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January 31, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 31, 2014 Is Stephen Harper-led Canada Israel's new best friend? PAGE 11A By Sean Savage With the Middle East in turmoil, Europe moving backwards, and the United States fatigued from years of war and recession, Canada has emerged as a staunch sup- porter of Israel. At a time when Israel is routinely singled out for condemnation, Canada has been at the forefront of defending Israel and criticiz- ing its enemies. This outspokenness comes amid the growing economic and political clout of Canada, a country that is traditionally accustomed to keeping a low profile internationally. While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper embarked on his first trip to Israel from Jan. 19-22, the Jewish state rolled out the red carpet for him. Has Israel found a new best friend? "[Harper] really under- stands the importance and moral justification for a Jew- ish state, he gets it," Rabbi Philip Scheim of Toronto's Beth David Synagogue, who is traveling as part of Harper's delegation to Israel, told JNS. org. Since World War II, Can- ada's foreign policy has cen- tered on multilateralism and participation in international organizations. But Harper has moved beyond those traditional corridors and has focused on a stronger and more independent Canadian foreign policy. Part of this new indepen- dent foreign policy has been supporting Israel, an often- unpopular position around the world. Immediately upon taking office in 2006, Harper bucked world opinion and sup - ported Israel in its war against the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. This outward sup- port has continued in every military engagement Israel has been involved in since. Canada has also supported Israel in the U.N., joining only a handful of small nations and the U.S. in voting against upgrading the Palestinians to nonmember observer state status in 2012, and repeatedly voting against resolutions condemning Israel. On Iran, Harper has aligned more closely with Israel's posi- tion thanwith the positions of some its allies in Europe and the U.S. In 2012, Harper cut diplomatic ties with Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats from Ottawa, Canada's capi- tal. More recently, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said he was "deeply skeptical" of the interim nuclear deal with Iran and reaffirmed that Canada would maintain its sanctions again Iran. These positions have come with some costs for Canada. In a shocking outcome in 2010, Canada lost a bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Coun- cil. Some speculated that Harper's strong pro-Israel stance might have played a role in straining relations with the U.N.'s large Islamic bloc. "This is really something we have not seen before, a prime minister of Canada tak- ing a really strong position at a great political cost. He knows that this could really hurt him in some areas, but he doesn't care, because this is what he really believes," Scheim told Harper, an Evangelical Christian who belongs to the Colorado-based Christian and Missionary Alliance church, has also come under fire from critics who claim that his faith influences his foreign policy. "My sense is that there may be an element of religious connection [to Israel]. But that is certainly not all of it; I think it also has to do with his sense of the world, his sense of justice and understanding of history, especially Jewish history," Scheim said. But Canada, like its Ameri- can and European allies, still has a vocal anti-Israel move- ment within the country, par- ticularly on college campuses and in certain media outlets. In 2005, Toronto's York Uni- versity became the first school to host "Israel Apartheid Week" (IAW) and its student un!on, the largest in Canada, voted last year to divest from Israel. IAW events have also- spread to other Canadian universities. Harper's recent selection of Vivian Bercovici, who is Jewish and has been a vo- cal supporter of Israel, to be Canada's next ambassador to Israel has also drawn some criticism in the Canadian media. In an interview with Baird, CBC anchor Evan Solomon questioned whether it is appropriate to appoint a pro-Israel Jew to be the Am- bassador to Israel. "Vivian Bercovici is Jewish, so there are going to be some questions. Why not appoint someone who doesn't even have the perception of any kind of bias (in favor of Is- rael)?" Solomon asked. Yet despite the criticism of Harper's pro-Israel stance, Shimon Fogel, CEO of Can- ada's Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, credits Harper for making support for Is- rael a mainstream position in Canada. "Adopting those positions on Israel is what a mainstream party should look like in the eyes of most of the Canadian electorate today," Fogel This support has shown itself in the positions of the leaders of Canada's two main opposition parties, the cen- trist Liberal Party and the center-left New Democratic Party (NDP). "Yes, the Liberal Party will have Israel's back--but not because it's in our political interests to do so at home, but because it is the right thing to do on the world stage," Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau recently told a crowd of 500 people at Beth Tikvah Syna- gogue in Toronto, the Jewish Tribune of Toronto reported. Meanwhile, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has strong Jewish ties. Mulcair's wife is a French Sephardic Jew whose parents are Holocaust survivors, and his children are being raised Jewish. Mulcair has described himself as an "ardent support of Israel in all instances." Adding to their credentials, both Trudeau and Mulcair have also visited Israel before. "The opposition parties are very close to the position of the Conservative government [on Israel]. But it has to be recog- nized that this government Flash90 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) shakes hands with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a welcoming ceremony for Harper at Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on Jan.19, 2014. Harper took a four-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. [Harper's Conservative party] established that benchmark," Fogel told Amid the political implica- tions, one aspect of Harper's trip that may be overlooked is the economic component. Like Israel, Canada has suc- cessfully weathered the global economic crisis over the past five years and has invested heavily in high-tech areas. "One of the things we have done over the last decade has tried to broaden the base of support for Israel. We have spent a lot of time to helping foster interest and engage- ment of the private sector in seeing Israel as a high-tech destination. There has been a ton of partnerships and investments from the private sector," Fogel said. Joining Harper on the trip to Israel are 30 of Canada's top business executives, including billionaire real estate and media moguls David Asper and Albert Reichmann as well as Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu. Upon touching down in Israel for the first time, Is- raeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Harper and praised him as "a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people." "I think he has taken a mor- al stand worthy of admiration, and I welcome him on behalf ofth Israeli government and on behalf of all the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu said, the Jerusalem Post reported. At atime when few countries around the world come to Israel's defense, Rabbi Scheim believes the trip is an opportu- nity for Israel to finally express its appreciation for Harper. "He is very well-known in Israel, you go to the U.S., nobody knows who the prime minister of Canada is, but in Israel, the whole country knows him and I am very proud identify with him," Scheim told Remembering Pete Seeger and his Jewish influence Pete Seeger, the iconic American folk singer and composer of such notable standards as "If I had a Hammer," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "Turn, Turn, Turn" passed away on Monday, Jan. 27 at age 94. Seeger died of natural causes at New York- Presbyterian Hospital, his record company, Appleseed Recordings, said. Seeger was well known for his liberal politics, work- ing as an environmentalist, protesting against wars from Vietnam to Iraq. He was sen- tenced to prison for refusing to testify to Congress about his time in the Communist Party. In 2010, Seeger visited Is- rael for a concert in support of the co-existence oriented Arava Institute which works on joint Israeli-Jordanian- Palestinian environmental projects. At the time, many pro- Palestinian organizations signed a petition calling on Seeger to withdraw from the Arava event, prompting Seeger to take a clear stand on the boycott movement. "My stand is supporting the boycott of Israeli products. I don't know much about the artistic boycott taking place, but I understand the financial boycott. I don't think there will be a human race here in another 50 years unless the entire world finds a way to communicate--whether it's with pictures or music or food or sports. Words may come later, butwe have to find away to (talk) in some way," he said at the time. When asked to clarify his position, Seeger told JTA that he "probably said" he supported the boycott, but added that he was still learning about the conflict and his "opinions waver with each piece of information" he received. Regarding the Arava Insti- tute event he said he though it was "very important," and added that such co-existence initiatives "should exist all over the world," JTA reported. Some time before the Arava Institute event, JTA reported the Seeger claimed he was resisting calls from the BDS movement to cancel his par- ticipation in the event, citing the need for dialogue. "I understand why someone would want to boycott a place financially, but I don't under- stand why you would boycott dialogue," JTA quoted Seeger as saying. What many 60s followers of his folk music may not realize, he is also remembered for his recording of "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena," a BillBoard No. 2 Top Hit for Seeger's band, The Weavers. "Legendary songwriter, singer, and political activist Pete Seeger's 'Tzena, Tzena, Tzena' was a great example of the power of music not only to entertain but to bring people together," said MilkenArchive of Jewish Music founder Low- ell Milken. "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" was originally written in Hebrew in 1941by Issachar Mironwho had fled Poland as a teenager and was, at the time, serving in the British Brigade in then- Palestine. Miron composed the melody; Yehiel Chagiz wrote the lyrics; and in 1946 Julius Grossman wrote a "third part" to the song, which is the version Seeger heard. "Until I started living in New York at age 19 -20," Seeger recalled in an interview for the Milken Archive in 2000, "I knew so little about Jewish culture, it's shameful." It was in New York that Seeger befriended some Jew- ish musicians. "And it was from one of these young men that I learned 'Tzena, Tzena' in 1948," he said. As Seeger explained, he performed the song with The Weavers in a Greenwich Vil- lage nightclub, not knowing anything of the song's his- tory or even its meaning. The famous bandleader Gordon Jenkins heard them, and then arranged for them to record the song with English lyrics he composed. "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" went to No. 2 on the Billboard Top Hits (the other side of the single "Goodnight Irene" would go to No. 1). Tzena is a rousing call to "join the celebration" with "people from every nation" who'll "dance the hora" until "dawn will find us laughing in the sunlight dancing in the city square." In 2000, the Milken Archive interviewed Seeger and Miron during the recording of a new version of "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena," a three language, English-Hebrew-Arabic ver- sion which the two composed a few years before. Seeger and Miron wanted the message of Tzena to be relevant for a new generation. Seeger was known as much for his music as his activism over the years, whether in defiance of the McCarthy era blacklist, or in support of civil rights, environmental causes, the anti-war movement and international disarmament. "Pete Seeger was one of those very rare individuals who lived fully in accord with his beliefs," said Milken Archive Curator JeffJaneczko. "At a Madison Square Garden concert held in honor of his 90th birthday, Pete took to the stage wearing jeans and a baseball cap and led the massive crowd in a sing- along, unwilling--even in this context--to differentiate himself from the thousands in attendance." "The truth is Pete Seeger made 'Tzena, Tzena, Tzena' a song of peace, made it a song of joy," Miron told the Archive in 2000. "May God bless Pete Seeger and may God bless the singers." Pete may be gone, but he left an indelible mark on the world and inspired genera- tions of musicians for whom music and social activism are inseparable. Like the familiar refrain of one of his favorite songs, his soul goes march- ing on. Despite his impact on American music, Seeger Pete Seeger won just one Grammy for an album, 1997's "Pete" in the best traditional folk album category. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Gram- my in 1993. In 2007 Springsteen won the best traditional folk Wikipedia Grammy for "We Shall Over- come-- the Seeger Sessions," a ollection of songs popular- ized by Seeger. Seeger's wife Toshi, who he married in 1941, died in 2013. They lived in upstate New York and had three children.