Prime Minister Harper, there’s thousands of Jews and supporters of Israel marching throughout Montreal today. There’s celebrations across the country. You’re going to Toronto to make a speech on Israel’s 60th anniversary. Why…why is this such a big deal in Canada? Your support for Israel, why are you going out of your way to do this?
RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER (Prime Minister of Canada): Well, first of all,
it’s a great day for the Jewish people. As you know, the Jewish people had
a two millennia old dream to return to the Holy Land and see the
establishment of the Jewish State, and of course that all occurred in the
shadow of World War II and the holocaust, so I think it’s just a tremendous
achievement in the annals of human history, a tremendous rebirth of a nation
that had suffered terribly. At the same time, of course, Israel has become
a beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East, in a land where that
is very rare and where those values are under attack, and Israel of course
shares those values with Canada, which is why, you know, we obviously
believe that continued existence and prosperity of Israel’s and the
interests of all Canadians, and why we congratulate them, and why we, you
know, why we see many of the kinds of groups or states that threaten Israel
as very much threats to Canada as well.
REPORTER: There’s been a long-standing tradition that goes across party lines, at least the parties that occupy this office, in being friends and supporters of Israel – Liberal Prime Ministers, Conservative Prime Ministers – and so it extends well beyond the Jewish community in Canada, this support of Israel. We’re hearing increasingly, though, people say that given the changing demographics in this country, perhaps Canada should, some say switch sides, others say adopt a more nuanced position. What do you say to those people?
RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER: Well, I think Canada has to take a principled
position in the Middle East. The first part of that principled position is
that Israel has a right to exist. Canada supported the creation of the
State of Israel in 1948 for all the right reasons, and Israel,
notwithstanding the terrible security challenges that they have, Israel has
been a responsible member of the democratic family of nations. You know, in
terms of the plight of the Palestinians, this government, Canadian
governments have supported a two state solution. I mean, we all want to
see a vibrant, viable, democratic, secure Palestinian State living
alongside a secure and democratic Israel, but that, you know, that will
only happen the day the enemies of Israel decides that Israel has that
right to exist and they’re prepared to live with Israel in peace. As long
as they threaten Israel, as long as they threaten terrorism, they are
responsible for the ongoing plight of the Palestinian people and the
problems of the Middle East that Israel has to deal with. So I don’t think
it’s a question of demographics. It’s a question of what’s right and wrong.
I know there’s a minority opinion in this country that is very hostile to
REPORTER: That seems to be growing. We see it increasingly. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers just declared Israel an apartheid state. We see it on university campuses. Very strong opinion on the left, and these are people that say you’re too pro-Israel.
RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER: Well, you know, I guess my fear is what I see
happening in some circles is anti-Israeli sentiment really just as a thinly
disguised veil for good old fashioned anti-Semitism, which I think is
completely unacceptable. You know, we learned in the Second World War that
those who hate and destroy the Jewish people will ultimately hate and
destroy the rest of us as well. And the same holds today. Canada is not
going to…is not…Canada under this government is never going to cater to
that kind of opinion. You know, I am disturbed that there are some elements
in our political system, there are even some Members of Parliament, we saw
during the confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah a couple of years
back, we’ve got some that were willing to cater to that kind of opinion.
This government is not, and I don’t believe that Canadian people as a whole
share that kind of sentiment, and it would be a very dark day if that kind
of sentiment ever took hold in a big way in this country.
REPORTER: Before you head off to Toronto to the big celebration tonight, will Canada and Israel remain steadfast friends do you think in the future? RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER: I believe so. I believe so. As I say, I think
that Israel’s existence as a nation of freedom and democracy in the Middle East, facing the kind of enemies it faces, very much ultimately we as Canadians share exactly those values and we share those kinds of threats,
and I think if we were ever to abandon Israel, we would only jeopardize our own long-run security interests, so I think Canada will, for both practical reasons and reasons (inaudible) will remain a strong supporter of the
rights of the Jewish people and the freedom and democracy that’s present in Israel.