The last 100 Jews in the Liberal Party
I saw a headline pop up on my BlackBerry tonight: "Jewish leaders ask Harper to trash Tory flyer".
Naturally, when I saw "Jewish leaders" and an attempt to publicly embarrass Stephen Harper, arguably the most pro-Jewish and pro-Israel head of government in the world, I thought that the Jewish leaders involved would be Bernie "Burny" Farber and the pro-Liberal Canadian Jewish Congress.
So when I read the item I was surprised, and even a little pleased, that the list of "Jewish leaders" denouncing Harper does not include Burny, or for that matter the leaders of B'nai Brith or the Canada-Israel Committee or the Simon Wiesenthal Center or any organization of synagogues or really anyone who leads anything, other than various branches of the Liberal Party.
There's not a lot of leaders on the list of "Jewish leaders". For that matter, many of the names aren't Jewish, either. I guess it's like the Holy Roman Empire -- not really holy, not really Roman, and not much of an empire.
It's not a list of Jewish leaders. It's a list of the last 100 Jews left in the Liberal Party.
Many of the names have just too much of their lives and reputations invested in the Liberals to leave now, even though the party has turned its back on Jews and Israel. In this category I'd put old party hacks like Elinor Caplan and Karen Mock; if they're leaders, who exactly are their followers? I suppose signing a meaningless petition is the least they could do in return for their party's patronage. And then there are those for whom their true ethnic and religious identity is being Liberal. Being religiously Jewish or politically pro-Israel comes second for this category of signatories -- they'd be Liberal even if the Liberals went truly insane and, say, Michael Ignatieff had his way and militarily forced Israel to capitulate to terrorists.
You can see the list of names here.
The first thing you'll notice is, well, how short the list is, and even that is plumped up by having lots of husbands and wives both signing, and the odd kid. Compare that to a very similar letter issued by the Liberal Party in 2006, when they were facing their first serious defections of Jews to the Conservatives. Here's that 2006 letter -- without counting name by name, it looks like the new list of Jewish hold-outs in the Liberal Party is about half as long. Last one out, please turn off the lights.
Ten years ago -- even five years ago -- such a letter would have been signed by the stars of Jewish public life, politics and industry: Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman; at least one of the Aspers; a Tanenbaum perhaps. Not now, and surely not for lack of trying on the part of the Liberal war room. Canada's leading Jews -- Canada's serious Jews -- know that when it comes to Israel, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are the best thing that ever happened to them. And they also know that Ignatieff's own slanders against Israel (such as his war crimes accusation) are just the beginning of the problem; behind Ignatieff stands the most anti-Israel caucus the Liberals have ever fielded, from Mark Holland to Borys Wrzesnewskyj to Denis Coderre, the last two of whom proudly march with or defend terrorist groups like Hezbollah.
To be fair, the list isn't completely devoid of proud, Zionist Jews. There are a few on the list, like former senators Leo Kolber and Yoine Goldstein, who truly could have been called Jewish leaders in their day. Alas, Goldstein is 75 years old and Kolber is 80; both old enough to have been mandatorily retired from the Senate. The Liberal Party they helped build is long gone. The fact that they are the most prominent names on the list is rather pitiful, a proof in itself that the Liberal Party's heyday for Jews was in the past.
There are a couple of names on the list that deserve some mention. I see Robert Rabinovich on there. He was the Liberal appointee who ran the CBC during its most anti-Israel years -- when it was Al Jazeera's farm team, for self-hating Jews like Avi Lewis. To see Rabinovich lecturing anyone about anti-Semitism is dark comedy.
With that low bar it won't surprise you that Warren Kinsella is listed as one of the "Jewish leaders". Yes, this is the same Kinsella who gave help and advice to the anti-Semitic Canadian Islamic Congress in its human rights complaints against Maclean's magazine. Kinsella was also kicked off a Canadian Jewish Congress Committee for threatening to blacklist the Canada-Israel Committee in Liberal circles. If he's a Jewish leader, I'm a Taliban leader.
This list is a sign of weakness, not strength. I'm surprised it was even released, given its lack of success in recruiting any big names. Severely normal Jews who see the list will say: "uh, who are they?" And political insiders will look at the list and answer, "low-level Liberal functionaries, plus a few retired politicians".
How about the Conservatives? Will they release their own list of Jewish supporters? If they did, it would not fit onto one page. Last weekend the party raised $250,000 in one night in Jewish Montreal. That's quite something, given election finance rules that limit donations to $1,100 or less, and even more stunning that it was in Jewish Montreal. That's about as likely as Michael Ignatieff raising $250,000 in one night from gun-owners in Calgary.
No, it's probably easier for the Conservatives to just list the Jews who don't support the Conservatives these days, and just re-issue the Liberal list.