The Liberals can count on support no matter what
by Lawrence Hart and Frank Dimant
December 13, 2000
In his commentary Canadian Jews against Israel (Dec. 10), Ezra Levant employs the dubious device of tarnishing the entire Jewish leadership with the same broad brush. His comments about B'nai Brith Canada ignore the organization's 125-year-old tradition of non-partisan politics, a tradition that has ensured working relationships with all political parties, even those not in vogue. It was in this spirit that the organization met with Stockwell Day, well before this became "fashionable" for Jewish leadership.
On what basis does Mr. Levant include B'nai Brith Canada in his thesis that the "Jewish establishment" blindly supports the Liberals and covertly propped up their election campaign? While B'nai Brith never publicly endorsed any party, it has made no secret of its disappointment at the government's voting record at the UN. This past weekend, one of the undersigned was quoted in the National Post itself criticizing these policies.
In fact, the only supporting evidence Mr. Levant offers is that The Jewish Tribune carried before the election the third of a series of paid ads marking Zachor, a ceremony co-sponsored by B'nai Brith Canada to honour Holocaust survivors. Since this was a joint initiative with the government, it was hardly surprising the names of prominent Liberals appeared in the ad acknowledging the sponsors and patrons.
A thorough perusal of the Tribune's coverage of pre-election issues demonstrates the paper was non-partisan in both its reporting and editorial stance. The Tribune was not used as a mouthpiece for the Liberals or any other party.
Canadian Jews are not controlled by a single Jewish establishment, as this article suggests. There are diverse voices and perspectives in the community, as in Canadian political life, and the mandate of B'nai Brith Canada and the Jewish Tribune is to make sure all these voices are heard.
Dr. Lawrence Hart and Dr. Frank Dimant, Executive Vice President, B'nai Brith Canada.
December 11, 2000
John Manley has been Canada's Foreign Minister for less than two months, but already he is making a name for himself as a foe of Israel. Mr. Manley's diplomats at the United Nations vote like clockwork to condemn Israel: Israel is the sole blameworthy party in the Mideast violence; Israel's Golan Heights belong to Syria, and Jewish towns there are illegal; Palestinians around the world should make land claims against Israel; Israel must not use any natural resources -- including water, one presumes -- in the West Bank or Jerusalem; Israel's claim to Jerusalem, its capital, is illegal. On Friday, Mr. Manley outdid himself: nearly a dozen anti-Israel votes, all in one day.
The chutzpah of these votes is incredible; one can imagine what the reaction would be if the UN declared Ottawa to be an illegal capital, built on occupied aboriginal land, or ordered Canada not to use resources in Quebec, without Lucien Bouchard's permission. But the most amazing part is that the Liberal attacks on Israel are being conducted with the support of Canada's Jewish community leadership.
To be sure, Canada's UN votes have caused anger amongst grassroots Jews and non-Jews upset about abandoning the only democracy and reliable friend in the region. Back in October, when the UN started its latest tear, 10,000 Jews rallied in protest across the country; Jews, who have historically voted Liberal en masse, began to flirt with the Canadian Alliance. In Toronto alone, the Alliance fielded four Jewish candidates, attracted by the party's pro-Israel stance and its pledge to provide tax credits for children who go to religious day schools.
What followed that grassroots rebellion, however, was an orchestrated campaign to prop up the Liberals and discredit the Alliance and its leader, Stockwell Day. Take the example of Exodus, a small Jewish-Russian newspaper in Toronto, which printed an editorial supporting the Alliance. Art Eggleton, a Liberal Cabinet minister, called the Canadian Jewish Congress -- which receives federal grants -- to complain. Moshe Ronen, the CJC president, phoned the publisher of Exodus to rebuke him for breaking ranks with the Liberals. Mr. Ronen's brother, Dan, is a failed Liberal candidate; Moshe is now the party's Jewish whip.
Pro-Liberal Jewish newspapers do not taste Mr. Ronen's wrath, of course. The week of UN Resolution 1322, the worst of the votes, The Canadian Jewish News chose instead to run a front-page tribute to Pierre Trudeau. In the edition before election day, it ran a column by Bruce Elman, denouncing Mr. Day as a threat to Jewish values -- but not disclosing that Mr. Elman had been a campaign worker for Anne McLellan, a Liberal minister. A whole page was devoted to the anti-Semitism of the Social Credit party in the 1940s -- with the implication that the Alliance is the modern equivalent.
And then there was the huge ad in The Jewish Tribune, the B'nai B'rith's newspaper, ostensibly to mark a Holocaust memorial in September. But it, too, was published in the edition before the election. It praised, in bold print, Elinor Caplan and Mr. Eggleton, both of whom were running against Jewish Alliance candidates.
There is nothing wrong with a political ad, but this one was sponsored by B'nai B'rith, the CJC and the federal government itself, in the guise of a Holocaust tribute. Odd, that. Ms. Caplan had just committed a cardinal sin in Jewish circles by exploiting the Holocaust for political gain, accusing the Alliance of being a haven for Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites, without evidence. Last Thursday, when a Toronto school trustee compared the Ontario government to the Nazis, the CJC responded within hours, blasting the trustee publicly. Ms. Caplan got a free ad instead.
In that ad lies the key to this puzzle. It would have made sense for the Jewish establishment -- the CJC, the B'nai B'rith, the Jewish newspapers -- to remain neutral during the campaign. And it might have made sense for the Jewish leadership to protest the Liberals' anti-Israel policies and opposition to school choice. But for the Jewish establishment to apologize for the Liberals and to pile on the Alliance can only be explained by partisanship in the community's top ranks, and the loyalty demanded in return for multicultural grants. What else can explain away the remarks by David Goldberg, a lobbyist with the Canada-Israel Committee? He publicly dismissed the UN votes as nothing to "lose sleep over," "perfunctory" and "nothing that's new" -- and tut-tutted the National Post for reporting them.
The election is over. Mr. Manley, Ms. Caplan and Mr. Eggleton were re-elected. They have learned that Jews -- or at least official Jews -- can be taken for granted, no matter what the Liberals do to Israel. The Alliance has learned how Jews -- or at least official Jews -- repay the only party that took the political risk of supporting Israel and Jewish day school funding. Don't expect Mr. Manley's anti-Israel votes to stop anytime soon.