Home Media Action Alerts2022 Israel Is An Imperfect Country, But A Vibrant Liberal Democracy: HRC Op-Ed In Hill Times

Israel Is An Imperfect Country, But A Vibrant Liberal Democracy: HRC Op-Ed In Hill Times

by HonestReporting Canada

Esther Enkin and Ben Murane of the New Israel Fund of Canada attempt to portray the newly elected Israeli government as extremist and no longer representative of Canada’s shared values with Israel, but in truth, the statements cited by the authors are largely out of context and not representative of Israel’s actual policies, neutering their entire argument.

As noted in HRC’s commentary: “Israel, like Canada, is an imperfect country, but nevertheless it is a vibrant liberal democracy. Although Israel has elected officials whose views may be outside the mainstream, so does every other democracy. These shared values – democracy, freedom of expression and more – represent the bedrock of Canada-Israel relations, and not only is there no evidence that they have frayed in recent years, the future is as bright as it’s ever been for ties between the two countries.”


HRC’s Op-Ed was published in The Hill Times on Monday, November 28, 2022

On Nov. 1, Israelis voted in yet another parliamentary election, the fifth of its kind in less than three years.

While this exercise in democracy is a testament to Israel’s commitment to the peaceful transition of power, some critics have pounced on the results of the vote in an attempt to besmirch Israel’s democratic bona fides, and even accuse the Jewish State of not sharing the same values as Canada.

In a Nov. 16 opinion article in The Hill Times entitled: “Israel’s new government will test Canada’s shared values,” authors Esther Enkin and Ben Murane, board member and executive director, respectively, of the New Israel Fund of Canada, write that the Canada-Israel relationship has “undergone increasing stress in recent years” and now, with the results of the newly elected Israeli government, “Israel has only itself to blame for this.”

The authors rattle off a litany of proposals, ideas, and suggestions made by some members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, specifically “legalizing gay ‘conversion therapy,’ deporting ‘disloyal’ citizens, creating a ‘Ministry of Migration’ to encourage Arab citizens to self-deport, accelerated dispossession of Palestinian land,” and so on.

But by omitting any context to these eyebrow-raising policies, they are in fact misleading readers.

On the issue of conversion therapy, Enkin and Murane neglect to mention that in early 2022, Israel became the first country in the Middle East to ban the practice by medical professionals, with the country’s health minister calling it “cruel abuse.” And while it is true that Avi Maoz, a member of Israel’s Knesset, has indeed expressed his support for reversing the ban, Netanyahu has already stated that no such harm will happen to the LGBTQ community.

As for Enkin and Murane’s reference to the desire to deport ‘disloyal’ citizens, this is once again, a complete red herring. Itamar Ben Gvir, one of the most right-of-centre Knesset members, said explicitly in November that he opposed the “deportation of all Arabs” from Israel, though he supports deporting those whose actions specifically harm the country’s safety.

This view is hardly extreme. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Israel has the legal authority to strip citizenship from those who commit terrorism, treason, or other forms of espionage, as Canada has done in the past with war criminals.

In Israel’s proportional electoral system, any political party with 3.25 per cent of the vote gains a seat in the Knesset, meaning that unlike Canada, even small parties with only nice public support can win seats in parliament. As such, every Israeli government therefore must collect coalition partners—even those with a wide range of views—in order to pass legislation. But these statements do not represent the will of the Israeli people, its government, or its current prime minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Such misleading comparisons can be made of any country, including Canada.

Clearly, cherry-picking context-free statements serve only to mislead, and Enkin and Murane’s claims of an Israeli move “toward unfettered majoritarianism” appear to be largely hyperbolic in nature.

Enkin and Murane write that the past decade of Israeli policies have driven a wedge between Canada and Israel. There is simply no evidence to buttress this allegation.

Over the past decade, former prime minister Stephen Harper and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have spoken repeatedly and publicly about their support for Israel, and trade between the two countries has continued to grow, having tripled in the last 25 years.

Israel, like Canada, is an imperfect country, but nevertheless, it is a vibrant liberal democracy. Although Israel has elected officials whose views may be outside the mainstream, so does every other democracy. These shared values—democracy, freedom of expression and more—represent the bedrock of Canada-Israel relations, and not only is there no evidence that they have frayed in recent years, the future is as bright as it’s ever been for ties between the two countries.

Mike Fegelman is the Executive Director of HonestReporting Canada, a non-profit organization ensuring fair and accurate Canadian media coverage of Israel. 

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