Earlier this month, in a speech delivered at the United Jewish Communities’ General Assembly in Toronto, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said, "we have understood in Canada for some time now, that Israel’s values are Canada’s values."
But are they? To my knowledge, no editorials, no op-ed’s, and no politicians have yet commented publicly on the implications of our prime minister’s blanket statement, or on the speech itself — the full text of which was published by the National Post under the headline, "Israel’s values are Canada’s values."
So let us stop for a moment and examine the top ten reasons (among many) why reality might paint a very different picture of the rose-coloured feeling our PM suggested:
1. Israel has no constitution. A constitution is a must for any democracy. Constitutions are needed to establish clearly defined physical, ethical, humanitarian and legal borders, recognizing the citizens living within them — both their rights and their responsibilities. Since Israel has not made up its mind which lands it will grab from the Palestinians to include within its politically flexible borders, it has in effect no legitimate borders, no constitution, and no true democracy. This way of running a state does not reflect Canadian legal, political or philosophical values.
2. Israel is a self-declared Jewish state. Its army drafts almost exclusively Jews for military service. Compulsory and racially exclusive conscription by the armed forces does not reflect traditional Canadian values.
3. Israel’s immigration policy discriminates on the basis of religion. Only Jews are allowed to live permanently in Israel, while any Palestinians (whether Muslim or Christian) are barred from ever returning if they leave. This is emphatically not a Canadian value.
4. Israel militarily occupies lands belonging to its neighbours. For nearly 40 years, it has subjected their indigneous populations to terror and deprivation through military violence. This is not a Canadian value. Canada, although admittedly not perfect in its treatment of pre-colonial and/or indigenous peoples, rejects policies of deliberate subjugation and military terrorism and is making substantial efforts to acknowledge and redress both present and historical injustices within its own borders.
5. Israel has never admitted wrongdoing. After more than half a century of using arbitrary and often brutal methods to establish and maintain statehood, no healing and reconciliation process towards indigenous and diaspora Palestinian populations has been initiated. Israel has ignored strong encouragement to do so from the international community, from the UN and from Palestinians themselves. This is not a Canadian value.
6. Israel is a threatening nuclear power. Israel’s nuclear capability is a potential weapon of mass destruction towards its neighbours and the world. Canada, a leader in the development of peaceful-use nuclear technology, does not stockpile weapons to threaten the world under the guise of self-protection. This is not a Canadian value.
7. Israel refuses to see itself as part of Asia or the Middle East. Israel has always stood aloof from the international community, rather than develop itself as a Jewish majority state that is committed to achieving peace and justice for all, including non-Jews. Perversely, it maintains before the rest of the world a facade of uniqueness, fed by an ingrained siege mentality. This is not a Canadian value.
8. Israeli Jews are obligated to follow the Halakah. The Halakah (Jewish Law) rules in matters of divorce; there is no civil dissolution of marriage allowed. Halakah Law also forbids Israeli Jews from marrying outside their faith. This restrictive and discriminatory method of maintaining "racial purity" is not a Canadian value.
9. Israeli towns with significant Arab populations are under-funded. Towns such as Kafr Kasem are significantly under-resourced in comparison to all-Jewish ones. While national equality in civic funding is a difficult ideal to attain, Canadian policy recognizes that the effort must be made in order to ensure a healthier and stronger future for coming generations. Deliberate municipal starvation that results from the under-supply or withholding of essential utilities and public services is not a Canadian value.
10. Israeli schools openly teach hatred towards Palestinians. Canadian educators are increasingly aware of the need to teach our youth as completely and accurately as possible about the history of our diverse peoples, both in peacetime and in conflict. Our education system rejects built-in discrimination and brainwashing. Israel’s anti-Palestinian indoctrination policy — reflected in the textbooks and teaching methods of its schools — is also not a Canadian value.
In light of only ten points of comparison — and it would not be difficult to find more — Paul Martin’s well-intended (but misguided) warm, fuzzy statement about shared values between Canada and Israel comes up very short on substance. In fact, it would be a very different, and happier, world if we did share as much in common as the PM’s Nov. 13 speech naively suggested.
Only on the thinnest surface does Israeli life even remotely reflect so-called "Canadian values." Sad but true.