Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Smearing Irwin Cotler

Andrew Cohen writes that Stephen Harper has had Irwin Cotler in his sights for some time. Two months ago, the Conservatives spread the rumour that Cotler --three and a half years before the next election -- was about to resign. It wasn't the first time they had been so underhanded. Cohen writes:

Cotler’s stature among Jews notwithstanding, the Conservatives brazenly distributed a flyer to his constituents in 2009 claiming that he had attended “the anti-Semitic” human rights conference in 2001 in Durban, South Africa. Didn’t you know that Cotler is a closet anti-Semite?

The Harper line is that anyone who doesn't support the present government of Israel is anti-Semitic. And, their candidate, Saulie Zajdel, spouts that line. Cohen writes:

Zajdel, you should know, couldn’t carry Cotler’s briefcase. He is all-Israel all the time, convinced that it’s the only issue of interest to Jews in Canada. Or should be.

Behold, the Conservative Jewish strategy: outflank the Liberals on Israel. Paint them soft on security. Be more Zionist than Theodor Herzl.

The point is to make Canadian Jews — who have historically supported the Liberals as urban, progressive, internationalist centrists — one-issue voters.

It's classic Harper wedge issue politics. And it has nothing to do with Israel. For the Conservatives, Stephen Harper is the anti-Trudeau; and Pierre Trudeau is the Anti-Christ. Irwin Cotler sits in Pierre Trudeau's old seat, which they covet. Their goal is to plant their flag on Mount Royal. And they will stop at nothing in their quest to raise it there.


ck said...

I followed the campaign in Mount-Royal quite closely, as I live in the riding next door of Outremont, which wasn't nearly a bloodsport.

First a few things about Saulie Zajdel. He's a veteran city councillor and a very obnoxious one at that. Should've seen him everytime the local news would cover him for city events, particularly the area he represented. The best way to describe Zajdel is a bearded, yarmulke-sporting John Baird. There just isn't much nice to say about the man. For someone who is as religious as he is, he sure can play diabolical. No time more so than the last election campaign.

Another thing about Zajdel is that he was second choice for the Conservatives. Their first choice was an even bigger star--whom the Jewish communities of Mount-Royal were really lobbying for. Robert Libman. an architect by trade--the first and I think, only leader of the short lived Equality Party of the late 80s, whose mandate was to give Anglophone Quebecers more rights. He also beat Robert Bourassa's record at the time for being the youngest party leader. The Party, needless to say, was very short lived--in fighting, and the usual predictable stuff. Libman would end up continuing to sit as an independent. He wanted to run as a Liberal in the 1994 election, but then leader Daniel Johnson had other ideas and a candidate he preferred over Libman.

Libman would go on to be mayor of Cote-st-Luc and borough mayor after the merger under Mayor of Montreal, Pierre Bourque.

I remember reading the first of it from Paul Wells, of all people, who had spoken to Libman. Libman basically said that while he supports Harper's unconditional stand for Israel and was disillusioned with the Liberals (fed) lack of any stand for the Anglos of Quebec and did find the offer tempting to run against Cotler, he was giving it a pass, and said he was happy back being an architect for his own firm. To my knowledge, he was courted right up until two days before the writ was dropped. About a week later, it was announced on CJAD that Saulie Zajdel was running. Now, one had to have been blind not have known that Libman was first choice (it was in all the local Jewish papers, the Suburban, Gazette, CTV Montreal, etc). I wonder how Zajdel's ego took it?

I think I may understand why Libman wanted to stay away. And not just because he wanted to stick with his architecture firm. He may well be a member of the Conservative party and may well be ga ga over Harper's "I luv Israel better than Canada", but the way that I know Libman, I don't think he would've had the stomach or the where with all to have pulled all the stunts that Zajdel and henchmen have. Libman is a lot of things and I certainly never voted for him provincially (a tad too right winged too Anglo rights for a French province), but I really don't see him being able to have pulled and to be able to continue pulling all those stunts.

ck said...

Oh, I'd say you're dead on the money about Harper's obsessive just gotta have Mount-Royal having absolutely 0, zilch, nada! to do with his "luv for Israel" or the Jewish community of Montreal, but rather grabbing the Long time Liberal bastion once held by his late arch enemy, Pierre-Elliot Trudeau. I expressed this theory awhile back:


Case in point, next door, in Outremont, where I live, is where the largest Hassidic community lives. They do vote. They are active in politics. And, of course, they are quite socially conservative, needless to say. They have also traditionally voted Liberal in the past.

I don't recall Harper even making a trip here, or even talking about this riding. The Conservative candidate, Rodolphe Husny was at a rally where all the local Conservative candidates flanked Harper in the West-Island rally, but no more than that.

For openers, polls always had Husny in third place here. Haredi leaders actually endorsed Martin Cauchon. And of course, Thomas Mulcair was always way ahead of the pack and ultimately won.

Something else, Three weeks before the writ was dropped, Irwin Cotler held a town hall which I attended. Yes, the campaigning already began. The town hall was advertised on Facebook as was the agenda. While Canada's relations with Israel was on the agenda, other items like other foreign policy issues, as well as local ones, like the economy, jobs, health care and the basic state of our democracy were also on the menu.

Cotler got to speak his piece on each of the issues, as well as encouraging folks to sign some petition for the maintenance of universal health care and basically informing people as to how they can get a petition going to be submitted to the feds and the like. However, when it came to the Q & A portion, given the event was held in a building where mostly Jewish organizations conduct business, the audience was mostly Jewish. You guessed it, most only wanted to discuss Israel. Many, confrontational. Funny how they are quick to overlook harper's many sins, but not Ignatieff's calling the Israeli bombing of a Lebanese village in 2006 "a war crime" on a Radio-Canada interview, before he was even leader. Tough room, to say the least.

Heckling going on. I kinda felt sorry for Cotler. He never backed away, however, judging by his facial expressions and body language, I could tell he really was tiring of those types of questions and he really would've rather have spoken of the other issues he had on the menu. My gut feeling was confirmed when a lady from the Filipino community (2nd largest in this riding) took her turn at the mic--he looked relieved, to me.

Another woman who was a volunteer for team Cotler and someone once involved with the human rights museum in Winnipeg, actually looked at the hecklers and told them firmly that Harper endorsed some man for a Board of directors position at the Human Rights' Museum in Winnipeg museum, who was lobbying to actually shrink the Holocaust section of the museum.

I also can't believe that certain supposedly intelligent people have swallowed harper's kool-aid. Heather Reisman, owner of Indigo-Chapters, for one. And Robert Lantos, founder of Alliance films for another, who basically said that Harper's undying support for Israel is enough and nothing else should matter. Frightening innit?

A Sephardic Rabbi told his congregation that Harper was a "prophet for Israel" and went so far as to strongly suggest to them who to vote for.

And another thing, I read somewhere that Evangelical Christians (Make no mistake, Harper is one, he does attend Evangelical churches in Ottawa and Calgary) believe that in end times, all the Jews must be in Israel. Evangelicals, as you know, are all waiting for end times these days.

Owen Gray said...

There are cynics among us -- and I'm one, ck -- who think that Harper's support for Israel has more to do with his reading of the Book of Revelation than it has to do with Israel.

And Cotler is not the only Liberal who has been coyly accused of being an Anti-Semite. Bob Rae, who converted to Judaism when he married his wife, has also been charged by the Harperites with the same offence.

It seems to me that the tactic is pretty transparent.

Owen Gray said...

Regarding Libman, ck, it seems to me that any Conservative MP is faced with the problem of self-respect.

When I see Conservative members reading prepared answers to questions, I have to wonder how much self-respect they have.

Whatever his faults, Libman could think for himself. I'm beginning to think that a Conservative who does that these days faces banishment to some place where they will be out of sight and out of mind.