A word jumped off the page when I was reading Haroon Siddiqui’s column in the Toronto Star the other day: “rabid.” Describing Qatar’s attempt to steal the International Civil Aviation Organization headquarters from Montreal, Siddiqui wrote: “There’s speculation that the bid is also politically motivated, in retaliation for Stephen Harper’s rabid pro-Israeli stance.”
Siddiqui is an important Star personage, routinely billed as the paper’s “editorial page editor emeritus,” a title claimed by no other Canadian journalist. He ran the editorial page in the 1990s, and the Star apparently wants to recall those glory years every time he appears in print. What in the world makes him call the prime minister rabid?
Oxford defines that word as “Furious, raging; wildly aggressive.” Doesn’t sound like Stephen Harper. He’s cool and careful. He speaks quietly of Israel, noting that Canada doesn’t endorse all of Israel’s policies. He finds it unfair that so much criticism is directed by others against “the one country of the global community whose very existence is threatened.” He also draws a lesson from history: Those who choose the Jewish people “as a target of racial and religious bigotry will inevitably be a threat to all of us.” He believes those who target Israel also threaten “all free and democratic societies.”
Perhaps Siddiqui, in using that strange word, “rabid,” unconsciously projects his own feelings of rage and frustration onto his subject. For the left and the leftish, such as Siddiqui, a furious opposition to Israel has become a sacred duty. When the anti-Israel forces assemble, usually in a university, they have wonderfully peaceful meetings. Everyone agrees on all major points. Everything said against Israel is greeted with cheers. (One meeting I recently attended as a journalist was close to a pep rally.) Opposing Israel has become the favourite struggle of the left. Nothing else in world affairs is considered so important. In Canada, it’s the left’s only foreign policy (well, name another one). It is also a major source of their intellectual comfort and self-satisfaction.
Leftists are natural conformists who like to travel in packs and love political abstractions. In the UN, the most persistent gang is the anti-Israel cabal, which pours out millions of words about Israeli imperialists oppressing the Palestinians. Students, listening to Arab politicians tossing around terms such as colonialism and racism, feel a warm sense of recognition: Why, that’s just what our professor is always talking about.
In North America or Europe, holding this position demonstrates an absurd thoughtlessness. It implies that we should punish Israel, the only real democracy in the Middle East, while ignoring Syria, Iran, North Korea, China, and many other despotic states. This a remarkable but widespread form of blindness. I have acquaintances, including feminists, who never utter a word against Saudi Arabia or Pakistan but nevertheless wish everyone to know that they disagree strongly with Israel’s policies.