Member Of Parliament for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan
February 18, 2016

Opposition Motion (CPC) Israel -BDS

Mr. Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, CPC): Mr. Speaker, members of the House know, as I mentioned before, that my grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, and so I am particularly honoured to be speaking strongly today against contemporary discrimination against the Jewish people.

I am very proud to be a Zionist. A Zionist was defined originally as someone who supported the re-establishment, and now as someone who supports, the development and protection of the Jewish nation called Israel. There is for me an important connection between remembering the lessons of the Holocaust and supporting the modern Jewish state of Israel.

   Zionism began at the end of the 19th century, but support for Zionism was not a slam dunk even within the Jewish community. Some liberal-minded Jews perceived the tension between the call for a separate Jewish state on the one hand and the demand for full Jewish equality within existing European states on the other. They saw the call for a separate Jewish homeland as contrary to their project of seeking integration and assimilation.

   However, the terrible experience of European Jews during the Second World War demonstrated for most Jews, and most non-Jews alike, the need for a Jewish homeland. As much as Jews everywhere continued to seek full acceptance in nations where they lived outside of Israel, the opportunity to go to an ethnic and religious homeland provided them and provides them with vital security. If and when things go badly, Jews always have somewhere to go. This was the case at the time of the Holocaust.

My grandmother was part of a mixed family. They were only able to obtain one visa, so her father, the full-blood Jew in the family, left for South America, but my grandmother and her mother had to stay behind without him. We all know the tragic case of the St. Louis, a boat carrying Jewish refugees from Germany, which Mackenzie King refused to allow into Canada.

   Noting this experience, Jews have rightly reasoned that as much as they can hope for good will from other nations where they live, they cannot always depend on it. Israel not only has a right to exist, its existence is necessary, because without it, Jews will not have the security that comes with knowing that, worse come to worse, they always have somewhere to go.

   Despite some dark moments, Canada and Israel have had a strong partnership. Certainly, we have much in common. Of course, we disagree on some things. It is a misconception that those of us who are Zionists always agree with policies of the Israeli government. As the member for Calgary Heritage has said, of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism, and like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism with healthy, necessary, democratic debate. That self-criticism is part of what makes Israel a great nation: vibrant, open debate about politics between people of different philosophies and from widely varying religious traditions.

   In Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, all citizens are able to run for government, to attend university, to hold any job, to sit on the Supreme Court, or represent their country on the international stage, just as Canadians are. Israelis, just like Canadians, can aspire to any goal and are free to work to achieve it. Frankly, Israel's Muslim population enjoy more economic, political, and religious freedom than do Muslim populations in many neighbouring Muslim-majority states.

   Canada and Israel have much in common. We are vibrant democracies, we value multiculturalism, we protect the rights of all citizens, and we enjoy robust democratic debate in two official languages: for us it is in English and French, and for them it is Hebrew and Arabic. With these traits in common, it is natural for Canada and Israel to have a very strong bond.

   Like Israel, Canada has spoken out in the past about global anti-Semitism, and we must do so again. Let us be clear: anti-Semitism and racism almost never identify themselves as such, but a movement that calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions, not on the basis of actions, views, or words of the individuals facing the boycott but on the basis of national origin alone, is clearly an example of anti-Semitic racism. We have an obligation to speak out, not only in support of a friend, but to take a principled stand on something that runs counter to our deeply-held values of diversity and inclusion.


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