Content of Flyer–Speaker’s Ruling
Mr. Speaker, I hope not to be too long. I will just finish where I began in questions and comments.
I have to correct the record again. My learned friend from Mount Royal, whose dedication to these issues, of course, is legendary and who is a valued member of this place, I think just misspoke himself, and I am sure he will agree that he did so, when he said the entire world community withdrew from the Durban I conference. That is factually incorrect. The state of Israel and the United—
Hon. Irwin Cotler:
I did not say that.
Mr. Brian Murphy: He didn’t say that.
Hon. Jason Kenney: That is exactly what he said. The state of Israel and the United States withdrew. There were calls within Canada for Canada to withdraw.
In fact, let me quote from an editorial that appeared in the Victoria Times Colonist, on September 5, 2001, “The continued presence at the conference of Canada’s secretary of state for multiculturalism”, now the member for Vancouver Centre, “ no longer serves any useful purpose and, in fact, helps to legitimize what has become a propaganda forum for some of the worst anti-Jewish hatemongering since the Second World War”. That was the editorial board of the Victoria Times Colonist.
Why do I quote that? Simply to point out that the sentiment expressed in the ten percenter in question was a commonly held view, and continues to be a matter of legitimate public debate. It is not an accusation of anti-Semitism, but rather an accusation that the previous Liberal government, of which the member was a part, made the wrong decision. It did not make the decision to withdraw from Durban. It made the decision to stay, and in the words of not the Conservative Party but the Victoria Times Colonist and many others, to legitimize the Durban process, which was filled with overt expressions of anti-Semitism.
The point is this. What we have here is the discomfort. What we hear is the reflection of the discomfort of certain members of the official opposition when presented with the bald facts of its own record, so, consequently, an effort to deflect from those facts by inventing charges of anti-Semitism, which are very explosive.
Let me be clear. If I heard any member of my caucus or party accusing any party in this place or any member in this place unjustifiably of harbouring anti-Semitic views, I would condemn it. If I thought this document in question made such an accusation, I would, without hesitation, condemn it. However, it makes no such accusation. That is a completely trumped up allegation.
I understand the discomfort of the member opposite. I respect his views on these issues. I disagree, however, with the decision of the government of which he was a part to stay at Durban I and, thereby, to legitimize it.
Now he says that members of his constituency and community are disturbed to think that his party, his government, did so. I would say rightfully so, they should be disturbed. That is a natural political reaction.
We need to make a very clear distinction between the trumped up allegation that this document somehow alleges anti-Semitism, which it does not. The anti-Semitism of which it speaks is not anti-Semitism of a member of this place or of a party in this place, but rather of the Durban I conference. I submit that is basically incontrovertible fact.
The member goes on at great length about his consternation that a ten percenter went to homes of Jewish-Canadian voters. I have in my hand a ten percenter distributed by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence. The last I checked he was a member of the Liberal caucus. The ten percenter is entitled “Does only one Canadian political party support Israel?”. It goes through criticizing the Prime Minister for not attending, for not visiting Israel. It talks about the Liberal Party’s voting record at the United Nations on Israel. It has a Canadian and Israeli flag on the top, just in case members think there is any lack of subtlety here.
I am willing to accept that perhaps the member has legitimate concerns about the distribution of one ten percenter, but then I am sure his concerns are equally directed at the ten percenter distributed in a number of electoral districts by members of his own caucus, and he continues to be absolutely mute on that point. This is the fundamental hypocrisy of the Liberal Party on these issues.
The ten percenter in question says, for instance, that the Conservative government was the first government in the world to withdraw support from the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. On the other side, it says that the Liberals opposed this government’s defunding of the Hamas-led P.A. and actually called for an increase in that funding. That is not a fact. It is not a slur. It is not an allegation of hatred. It is not any of those trumped-up ridiculous overstatements that we are hearing from members of the opposition. It is a fact.
When the Prime Minister and this government announced that it was removing funding from the Hamas-led P.A., following the election of a Hamas government, or pseudo-government, in March 2006, the then foreign affairs critic and now former leader of the Liberal Party said that the government should, right away, commit itself to maintaining the $52 million in help, that the social problems in the territories were awful, that, in fact, Canada should do more, not less, so to cut $7 million would be a mistake.
I know it is uncomfortable for the member that some of his constituents now realize that his party wanted us to increase funding to the Hamas-led P.A., but that discomfort constitutes a legitimate part of political debate. Here is the record. This government was the first in the world to cut funding for the Hamas-led P.A.. The Liberal Party, in favour of that funding, was demanding an increase in it. Is that somehow slurring members of the opposition by stating their record? I think that reflects a lot.
Furthermore, the ten percenter question says,“On support for Israel: The Conservatives ‘strongly backed ‘ Israel’s right to self-defence against Hezbollah during the 2006 conflict”. I think that is an incontrovertible fact. The Prime Minister was much criticized for that, including in this place. On the other side it says, “The Leader of the Opposition accused Israel of committing war crimes”. That is not a slur, it is a statement of fact. It is a legitimate point of debate in public discourse. What is our source?
When he appeared on the show Tout le monde en parle, while he was simply the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, the Leader of the Opposition said that he believed war crimes had been committed by Israel in Lebanon.
Those are not our words; they are his.
What we have, I submit, and I say with great respect for that member, is a conventional political communication, the kind that we all engage in as robust participants in a public debate. This is not an allegation that the member or any of his colleagues are anti-Semitic, and I would condemn any such outrageous allegation. It is, on the other hand, a legitimate point of information.
I would simply close by saying this. If the member is that concerned about having to defend the record of his party on these issues, maybe he has to ask himself some questions rather than trying to inflate this into a false debate about anti-Semitism, which it is not.
To view the complete debate in the House of Commons click here