When Stephen Harper, 60, served as Canada’s prime minister (2006-2015), he shocked the diplomatic world with his outspoken support for Israel.
That stand likely cost Canada a seat on the UN Security Council in 2010.
It was a controversial stand, and not one that yielded much political capital domestically, either. Out of Canada’s population of 37 million, only half of Canada’s 375,000 Jews supported his Conservative Party. That affected the election outcome in only 10 of Canada’s 308 electoral districts.
The Canadian Muslim community is three times larger than the Jewish one, but only 12 percent ever supported him. Many Evangelical Christians support Israel, but local economic and social issues are also important to them.
Many heads of state speak niceties about Israel, but few count as true friends. What is it that drove this rare–and costly–pro-Israel stand?
“Through fire and water”
On January 20, 2014, Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to address the Israeli Knesset (parliament). “Canada supports Israel fundamentally because it is right to do so,” he insisted. “We stand up for a free and democratic Jewish state.”
He said, “It is right to support Israel because after generations of persecutions the Jewish people deserve their own homeland.”
And he admitted: “To be clear, we have also periodically made terrible mistakes, as in the refusal of our government in the 1930s to ease the plight of Jewish refugees. But, as a country, at the turning points of history, Canada has consistently chosen, often to our great cost, to stand with others who oppose injustice, and to confront the dark forces of the world.”
Harper assured his listeners that, “Our view on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable.” To recognize Israel as a Jewish state was provocative given the continued pressure by the European Union and Muslim nations on Israel not to label itself a Jewish state.
The prime minister also commented on the extensive cooperation between Canada and Israel in the scientific and economic fields, but earned the greatest applause with the words, “Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”
Were these mere words of diplomacy to boost trade? Political words to encourage tourism? Or were they a reflection of the heart of a friend of Israel?
A Christian upbringing
The prime minister was raised in a liberal Christian home. His father, Joseph, spoke of the Jews as being the chosen people and that they deserved kindness after the Holocaust.
As an adult, the son joined the evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance, which emphasized the authority of the Bible. He developed his favorable view of Israel even though the church had no particularly Zionist views.
His upbringing, then, formed the foundation which accompanied the aspiring economist and politician throughout his career.
Consistent or expedient?
No longer in office, the former prime minister has been consistent in defending Israel, even when there was no need for it.
In a recording broadcast on May 13 this year (www.prageru.com/video/why-dont-you-support-israel/), the former head of state explained his reasons for siding with Israel, despite the great political cost: