Prime Minister Stephen Harper told an international group of parliamentarians in Ottawa to discuss anti-Semitism that he will continue to be a vocal supporter of Israel even if it costs Canada international honours like a seat on the UN Security Council.
The conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Anti-Semitism - a gathering of politicians from more than 40 countries - is largely aimed at exposing what its members say is the "new anti-Semitism," which is defined as excessive and unjust criticism of the state of Israel.
While the substance of anti-Semitism is as crude as ever, Mr. Harper said, its method is now more sophisticated.
"Harnessing disparate anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-Western ideologies, it targets the Jewish people by targetting the Jewish homeland, Israel, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world and uses, perversely, the language of human rights to do so," the Prime Minister said. "We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is."
That prompted loud applause from conference participants.
"Israel, like any country, may be subjected to fair criticism," Mr. Harper said, pointing out that Israel subjects itself to such criticism as part of a healthy democratic debate.
"But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand," he said.
"And I know, by the way, because I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the United Nations or any other international forum, the easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being even-handed and to excuse oneself with the label of honest broker. There are, after all, a lot more votes - a lot more - in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand."
Canada recently lost a bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, a defeat attributed in part to its staunch backing of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians.
"But as long as I am Prime Minister, whether it is at the United Nations, the Francophonie, or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand whatever the cost," Mr. Harper said. "I say this, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tell us all too well if we listen to it, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us."
This is the second meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Anti-Semitism. The first was held last year in London.
Canadian MPs of every stripe returned from that conference and formed an unofficial Parliamentary committee called the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, which held hearings into the new anti-Semitism. They were aimed largely at anti-Israel rhetoric and attacks on supporters of Israel that have taken place at Canadian universities.
The Bloc Québécois pulled out the committee last March citing the "the inequality of opinions presented before the Coalition," and "the refusal of the Steering Committee to hear groups with opposing viewpoints."
A report prepared by the committee, which is funded by the federal government, was due in May but was delayed by many months and was expected to be released at this week's meeting.
A group called Independent Jewish Voices held a press conference after the Prime Minister's address Monday to reveal what it says are "startling details of how the CPCCA and ICCA have an agenda to attack free speech and to silence legitimate criticism of Israel by falsely conflating this with anti-Semitism."