Former prime minister Brian Mulroney was set to deliver a fiery speech in defence of Israel-at-war as he is fêted in style in New York, where he is being awarded the World Jewish Congress’s highest honour Thursday night, for his advocacy for Israel and Jewish people.
In his keynote address at the Museum of Modern Art, Mulroney is ready to continue that reputation by speaking strongly on Israel’s response to last month’s Hamas terror attacks, as well as about Canada’s past failings.
“The most sacred duty of any government is to provide for the security of its citizens. No government could let these obscenities go unpunished and retain the trust of its people,” Mulroney says in his prepared notes for his speech, obtained prior to his address.
“Hamas knew full well the reaction its murderous rampage against innocents would provoke. They knew and didn’t care. Indeed, it is the reaction they sought. They chose to put the lives of the two million people of Gaza they claim to defend in mortal danger in a deliberate, nihilistic attempt to set the Middle East on fire.
“Why would they do this? It was not to increase the likelihood of a Palestinian State. It was not to improve the lives of the people of Gaza. So, why? Because these are terrorists in the purest sense of the word, for whom the senseless violent act satisfies the strategic objective, killing Jews.”
Mulroney’s speech lays into those supporting Hamas.
“Hamas knew something else. They knew they could count on a legion of apologists who, while decrying attacks on Jews here at home, are prepared to accept attacks on Jews in Israel as deserved.
“Contemporary antisemitism has added the state of Israel to its list of targets. Israel has become the new Jew. Stripped of its intellectual pretensions, of the cloak of human rights, these ritual denunciations of Israel with which we have become all too familiar are a pernicious form of racism.”
Mulroney says antisemitism was muted after the Second World War when the horror of the Holocaust was seen, but it rises again, fuelled in part by social media and “cloaked in the armour of free speech.”
“This does not mean that Israel should be immune from criticism,” he says in his prepared speech.
“One can strongly disagree with policies of the government of Israel without being called an antisemite. Nor does it mean that a strong defence of Israel’s right to security precludes the acceptance of a Palestinian state whose citizens can know the benefits of health care, education, economic opportunities, and growing prosperity.
“This should be the objective of all who believe in justice and the dignity of mankind.”
He also praises Canada’s diversity.
“Canadians and Americans share an incontrovertible truth. We are all children of immigrants. We have been ennobled and enriched by every culture and religion that thrives in the rich soil of our freedom,” he says.
“We derive our strength and our energy from our diversity”.
Mulroney, however, bitterly criticizes Canada’s past, including a predecessor, former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, who met with Hitler in 1937 in Nazi Germany and then praised him in his diary, comparing him to Joan of Arc as a deliverer of his people.
“There come times in a nation’s history when the failure to do the right thing has consequences so great that its footfalls haunt us through history. This was such a time, a time when Canada’s heritage and promise were dishonoured,” Mulroney says in his speech notes.
Mulroney says King, a successful Liberal leader, shared common beliefs with leaders of the Nazi regime. He tells of King’s private writings of his fear of voracious Jewish businessmen.
“The prime minister sets both the agenda and the tone in Ottawa. Is it any wonder then that Canada’s doors were slammed shut to Jewish immigrants before and during the war?”
“Or that, when asked how many Jews would be allowed into Canada, a senior immigration official famously replied: “None is too many.” Or that a shipload of desperate Jews were denied entry and instead sailed back to Europe on a voyage of the damned.”
Mulroney says in his speech notes that positive experiences with the Jewish community while growing up in Quebec followed by hearing antisemitic characterizations in public life led him to make a promise.
He says he told himself that if he ever had a role in leadership, “I would do what I could to lift some of the stain from our national character left from that time in the 1930s when we abandoned the Jewish people at the very time in their history that they most needed our protection.”
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Mulroney is being given the Theodor Herzl Award for being an “outspoken opponent of antisemitism, passionate supporter of Israel, and devoted friend of Jewish people.”
Also celebrated at the gala is Bret Stephens, a New York Times opinion columnist who is awarded the Teddy Kollek Award for the Advancement of Jewish Culture. Stephens writes primarily about foreign policy, U.S. politics and cultural issues.
Established in 2012, the Theodor Herzl Award is the World Jewish Congress’s highest honour and is given for outstanding international support for Israel and understanding of Jewish history and culture.
The award is named after Theodor Herzl, who died in 1904 and is considered the father of modern political Zionism.
Past recipients include U.S. President Joe Biden and former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, former German chancellor Angela Merkel, former Israeli prime ministers Shimon Peres and Reuven Rivlin, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer.
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