Oct. 19, 2020
Why I Stand with Israel
Growing up in the Philippines, I always celebrated the powerful connection between the Jewish and Filipino diasporas, whose strong ties date to the decision of Manuel Quezon, the Second World War-era president of the Philippines, to issue 1,300 visas to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe in 1937-41.
Not only did Quezon welcome as many Jews as he could get visas for, he also offered them his private land to grow food and develop a kind of kibbutz.
The Philippines was thereafter the only Asian nation to vote for the United Nations Partition plan of 1947, which led to the independence of the State of Israel, and paved the way for strong relations between the two countries through to the present day.
Quezon’s heroism is celebrated by both Filipino and Jewish people, including at the “Philippine-Israel Friendship Park” in Quezon City, the Philippines, and at “Balai Quezon” multipurpose centre in Tel Aviv.
In 2015, the board of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation approved a posthumous bestowal of the Wallenberg Medal upon President Quezon and to the people of the Philippines for having reached out, between 1937 and 1941, to the persecuted Jews of Europe.
I believe that Canada, too, should celebrate this great relationship with gratitude, with a monument in York Centre.
I am deeply committed to rebuilding Canada’s relationships with its most reliable allies, especially the State of Israel. Like our party’s leader, Erin O’Toole, I support recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and moving the Embassy of Canada to Jerusalem. Israel, like every sovereign nation, has the right to choose its own capital as a domestic decision; and the people of Israel have chosen to restore their ancient capital in Jerusalem.
Mr. O’Toole and I will stand by our ally Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East. Our party’s position on Israel is inspired by our last Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who famously promised the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, that “through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”
I agree with his argument that it is in Canada’s long-term interest to back a country where freedom, democracy and the rule of law are threatened by “those who scorn modernity, who loathe the liberty of others and who hold the differences of peoples and cultures in contempt.”
Under Prime Minister Harper, Canada was a loyal ally to Israel at the United Nations. Unlike the current government, which has infamously abandoned Israel on UN resolution votes, the Harper government consistently stood against the abuse of Israel by a body which values dictatorships as much as democracies, and elevates countries like Communist China and Cuba to its Human Rights Council.
I celebrate the Middle East’s only democracy, a multiethnic country, much like our own, made up of recent immigrants from around the globe; and the only country in the region to provide full rights and democratic participation to religious and ethnic minorities.
The vibrant free press and right to dissent available to all Israelis, including religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ communities, are the envy of the region. Israel is also an environmental trailblazer as the only country in the world to have more trees at the end of the 20th century than at the beginning.
I also recognize the tremendous progress that Israel has made towards a regional agreement with the Abraham Accords, through which it has made peace with two of its Arab neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain. As Prime Minister Harper rightly noted in a recent article, these agreements “are truly transformative and will pave the way for historic realignments across the Middle East.” They occurred because the world has changed – not only has the strong support of its allies proved to regional nations that Israel is a lasting part of the Middle East, but increasingly, a partner with leading Arab nations against the aggression of Iran.
I also stand with the Jewish community in embracing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which recognizes that antisemitism “might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity” which is different from criticism leveled against any other country.
According to Statistics Canada, year over year, there are more hateful attacks against Jews than upon any other group. I will always fight the terrible scourge of the world’s oldest hatred.
I call upon all Canadians who support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and Canada’s most reliable ally in the region, to join this campaign, because I want to represent you.
For a statement on Israel from York Centre’s Liberal candidate, Ya’ara Saks, click here.