The Asper Slam on News Media

The Asper Slam on News Media
by: Marc Edge

While not a follower of Judaism, Israel Asper admitted an affinity with his namesake Jewish homeland established in Palestine after World War II, which displaced indigenous Arabs. "I'm what you would call a secular Jew," he told the Toronto Star in 2000. "I do consider myself quite Jewish in cultural terms. Very early on, I became a Zionist. It's been a lifelong pursuit of mine." After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Asper was instrumental in raising money and political support for Israel. He helped found an informal organization that evolved into the Winnipeg Jewish community's lobbying arm, the Canada-Israel Committee. Over the years, he had been a sharp critic of Canada's foreign policy toward Israel. After CanWest acquired the Southam newspapers, he often made his views known in print.

In a June 2001 speech in Jerusalem, Asper described Canada's UN record of voting to condemn Israel's actions against the Palestinians as "shameful." The speech was given on accepting an honorary doctorate after he contributed $5 million to help establish a business school at the Hebrew University. It was excerpted in the National Post and other CanWest newspapers. In it, Asper blamed most of the Western world for allowing the Holocaust that killed millions of Jews. "Britain welching on its word, duplicitously shut down Jewish immigration, and countries like Canada refused to accept fleeing European Jews as immigrants, all combining to trap Europe's Jewish community and leave it intact for Hitler's inferno."

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