Tories will continue to back Israel, Harper says; Opposition ‘marches with Hezbollah’
Thu 11 Sep 2008
Byline: Andrew Mayeda And Meagan Fitzpatrick
Source: Canwest News Service
TORONTO – Stephen Harper touted his party’s staunchly pro-Israel foreign policy yesterday, accusing opposition party members of "marching in the streets beside the flags of Hezbollah."
Two years ago, Mr. Harper ruffled diplomatic feathers when he refused to sign a resolution at the annual summit of the Francophonie that expressed sympathy only for Lebanese victims in the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.
Yesterday, Mr. Harper said it was one of the "most difficult days" he’s had as Prime Minister and that he found himself caught in "a case of political correctness gone mad."
"A large number of foreign leaders demanded we sign on to a statement, a statement that would have singled Israel out for condemnation, for having defended its democracy against the terrorism of Hezbollah, an organization that wants it wiped out from the face of the Earth."
The Prime Minister was speaking to a crowd in a Toronto riding that has the fourth-largest Jewish population of any riding in Canada.
"I remember those days well, when there were members of other parties actually going out and marching in the streets beside the flags of Hezbollah," Mr. Harper said.
Demonstrations in support of Lebanon were held in Mont-real, Toronto and Ottawa.
Politicians attending the Montreal rally included Liberal MP Denis Coderre, Michael Ignatieff, who was in the running for the Liberal leadership at the time, as well as Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair.
Mr. Duceppe rejected the criticism at the time, saying it was a far cry from being a demonstration glorifying a terror organization — and in fact, the Bloc and many others did their best to get the Hezbollah supporters to leave.
Mr. Harper also suggested he pulled the plug on his own government this fall to avoid a similar incident at this year’s Francophonie summit, which Quebec City is scheduled to host from Oct. 17 to 19.
"One of the reasons we wanted to have this election by mid October, was to have this election over and done with before we hosted the international summit of the Francophonie," he told a rally of a couple of hundred supporters in the riding of Eglinton Lawrence, held by Liberal Joe Volpe.
Mr. Harper’s comments prompted swift reaction. The Liberal foreign affairs critic said he was offended by Mr. Harper’s comments and described them as "disgusting."
"The support of the Liberal party for the security of Israel and the rights of the Palestinian people and the rights of people of Lebanon to live in peace and security has a history that dates back decades, and Mr. Harper’s attempts to cast ill will on our party and on other opposition parties is nothing short of disgusting," said Bob Rae. "Anyone who knows the record of the Liberal party … would know just how truly disgusting Mr. Harper’s comments are."