March 29, 2009
By Tamsyn Burgmann
THORNHILL, Ont. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper passionately vowed Thursday night that his government would always stand behind Israel, at the same time denouncing what he called “a rising global tide of anti-Semitism.”
Harper’s speech to members of the Jewish community in this Toronto suburb came amid planned court action by a British MP who was banned from entering Canada for apparent links to Hamas.
Donning a blue skullcap, Harper reaffirmed his government’s support for the state of Israel at a grand opening ceremony for a new Chabad Lubavitch centre, an organization dedicated to the welfare of Jewish people worldwide.
“Of the dangers that confront us in the world, anti-Semitism should be confronted in its own right for the moral evil that it is,” Harper said as the crowd rose to a standing ovation.
“I say this not just to Jews, but to gentiles everywhere. It is important to remember that history teaches us that those who aim to destroy the Jewish people – to destroy the nation of Israel – that kind of spirit will not be quenched by that objective.
“They will be a threat to us all, and that is why they must be opposed.”
Harper, who was joined by MP Peter Kent, who represents the area, said the Conservatives have been taking continual leadership on the issue. He noted that Kent has spoken out against recent anti-Semitic incidents on some university campuses.
At Toronto’s York University, for instance, anti-Israel slogans were shouted at Jewish students.
“The bottom line is this,” Harper said. “Whether at home or abroad, I hope and I know you can have not a shadow of a doubt that my government will remain a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism and an unyielding defender of religious freedom and a staunch ally of the state of Israel.”
Harper’s speech didn’t mention his government’s refusal to allow British MP George Galloway from entering Canada.
The federal government has said Galloway violated sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that state anyone can be barred from Canada for engaging in terrorism or being a member of a group that engaged in terrorism.
That charge is apparently based on the fact that Galloway delivered humanitarian goods to war-torn Gaza and gave $45,000 to the Hamas government, which is a banned terrorist organization in Canada.
Galloway’s lawyers are challenging the entry ban and are considering a civil action.
Yitzchok Grossbaum, who attended the ceremony, called Harper’s speech “unbelievable.”
“We’re shocked at the words the Prime Minister used today,” he said. “You could see he really meant it.”
Two prominent Jewish organizations, B’nai Brith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress, have applauded banning Galloway from entering the country.