Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Harper Playing Politics With Race, Religion and Identity

Frances Russel wrote a great column in the Winnipeg Free Press about the horrendous anti-Semitic ten per centers sent to Jewish communities by the Reformers.

It was politics at it's worse.

Mentioned in the article was the fact that if we allowed these to be OK, then others could find themselves targeted. But Rob Anders already did that with Muslims in his community. This kind of behaviour is appalling and must be stopped.

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Conservatives should apologize
By: Frances Russell
December 2,2009

Of all the racial/religious/regional wedge issues the Harper Conservatives have exploited in their quest for a majority, the taxpayer-funded pamphlets associating the Liberals with anti-Semitism are the most contemptible.

Last week, in a relatively rare occurrence, Commons Speaker Peter Milliken ruled the flyers breached parliamentary privilege, an ancient right protecting members of Parliament from attacks designed to cripple their representative role.

He found that former justice minister Irwin Cotler, an internationally recognized human rights expert, had been dealt a "direct and personal" blow by the flyers mailed into his Mount Royal constituency and four other opposition ridings containing significant numbers of Jewish voters.

"I must agree with several members who suggested that there is no denying the critical role that context played in shaping the cumulative net effect of the words used in this mailing," Milliken said. "The mailing constitutes interference with (Cotler's) ability to perform his parliamentary functions in that its content is damaging to his reputation and his credibility."

Cotler called the Conservatives' accusations "loathsome and dangerous... Some of the responses to the flyers in my riding called upon me to leave Parliament, to in fact even leave the Jewish community, as I had betrayed that community. There could not be a more pernicious and prejudicial fallout from this damaging flyer."

He added he had been accused of being a "self-hating Jew" and continued: "There can perhaps be no greater betrayal for the people of Jewish religion than the portrayal of one of their own as anti-Semitic, and that holds true as well for the member for Winnipeg South Centre."

But the government was not about to apologize. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney called the issue "ridiculous."

"Members opposite are trying to make a capital case out of a conventional political communication, using the same tactics and distribution they use all the time, even on the same set of issues. Basically, incontrovertible facts are presented that are matters of conventional political debate."

How "incontrovertible facts" can be the subject of conventional debate Kenney didn't explain, perhaps because the "incontrovertible facts" in this instance are half-truths.

The perennial target of the most pernicious forms of discrimination and persecution over the millenia, concluding with the Holocaust, Jews are particularly vulnerable to any attempt to single them out.

Yet the Harper Conservatives did just that; hopefully without knowing what they were doing. Winnipeg South Centre Liberal MP Anita Neville gave the issue its true context in her parliamentary remarks:

"In the 61 years since the creation of the state of Israel, 11 people have occupied the office of Prime Minister of Canada and none, until now, has ever sought to turn that broad support for Israel into an issue of partisan politics. However, the current government and the current Prime Minister try to govern on the principle of divide and conquer, divide and rule. In this case, they are doing it by singling out Canadian Jews for a special message and it is a message that, I would submit, is based on deception, innuendo, half-truths and non-truths.

"For the current government, such conduct seems to be instinctive. However, I would submit again that it is not the Canadian way. A government that sees nothing wrong with a ten percenter targeting Canadian Jews now will see nothing wrong with targeting Sikhs or Muslims or Serbs or Bosnians tomorrow.

"The manipulation of religious or ethnic minorities for short-term political a recipe for long-term disaster. A country like ours becomes ungovernable when a government seeks to mobilize or divide people on the basis of their culture and their religion.

"In this particular case, a ten percenter targeted at Jews or any other minority attempts to turn them into political fodder and the communities in which they live into someone else's battleground.

"As a Canadian Jew, I would say that we are quite capable of managing our own disagreements without the interference of the national government or any political party."

The Harper Conservatives should apologize -- and stop playing politics on the incendiary field of race, religion and identity.

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