Harper Defines anti-Semitism by Assumption

Harper Defines anti-Semitism by Assumption

As published in the Hill Times: Sept. 12, 2018 & the Ottawa Sun: Sept. 13, 2018.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was known for refusing to even entertain the slightest criticism of the Israeli state’s behaviour. Therefore, Harper’s history adds context to his recent comments on UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn and the perils of anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, Harper’s September 5 column is so riddled with assumptions and political labels that it seem mainly intended for those who already share both his general philosophy and generous definition of anti-Semitism.

This audience includes those who support the definition offered by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism is broad enough to include even evidence-based critiques of Israeli military and security policy if other states act in the same manner. That’s sort of like saying, “Everyone else is doing it so it so we can’t very well object to it.” Even school children would reject such simplistic reasoning.

It is interesting to note Harper’s resurfacing during a time when harsh demagogues are gaining legitimacy in Europe and the U.S. Harper had often complained about what he called resurgent anti-Semitism in European nations like International Democratic Union (IDU) members Hungary and Poland.

As chair of the IDU, Stephen Harper has congratulated Viktor Orban, Hungary’s anti-immigrant leader whose hard-right Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Alliance openly restricts the activities of civil society organizations. Orban’s Alliance belongs to the 80 member IDU, a coalition of centre-right political organizations.

While it is possible that Harper will have a positive effect on the more extreme members of the IDU it is notable that Harper’s recent column failed to mention his leadership role in this organization.