Canada’s leaders are crossing party lines to come together in support of Israel, even as highly-partisan Israeli Apartheid Week activists continue their frame-job.
"Israel's values are Canada's values," said Toronto Liberal MP Joe Volpe said this week, noting the IAW campaign was "offensive" to any reasonable person and a was tactic of intimidation.
He was joined by Government House Leader John Baird, who said "We know how evil apartheid was in South Africa, (and) it is wrong and outrageous to equate what happened in South Africa with Israel.”
Some may try to suggest that these politicians’ statements are mere propaganda. But even a casual examination of Canadian and Israeli society suggests that Israel’s values are indeed Canadian values. Here are a few examples:
- While there are practical differences in our political systems (we use “first-past the post”, the Israelis have proportional representation), Israeli democracy with its elections and parliamentary rules is immediately recognizable and comparable to what we have in Canada. In fact, it’s the only Western-style democracy in the Middle East. All Israeli citizens – Jew, Muslim, Christian, atheist, man, woman, immigrant, vegetarian, cat-lover, conservative, liberal – have the same political rights.
- In both countries, the rule of law is vigilantly maintained arm’s length from political or economic interference. Indeed, Justices of the Israeli Supreme Court quite frequently turn to Canadian decisions for precedent on human rights issues.
- Israel and Canada both celebrate freedom of expression. In both countries, journalists are free to criticize the government and society’s rules. Try that in any of the countries bordering on Israel and you’re likely to get tossed in jail (which is perhaps the main reason why so many Middle Eastern news bureaus are based in Jerusalem).
- Canadians and Israelis value both genders, and view sexual discrimination and harassment as an “offense to human dignity.” In both countries, women are heads of companies, politicians, doctors, university professors and celebrities. This contrasts harshly with what women can expect in terms of limitations on their freedom in the countries outside Israel (examples include a recent incident in post-revolutionary Egypt involving groups of women protesters calling for social and political equality, who were physically sexually assaulted by an angry mob).
- Canadians and Israelis enjoy cultural activities like music, fine art, theatre, books and film. Both countries celebrate their musicians, artists, actors, authors and filmmakers. And thanks to the freedoms that pervade our societies, creative people and their fans do not have to give in to censorship or intimidation. This contrasts sharply with what you can find elsewhere in the Middle East, where authorities may officially ban entire genres of music and authors – even ones that don’t live in the region – can be given death threats for writing “blasphemous” novels.
Canadians and Israelis do truly share a wide range of values. Half a world away, our societies both value freedom, human rights and the work of talented people like Celine Dion. Neither country is perfect, but so long as we remain guided by these kinds of values, it is the height of recklessness to characterize either country as a sort of outlaw nation.