Oy Canada

The Canadian national anthem, “O Canada,” affirms of our country that “we stand on guard for thee,” a noble sentiment that I suspect is often more honored in the breach than the observance. For “standing on guard” means not only defending our shores from invading armies -- what invading armies? -- but from those amongst us who would unravel the fabric of civil life. Though the country remains economically viable and maintains a decent standard of living, we could do a much better job at keeping the national tapestry intact, especially when it comes to the strand representing our Jewish citizens.

Several recent events make it hard to resist the impression that anti-Semitism, often masking itself as anti-Zionism -- the difference between the two has become negligible -- continues to flourish in Canada. I have space here to mention only a few such occasions. The United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant confession in the country, has tabled motions to divest from companies involved in building Israel’s security fence or that provide “products, services, or technology” to Israel. And at every major convention, UCC poohbahs, strutting about like lord high auditors in a clerical version of The Mikado, never fail to introduce anti-Israeli boycott resolutions. Naturally, the church has not seriously considered divesting from real human rights offenders and undeniably oppressive regimes, of which there are no scarcity.

Although the divestment motions are annually prorogued (though not defeated), this does not impede church leaders from reintroducing them with enteric regularity at every new session in the hope that they will one day be passed. Church spokesman Bruce Gregersen did not rule out the possibility of a boycott as, in his words, “a means to ending the occupation” -- a highly problematic concept in light of the authentic historical context. These facilitators of anti-Israeli propaganda might profit from what University of Haifa professor Steven Plaut calls “an antibiotic of familiarity with Middle East history,” a possible cure for the triple whammy of ignorance, malice, and sophistry.

There are many people, it appears, who are desperately in need of this medicine. When the Royal Ontario Museum hosted an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the summer of this year, protests erupted in Toronto sponsored by various organizations, like Palestine House and the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, which consider the scrolls as “Palestinian artifacts.” This is to be expected, of course, but what is more disquieting is that individual citizens also threw in their lot with the demonstrators. One such incident which made the news involved the owner of a popular French bistro, Le Select, who posted a memo on the restaurant’s website decrying Israelis as looters. The underlying reason for such objections, I’d surmise, is that these ancient texts confirm beyond the slightest fashionable doubt that the Jewish presence in the Holy Land is historically incontestable. Such people seem to think that the Hebrew Bible is an Islamic patrimony.

One recalls as well the comments made on December 12, 2002, by David Ahenakew, then chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. According to this authority, Hitler was right to have “fried” six million Jews. At his trial in April 2005 for inciting public hatred, he stated for the court that he stood by his earlier comments. It took a full two years for Mr. Ahenakew to have his membership in the Order of Canada revoked by the Office of the Governor General. Yet, even though he was finally drummed out of the Order, following a brief resignation Mr. Ahenakew subsequently resumed his position as a senator with the Federation and has now won his court appeal. On February 23, 2009, a Saskatchewan judge found him not guilty of incitement to hatred.

It is only fair to acknowledge here that the Conservative government has reversed its predecessor’s anti-Israel voting pattern at the United Nations, for which it has been roundly taken to task by the likes of the Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson, Canada’s most pontificating journalist, who accuses PM Stephen Harper, Canada’s most intelligent politician, of “align[ing] the country with the preferences of the Canada-Israel Committee.” This is to the administration’s credit and a sign that it is at least moving in the right direction, which may well turn out to be temporary should a Liberal administration return to power. The Liberals would likely revert to business as usual. This is called being an “honest broker.”

And one must be thankful, too, for that platoon of brave and honorable Canadians, like National Post columnists Barbara Kay, Robert Fulford, and George Jonas; David Warren at the Ottawa Citizen; national security consultant David Harris of the Canadian Coalition for Democracies; Point de bascule founder Marc Lebuis; and authors Kathy Shaidle, Howard Rotberg, Jamie Glazov, Ezra Levant, and Mark Steyn, who have taken a principled stand against the spreading infection of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism within the body politic.

Nevertheless, the beat -- or the beating -- goes on. The Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), effectively violating its institutional mandate, tabled a resolution to support organizations and unions engaged in the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement against Israel. Ditto the Canadian Postal Workers Union (CPWU), which seems less concerned with delivering the mail to Canadians than with delivering pronunciamentos to Israelis, giving a whole new meaning to the idiom “going postal.”