Liberals stand by Israel: Ignatieff

Leader responds to flyer critical of party's record

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Michael Ignatieff jumped all over a Tory flyer suggesting the Official Opposition is anti-Israel.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/11/2009 (4646 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Michael Ignatieff jumped all over a Tory flyer suggesting the Official Opposition is anti-Israel.

The Liberal leader responded to the flyer, which arrived in some Winnipeg South Centre mailboxes earlier this week, after a speech to about 500 members of the party faithful at the Delta Winnipeg hotel Wednesday evening.

“The Liberal party has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the state of Israel since 1948 and to assert otherwise is outrageous,” he said. “They’re sending this into ridings with Jewish communities, they’re sending it into ridings represented by MPs who happen to be Jewish and they’re making outrageous allegations about the party.”

The two-page promotional piece chastises Ignatieff for past statements and links the Liberals to anti-Semitic positions. It also accuses the Liberals of participating in a United Nations anti-racism conference that degenerated into an anti-Israeli “hatefest” and being soft on Hezbollah and Hamas.

The Conservatives also question Ignatieff’s support for Israel, referring to comments the Liberal leader made following the 2006 war in Lebanon accusing Israel of war crimes.

Winnipeg South Centre MP Anita Neville, who is Jewish, said the flyer is a scurrilous misrepresentation of the facts.

“I find it demeaning of a government and of a prime minister. It’s part of this ‘divide and conquer’, narrow-edged politics that he does,” said Neville.

“I’m offended by it personally and collectively on behalf of the Liberal party. It is full of blatant misinformation and lies.”

Ignatieff said nobody can question Neville’s dedication to Israel.

“(The Conservatives) turn everything into a partisan issue. This is the politics of division. It’s wedge and jam and I’m fed up with it,” he said.

The flyer, which features two photos of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, reads, “Unfortunately, Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals continue to send confusing messages when it comes to key issues of concern to Jewish-Canadians.”

Charleswood MP Steven Fletcher defended the flyer, saying it simply outlines positions taken by a party whose support for Israel has been less that forthright.

“What we’re seeing here is the Liberals complaining that the truth hurts,” said Fletcher. “I think Anita doesn’t want everyone to be reminded where her party stands.”

The flyer is known as a “10 percenter” which refers to parliamentary rules that allow MPs to send flyers into any other riding as long as no more than 10 per cent of the households get one. The Tories have used the taxpayer-funded flyers widely to criticize the Liberals.

The most recent flyer went to three ridings besides Neville’s, two in Montreal and one in Toronto. It came from the office of London, Ont., MP Joe Preston.

Neville’s riding has been the target of several 10 percenters in recent years. The Tories have tried several times to unseat her.

Hart Mallin, a long-standing member of Winnipeg’s Jewish community who ran unsuccessfully for the Tory nomination in Neville’s riding earlier this year, said he received the flyer in his mailbox Wednesday afternoon. He has some reservations about his party’s approach.

He said the flyer was factually correct but needlessly divisive and simplified complex situations.

“I applaud the direct support for human rights exemplified by Canada’s forthright policies under the Harper government that show an understanding of the important role the state of Israel continues to play as an example of a democracy in action,” said Mallin. “But I cannot endorse separating any ethnic or religious group in order to leverage political support.”

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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