To most of us, he looks like a nerd with a wan, self-effacing smile on his face, that stops just short of touching his cold blue eyes. Clean shaven, he sports neatly parted salt and pepper hair that is more salt than pepper. He has stiffness to him, which is apparent when he is in a pale grey suit that, when buttoned, strains to show a fairly large pot belly.
Completely emotion-free, he has been seen stiffly shaking his little children’s hands when he saw them off to school, where you and I would give them a hug. On a superficial level, he reminds you of another tory, the British PM who took over from Margaret Thatcher, John Major. He is so wan, his facial expressions so contrived and his words so flat and devoid of any feeling that he has all the makings of a cybernetic organism, in plain words, a robot.
He speaks in a flat self-assured monotone and I’m certain that if someone put his voice through an oscilloscope, it would not register any peaks or troughs. In terms of personality, he seems dimensionless and grey. I found it difficult locating a single interesting quote of his on the internet. The best I came up with said,” If it hadn’t been for institutionalized prayer in school, I’d never have graduated.” (He was trying to be funny in this instance).
To majority of Canadians (75%, according to a recent poll), who just happen to be bleeding heart liberals, he has a ‘hidden neocon agenda’ and does not elicit trust. I don’t trust him either and I don’t like him myself, even though I am not by any means, a liberal with hemorrhaging heart. Maybe the cyborg-like behavior has something to do with my dislike of him.
On the home front, he has brought in tougher legislation to combat crime and tightened immigration to wean out those who will be a burden to all of us and made sure that bogus refugee claimants are given the boot. He has successfully navigated the aftermath of the 2008 sub-prime mortgage meltdown which ultimately left Canada by and large untouched by the havoc down south. He has ruthlessly kicked out politicians within his own caucus, who were caught splurging public money like it was their entitlement. He is trying his damnedest to wean Canada away from the single buyer (US) situation and develop new overseas markets. All these are commendable but I still don’t like him and the reasons shall be apparent if you choose to read on.
He has been called names, all sorts of names and most of them unflattering. He means many things to many people. Schemer, theocrat, neocon, lackey of the rich, green-hating lobbyist for the petro-industry, baby seal killer and last, but not the least, brainwashed Mossad sleeper agent who has suddenly gone operational.
He has been a conservative from the start. Working through the right-leaning parties, he became Leader of the Canadian Alliance Party and oversaw its merger with the Progressive Conservatives to form the new Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. He led the Conservatives to a minority government in the 2006 Federal Elections and then, in the 2008 elections, he increased the size of that minority. He must have been doing things right because, in the 2011 elections, he managed to finally win a majority government.
Seven years have passed since he took the reins, gradually increasing his control over his caucus as well as the bureaucracy. Today he is at the very pinnacle of his power, unchallenged within his party and a formidable opponent in parliament. That ‘hidden agenda’ that the liberals spent sleepless nights over seems to have remained hidden so far, since we haven’t yet seen any of it. Under him, Canada has prospered and so have it’s citizens. Skulduggery at high levels has been severely punished and as far as I can tell, he does not himself carry any personal baggage of corruption or nepotism. In a way, he is Manmohan Singh on steroids. Whether they like him or they hate him, there is one thing all Canadians agree upon – if there is one man they can count on, to give it to them straight in a no-nonsense mode, it is undoubtedly him.
Practically nobody has a kind word to say about him. Except maybe Rex Murphy of the CBC, “….If you step back a little, make a little space, you will see that in his personal conduct, he is typically Canadian. He’s a mild, likable, hockey-mad fellow. He’d be the ideal neighbor, maybe lend you a shovel if your car is stuck in the snow, perhaps even help you dig it out and then take your thanks with a self-conscious smile and reassurance that it was no trouble.”
Meet Canada’s ultra-conservative ruler, Stephen Harper, Toronto-born (1959) but educated in Calgary, Alberta, also know by his nicknames – Mini-Bush, Bushien, Stevey, Harpo and Dick Cheney Jr. His wife – Laureen Teskey Harper (Married 1993). Two well-mannered children, Son – Benjamin (b.1996), Daughter – Rachel (b.1997). I don’t know if Rex Murphy’s image of Harper is a true one or not. Maybe at a very personal level he is exactly how Murphy says he is. But, hey, aren’t they all? Even Hitler cuddled kids and hugged old women.
Stephen Harper is currently in the news, as he is on a state visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, with a high-powered delegation of cabinet ministers. Remember I called him a sleeper agent for the Israeli security service, Mossad? If you watch his press briefings coming out of Israel, you’ll realize that maybe I haven’t been too far off the mark. In one of the briefings, he says,” I have a few Jewish friends in my personal life. No, actually all my personal friends are Jewish.”
Harper had a unique opportunity to be a bridge builder between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but he appears to have embraced the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud government and seems to kow-tow to the Israeli dictum that ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us and if you’re not with the government of Israel, then you’re against the people of Israel’.
The political advantage in Canada, to such a strong pro-Israel stance is baffling. Going after the Jewish vote could be a disadvantage, rather than sound political strategy. There are simply far more Muslims and other anti-semites around these parts. Moreover, Harper’s complete identification with the Israeli side of the debate seems a bit unfair, given the unilateral way in which Israel deals with its neighbors and goes about building new settlements in disputed territory.
Folk who know Harper well say that his love for Israeli was inculcated in him by his father, Joseph, who had spoken to him often about the holocaust. Employment Minister, Jason Kenney, says that, “….at some point, Joseph Harper had recognized that his son had the potential to make a difference and he extracted a commitment from his son that if he was ever in a position to help the Jewish people, not only should he, but that he must”. The cyborg in him must have taken that as a commandment inscribed in stone, meant to be executed whether or not the situation on the ground changed.
Under Stephen Harper, Canada has grown to become one of the most partisan, Palestine-unfriendly nations in the world. When Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, Harper’s government was the first to cut off aid and diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority. Then, later that year, when Hezbollah used its base in Lebanon to capture two Israeli soldiers and fire rockets into border towns, killing a handful of people, Israel responded with a forceful military campaign that Harper described as ‘measured’. Worse still, at a summit in 2011, Harper prevented a move by US President Barack Obama to have G8 leaders declare that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must be based on land borders that existed before Israel extended its control after its win in the 1967 ‘Six Day War’. In November of 2012, when the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to accord Palestine ‘non-member Observer status’, Canada was one of just nine countries to vote against the motion.
The bafflement at Stephen Harper’s fanatically strong pro-Israeli stance is not restricted to us Canadians. Even the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu himself has privately expressed wonderment about Canada’s position, when other Western governments, including the US, give him a much harder time with regard to settlements and peace negotiations. Netanyahu has been quoted off the record as wondering, ‘Why this free ride from Ottawa?’
The fact that the creation of Israel, no matter how you choose to look at it, has come at the cost of another people, the Palestinians, whom this creation has done a significant amount of wrong, has little space in Stephen Harper’s scheme of things. Of course he is being careful to keep the Palestinians happy by announcing $66 million of fresh aid during his visit. Meanwhile, the Palestinians inside those refugee camps which are not in his itinerary, are just as entitled to an independent state as the Israelis. For just this reason, many world leaders and diplomats have been working hard, deep inside the diplomatic trenches for years, trying to find a solution that will be a durable and impartial one. They have chosen not be fanatics like Harper has.
Yesterday, at the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, Stephen redefined the word ‘antisemitism’. ‘You are an anti-semite, if you criticize Israel’, he said forcefully.
I criticize Israel sometimes, I praise them at other times and don’t know what to believe the rest of the time. I must be a ‘fleeting’ anti-semite.