Liberals call summit on anti-Semitism over concerns over new MP’s views on Israel
The Trudeau government on Friday announced it would call an emergency summit on anti-Semitism, even as it faced criticism for welcoming into the Liberal fold an MP who denounced Israel as an apartheid state .
The summit will be chaired by former Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, currently Canada’s Special Envoy on Anti-Semitism.
The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs called for an emergency summit, citing a “disturbing rise in anti-Jewish sectarianism” in Canada following the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Jews in Canada and around the world are targeted for their identity and for expressing solidarity with fellow Jews in Israel who have been attacked by Hamas, a listed terrorist organization,” center president Shimon Koffler said on Friday. Fogel welcome the summit.
âWe have witnessed anti-Semitism targeting Jewish-owned businesses, in schools, in workplaces, in unions and on our streets. Plus, we’ve seen an unprecedented spike in anti-Semitic vitriol voiced online. “
Conservatives – and even some Liberals – say Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin contributed to this vitriol.
Ms Atwin left the Green Party on Thursday to join the Liberals, who were asked Friday about why she was welcomed into the ranks of the ruling party.
Last month, Ms Atwin criticized Green Leader Annamie Paul’s call for a de-escalation of recent deadly hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians and a return to dialogue between the two sides.
On Twitter, Ms Atwin claimed that there were “no two sides to this conflict, only human rights violations” by Israel. âI support Palestine and condemn the unthinkable airstrikes in Gaza. End apartheid! she tweeted.
Canada has committed $ 25 million in aid to Palestinian civilians in the wake of the recent conflict, which has left at least 230 Palestinians dead – including 65 children – and killed 12 Israelis.
Ms Atwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
On Thursday, she said the Green Party’s division over the Middle East conflict played a role in her decision to leave. âIt has been really difficult to focus on the work that needs to be done on behalf of my constituents,â she said.
Former Liberal MP Michael Levitt, now chairman of the Simon Wiesenthal Friends Center, took to Twitter on Friday to say he was “disappointed and concerned” that Ms Atwin had joined the Liberals, âGiven its inflammatory, one-sided and confrontational rhetoric during the recent conflict between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas.
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather has also expressed his concerns.
“I clearly disagree with her comments on Israel and was delighted to see that the Minister of Global Affairs made it clear during question period that this is absolutely against our government’s position,” Mr. Housefather in an email.
Earlier Friday, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau essentially disowned Ms Atwin’s position.
âI will simply say that the Liberal government’s position is extremely clear on the issue of the apartheid label. We categorically reject it, âsaid Mr. Garneau in the House of Commons.
âIt’s not part of our approach to Israel or the Jewish community. We are, of course, completely against any anti-Semitism that would be displayed by any Canadian citizen. “
Mr. Garneau was responding to questions from Conservative MP Peter Kent, who argued that MPs should try to calm down, “not to stir up inter-community discord and discrimination.”
“So why did the Liberals welcome a passing member of Parliament sanctioned by her own former party for inflammatory, ill-advised and untimely remarks against Israel?” “
In a statement, Conservative MPs Marty Morantz and Pierre Paul-Hus suggested Ms. Atwin would be at home in the Liberal Party, which they accused of harboring a number of âanti-Israelâ MPs.
âIf you don’t care about fighting hate and are not in favor of Israel’s right to exist, then there are three parties to choose from,â Morantz said.
âIf you are, there is only one choice, Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party of Canada. Canada’s Conservatives will always stand with the people of Israel and the democratically elected government of Israel that we are proud to call our friend and ally.
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, the Liberals welcome divergent views, even when it comes to Israel. âWithin the Liberal caucus, there is a lot of room for differences of opinion,â he said. “Our caucus discussions will be all the richer.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also released a brief statement Thursday highlighting Ms. Atwin’s “tireless and effective advocacy on priorities such as climate action, mental health, reconciliation and making life more affordable for families.”
Meanwhile, all parties gave unanimous consent on Friday to an NDP motion calling on the government to hold an emergency summit on Islamophobia in response to Sunday’s deadly attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont. .
Mr. O’Toole, the Conservative leader, tweeted his support for the motion, drawing critical responses noting that he and his party voted against a liberal motion in 2017 condemning Islamophobia.
A spokesperson for Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger confirmed that the summits on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia will be held this summer.
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