As the conflict in Gaza escalates, the Conservatives have released a dramatic new ad that highlights the party's staunch support for Israel, but it seems they aren't looking for a wide audience.
Titled "Through Fire and Water", the web commercial features Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird speaking about Canada's friendship with Israel interspersed with footage of the PM's recent trip to Israel. The music accompanying the ad is reminiscent of tracks used in movie trailers.
Comments on the video have been disabled and the clip was originally "unlisted", which means YouTube did not display it in search results or on any of the website's public pages. Essentially, you needed to be sent a direct link in order to access the video. You couldn't even find it on the Conservative's YouTube page.
Conservative communications director Cory Hann told HuffPost that publishing the video unlisted was an "administrative error." The video is no longer unlisted. Hann also pointed out that the clip was shared by the party on Twitter and Facebook. Baird tweeted a link to the ad and Harper retweeted it.
A link in the video's comments directs to a fundraising page for the Conservative Party.
Conservative pundit and consultant Gerry Nicholls, who worked with Harper at the National Citizens Coalition, told Yahoo! News the video is aimed primarily at Canada's Jewish community but also at the Tory base, which is pro-Israel.
"I suspect the Israel issue cuts well for the Conservative, in that it's an issue that unites the Tories but divides both the NDP and Liberals. If either NDP leader Thomas Mulcair or Liberal leader Justin Trudeau try to match Harper's pro-Israel rhetoric it might alienate part of their rank and file," Nicholls said. "So Harper basically owns this issue and he's making the most of it."
Earlier this week former Liberal MP Omar Alghabra attacked the Conservatives for playing politics with the conflict in Gaza.
"The Conservatives are shameless and disgusting," Alghabra said. "There is no limit to their ugly politics and no cause, no matter how tragic or serious it is, they are unwilling to exploit."
Alghabra made the comments after the Tories attacked him for a Facebook post he made saying his thoughts and prayers were with the Palestinian civilians caught in the "blind and cruel bombing." Aghabra later edited the post to express concern for civilians on both sides.
Tory MP Costas Menegakis attacked Alghabra for the post but also criticized Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for not "standing with Israel."
In April, Trudeau released a video with the title "We Have Israel's Back." On Tuesday, Trudeau condemned Hamas for violating a ceasefire agreement and launching rocket attacks on civilians.
“Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Hamas is a terrorist organization and must cease its rocket attacks immediately,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Both the Liberals and NDP have called for negotiations that might lead to a cessation of hostilities.
The Liberals have yet to comment on Israel's ground offensive. Trudeau is currently away on vacation.
The Conservatives have long voiced support for Israel while criticizing the Hamas government in Gaza.
Earlier in the week Baird slammed Hamas for violating the ceasefire. "It is a conflict between an international terrorist organization and the Jewish state," he said Tuesday. "Hamas started this bloodshed. Hamas can end it."
Baird said he regrets the loss of life in the region and feels the sympathy everyone should feel toward the innocent victims of the conflict, but said Israel has been left with no choice but to defend itself.
Also this week, Baird attacked UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for criticizing Israel's rocket attacks on Gaza.
In 2012, Canada was among the nine countries that voted against granting Palestine official status as a non-member state at the United Nations. Many Canadians wrote to the Conservatives to express their outrage at the move, with many complaining that the government does not represent the views of Canadians on the region.
Early this year Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to speak to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. During the trip. Harper was feted with an honorary university degree, as well as a tour of a bird sanctuary that will bear his name. He also visited the West Bank and pledged $66 million in aid for the Palestinians.
Israel launched a ground offensive on Thursday after weeks of rocket attacks from Gaza. More than 25 Palestinians were dead as of Friday morning, including an infant, two children and a 70-year-old woman. One Israeli soldier died in the operation and several others were wounded.
With files from The Canadian Press
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