Those with an authoritarian and/or vindictive streak don’t know when to stop. That’s what makes them dangerous. That’s what also proves their ultimate undoing in a democracy.

Ottawa’s decision to axe funding to a group apparently because it criticized Israel has enraged many Canadians and fully exposed the zealotry of Stephen Harper’s government in supporting Israel and attacking those who don’t.

KAIROS, an ecumenical group, promotes social and economic justice in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Its $7 million contract to set up a rape clinic in the Congo, among other projects, was killed by Harper because the group was said to have backed a boycott of Israel for oppressing Palestinians. As Jason Kenney admitted: “We’ve de-funded organizations, most recently like KAIROS, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott.”

Criticizing Israel is a crime in Tory books. The authoritarian designation is also a Tory flag of honour to be waved in Jerusalem, as Kenney just did.

Here’s an equivalent. An ad agency wins a federal contract to promote tourism. Ottawa learns that the agency, or those close to it, had been critical of the Alberta tar sands. The Tories kill the contract – and crow about it in Calgary.

“This is the new McCarthyism,” says Independent Jewish Voices, a small dissident group. “If you don’t toe the government line, you get your funding cut.”

Kenney had similarly axed funding for the Canadian Arab Federation after its president attacked Ottawa’s backing of the Israeli invasion of Gaza. (Penalizing the group for its leader’s ill-chosen words was also hypocritical, given that Kenney had invoked free speech to defend an odious anti-Islamic screed.)

In Harper’s hands, Canada has gone from backing every Israeli action, including the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, to waging a campaign of intimidation and punishment here at home on behalf of Israel.

The effort has taken on an air of desperation since the Israeli attack on Gaza. Just as that attack turned much of the world against Israel, with many liberals abandoning a reflexively pro-Israeli position, it evoked revulsion across Canada and divided Jewish Canadians.

And just as Israel and many of its backers lost credibility trying to justify the unjustifiable, so have the Harperites. For example, they have failed in discrediting Richard Goldstone, eminent jurist and a lifelong Zionist, who condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza civilians as possible war crimes.

His findings are being invoked by several of the 50 Canadians joining about 1,300 people in the Gaza Strip next week to help end the ongoing Israeli blockade.

Many Tory actions on behalf of Israel have been counterproductive.

Kenney banned British MP George Galloway, a strong critic of Israel, from entering Canada, thereby handing him a bigger platform and a chance at a lawsuit, now before the Federal Court.

Kenney, backed by a chorus of alarmists, excoriated university students holding Israel Apartheid Week, only to see it get bigger.

He called York University a place of “pogroms.” That and other ad hominem attacks by others prompted about 200 professors and students, including notable Jewish academics, to condemn the rhetoric as unduly inflammatory and to stand their ground for academic freedom.

When the Harperites went after the Osgoode Hall Law School organizers of a conference on Israel, ordering the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to kill its $19,750 subsidy, the agency did not oblige. Some invited Israeli academics scoffed at Ottawa. The Canadian Association of University Teachers said the Tory interference was “not something we’ve seen in this country since the McCarthy period.”

The Harperites have since been backing the Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism. Independent Jewish Voices said the committee’s “goal is to criminalize criticism of Israel and Zionism … It’s a danger to both Canadian liberties and the genuine and necessary fight against anti-Semitism.”

The over-the-top pro-Israeli overtures of the Harperites play well with their partisans and toadies in the media. But they are not helpful to Israel, let alone Canada.