TORONTO —There is nothing Israel wants more than to live in peace with its neighbours, including the Palestinians, said Rabbi Marvin Hier.
Rabbi Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, was one of the speakers at the fifth annual Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Spirit of Hope Benefit at Roy Thomson Hall on May 31.
Although his speech was infused with a sense of hope, Rabbi Hier warned the audience of about 2,000 against the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, a danger not just to Israel but to the entire world. He compared the delayed response of the Allied forces to the Holocaust during World War II to the current lack of response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and speculated on the consequences this could have for Israel’s existence.
“There is no doubt on which side the western allies would come down if Iran ever attacked Israel,” he said. “But by that time, despite all good intentions, it just might be again too late to save the Jews.”
Earlier in the program, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was honoured with the Simon Wiesenthal International Leadership Award for his work in the field of justice and human rights, including the fight against anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism is a threat to us all,” Harper said in accepting the award from real estate mogul Philip Reichmann. Harper spoke of Canada’s unwavering support for Israel, reflected in its withdrawal from Durban 2, the review conference in April to follow up on the 2001 anti-racism conference held in Durban, South Africa. Harper described Durban 2 as a “hate-fest masquerading as a conference against racism.”
The event wrapped up with a panel hosted by journalist Linda Frum, who interviewed former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, former U.S. secretary of homeland security Michael Chertoff and former Australian prime minister John W. Howard about national security in the United States.
On the issue of border security, Frum asked how much current airport security measures actually accomplish.
Chertoff responded that “there is no one measure that will absolutely guarantee defence against terrorist attacks.”
The panel agreed, however, that we are still not doing enough to protect our borders from terrorism. Although there have been many complaints from passengers since 9-11 about invasion of privacy at customs and security posts, Chertoff said that this view doesn’t take into consideration the full scope of the problem. He stressed that by lowering our security measures, we would be “encouraging vulnerability” to terrorist attacks and that such measures should be supported by the American public to help ensure its safety.
Considering the question from another perspective, Frum asked the panellists about media criticism of the George W. Bush administration’s policies, such as the use of waterboarding as an interrogation method and the holding of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
Howard said he felt much of the criticism has been unfounded, especially toward the former U.S. president’s handling of the 9-11 attacks.
“It is important to focus on the U.S. mindset back in 2001,” he said. “Methods were used to protect a country from another attack.
“He did his job,” Howard continued. “He protected his country. That should be the verdict regarding what is right.”
In looking at the issue of post-9/11 world diplomacy, Frum asked about the possible impact of President Barack Obama’s upcoming June 4 speech in Cairo reaching out to the Muslim world.
Howard said he supports the president’s decision to address the Muslim world, adding, “I encourage anything that helps promote moderate Islam.”
As Rabbi Hier had done earlier, Bolton responded by again referring to the danger posed by Iran. Given the opportunity, he said, he would tell the president to support an Israeli strike against Iran, since the alternative would be that the world would have to contend with a dangerous nuclear nation.
“Not every problem can be solved by diplomacy,” he said.