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Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a menorah lighting ceremony in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009. (Adrian Wyld)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a menorah lighting ceremony in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009. (Adrian Wyld)

Ezra Levant

Explaining Stephen Harper's 'bizarre embrace' Add to ...

Christmastime can make a Jew feel self-conscious, which might explain why last month Gerald Caplan shared with us, not once but twice, his personal thoughts on the "the Harper government's bizarre embrace of Canadian Jewry."

Bizarre wasn't the only word he used. He also called Canada's pro-Israel position perverse, fanatical, mindless and unseemly. He was even rougher on Israel's government, calling it extremist, its prime minister a radical and its deputy prime minister a supporter of ethnic cleansing. The only thing Mr. Caplan didn't do was accuse Israel and its supporters of being Nazis.

Oh, wait, he did that too: in a grotesque twisting of the New Testament's Book of Revelation, Mr. Caplan said evangelical Christian supporters of Israel only do so to hasten the "final Holocaust of the Jewish people" and that they want a "Jew-free world - Hitler's demented goal finally realized." If he said that about the Jewish Torah or the Muslim Koran, he'd be charged with hate speech.

Believe it or not, that is Mr. Caplan being polite. He once accused Israel of "routine beatings, torture, killings and harassment of Palestinians by Jews" - an accusation so false and defamatory it was gleefully seized upon by Holocaust revisionists like David Irving.

Putting aside his personal vendettas, Mr. Caplan does ask a valid question: why are the Conservatives focused on the Jews? As an old NDP organizer, he knows Jews make up just one per cent of Canada's population, so they're not an important voting bloc. And whatever leverage the Jews used to have when it came to party financing was eliminated when the $1,100 annual donation limit became law.

Mr. Caplan says he's "always happier when people aren't paying us so much attention. Thanks, Conservatives, but no thanks." I agree with him, actually. But it's not because of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives that Jews are news.

Jews have plenty of enemies who wake up every morning with the goal of antagonizing them, either politically or violently. It was Islamic terrorists who sought out the Chabad House in Mumbai. It is the largest voting bloc at the United Nations - the Saudi-backed Organization of the Islamic Conference - that demonizes Israel through relentless resolutions. It is Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who promises to wipe out Israel. It is Hamas and Hezbollah who fire rockets at Israeli civilians. A lot of Jews would like a break from the news, but that's not likely to happen soon.

Mr. Harper's innovation is not that he takes positions on these issues. It's that he has brought Canada's foreign policy into line with our national values - freedom, peace and democracy. And, domestically, the Prime Minister has drawn a bright line between legitimate criticism of Israel and outright Jew-hatred.

All of this represents a pro-Israel political philosophy with which Mr. Caplan clearly disagrees. But while he is entitled to his own opinions, he is not entitled to his own facts. And Mr. Caplan has a few whoppers.

In his nearly 2,000 words on the subject, he studiously avoids mention of Islamic terrorism either overseas or at home, and goes so far as to list the culprits behind Canadian anti-Semitic incidents as "kids, crackpot white supremacists or marginalized thugs."

Perhaps Mr. Caplan missed it when Yousef Sandouga, a Palestinian immigrant, firebombed Edmonton's Beth Shalom synagogue. The judge called it a terrorist act. Was Mr. Caplan out of the country when Montreal's United Talmud Torah school was firebombed by Sleiman Elmerhebi and his friends, leaving a note praising Hamas? Has Mr. Caplan not heard of the Toronto 18? And who has been marching in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary, flying the flag of Hezbollah, the banned terrorist group? Those evangelical Christians again?

Mr. Caplan claims that Canada is an "anti-anti-Semitic championship," where politicians try to out-bid each other for being pro-Jewish. His beloved NDP is a living refutation of that. Svend Robinson spoke for many in his party when he called Israel a "terrorist state".

Both of Mr. Caplan's columns went to bat for a left-wing lobby group called Kairos that recently had a new $7-million funding request denied by the Conservative government. Here again, his facts need correcting.

He claims Kairos is "fighting injustice around the world." Not really; they don't have a word of criticism for human rights disasters like China or Saudi Arabia. What they like to fight best - the only country for which they promote an economic boycott - is Israel. As for charitable acts, well, Kairos spent only 3.7 per cent of its budget last year on "anti-poverty grants."

They're not a charity. They're a lobby group.

Mr. Caplan claims that Kairos never endorsed a boycott campaign against Israel, and he invites readers to check their website, claiming "they explicitly do not support such campaigns." But Mr. Caplan has been duped: as soon as Kairos lost its funding, it engaged in an after-the-fact scrubbing of its website, deleting anti-Israel pages, and adding disclaimers to many anti-Israel links.

It's a shame that Jews and Israel are in the news so much. It would seem odd if Canadian political parties duked it out over the "New Zealand question" or their "Portugal policy."

But as long as Israel and the Jews are targets, Canada's government will take a position on it. Lucky for us, it's the Conservatives taking those positions, not Mr. Caplan and his party that call democratic, liberal Israel a terrorist state.

Ezra Levant, a Calgary lawyer and founder of Western Standard magazine, worked on the Conservative election campaign in 2008

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