Will the Jewish Community Choose Trudeau Over Harper?

04/03/2013 05:38 EDT | Updated 06/03/2013 05:12 EDT
Parliament of Canada

The conversion of the Jewish vote from the traditional Liberal to the Conservative was not meteoric, but rather a gradual shift over a period of time.

The Jewish Liberal establishment, which had very close ties to the ruling Liberal party, was most aggressive in its strategy to maintain a stranglehold on the Jewish vote. This was evidenced both in Montreal and in Toronto and in particular along the Bathurst strip.

Every effort was made to maintain the historic relationship between the Jewish community and the Liberal Party of Canada. So strong was this connection that Jewish institutional life was radically altered when it became evident that elements within the grassroots Jewish community were beginning to view the Alliance Party, and subsequently the Conservative Party, as natural allies of the Jewish community on those issues which impacted the Jewish agenda directly.

Historic organizations were rapidly altered and new ones created whose agenda it was to keep control over the Jewish community and its voting patterns. The historic Canada Israel Committee which had representation from all segments of the community, including B'nai Brith, Canadian Jewish Congress, Canadian Zionist Federation, United Israel Appeal and the Federations was dismantled as an organization of organizations and replaced by a new entity made up of hand-selected representation.

Subsequently, the first birth of CIJA took place; its mandate, although never publicly professed, was to ensure that voting patterns did not deviate. "Ten Commandments" were enacted, one of which was that it was absolutely critical to discourage any dissent within the Jewish community, and that there was to be no public criticism of the government of the day. Of course, at that time it was the Liberal government.

This took place at a time when B'nai Brith Canada was leading the charge against the voting pattern of the Canadian government in the United Nations on issues relating to Israel. The move was to dramatically curtail those advocacy efforts. Also, the impact of the Jewish Tribune as a grassroots newspaper was being felt. Stockwell Day, and subsequently Stephen Harper and Jason Kenny, were receiving the coverage that others were denying them.

The Jewish mindset was shifting. The community no longer accepted the wild assertions that the Alliance or Conservative parties were riddled with anitsemites. On the contrary, in the historic battle conducted by Stockwell Day in the House of Commons, and by B'nai Brith Canada in the public domain, to ensure that the entire entity of Hezbollah be listed for what it was -- a terrorist organization -- it became evident to grassroots Jewry that the tide had to change.

In the past two years, Jewish public opinion has rallied heavily behind the Conservative Party. Stephen Harper has been principled in his position on the Middle East and has spoken of Israel as an ally in the fight against terrorism. And yet, as Justin Trudeau begins his meteoric rise to stardom as the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the question is will the Jewish community now turn its back on Stephen Harper, Jason Kenny, John Baird and all the other Conservatives who have stood firmly with the Israel and the Jewish community?

There is already a movement that wants to neutralize Jewish support for the Conservative Party and the mantra is that all three parties have the same agenda regarding Israel, a two-state solution, so why do we have to support the Conservatives? In a well-orchestrated campaign we will soon begin to see a new Jewish agenda being proposed by some, which will advocate that Jewish community adjust its focus to Aboriginal issues, child poverty, health care and social housing.

There will be a concentrated effort to realign the Jewish agenda with that of the Liberal Party, an effort which was made in the last election by the now defunct Canadian Jewish Congress. Jewish fundraising has already taken place for Justin Trudeau and much more is expected. Jewish publications will be fed stories that it would be best not to concentrate on Israel, Iran, and terrorism but rather on domestic issues. Justin Trudeau will be introduced at numerous functions by Irwin Cotler who has now proclaimed support for Trudeau.

There will be ample opportunities for photo ops and declarations of admiration for Justin Trudeau. No efforts will be spared to change the support for the Harper Government on the Bathurst strip. Traditional Liberal support will again mushroom as many will want to be part of Trudeaumania, the new wave of euphoria sweeping Canada.

In such a climate, the Conservative Party should not take Jewish community support for granted, but rather needs to understand the dynamics at play within the heavily-politicized atmosphere that prevails in the Jewish community.

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