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No shame: Trudeau uses Harper’s speech in last-ditch attempt to pander to Jewish voters

On Friday, October 16, 2015, just three days before the federal elections, a Liberal Party flyer landed in some mailboxes in Bathurst Manor, a predominantly Jewish area in midtown Toronto. Another family in Thornhill, Ontario, which is also considered a Jewish neighbourhood, reported (October 18) receiving the same flyer.

The flyer, titled “Don’t let Harper make Israel a partisan issue” features a kippah-clad Justin Trudeau standing in front of an Israeli flag behind a podium which clearly bears the name and corporate logo of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem.

Canadian Society for Yad Vashem is the Canadian chapter of the Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem – the world center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust.

The flyer lists all the ways in which the Liberal Party stands by Israel. On close examination of the text, it would appear that the Liberals used key points from Prime Minister Harper’s historic speech to the Israeli Knesset on January 20, 2014 (full text here), as well as a statement from Minister of Foreign Affairs Rob Nicholson.

The flyer said: “The Liberal Party stands by Israel because it’s the right thing to do”.

In his speech at the Knesset Harper said: “Let me repeat that: Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so”.

The flyer said: “We abhor and fight BDS [the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions hate movement] the targeting of Israel at the UN and all other examples of the new anti-Semitism and efforts to isolate Israel”.

In his speech to the Knesset Harper said: “As once Jewish businesses were boycotted, some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel… But this is the face of the new anti-Semitism”.

The flyer also said: “Iran remains an existential threat to Israel and the western world. We will judge the Iranian regime by its actions and not its words.”

The sentence “we will judge the Iranian regime by its actions and not its words” was lifted almost verbatim from a July 14, 2015 statement from Minister of Foreign Affairs Rob Nicholson in which he expressed the Conservative Party’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. In that statement, Nicholson said: “We appreciate the efforts of the P5+1 to reach an agreement. At the same time, we will continue to judge Iran by its actions not its words.”

It is worth remembering that in an interview with with Terry Milewski on CBC’s Power & Politics on June 23, 2015 Trudeau said that if elected, he will normalize relations with Iran. “I would hope that Canada would be able to reopen its mission, as I understand it, there were security concerns that led to the closing of the mission, but I’m fairly certain that there are ways to re-engage.”

Now back to the photo: It is reasonable to assume that the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, being a registered charitable organization, would not give permission to utilize their corporate name and logo to any political campaign, candidate, or party, since it could put their charitable status at risk because Canada Revenue Agency rules clearly state that “Since we are in an election period, we remind registered charities that they are prohibited from devoting any of their resources to partisan political activities. A partisan political activity is one that involves the direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party at any time, whether during an election period or not, or a candidate for public office”. was unable to verify whether Yad Vashem gave the Liberal Party permission to use the photograph. If the photo was used with permission, it might lead to the organization losing its charitable status because it can be interpreted as an implicit endorsement of the Liberal Party. If it was used without permission, it could be construed as voter manipulation – a subliminal message designed to persuade Jews to vote for the Liberal Party.

Isn’t it odd that of all the available photographs of Justin Trudeau (and there must be hundreds), the picture the Liberal Party chose for a flyer which specifically targets the Jewish voters is the one in which Trudeau just happens to be speaking at a Holocaust education center?

Now to the Holocaust: Conservative MP Mark Adler was raked over the coals for noting on his campaign sign that he was “the first child of a Holocaust survivor to ever be elected as an MP.” In an article in the Ottawa Citizen called “Conservatives Pandering to Jewish Voters”, Andrew Cohen wrote: “The crudest of appeals to the Jews as one-issue voters came from Mark Adler, the Conservative MP from York Centre, whose early campaign signs declared him a ‘Son of a Holocaust survivor.’ This credential has since disappeared from his résumé.”

Former Liberal MP Raymonde Folco told The Canadian Jewish News she finds it “disgusting” that Adler would “use the Holocaust in this way, for personal ends.” And Jonathan Kay – former editor of the National Post and current editor-in-chief of The Walrus – a harsh critic of Harper and cheerleader for Justin Trudeau, twitted on August 16, 2015: “And who needs Yad Vashem when holocaust awareness is now being promoted on partisan Conservative signage?” Kay, it should be noted, concealed the fact that he assisted in writing Trudeau’s campaign book “Common Ground” until the Toronto Sun outed him in a bombshell article in October, 2014.

So if the liberal, left-leaning press and a former Liberal MP find the use of Holocaust during an election campaign distasteful, why does the Trudeau flyer feature him speaking at a Holocaust education center?

It is also worth pondering on the timing of the flyer which was dropped in the mailboxes of what is perhaps the most Jewish neighbourhood in Toronto just 3 days before the election. The election campaign has been going on for 6 weeks. Why hasn’t it been circulated a month ago? Why wasn’t it circulated in other ridings? Why was it limited to a Jewish neighbourhood? Could it have something to do with the fact that until now Trudeau took Jewish votes for granted? Could it have something to do with the Liberal Party desperately trying to unseat Joe Oliver, Minister of Finance and Conservative candidate in the Eglinton-Lawrence riding? Or could it be that Trudeau didn’t want his outreach to Jewish voters to prematurely and negatively affect his relationship with the Muslim community which stands firmly behind him?

Finally, the Liberal Party of Canada used the same photograph, albeit cropped and without showing Yad Vashem’s logo, in an election ad published in the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) weekly paper on October 8. The ad in CJN reads: “The Liberal Party will have Israel’s back – but not because it’s in our political interests to do so at home – but because it is the right thing to do on the world stage.”

The same photo in which Trudeau – wearing a kippah and standing behind an Israeli flag – appears in two separate Liberal Party ads specifically targeting Jews. If this isn’t pandering to the Jewish voters, what is?

Update: CIJnews contacted the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, who confirmed that the Liberal Party used Trudeau’s photograph without their permission.

Trudeau flyer-3 CIJnews

Copy of the original flyer (supplied photo)

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About Ilana Shneider

Ilana Shneider
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]

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