Israel is saying a final goodbye and shalom to Shimon Peres, a former prime minister and president who died this week at the age of 93. The state funeral in Jersusalem was attended by more of the world’s powerful leaders than we see at many similar gatherings, and I can’t help wondering why? Israel is a tiny country on the world stage, but it has many powerful friends including Canada.
A large delegation made the long journey from Ottawa, including Justin Trudeau, Jean Chretien AND Stephen Harper. Mr. Harper has now resigned his seat in parliament and has maintained a near invisible profile since his Conservatives lost the election to Trudeau and the Liberals last October. Why then would Stephen deem it necessary to make this trip at his own expense?
As Prime Minister, Harper proudly declared on more than one occasion that Israel had no better friend in the world than Canada. Again, I can’t help but wonder “why”?
Despite its tiny size, Israel has huge strategic importance in a region that is very volatile. It’s been almost 70 years since Canada was one of the countries who supported the creation of Israel at the United Nations. It was in the aftermath of the horrible war that included the extermination of millions of European Jews by the Nazis.
Might we and other countries, including the United States, have been motivated by guilt? Canada had many reasons to feel guilty.
The Liberal government of Mackenzie King, which was still in office when Israel came into being, had a shameful policy when it came to allowing refugees to escape the holocaust by coming to Canada. Mr. King’s go-to bureaucrat on the issue, starting in the late 1930’s, was Frederick Blair who proudly declared “None is too many” when it came to welcoming Jewish refugees.
Canada’s policy on Israel in 2016 has obviously been shaped by many complex factors, but it would be gratifying if now and then, someone like Justin would stop posing for selfies long enough to acknowledge that “Hey, we are sorry, and we should have done better decades ago.”
I’m Roger Currie
Photos by Nader Daoud