11 March 2011
First of all, friends, let me begin by thanking my introducer, Senator Linda Frum. I have known Linda for a very long time - she has been a great supporter and friend of mine. It is a real honour to have her serving with us in our caucus. She does a great job for everybody here, so please give her a big hand for everything she is doing for Canada.
And many thanks to the CJPAC tonight for putting together this terrific event. On behalf of the Government of Canada and indeed our entire Conservative team, I want to commend you for the important work that you are doing. You are engaging all kinds of people, but particularly young professionals in causes that are important.
Of course, one of the important causes you stand for is the opposing of anti-Semitism, and it is especially important, during a week when we are reminded that anti-Semitism has gained a foothold on our campuses.
At one time, we could have expected threatening behaviour towards Jewish students to be rejected in any form at institutions of higher learning. Unfortunately, now it is often the behaviour of the anti-Israeli mob that is allowed to prevail.
I am sure that many of you here tonight have faced this anti-Semitism first-hand. This is, of course, a threat to our basic values as Canadians, and a threat to the tolerant, welcoming society we have tried to create for all our citizens, including Canadian Jews. And friends, as serious as it is, sadly, neither is this limited to Canada.
As I’ve said before, anti-Semitism is evolving, and the new anti-Semitism is a global threat. Its aims are as crude as ever, but its argumentation is more sophisticated and, in some circles, intellectually acceptable - disturbingly so.
This new anti-Semitism harnesses disparate anti-Semitic, anti-Western and anti-American ideologies, and it targets the Jewish people, by targeting Israel, which it depicts as a source of injustice and conflict in the world, perversely, using the language of human rights to do so.
We must be relentless and uncompromising in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. That doesn’t mean, that you have to agree, or that our government agrees, with all the positions of the Government of Israel.
But it does mean that we believe fundamentally that Israel has a right to exist. And, just as importantly, that we recognize the conflict around Israel is at its heart about the refusal of still too many to accept the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.
But Israel is here to stay.
As you all know, our government has taken a stand.
When Israel – the only truly democratic country in the region, and the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack – when Israel is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, we are morally obligated to stand up against that. And, as I’ve said, we have stood against it and we have the bruises to show for taking that stand.
I think you all know, that when you hear our opponents claim that Canada has lost influence, or that Canada’s foreign policy has lost its balance or that Canada is no longer seen as an honest broker or any other those other vague generalities, you know what that is code for.
It is code for the view that Canada should go back to being ambivalent about our relationship with Israel and its fundamental right to exist and to defend itself. Our party will never do that. We will always stand by our friends in Israel.
There is a fundamental difference - a fundamental and moral difference - between a democratic Israel, whose existence is threatened, and the anti-Semitic aggressors who threaten it. You know it, I know it, and deep down inside, they know it too.
So, we do support Israel. Not just because it is the right thing to do, which is it, but also because history shows us, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are ultimately a threat to all of us.
Indeed, if you look at the terrorist threats Israel faces, they are of exactly the same ideological origins as those who threaten terrorism against Canada. The only difference between the threats against us and the threats against Israel, is that these threats are more numerous and closer to Israel.
Now there are some interesting developments in that region of the world. Some of them are good, such as the overthrow of despots and the call for change along values we understand and agree with. So a new chapter is being written, but frankly, with conclusions we don’t yet know the outcome of, so we can assure you that we are going to watch this very closely, and we are going to remain vigilant.
As the spectre of anti-Semitism grows, our responsibility is increasingly clear. We are citizens of a free country. We have the right, and thus we have the obligation, to speak out and to stand up. In closing, I want to urge all of you who belong to CJPAC forward in your work.
You are standing for the very values that go to the core of what both Canada and Israel are all about: opposition to violence, to tyranny, to anti-Semitism, and all the related forms of racism and intolerance. And you are supporting freedom, Democracy and justice, for all our fellow citizens and, indeed, for all peoples.
Thank you for all you are doing.