New Democrat MP Niki Ashton, who has come under fire from B’nai Brith Canada for comments and actions it sees as supporting Palestinian terrorists, says she is obligated to "speak out in the face of injustice."
Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith Canada’s chief executive officer, said the Jewish advocacy group is upset Ashton — who is running for the federal leadership of her party — attended a rally in Montreal remembering the Nakba. Ashton also posted photos on her Facebook page showing her in front of posters depicting the likeness of Ahmad Sa’adat, the jailed leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Mostyn said "the Nakba" is an Arabic term criticizing the founding of the modern state of Israel, while the PFLP is described as a terrorist organization by the Canadian government.
"We take this very seriously," Mostyn said Friday. "We take the comments seriously and the photos she chose to post seriously, too."
In a statement provided to the Free Press, Ashton said, "I have consistently spoken out for peace and justice in the Middle East, including for Palestinians.
"Many, including the Canadian Labour Congress and Amnesty International, have shown their support for the hunger strikers who are opposing inhumane conditions. As someone who is completing a PhD in peace and conflict studies, it is clear to me that one must speak out in the face of injustice, whether here at home or abroad.
"Canada must return to its traditional role, supporting a balanced position and a just peace in the Middle East."
Ashton, the MP for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, had posted on Facebook she was "honoured to stand with many in remembering the Nakba.
"It was also powerful to join many at a rally in solidarity with those on hunger strike in Palestine today. The NDP must be a voice for human rights, for peace and justice in the Middle East.
"I am inspired by all those who in our country are part of this struggle for justice."
Mostyn said Ashton failed to say most of the hunger strikers had been imprisoned for committing terrorist attacks that killed Israeli civilians. He said Sa’adat "is a murderer" who served a 10-year sentence for assassinating Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi.
"This is the leader of a listed terrorist organization, and here we have an MP seeking to lead her party — and possibly the country, too — promote a symbol of a banned terrorist group," he said. "It doesn’t get any worse than that."
Mostyn called on Ashton to apologize.