Liberals don’t own the Jewish vote

Share Adjust Comment Print

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s failure to mention Jews in commemorating the Holocaust last week re-ignited a debate within Canada’s Jewish community.

That’s not to mention considerable coverage in the North American Jewish press and the Israeli media.

The latter included a lengthy report Tuesday in the online version of Haaretz, Israel’s most liberal and influential paper, written by Toronto correspondent Judy Maltz and titled: “Will Trudeau’s Canada Still Support Israel?”

While many Jews were offended by Trudeau’s Holocaust omission, mainstream Jewish organizations tended to downplay it.

Indeed, some didn’t publicly refer to the controversy prior to the Sun writing about it, and when they did, accepted the explanation from the Prime Minister’s Office it was a mistake.

I, too, take the PMO’s word it was inadvertent, although I will be watching closely from now on since it was such a bizarre omission.

Whatever happened, it re-enforced the conviction among many Jews that the Liberals under Trudeau will not be the staunch allies of Israel as the Conservatives were under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

There are also concerns about what many Jews view as Trudeau’s naive understanding of Islamism and how its interpretation of jihad — preached in Canada as well as abroad — provides a theological justification for terrorism.

This as moderate, liberal Muslims like Sun Media’s Farzana Hassan and Tarek Fatah have often warned about.

To be clear, not everyone in Canada’s Jewish community thinks it’s a bad thing for the Trudeau government to take what diplomats refer to as a more “nuanced” view of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict compared to the Conservatives.

Indeed, the mistake political parties routinely make is thinking all people who belong to a minority group think alike, which is untrue and patronizing.

Many Liberals, for example, have historically claimed they are the party that best represents Canada’s Jewish community, as if they have a divine right to its loyalty in perpetuity.

Indeed, in the wake of Trudeau’s election victory, some Liberals and Liberal Jews have accused Harper of using his support of Israel as a “wedge” issue to divide Canada’s Jewish community, as if the only acceptable position on Israel is whatever the latest Liberal one happens to be.

That arrogance, going back decades, along with outreach programs by the Conservatives, allowed Harper to carve off huge amounts of Jewish support while he was prime minister.

This to the point where an Ipsos Reid exit poll in the 2011 federal election estimated 52% of Jewish voters backed the Conservatives, compared to only 24% for the Liberals and 16% for the NDP.

While Trudeau’s victory in the recent election suggests — in the absence of hard data — that many Jews returned to the Liberal fold, to downplay the continuing split in the Jewish community’s loyalties between the Liberals and Conservatives in particular, as well as the NDP, is naive and inaccurate.

Like other Canadians, Jewish voters support or reject political parties for a variety of economic and social reasons, although Canada’s position on Israel is of particular importance to many.

Despite Liberal claims to the contrary, the political reality is the Harper Conservative government, and before that the Brian Mulroney Conservative government, were more publicly supportive of Israel than the Liberal government of 1993 to 2006.

Which is why many Canadian Jews are now watching the Liberals under Trudeau closely, and not without concern.