The Conservatives should not have politicized remarks by former Liberal MP Omar Alghabra (above) calling Israel’s response to Hamas rockets “blind and cruel.”
As rockets by the hundreds flew between Gaza and Israel last week, I received an email from Cory Hann, director of communications for the Conservative Party of Canada.
It referred to former Mississauga-Erindale Liberal MP Omar Alghabra's Facebook post calling Israel's response to Hamas rockets "blind and cruel." The email called Alghabra's remarks "offensive and ignorant. We are urging [Liberal leader] Justin Trudeau to condemn his remarks and demand an apology. We know that when we stand by Israel against anti-Semitic terrorists and extremists, that is Canada at our very best."
And then this: "Canada's Conservatives are the only party that stands with Israel."
Alghabra had originally posted, "Tragic! My thoughts and prayers are with the innocent civilians caught in blind and cruel bombing."
I wish Alghabra had used less charged language. Hamas is anathema to my Jewish values, my Canadian values and to all our shared human values.
But to his credit, Alghabra did edit his tweet almost immediately to "Tragic! My thoughts and prayers are with the innocent civilians, on both sides caught in bombing."
It would have behooved the Conservative Party to acknowledge as much. On his Facebook page, the National Post's Jonathan Kay rightly called the Conservatives' partisan appeal "tacky."
In the face of so much suffering and horror, scoring cheap political points to raise a few bucks is, frankly, slimy. The Conservative strategy of "out-Israeling" the other parties is well known, but it's a shame they have stooped so low to pander to Jewish voters. It does nothing to encourage dialogue.
Don't get me wrong. On Israel and Hamas Stephen Harper has it right but for one important element; peace. Unlike virtually all other world leaders Harper has not urged the parties towards reconciliation or ceasefire, even though as an unabashed Israel supporter he's uniquely positioned to make a difference in the Middle East.
And it is voices of world leaders that must be heard over the rockets and the missiles and the death.
Israel must defend itself but in so doing the end result is inevitably and awkwardly unbalanced. Hundreds of Gazans, many of them innocent children, have been killed in the bombing, despite Israel's stated efforts to warn civilians.
Strategists claim that Hamas "urges" their people to stay in their homes and ignore the Israeli calls to leave. Yet where are they to go?
Gaza is a small crowded strip of land with few places to hide. The UN schools and other facilities are already bursting to overflowing.
With Israel's superior defense technologies and array of bomb shelters the death toll on its side has been very low.
Each death of an innocent child, mother, father, wife or husband is a tragedy. Each innocent life taken in war needs to be a rallying cry for peace. Alas this is not how Harper seems to see his role.
His approach stands in stark contrast to a few glimmers of hope in the region itself.
In the midst of war, Jews and Muslims came together to break religious fasts - the Jewish 17th of Tammuz and Islam's 18th day of Ramadan - that coincided last week.
Canadian rocker Neil Young had to cancel his Tel Aviv concert over security concerns, but made donations to two organizations that teach music to Israeli and Palestinian youth.
Most heartening, the families of the Jewish teens and Arab boy whose murders lit the match of this current mess spoke out simply and eloquently about the need to respect our common humanity.
Closer to home, this past week Toronto Jews gathered in front of the Jaffari Mosque in Thornhill in solidarity with the Muslim community against the hate graffiti spray-painted near their place of worship.
I support Israel and oppose Hamas terror. It is well past the time for progressives to rise up against this monstrous organization. Ask the Palestinian representative to the UN Human Rights Council, Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi, who stated a few days ago that "the missiles that are now being launched against Israel [by Hamas]... constitute a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because they are directed at civilian targets."
However, supporting Israel against Hamas should not be confused with supporting the tactics of Israel's Likud government.
Rather, we should support the Jewish democratic state in its ongoing battle against terrorism irrespective of who may be in office. There is nothing inconsistent or anti-Semitic about supporting Israel while opposing its current government's approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
No doubt others will disagree.
But one thing the current conflict in the Middle East should not be about is wedge politics. Sadly, some have no such scruples about that.
Bernie Farber is a former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress.