Harper won Jewish Votes by Fighting Antisemitism, which CPC Candidate will do the same?

Written By Daniel Bordman, Posted on July 10, 2020

There is a long-standing political perception that Jews, much like many other minority communities, tend to vote with the Left.  Although this does not apply to every community, there is some truth here.  However, Stephen Harper showed that it is more than possible for Conservatives to win over these communities by walking away with more than 50% of the Jewish vote in a multiple party system.

The standard narrative usually pushed to explain this is usually something along the lines of: “Stephen Harper was a strong supporter of Israel.” While true, this does not sufficiently explain Harper’s massive popularity within the Jewish community.  In short, the Jewish community liked Harper because he understood our issues.

When Stephen Harper spoke on issues of Israel or antisemitism, we could tell that he actually cared to understand the history and context of it.  He knew that antisemitism can come from the right or the left, the ignorant or the academic, and most importantly, he did not gaslight the Jewish community over the rising antisemitism from the hardline Islamist organizations flourishing in Canada.

This brings us to the present-day antisemitism in Canada and the current CPC leadership contest.  

There have been two major incidents of antisemitism and not a single politician from any political party has done more than the absolute bare minimum (asking an intern to make a Twitter statement), and even said statements took days and weeks to ring out. All the while, municipal mayors clamour for eliminating racism but sideline antisemitism.

In Toronto, the restaurant Foodbenders posted #ZionistsNotWelcome, an act of illegal commercial discrimination under Canadian law.  The owner proceeded to go on a social media crusade against Israel and Zionism, all the while maintaining that she was not antisemitic, while still touching upon on every antisemitic trope of the last hundred years. You know the ones: ‘Zionists control the media, Israel controls American policy and Israel murders 1000 babies a day.’

It took John Tory over a week before he was pressured into his Twitter statement condemning this act, but the wider problem is still being ignored.  Antisemitism is not a super fringe ideology, particularly in far-left and anti-Israel circles.  This behavior already has copycats and a wide network of support.


Down the road in Mississauga, it took Bonnie Crombie 5 days to address the fact that a crowd of hundreds of people chanted “the Jews are our dogs!”

So far, all the CPC leadership candidates have been mostly silent on this issue, which is a real mistake.  Both O’Toole and MacKay have sent out one standard tweet out on the Foodbenders incident, while none have commented on the Mississauga march. 

There is currently a lane to take that would win over the significant Jewish-Conservative vote and potentially sway the leadership race. The candidates have a few options.

The first is the easiest, and therefore most likely.  They can follow in the footsteps of Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, John Tory and Bonnie Crombie by turning around and asking an intern to write a few sentences on social media stating ‘antisemitism is bad.’ This requires no moral or political courage, and will still garner some praise from the major Jewish organizations but will ultimately be interpreted by the wider Jewish community for what it is: a slap in the face.

The second route is the full blown “hate speech” call.  Personally, I think this is the most foolish option. I don’t like it when a crowd chants “the Jews are our dogs” and other such things, but I don’t want to see a group of high school kids go to jail over this.  They were not they only ones who chanted it there, as there was a group of adults and children laughing along as well.

The third option (and the best in my opinion) is to acknowledge that this is not a one-off incident, and while we would like Canada to be a place were antisemitism is not tolerated, this is not the case.  There is a particular subset of our culture where antisemitism is acceptable.  Every year, there is the Quds Day march. A school in the Peel region had an antisemitic blood libel accusation against Israel hung up in their school for weeks, and religious institutions openly affiliated with radical ideology will post videos calling for the cleansing of the “filth of the Jews” from the Temple Mount.  Is it so unreasonable to link multiple organizations openly exposing antisemitism without any political push back with acts of antisemitism?

The Jewish community is in no way united on this, or any issue, and I cannot claim to speak for it as one voice. However, I think it is fair to advise any of the leadership candidates who may read this that there is a better way forward.  We do not need useless platitudes; we know racism/antisemitism/whateveraphobia is bad.  We do not need a hate speech task force or any other ridiculous government committees. 

We need a leader who we can trust to understand us when we come to them.  Jews, much like everyone else, don’t want to feel like we have to start from scratch to explain in detail why each episode of antisemitism is upsetting.  Essentially, the next time a Canadian academic tries to pass off a centuries old antisemitic conspiracy as social justice education, we don’t want a leader who will pretend to be surprised, but someone who will stand by us and legitimize our concerns.

Daniel Bordman

Daniel is the host of political satire show Uninterrupted, runs multiple podcasts and has written for a variety of publications. Daniel is also the communications coordinator of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation. You can find him on Twitter here. Uninterrupted on YouTube

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