Three federal NDP candidates are under intense scrutiny – and one has resigned – for controversial comments each made about Israel.
Hans Marotte, the NDP candidate in Quebec’s Saint-Jean riding; Morgan Wheeldon, who was, until stepping aside Aug. 9, running in the Nova Scotia riding of Kings-Hants; and David McLaren, running in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, were among the NDP candidates featured, alongside past comments they made, on a Conservative Party of Canada’s attack website titled “Meet the NDP.”
Marotte, a lawyer and well-known former separatist, is flagged on the site for a statement he made in his 1990 book Un Pays à Faire (A Country to Make): “When a Palestinian comes to ask me to sign his declaration of support for the intifada, and tells me how happy he is to have my name on his list, I see how important it is that we not close in on ourselves.”
Wheeldon, whose website has been wiped of all content, is featured on the Conservative site for a comment in an August 2014 Facebook post, made in the context of a discussion about British MP George Galloway, who had been physically attacked in London allegedly for his anti-Israel views.
The quote reads: “One could argue that Israel’s intention was always to ethnically cleanse the region – there are direct quotations proving this to be the case. Guess we just swept that under the rug. A minority of Palestinians are bombing buses in response to what appears to be a calculated effort to commit a war crime.”
McLaren, meanwhile, is quoted as saying it isn’t principled to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because it is like picking a side in “a telephone booth packed with dynamite.”
In a statement to the Canadian Jewish News, the NDP’s senior campaign adviser, Brad Lavigne, said the party’s “position on the conflict in the Middle East is clear, as [leader] Tom Mulcair expressed clearly in [the recently televised Maclean’s] debate. Mr. Wheeldon’s comments are not in line with that policy, and he is no longer our candidate. We were made aware of some information that had not previously been disclosed. When we approached Mr. Wheeldon with this information, he submitted his resignation.”
The NDP did not offer a comment on Marotte’s or McLaren’s statements.
Wheeldon himself told the CJN via Twitter that his Facebook statement “referred to how information sources affect framing of the conflict. I also attacked terrorism and said neither side was solely at fault, but pointed out the alternate perspective. I said ‘one could argue.…’ I’ve been called an antisemite, and it’s pretty upsetting for me and my family.”
Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said that it was appropriate for Wheeldon to offer his resignation following his “libelous smears against the Jewish state.”
“Israel is a democracy where all its citizens enjoy rights and freedoms unimaginable anywhere else in the Middle East,” said Mostyn. “Mr. Wheeldon should use some of his newfound free time to advocate against actual ethnic cleansing taking place on a daily basis in the terrorist Islamic State, which continues to massacre Christians, Yazidis, gays and other minorities.”
Mostyn also noted that B’nai Brith is trying to track down a copy of Marotte’s book, and reach out to him to verify the accuracy of the quote and whether his opinion has changed over the 25 years since he wrote the book.
He added that “the quote in question displays a certain naiveté about the fact that one does not sign a petition to support an intifada, jihad or any other extremist act of violence. Seeking to promote a pluralistic society in Canada does not translate to supporting calls for violence against innocent civilians.”
Joe Oliver, the Tory MP for the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, also condemned the remarks.
“These radical anti-Israeli comments are just another example of the NDP’s troubling lack of support for a democratic friend and ally,” Oliver said. “They stand in stark contrast to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s unwavering support for Israel’s security and right to defend itself against international terrorism. Reckless comments on matters of international relations make it abundantly clear how inexperienced and risky the NDP would be for Canada’s future and its standing in the world.”
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