It’s been in the news for the past couple of weeks, omnipresent in all most every headline, on every news channel, in every newspaper. Harper’s historic speech –in more ways than one– has generated much debate.
One of my fellow FTB colleagues wrote a piece that summed-up in many ways the shortcomings of Harper’s speech, it’s blatant disregard for the condition of millions of Palestinians in refugee camps throughout the Middle East, in the West Bank and Gaza.
The outrageous affirmation that Harper made that any criticism of Israel was ‘Anti-Semitic’ was seen as ‘little bit’ over the top even by right-wing political pundits.
Harper’s visit must be seen for what it is, it was the launch of his reelection campaign and that’s what is the most disturbing, that Harper and his neoconservatives used this visit to Israel to gain political points. How else could you explain the comments made by some MPs during the trip like the “one million dollar photo-op” or the huge cortege that followed Harper during his trip, made up obviously of staff and dignitaries but also full of political spin seekers.
Now this was to be expected. Harper’s government is on it’s last legs, battered by the senate scandal. And as the saying goes when things are going bad domestically, take a trip.
Even the most ardent supporters of Harper must ask themselves one important question: was all of this out of love for Israel? Of course not, it was a political maneuver and it must be seen as such.
But this question also alludes to another important question: was Harper’s speech positive for Israel? If open ended conflict with the Palestinian people and Arab neighbours is the outcome you are seeking, then yes, this speech was exactly what you were looking for. But if even just one little thread in your body clings to the idea of a peaceful resolution of the conflict, whatever that peaceful solution is, then this speech trashed whatever little hope you might have had left.
But I will not enumerate in how many ways our prime minister’s speech was harmful for the peace process and for Canada’s international reputation. I’d rather focus on one of the most important points of the speech, one of those rare stones that has been left unturned.
In his speech, Harper made reference to the very important notion of ”never again” as he extended his apologies to the Jewish people for the Canadian government’s attitude during the Second World War and in the period after, where thousands of Jewish refugees were turned away from Canadian shores. Magically, whoopdiedoo, Harper is the best friend of the Jewish people… or not!
For me this was the most insulting moment of the speech, not because someone who isn’t Jewish made reference to this notion of ”never again”. Not at all. I would hope that all of humanity will come to embrace this notion. I was insulted because it was the height of hypocrisy.
When Harper said with a heavy heart ”never again”, he spoke as if it was a notion of the past, that somehow the atrocities of the Shoah and the Nazi Holocaust were an impossible re-occurrence. Maybe that is why so many persecuted Roma families are being detained in detention centers throughout Canada waiting their deportation? Maybe that’s why the Conservative government calls Roma and Mexican queer refugee claims bogus? Maybe that is why this Conservative government cut healthcare to refugee claimants and made the refugee claimant system tougher and more repressive?
How can one apologize on one hand for the mistreatment and the discrimination of Jewish refugees in the 1940s and 1950s and the deportation and discrimination against refugees on the other hand?
The answer to all of these questions is that Harper doesn’t understand the notion of ”never again”. Not because he’s not Jewish, but because he doesn’t abide by the lessons of never again, the most important being that gaining political points out of fear-mongering and wedge politics is reckless and spineless.
”Never again” is a concept that transcends the past and the present, race, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation etc… Never again means that persecution for whatever reason is unjustifiable and should be condemned.
If I was to sum-up what ”never again” truly represents for Harper and his supporters that have misused and mistaken it for something else, ”never again” is love for humanity and hatred against oppression, racism and xenophobia. In the words of Sub-Commandante Marcos:
“I am a gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a Jew in Germany, a Gypsy in Poland, a Mohawk in Quebec, a pacifist in Bosnia, a single woman on the Metro at 10pm, a peasant without land, a gang member in the slums, an unemployed worker, an unhappy student and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains.”