By Shimon Koffler Fogel
In recent years, the Canada-Israel relationship has grown in prominence – due largely to the widening recognition that Canada has emerged as a key ally of the Jewish state. From supporting Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead, opposing the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral bid for statehood, or on a myriad of UN votes, Canada has taken a principled stand on a range of key issues. At various international fora – including the G-8, G-20, and Durban Review Conference – Canada has demonstrated particular leadership. The resulting curiosity I’ve encountered with colleagues from pro-Israel groups around the world invariably leads to the question: Why Canada?
On this point there has been much speculation, to various degrees of accuracy, both in Canada and elsewhere. For the sake of clarity, and to dispel any myths, I offer three distinct factors that help explain why Canada has demonstrated an increased understanding of Israel and the challenges facing the Jewish state.
1. The Canadian Jewish community is relatively large, engaged, and has an impact beyond its numbers.
Canada’s Jewish community, estimated at some 385,000, is the third largest in the Diaspora. Our historic roots are longstanding and pre-date the country’s founding, but the establishment of sizeable Jewish communities in Canada began much later than our southern neighbour. While the United States saw the arrival of German Jewry in the early 19th Century, Canadian Jewry saw no equivalent cohort. It did experience large waves of Eastern European Jewry and Sephardic Jewry in the early- and mid-20th Century, respectively. In general, Canadian Jews are one generation closer to their immigrant forebears than are American Jews. It is also worth noting the significant influx of refugees following the Shoah, with Montreal alone becoming home to more survivors than anywhere in the world outside Israel and New York.
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