Friday, November 20, 2009

Irwin Cotler Deserves an Apology From the Reform Conservatives for Their Disgusting Behaviour

While I continue to believe that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, the notion by the Reformers that Irwin Cotler is not supportive of Israel is insane. His daughter is in the Israeli army.

I find it inexcusable that Stephen Harper would condone this nonsense. A Prime Minister is supposed to hold this country together, not try to divide it in such a horrible manner. I am so ashamed.

What standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel really means
November 20, 2009

Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.

It doesn’t mean sending erroneous, inflammatory and divisive flyers into Jewish neighbourhoods as a partisan wedge. Stephen Harper should be ashamed to have his image on these Conservative brochures. It tarnishes the office of the Prime Minister.

Nor does it mean hurling drive-by accusations of anti-Semitism, as one senior Conservative spokesperson did Wednesday on national television. It’s beyond the pale to falsely charge political opponents of anti-Semitism as a tactic for vote-getting. The Liberal targeted by that attack, former Mississauga-Erindale MP and current Liberal candidate Omar Alghabra, has dedicated himself to fighting all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. His commitment to the cause of peace in the Middle East is deep and ongoing.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel certainly doesn’t mean resorting to lies to smear your political opponents. Irwin Cotler put it best when he stood up on a point of privilege in the House of Commons to denounce the flyers being sent to voters his riding.

What standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel does mean is changing Canadian law to ensure Hezbollah and Hamas were designated as terrorist organizations, as the Liberal government did in 2002.

What it does mean is condemning anti-Semitism vociferously as the former Liberal government did at the Durban I conference, and staying on at the conference to witness the atrocious statements made there at the request of the Israeli government.

What it means is standing by Israel, as the Liberal Party has, since 1948. “My party will never claim to be the only genuine defenders of Israel in Canadians politics,” Michael Ignatieff said in a speech to the Canadian Jewish Congress, "Because I don’t want my party to be alone in the defence of Israel. I want all parties to be genuine defenders of Israel."

Mr. Cotler's Point of Privilege

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege in respect of a flyer subvented by Parliament and the Canadian public, targeting ridings with identifiable Jewish communities and comparing the positions of the Conservatives and the Liberals in respect of what they call matters of value to the Jewish community. Let me relate each of the three matters of value that they speak of: fighting anti-Semitism, fighting terrorism, and supporting Israel.

Let me begin with the first. I will cite directly from the flyer, which I will table accordingly as well. The type of language used in this flyer must be borne in mind. The flyer states that the Liberals: Willingly participated in the overtly anti-Semitic Durban I. For shame. This is a false, misleading, prejudicial and pernicious slander, which itself constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege, associating the Liberal Party with support for anti-Semitism and, I might add, associating me as a member of the Liberal Party and each of us as members of the Liberal Party with supporting anti-Semitism.

This flyer is also false, misleading and prejudicial to me personally and my reputation and standing as an MP, constituting yet another prima facie breach of privilege, and I am referring here to the statements with regard to privilege.

I participated in Durban I as a member of the Canadian delegation. I went to Durban I, as did Canada, with other states in the international community, because we hoped and believed at the time that this was going to be the first world conference against racism in the 21st century, as I wrote at the time. However, a world conference against racism turned into a conference of racism and anti-Semitism against Israel and the Jewish community. I spoke then, during the conference. I have spoken and written since. At the risk of sounding self-serving, though I think this is a matter of empirical fact, I believe I have spoken out on Durban I perhaps as much as, if not more than, any member of any other parliament in the world.

Yet this flyer purports to identify me and the members of my party as associating with and willingly participating in an anti-Semitic Durban conference. Not only did the Canadian delegation and I myself speak unequivocally in condemnation of Durban I, but, and this is an important fact as well, the Government of Israel, at the time, publicly commended Canada for its participation and the nature of its participation in the Durban I conference. The Government of Israel publicly commended Canada for Canada's condemnation of anti-Semitism at Durban I.

Does that mean that the Government of Israel, by supporting the Government of Canada, was also identifying with anti-Semitism? What kind of absurdity is that coming out of the members of the Conservative government? This is as absurd as it is false.

Let me go to the second scurrilous allegation. The flyer claims, on matters of fighting terrorism, that the Liberal Party: opposed defunding Hamas and asked that Hezbollah be delisted as a terrorist organization. Let the facts speak for themselves. It was a Liberal government, in 2002, which listed Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations under Canadian law. I have no problem in commending the Conservatives for doing that which we or any other party would do, whether it be in support of Israel or to condemn anti-Semitism.

What I condemn them for is massive political identity theft on the matters of Hamas and Hezbollah. The Conservatives, in this flyer, take credit for listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. If they want to take credit for regarding Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations, I have no problem with that. I have a problem with the member saying that we in the Liberal Party supported Hamas and Hezbollah. For shame.

The hon. member is trapped by the facts and he cannot escape the facts. When they take credit for being the first in the world to stop funding for Hamas, it was illegal under Canadian law from 2002 onwards to provide any support for Hamas. How can they take credit that after 2006, they then de-funded Hamas? My god, there has to be some respect for truth and some respect for honesty.

Finally— Hon. Peter Kent: You are splitting hairs. Hon. Irwin Cotler: I do not split hairs with the truth.

The third allegation, lest they say I would overlook the third allegation, is as I quote, that Michael Ignatieff “accused Israel of committing war crimes”. As Voltaire put it, if one takes something out of context, one can hang anybody. Mr. Ignatieff apologized and said the following, and I quote—

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

The Speaker: Order, order.

The hon. member knows he cannot use another member's name. He will have to stick with titles.

Hon. Irwin Cotler: The member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore said in 2006, at the same time the Conservatives misleadingly excerpted text from his statement, that: “Between a terrorist militia and a democratic state, Canada must always side with Israel”.” I want to conclude with his remarks, as they bear exactly on the issue before the House. I quote: is beyond reckless for political leaders to try to score points by branding one another as 'anti-Israel'—to try to win votes by claiming a monopoly on supporting Israel.

My Party will never claim to be the only genuine defenders of Israel in Canadian politics—because I don’t want my Party to be alone in the defence of Israel. I want all parties to be genuine defenders of Israel. In closing, I want to cite from House of Commons Procedure and Practice in reference to an action you took, Mr. Speaker:

In April 2005, Speaker Milliken ruled that the reputation of [the member for Windsor West] may have been unjustly damaged by Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat) who had distributed in the Windsor West riding a bulk mailing containing inaccurate and misleading information about Mr. Masse’s House and committee activities. There have been bulk mailings not only in my riding but also in ridings across this country with identifiable Jewish communities. Those bulk mailings not only contained false and misleading information, but they also contained information that was slanderous, damaging, and prejudicial to the Liberal Party and to the performance of each of our individual and collective duties. That is a prima facie breach of privilege and I would call on the Conservatives to cease and desist from these pernicious mailings and to publicly apologize for this false and misleading action.

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