Criticism of Israel is not necessarily antisemitic: Mulroney

Brian Mulroney
Brian Mulroney

(VIDEO) Former prime minister Brian Mulroney reiterated his long-standing support for Israel recently before an advocacy group, but also said, “This does not mean, however, that Israel should be immune from criticism. One can strongly disagree with policies of the government of Israel without being called an antisemite.”

A prosperous Palestinian state beside a secure Israel “should be the objective of all who believe in justice, because this is the pathway to peace. And I am sure that one day relatively soon we shall see the initiation of a process that will produce precisely this result,” said Mulroney, the honoree at a fundraising dinner May 9 for the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC).

The Progressive Conservative Mulroney talked mostly about history, rebuking one of his Liberal predecessors, William Lyon Mackenzie King, for his shameful record on Jewish immigration.

King had “a visceral distrust of Jews,” he said, and refused Jewish immigration for “political expediency,” thereby committing a “historical error.”

Mulroney recalled that, in 1937, King visited Germany to meet with Adolf Hitler, and afterward said that the Fuhrer was “really one who truly loves his fellow man… He is, if there ever was one, a genuinely kind, good man.”

Mulroney also quoted King’s impressions of his meeting at the same time with German foreign minister Konstantin von Neurath: “He admitted that [the Nazis] had taken some pretty rough steps in cleaning up the situation, but the truth was the country was going to pieces at the time Hitler took hold. He said to me that I would have loathed living in Berlin with the Jews, and the way in which they had increased their numbers in the city, and were taking possession of its more important part.”

Mulroney said: “The prime minister sets both the agenda and the tone in Ottawa. Is it any wonder, then, that Canada was slammed shut to Jewish immigrants before and during the Second World War?”

Mulroney said he set up the Deschênes Commission of inquiry on Nazi war criminals soon after he was first elected in 1984, even though it was controversial among “communities where Nazi criminals posed as respectable citizens.”

He persisted, he said, not only to do justice to the Jewish community, but because “Canada needed closure” after King’s record.

The gala dinner, co-chaired by retired senator Leo Kolber and Jonathan Deitcher, was held at Starlink Aviation’s glamorous hangar for private executive jets, near Trudeau International Airport.

Afterward, CJPAC held its fifth annual Montreal Action Party, where organizers say 1,000 young people, community leaders and close to 50 elected officials (and three senators), from three levels of government, had the opportunity to meet informally over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Two busloads of attendees came in from Ottawa.

Among the most popular politicians with the crowd of well-dressed patrons, both Jewish and non-Jewish, was new federal Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau. Wearing a tie with a stylized blue Star of David on it, he posed for numerous photos.

Among the others were Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum and federal Liberal MP Denis Coderre, who is expected to soon announce his candidacy for mayor in this November’s election; federal Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism) Maxime Bernier; Quebec International Relations Minister Jean-François Lisée, who is responsible for the Montreal region; new Quebec Liberal leader Philippe Couillard; the New Democrats’ justice critic Françoise Boivin and foreign affairs Paul Dewar; federal Liberal MP Marc Garneau, and Côte St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather.

CJPAC Quebec regional director Cheryl Stein stipulated that no media interviews were permitted with the politicians.

Founded eight years ago, CJPAC is a national membership-based organization that urges Jews and others who are supportive of Israel and the community’s interests to get involved with the political process.

It is non-partisan and encourages involvement in all parties, at all levels, during and between elections. Funding is from individuals and corporations, and donors do not receive charitable tax receipts.

Headquartered in Toronto, CJPAC recently added to its staff in Montreal.

“It’s exciting to watch so many people from different backgrounds come together to celebrate political engagement in our community,” said Monique Assouline, Action Party co-chair. “Bringing the Jewish and pro-Israel community together with elected officials for a party with food, music and drinks is a convincing way to showcase how political involvement can be enjoyable and easy.”