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Universities, we used to think, were places where the smarter kids went, and where the smarter teachers taught.

We used to think that.

Now, not so much. Now, universities – including the most-admired ones, like Harvard and Columbia and McGill and U of T – are where profoundly-stupid things are happening. And where hate is running rampant.

The Times of Israel published a story about all of this a couple days ago.  A study found that the pro-Hamas, anti-Israel madness has gripped elite universities – but not the less-exclusive colleges, where kids from lower-income families go.

The study was conducted by the Washington Monthly. “Have pro-Palestinian protests taken place disproportionately at elite colleges, where few students come from lower-income families?” the study’s authors asked, then answered their own question: “The answer is a resounding yes.”

The survey focused only on U.S. universities and colleges, but is applicable in Canada, too. Because we’re not seeing so many kids screaming “from the river to the sea,” or hanging Jews in effigy at Red Deer Polytechnic or Durham College, are we?

The survey looked at 1,421 colleges, some public and some private. Only 123 had some kind of an encampment. At private colleges, they were practically non-existent.

But at the big-shot universities? At the fanciest universities, like Harvard – where, full disclosure, I attended classes at the business and law schools – the protests and rallies and encampments have been positively widespread. Said the study’s authors: “In the vast majority of cases, campuses that educate students mostly from working-class backgrounds have not had any protest activity. For example, at the 78 historically Black colleges and universities, 64 per cent of the students, on average, receive [grants for coming from lower incomes]. Yet according to our data, none of those institutions have had encampments and only nine have had protests.”

Their conclusion: “Protests are overwhelmingly an elite college phenomenon.”

Thus, what we witnessed at the University of Manitoba in recent days. A Dr. Gem Newman was asked to give the valedictory speech at U of M on May 16. The people who asked him should’ve checked out his social media first.

In his speech, Newman said that the Jewish state deliberately targets hospitals and healthcare workers. He said Israel was committing “genocide.” He said graduates should oppose “settler colonialism both at home and abroad,” “injustice” and “violence.”

Not surprisingly, a controversy immediately erupted, with U of M alumni, and others, expressing outrage about Newman’s attacks and false statements.

If anyone had bothered to review Newman’s social media, as noted, they wouldn’t have been surmised by his speech. For example, last year he expressed approval when someone posted on X that “if my kid respected Israel, I would have him tested for rabies.”

He liked another one calling Israeli “a genocidal apartheid state,” that was “engaged in ethnic cleansing.” Also one saying that Israel was not “a real country,” much in the way the Hamas Charter says it isn’t. In his own words, he has said “Israel is an apartheid state.” He has posted about the IDF being a “mass assassination factory.” And so on.

It would be comfort, small as it may be, to say that Gem Newman is the exception at our best places of learning. But he isn’t. Just this week, someone at the University of Toronto made Nazi salutes on-camera, approvingly called Hitler “a gangster” and said he should have finished exterminating Jews.  At McGill, a Jewish leader was hanged in effigy at the universities main gates. Nobody did anything.

Everywhere you look, these days, our supposedly-elite places of learning have degenerated into festering pits of hate and division. Their presidents may appear before House of Commons committees, and they may agree anti-Semitism is a problem on their campuses, but then they do precisely nothing about it.

Higher education? It is neither. It is very very low, these days, and there is nothing educational about it.

Do your kid, and yourself, a favour. Send him or her to a community college. They’re less likely to end up praising terrorists, and more likely to get a better life.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

The House of Commons voted on a controversial non-binding NDP motion on Mar. 18 that left a sour taste in most politicians’ mouths. It also left one unresolved matter that could open some additional political wounds.

Briefly, NDP MP Heather McPherson tabled the motion on Feb. 13. It was a means of recognizing the state of Palestine in the midst of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, and was far more critical of Israel’s actions. While the chances of this motion going anywhere seemed remote, the Liberals foolishly didn’t speak with the NDP about making necessary adjustments for over a month. When the NDP forced a vote, the Liberals quickly realized they didn’t have caucus unity to flat-out reject it. The Liberals scrambled to make last-minute adjustments – and barely made it under the wire.

The hastily amended motion passed by a vote of 204-117. The Liberals, NDP and other left-leaning parties supported it. The Conservatives opposed it along with Independent MP Kevin Vuong and three Liberal MPs, Marco Mendicino, Ben Carr and Anthony Housefather.

The unresolved matter relates to Housefather, a Jewish MP who represents the Mount Royal riding in Montreal, Quebec.

He told reporters on Mar. 19, “I’ve had to reflect on last night’s vote. It was a very hard time for me…I will be very honest, I felt that the message I put through about how disturbing the original motion was clearly didn’t prevail…that was a difficult one to lose.”

He was asked whether he felt he could stay in the Liberal caucus. “Right now, I’m reflecting on what happened yesterday. And when I have an announcement…and ended my reflection, which could be whenever, I’ll certainly let you know.” With respect to reflecting on his future with the party, he responded, “I think it’s the first time in my parliamentary career that I’ve had a reflection like this, where I truly felt last night that a line had been crossed. When my party members got up, and cheered and gave a standing ovation to Heather McPherson and the NDP, I started reflecting as to whether or not that I belonged.”

That’s interesting in itself, but an additional wrinkle (or two) was still to come.

In a Mar. 20 interview with Vassy Kapelos on CTV’s Power Play, Housefather said, “I want to reconcile – which I think a lot of Liberal supporters who are Jewish right now are trying to reconcile – is our feelings about Israel, and the existential threat that Israel faces, and the rising tide of anti-semitism, and the place that we landed Monday in the House of Commons vote, and whether or not we fit. So, this is a bigger question than just Anthony Housefather. I think it’s a question of a community.”

Kapelos also asked Housefather about the possibility of moving to another party, namely the Conservatives. “Again, when I say that I’m reflecting, I’m reflecting all options.” When she pressed further, he responded, “Look, I have a lot of Conservative friends and…Conservative colleagues. I’m not at this point engaging in direct discussions to say, ‘hey, I’m crossing the floor.’ But again, I have relationships. And in the same way my Liberal colleagues are talking to me, others are talking to me.”

It’s easy to sympathize with Housefather’s frustration. His party aligned with the NDP and passed a controversial motion that could jeopardize Canada’s relationship with Israel. The original version was far more critical of Israel than Hamas, and the final version wasn’t much better. The motion was amended at the 11th hour, and there was no proper debate and discussion about its contents. He wasn’t asked for input. His views were isolated, along with Mendicino and Carr. He watched his caucus colleagues give a standing ovation to a vile (albeit non-binding) motion that created plenty of confusion in his riding and the Jewish community.

That’s why he’s reflecting on his future in the Liberal caucus – and as a Liberal. Nothing further has happened to date.

If Housefather chooses to sit as a Conservative, that’s fine. Pierre Poilievre would welcome him into the Conservative caucus. Conservative MPs would welcome him, too.

But with all due respect, Housefather doesn’t fit with the Conservatives. He’s been a Liberal since he was a teenager. His Mount Royal riding, which was once represented by the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, has been consistently in Liberal hands since 1940. His political ideology appears to be left-of-centre. He’s supported most Liberal policies since he was first elected in 2015. He’s barely spoken out against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s litany of gaffes, foolish remarks and controversies. He was the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2019 that voted to adjourn rather than invite then-Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould to speak a second time during the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Other than supporting issues related to Israel and the Middle East, like this recent motion, I don’t see where he aligns with the Conservatives. You can’t have a real, honest-to-goodness change of heart that quickly in politics. Agreement on a limited number of issues isn’t enough to build a strong relationship with a party and political movement that you’ve largely rejected for decades, either.

None of this means the Conservatives wouldn’t accept him if he crossed the floor. It’s just difficult to perceive how this arrangement could last.

Housefather should therefore sit as an Independent to begin with. It’s a more difficult road in politics, especially when it comes to getting re-elected. That being said, it would give him the ability to speak his mind and vote as he sees fit. He would also have additional time to truly figure out if he belongs with the Liberals or not.

If the Conservatives form government in the next election, and Housefather’s ideological journey truly shifts to the right, then make the move. That’s a better route to a long-lasting political alliance and electoral success.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

When the terrorist organization Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, it led to the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. The after-effects have also been felt around the world. Pro-Palestine and pro-Israel rallies. Protests in front of small businesses, restaurants and even hospitals. Threats of antisemitism in Jewish and non-Jewish schools. Growing distrust of individuals and groups in neighbourhoods and communities.

Every so often, these incidents have contained a connecting theme. While this isn’t surprising per se, it’s interesting enough that some people will take note of it.

Here’s one of the strangest connections to date. Two Jewish women living in two different countries were recently involved in two bizarre situations that ended in an eerily similar fashion.

Strange, but true.

The first story relates to Leah Goldstein. Born in Vancouver to Israeli parents, she’s lived in both countries and currently resides in Vernon, B.C. She went from being a medal-winning kickboxer to a renowned cyclist. Goldstein won the women’s solo category in the annual Race Across America in 2011, and became the first woman to win the overall solo category in 2021.

Goldstein was asked in Aug. 2023 to be the keynote speaker at an International Women’s Day event in Peterborough, Ont. She often appears as a motivational speaker, and gladly accepted this honour. Her speech would’ve been given in March.

So far, so good.

Everything came crashing down a few months later. The event organizers unexpectedly disinvited Goldstein in January. “Our focus at INSPIRE has been and will always be to create safe spaces to honour, share, and celebrate the remarkable stories of women and non-binary individuals,” the organization said in a statement. “In recognition of the current situation and the sensitivity of the conflict in the Middle East, the Board of INSPIRE will be changing our keynote speaker.”

What had exactly caused this decision? Goldstein had reportedly served in the Israel Defence Force over three decades ago. This led a “small but growing and extremely vocal group” to take issue with her invitation – and INSPIRE caved in. Goldstein was never invited to speak with the event organizers, and refused to respond when some members reportedly demanded to know her position about the Israel-Hamas war.

“I am zero political when I speak,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Feb. 15. “Honestly, there is nothing political about my presentation. I just talk about the crap that I went through and the crap that most women go through, and they still do, and how I handled it.”

If she had spoken with the organizers, this would have been her first question, “You didn’t hire me because I’m Jewish, so why are you firing me because I’m Jewish?”

Good point.

What does being Jewish have to do with making a keynote speech on International Women’s Day? Absolutely nothing.

This brings us to our second story involving British actress Tracey-Ann Oberman. She’s appeared on popular TV shows like EastEndersFriday Night DinnerRobin HoodDoctor Who and Tracey Ullman’s Show, theatre performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Soho Theatre, and radio programs on BBC4.

Oberman was set to perform on the opening night of Merchant of Venice 1936 at the Criterion Theatre in London’s West End on Feb. 15. It’s a reimagined version of William Shakespeare’s play that takes place during the rise of fascism in parts of Europe, and focuses on a march by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the Jewish East End.

So far, so good.

While the play opened as scheduled, Metropolitan Police were called in to monitor the performance due to a number of online threats and abuse against Oberman. She’s been a vocal opponent of rising antisemitism in her country, especially in the Labour Party under former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Some people are irritated by her words and actions, it seems.

“’Tracey is really nervous at the moment like a lot of Jewish people are with the rising tide of antisemitism in this country, with people mixing up their anger at Israeli actions in Gaza with attacks on Jews in this country,” an unnamed friend of Oberman’s told the Daily Mail on Feb. 15. “She was very grateful to learn that police were outside the theatre on the opening night.”

In a twist of irony, Oberman plays the role of Shylock in Merchant of Venice 1936.

The original Shylock, a villainous Venetian Jewish moneylender who ultimately converts to Christianity, has long been the subject of controversy for representing historical Jewish stereotypes. Oberman’s portrayal of Shylock has been notably different since she introduced it last year at Watford Palace. Her version is a Jewish “matriarch and pawnbroker, dignified and steely,” The Guardian’s Arifa Akbar wrote on Mar. 2, 2023, “who is spat upon and verbally abused by powerful men on the street and has antisemitic graffiti daubed on her house.” This is what the audience at the Criterion Theatre witnessed, too.

Let’s recap. Olberman, who’s Jewish, had to be protected by police from antisemitic threats while performing a modern adaptation of a Jewish Shakespearean character based on historical antisemitism.

What does being Jewish have to do with playing Shylock on stage? Absolutely nothing.

So. While Leah Goldstein and Tracey-Ann Oberman may never meet, their stories that rose out of the Israel-Hamas war actually “met” in the most peculiar way.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney was honoured at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on Nov. 9. He was given the World Jewish Congress Theodor Herzl Award, joining a list of recipients that includes former U.S. president Ronald Reagan (posthumously), former U.S. Secretaries of State Colin Powell, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former German chancellor Angela Merkel, writer/activist Elie Wiesel and U.S. President Joe Biden.

Mulroney’s speech that evening was superbly crafted. I’m sure it was delivered with the eloquence we’ve come to expect from one of the finest orators ever to lead our country.

A few paragraphs deserve to be highlighted that focus on the Israel-Hamas war and the scourge of anti-semitism. These are important issues due to the times we live in. The former PM has also strongly and passionately opposed this type of racist behaviour for his entire life, which means it’s a matter of personal importance.

“Hamas knew full well the reaction its murderous rampage against innocents would provoke,” Mulroney said. “They knew and didn’t care. Indeed, it is the reaction they sought. They chose to put the lives of the two million people of Gaza they claim to defend in mortal danger in a deliberate, nihilistic attempt to set the Middle East on fire.”

The reasons for this attack “was not to increase the likelihood of a Palestinian state” and “was not to improve the lives of the people of Gaza,” the former PM told the audience. “These are terrorists in the purest sense of the word for whom the senseless violent act satisfies the strategic objective, killing Jews. Hamas knew something else. They knew they could count on a legion of apologists who, while decrying attacks on Jews here at home, are prepared to accept attacks on Jews in Israel as deserved.”

In Mulroney’s view, “contemporary antisemitism has added the State of Israel to its list of targets. Israel has become the new Jew. Stripped of its intellectual pretensions, of the cloak of human rights, these ritual denunciations of Israel with which we have become all too familiar are a pernicious form of racism.”

There was also this powerful paragraph near the end. “Antisemitism, born in ignorance and nurtured in envy is the stepchild of delusion and evil and is a scourge that must be eradicated. It will not be stamped out in my lifetime, nor in the lifetime of my children, or even, sadly, in that of my grandchildren.”

Well said and articulated.

Mulroney’s commendable opposition to antisemitism was detailed in Donald E. Abelson and Monda Halpern’s “On the Right Side of History”: Brian Mulroney’s Enduring Battle Against Antisemitismpublished by the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government at St. Francis Xavier University. I wrote about this paper in a Troy Media syndicated column in January, but it’s worth a second examination.

Mulroney was born in Baie-Comeau, Quebec. It’s a “small pulp and paper mill town that had no Jews.” The first Jewish person he would meet, the “son of a local clothier,” occurred at St. Thomas High School in Chatham, New Brunswick.

Abelson and Halpern provided three reasons why Mulroney has strongly opposed anti-semitism in his lifetime. They’re as follows: “his exposure to social justice issues while a student at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX), his years in Montréal in the 1960s, and his intense appreciation for the lessons of the past which inspired his consistent resolve to be ‘on the right side of history.’”

Mulroney has also been frustrated at the hostility against Jews in and around our country. He firmly believes “Canada’s collective shame rests largely in the treatment of the Jews by the Mackenzie King government,” and has always “looked to the lessons of the Holocaust as inspiration for helping to redress other injustices.”

Some critics may feel that Mulroney’s support of Jews and Israel has been politically motivated. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“With Jews representing less than two per cent of Canada’s electorate, Mulroney had little to gain politically by garnering favour with the Jewish community,” the authors correctly pointed out. Rather, he was “fulfilling an ethical imperative – pushing for Jews in federal politics and diplomatic posts, establishing the Deschênes Commission, and supporting the existence and self-preservation of Israel.”

The proof is in the pudding, as the old saying goes.

Three of his chiefs of staff were Jewish – Stanley Hartt, Norman Spector and Hugh Segal. Spector would also be named Canada’s first Jewish Ambassador to Israel, and Conservative Mira Spivak would become Canada’s first Jewish female Senator. Former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis became Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Liberal Senator David Croll, who Mulroney believed was consistently passed over for a cabinet position “for no apparent reason at the time other than his Jewishness,” was appointed to the Queen’s Privy Council.

I’ve known Mulroney for years. His opposition to antisemitism, support of Israel’s right to defend itself and friendship with the Canadian Jewish community is genuine and has never wavered one iota. He, along with several other former Canadian prime ministers – including my old friend and boss, Stephen Harper – have consistently defended Jews and Israel in both public and private life.

That’s why Mulroney deserves not only the Theodor Herzl Award, but our thanks for being a beacon of light during this difficult time for our country and world.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Many people are asking in bewilderment where the revolting outburst of pro-Hamas propaganda and agitation from the halls of academe to the streets of Canada’s major cities and those of every Western nation came from. So we have to talk about the intellectual malaise gripping our elites. But also, finally, about immigration.

Raising the latter issue gets you pilloried as a racist, I know. But we can’t let ourselves be bullied right out of public debate. Especially not now, because a lot of the problem is large numbers of people who have come from countries where they sprinkle “Death to Jews” on their morning cereal. And you know it.

Those protestors calling for the destruction of Israel are not neo-Nazi farmers from Saskatchewan honking truck horns in defence of traditional Canadian values like free speech. Some are privileged left-wing zealots, including the lost souls holding up signs like “Queer Jew for Palestine” of whom I can only quote Philip K. Dick’s haunting maxim that “Thanatos can assume any form it wishes; it can kill eros, the life drive, and then simulate it. Once Thanatos does this to you, you are in big trouble…” But the vast majority chanting in public about driving the Jews into the sea are immigrants and the children of immigrants. It’s hidden in plain sight.

As I’ve written elsewhere, part of the extraordinary upwelling of support for terrorism and of hatred toward Jews clearly comes from the commanding heights. It comes from universities, public sector unions, politicians and others in the state sector where left-wing ideologies of DEI, critical race theory and deconstructionism rampage unchecked. But a lot of it comes straight in through our open doors, without any effort to conceal itself, because of our bizarre immigration policy and its even more bizarre intellectual underpinnings.

Part of it is a kind of soft multiculturalism that insists that all cultural habits are at bottom the same, so it doesn’t matter what exotic food you eat, magic hat you wear or colourful dance you do. This vision seems to me to make culture itself impossible, by declaring all symbols and habits charming but meaningless, thus giving us a Prime Minister who professes Roman Catholicism while disregarding its teachings on sexuality without any perceptible thought. But it is at least somewhat benign. Kiss, rub noses, whatever. We are the world. Peace, man.

Try selling a “Canadian values” test to Justin Trudeau, who as I’ve also written elsewhere had no idea that a great many Canadian Muslims held “conservative” views on sexuality. When he found out, his characteristically clueless and mean-spirited response was that they were being brainwashed by “misinformation and disinformation… particularly fuelled by the American right-wing”. And the same Justin Trudeau, who I am confident does not have a copy of Magna Carta on his wall, told an American publication Canada was the “first postnational state” and added “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.”

Be careful what you wish for. Because if there still were a mainstream, Hamas supporters would be outside it. Instead they’re marching boldly in our streets in large numbers. And a major reason is a much harder multiculturalism that says all cultural habits are good except those of the West. Thus giving us a Prime Minister who literally claims Canada is committing genocide now, with him in charge, without any perceptible thought of stepping down, let alone surrendering himself for trial. And academia is riddled with people who call Canada a racist, patriarchal “settler” state that should be abolished on the spot, so of course they want to bring in people from other places with other habits, including religious ones, because they are better than ours.

Remember right after 9/11 Sunera Thobani said women would never be free until Western influence was eradicated worldwide. In one sense it is inane, since no sane person thinks women are treated better in non-Western societies. Even if Margaret Atwood saw chadors in Afghanistan and hallucinated George Bush’s America forcing women into sack-wearing sexual slavery, historically the United States is the birthplace and home of feminism, from the Seneca Falls Convention onward. But in another sense such claims are malevolent, because the whole point is to make you grovel before ideas you know are false.

Here one risks getting into the fever swamps of “replacement theory”. But there’s no conspiracy. It’s just that radical leftism really is radical, and if you ignore it or pretend it’s cute and cuddly, you are astounded when people carry pictures of Chairman Mao, burn churches or shout “Palestine shall be free from the river to the sea” and wave images of gliders. Or when people like Laith Marouf aren’t ostracized by our politicians, they’re subsidized by them.

At some point neither coincidence nor error can explain it. But now that you’ve been astounded, and horrified, do we change course?

For decades the political establishment here and abroad, from left to pseudo-right, has been as united in their support for massive immigration as on any topic you can think of. Even abortion. And as vicious in their rhetorical pillorying of dissent as racist as they are spurious in their justifications, like the one about needing mass immigration to build houses for all the immigrants we let in to build houses for immigrants.

It’s time to push back, because this raw, unashamed anti-Semitism didn’t come from outer space. But it came from somewhere. And we all know where. Those crowds chanting “Gas the Jews” at the Sydney Opera house (no, really) were not immigrants from Norway, or grandchildren of immigrants from Britain. They or their parents came from places where fundamentalist Islam is dominant. And you know it and I know it.

What’s more, they know we know. Now they’re watching to see whether we care enough to do anything.

If I need to say I’m not talking about race, I’ll say it, and the usual suspects will deny it. But I’m not. I’m talking about culture, and culture isn’t just about the spices, or primarily about them. It’s about habits of thought and behaviour. It’s about world view. And yes, it’s about religion.

Islam is not a race. And of course many Muslims are not in the “itbakh al-yahud” crowd, and some have even dared speak up. But far too many are. In much of the Middle East broadly defined the blood libel is not even controversial. And if you bring in many thousands of people a year who believe it, they will flaunt it and despise you.

What becomes of our politics if we get a solid, make-or-break-governments bloc of left-wing big-city MPs who not only don’t denounce Hamas, they support it? Because we can, by continuing to bring in vast numbers every year from places where Hamas is popular and Judaism is illegal, along with homosexuality, and having them congregate in major urban areas. But why would we want to?

Thanatos, referred to above, is the death wish. And one could claim that the entire progressive ideology of the modern West is a death wish. But if so, it is not one most of us share. Is it really despicable to ask that potential immigrants say they do not believe Jews routinely commit ritual murders of non-Jewish children? If so, despise me and tell the world what you are.

That we would throw open our doors and our arms to people from anywhere in the world fleeing poverty or oppression and wanting to live the Western way is admirable. That our leaders would throw open our doors and their arms to people who share their hatred of the Western way is appalling. And that we would let them is stupid.

People are calling the Hamas incursion, and the widespread cheering for beheading Jewish babies, raping Jewish women and other anti-Semitic atrocities an inflection point. And I think it is. But it could bend either way.

If we want to keep Canada a land of decency and freedom, a refuge from persecution for those of all races and origins, if we do not wish to become judenrein in short order, we cannot allow ourselves to be bullied into silence on immigration policy any longer.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

In politics, there are important issues and there are useful issues. International issues and foreign affairs are important… but rarely useful, politically. No one could deny that the recent Hamas terrorist attacks, Israel’s military response, and the resulting humanitarian crisis are important things.

But watching the debate unfolding about this new crisis in the Middle East during the NDP convention, it’s hard to imagine how useful this is for New Democrats. Few voters really care about the party’s position on Palestine and Israel, and even fewer will think about it on Election Day.

Among the major parties, the NDP is the one most sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Already in 1938, J.S. Woodsworth, first leader of the CCF, was opposed to the right of Jewish refugees to enter Palestine, claiming “it was easy for Canadians, Americans and the British to accept a Jewish colony,  as long as it was elsewhere. Why ‘pick on the Arabs’ other than for ‘strategic’ and ‘imperialistic’ reasons?”

This position created a lot of turmoil within the party at the time, especially since Woodsworth, a pacifist, had been the only MP to vote against Canada’s declaration of war on Hitler’s Germany. The party would eventually line up behind the creation of Israel. But the debates were lively and accusations of racism and anti-semiticism, numerous.

Interestingly, the first Jewish politician to become leader of a party in Canada was Stephen Lewis in Ontario in 1970. His father David, became the first Jewish leader of a federal party in 1971. Another New Democrat, Dave Barrett, was elected premier of British Columbia in 1972, becoming the first Jewish premier.

This is to say that the NDP’s desire to find a balanced position on the conflict between Israel and Palestine goes back a long way. This desire for nuance has forced NDP leaders to be funambulists over time: a two-state solution; Palestine has the right to independence; Israel has the right to defend itself; denouncing terrorist actions and violations of international laws.

But this balanced position does not make all New Democrats happy. Ed Broadbent, Alexa McDonough and Jack Layton all had to manage very delicate situations. Numerous resolutions denouncing Israel are regularly brought to NDP conventions. Candidates have been rejected or dismissed because of their overly strong pro-Palestinian positions or anti-Israel statements.

Former MP Svend Robinson was once arrested by Israeli soldiers while trying to enter Ramallah, arguing that he was there to carry a message of solidarity and to promote peace.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called for the resignation of Layton’s deputy leader, Libby Davies, for her support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

On the other hand, many NDP MPs have been part of the Canada-Israel Inter-Parliamentary Group, which “furthers cooperation and mutual understanding” between Canadian parliamentarians and members of the Israeli Knesset.

Under the leadership of Tom Mulcair, some felt the party was taking a stronger position in favour of Israel. Ignoring the latter’s epic quarrels with leaders of the Jewish community, MP Sana Hassainia even slammed the party’s door using the issue as an excuse, pointing to  Mulcair’s in-laws being Holocaust survivors and to the sizeable Jewish community in his constituency.

From there to say that the NDP is under the thumb of the Jewish lobby, there is only one step, happily taken by the most pugnacious. There is a mirror reaction from the fiercest supporters of Israel, who believe that the NDP is infiltrated by pro-Palestinian hysterics. In this context, having a reasonable discussion is mission impossible.

Jagmeet Singh had to play a balancing act once during this last Convention, marked by scenes of demonstrations, heckling, delegates being removed and police intervention. This is not Singh’s fault, but it gave the party an immature image, as videos of the confrontations made the rounds.

At the tactical level, these ardent pro-Palestinian activists target the NDP because it is the lowest hanging fruit. They assume the message will have a more significant and immediate impact on delegates and party policies than if they showed up at a Conservative convention.

They will claim victory when they see New Democrats stand up in Question Period, denouncing “the impact of this war on the Palestinians”, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and asking the government to “stand up for international law”. Important questions, to be sure.

Meanwhile, Pierre Poilievre and the Conservatives are relentless on the cost of living, asking Prime Minister Trudeau to “reverse his inflationary policies,” “to lower interest rates” and to “allow Canadians to keep their homes.” Useful questions, without a doubt.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.