In an article published in The Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestine popular website, Yves Engler, the author of “Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid,” quotes Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, saying that Israel is a “light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness.”
Previously, the Minister for Employment and Social Development, Jason Kenney, delivered a speech at the launch of the Canadian chapter of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which was established by a former colonel in the Israeli military. MEMRI has a reputation with its selective (mis)translations of stories from Arab and Iranian media in a bid to advance the interests of the expansionist Israeli Apartheid regime. In his speech, Kenney told the audience that MEMRI is “a peaceful weapon of truth-telling in a civilizational conflict in which we are all engaged.”
Engler argues that the Harper government’s pro-Israel comments are particularly extreme; but they are far from unique in Canadian history, which has witnessed the promotion of a Jewish homeland in Palestine by non-Jewish Canadians for more than a century. Early Canadian support for Zionism was based on the more literal readings of the Bible that flowed out of the Protestant Reformation.
This pro-Zionist leaning in Canadian history is also tied to the country’s status as a dominion of the British Empire, which in the latter half of the nineteenth century began to see Zionism as a potential vehicle to strengthen its geostrategic position in the region.
Christians for Zionism to Buy Palestinian land
At the time of confederation, Canada’s preeminent Christian Zionist was Henry Wentworth Monk. To buy Palestine from the Ottoman Empire in 1875, Monk initiated the Palestine Restoration Fund; but he failed in his endeavor.
Seven years later he took out an ad in the Jewish World proposing a “Bank of Israel” to finance Jewish resettlement. He also took up a campaign in England to raise funds for buying land in Palestine during the 1870s and 1880s. Moreover, in 1881, Monk proposed setting up a Jewish National Fund. He lobbied extensively in England and Canada to promote his cause. Monk called for the British Empire to establish a “dominion of Israel” similar to the dominion of Canada. He was convinced that Palestine was the logical center of the British Empire. To him, Palestine could help forming a confederation of the English-speaking world.
Besides Monk, citing a mix of Christian and pro-British rationale, leading Canadian politicians repeatedly expressed support for Zionism. Quoting Zachariah Kay’s 1978 book, “Canada and Palestine,” Engler mentions that two cabinet ministers attended the Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada convention in 1907, telling delegates that Zionism had the support of the government.
Kay’s book also notes that Arthur Meighen, then solicitor-general and later prime minister, proclaimed in November 1915: “I think I can speak for those of the Christian faith when I express the wish that God speed the day when the land of your forefathers shall be yours again. This task I hope will be performed by that champion of liberty the world over — the British Empire.”
The 1917 Balfour Declaration, which declared British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, boosted support for Zionism in Canada. In the years thereafter, Canadian politicians of various stripes repeatedly urged people to support Zionists.
Prime Minister Mackenzie King, known with his anti-Semitism, was very enthusiastic with praise for Zionism when he addressed the Zionist Federation of Canada in July 1922. David Bercuson quotes him in Canada and the Birth of Israel, saying participants their aspirations were “in consonance” with the greatest ideals of the “Englishman.”
Years later, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett told a coast to-coast radio broadcast for the launch of the United Palestine Appeal fund drive that the Balfour Declaration and the British conquest of Palestine represented the beginning of the fulfillment of biblical prophecies.
Yves Engler makes a reference to a 1962 book by Canadian Zionist Bernard Figler, which quoted Bennett saying, “When the promises of God, speaking through his prophets, are that the home will be restored in the homeland of their forefathers…Scriptural prophecy is being fulfilled. The restoration of Zion has begun.”
Engler concludes that “Jewish Zionism must be understood from within the political climate in which it operated. And Canada’s political culture clearly fostered Zionist ideals.”
British Imperialism, Zionism and Canadian nationalism
Engler argues that British imperialism, Christian Zionism and nationalist ideology were all part of Canada’s political fabric. Additionally, in the early 1900s, most Canadians did not find it odd that Europeans would take a “backward” people’s land, which is what settlers did to the indigenous population in North America in general, including Canada in particular.
A number of books about Canada’s Jewish community discuss how elite Canadian Jews were more active Zionists than their US counterparts. Especially after the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Zionist activism gained momentum in Canada. Another source mentioned by Engler, Canada’s Jews: A People’s Journey by Gerald Tulchinsky explains: “The First World War accentuated differences between Canadian and American Jewry. For example, loyalty to Britain’s cause provided Zionists with opportunities to identify their purposes with Britain’s imperial mission.”
Approximately 400 Canadians fought in Allenby’s Jewish Legion when British General Edmund Allenby led a campaign in late 1917 to take Palestine from the Ottomans. Sometimes the Canadian media praised beleaguered Jewish communities for taking up England’s cause to conquer Palestine. Since Israel’s creation in 1948, different Canadian governments have expressed varying degrees of support. After a long career of support for Zionism as external minister and prime minister, Lester Pearson referred to Israel as “an outpost, if you will, of the West in the Middle East.”
In an October 1977 speech, External Affairs Minister Don Jamies said “Israel is an increasingly valuable ally of the West and Jews and non-Jews alike should see to it that Israel remains … an ally of the Western world,” adding “We in Canada must see to it that when Israel is making such tremendous sacrifices, we should stand ready to help Israel with oil and material assistance.”
It is true that the current Canadian government is more aggressive in its public declarations than any before it and this has helped drive the establishment of the Jewish community to an even more hardline position. Engler reports that the ninety-year old Canadian Jewish Congress was disbanded by its wealthy donors two years ago in favor of an even more Israel-focused Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. The Conservatives’ strong ties to Christian Zionism has prodded the Zionist lobby group B’nai Brith to deepen its ties with Canada Christian College and the prominent right-wing evangelist Charles McVety.
At the same time, the anti-racist sectors of Canada’s Jewish community have made major strides in recent years. But these groups are unlikely to become dominant voices within the Jewish community until there is a shift in Canada’s political culture because of the fact that Canadian Zionism has long been part of the religious and political establishment.Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2014, 11:54