present imaginary scenarios to illustrate how the government, in their mind, has conned the community for political and financial support.
During the federal election, some Jews were angered by the political strategies of Tory MPs Mark Adler (some of his campaign posters included the words “son of a Holocaust survivor”) and Joyce Bateman (who criticized some Liberal candidates/supporters for their views on Israel during an all-candidates’ meeting).
They were furious with Tory candidate Robert Libman, too. It was widely reported that a campaign worker tapped a mezuzah at a constituent’s door and said, “OK, but remember who you are.”
So, they lashed out.
Andrew Cohen’s Sept. 22 Ottawa Citizen column, for instance, claimed Defence Minister Jason Kenney resembled a “minister of the Jews,” and remembered a time “when Jews in this country, in their politics, were less parochial.”
The author also threw in this little gem for good measure: “No one can say that the Conservatives have not worked for the support they are said to enjoy among most of Canada’s 330,000 Jews. It’s not just their loyalty to the State of Israel. It’s dropping a little gelt here and there, like a cheque from Pierre Poilievre for $120,000 for the Soloway Jewish Community Centre in Ottawa. Its swimming pool’s dehumidification system needed repair, surely one of Canada’s urgent infrastructure challenges.”
In Cohen’s view, “many Canadian Jews have become one-issue voters. Whatever alienates two-thirds of Canadians from the government scarcely registers with them. It is about Israel, all the time, and Harper is the Lion of Judah.”
Former Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Benjamin Shinewald’s Oct. 9 Globe and Mail opinion piece followed a similar pattern. He claimed: “Canadian Jews increasingly believe that the Conservatives’ policy on Israel was never entirely about Israel. Rather, it was about driving a wedge into their community and cementing those on the Conservative side of the divide into Stephen Harper’s political base.”
While recognizing “large numbers of Canadian Jews remain resolutely Conservative,” he felt the “Tory message is wearing on some.” He went on, “And, like all Canadians, Jewish voters are generally motivated by a complex bundle of political imperatives, not just one. Neglected in the past, Jews now wonder if they are being used.”
Cohen and Shinewald are entitled to their opinions. Alas, the perceived reality they described is pure fantasy. As I’ve written before, most Jews aren’t single-issue voters. When this community finally dropped the embarrassing charade of acting like a left-wing monolith, many embraced political and economic conservatism. They support important measures such as lower taxes, fiscal prudence, less government interference and strong foreign policy positions. They’re comfortable with, and not fearful of, most Tory policies.
Contrary to popular belief, Israel plays a minor, and not a major, role in Jewish Canadian voting patterns. A few candidates aside, it wasn’t used as a wedge issue by the Tories, or a “divide and conquer” strategy to tear apart the community. It’s a myth to say otherwise, and the political left knows it.
Meanwhile, Jewish voters weren’t used as political pawns during the federal election. Most sensible individuals realize this. Sure, there are strategic reasons to use specific language and techniques with ethnic and religious communities. The Tories do this, and so do the Liberals, NDP, Greens and others. That’s politics, folks.
The fact that some overly sensitive left-wing Jews can’t handle this community’s political shift is both unfortunate and predictable. When they start embellishing details or puffing up stories that only represent a fraction of the community, that’s bloody offensive.