Canadian politician apologizes for demonizing Israel, antisemitism – is he sincere?

“The fact that he confronted ‘Jewish neighbours’ and challenged them on Israel’s actions in the Middle East is textbook antisemitism,” FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt said.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

A Canadian parliamentarian from Ottawa has apologized for blaming Israel for violence in the Middle East and confronting his Jewish neighbors about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, following an outcry from Jewish organizations and local political leaders.

New Democratic Party (NDP) MPP Joel Harden made the comments last year during an interview with Peter Iarson of the the Ottawa Forum on Israel Palestine. Footage of the conversation resurfaced on social media over the weekend.

“I have asked many questions of Jewish neighbors here about, you know, how much longer should we put up with this?” Harden said at the event. “The single greatest origin of violence in the Middle East is unquestionably the state of Israel and the way in which they feel absolutely no shame in defying international law and doing whatever they want.”

On Sunday, Harden apologized on Twitter.

“I would like to apologize unreservedly for to the Jewish community for comments I made during an interview with the Ottawa Forum on Israel Palestine,” he said. “I spoke in a way that perpetrated an antisemitic stereotype towards Jewish neighbors. I regret my choice of words and sincerely apologize to the Jewish community.”

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“You have my commitment that it won’t happen again and I will continue to work with Jewish leaders who can help me understand antisemitism,” he added.

Harden, who supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, also said in a separate interview in 2019 that he opposed Israel’s detainment of a member of the Popular for the Liberation of Palestine, calling it “abuse,” despite the group’s involvement in hijackings of civilian airplanes, the first assassination of an Israeli cabinet member, and its listing on Canada’s list of known terrorist groups.

Following Harden’s apology, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) met with NDP interim leader Peter Tabuns to discuss Harden’s comments. Tabuns also expressed remorse and commended FSWC for its efforts to educate the public about antisemitism.

That same day, according to the Ottawa Sun, told reporters that NDP demanded an apology from Harden and is prepared to sanction him further should he not follow through on his promise to be educated about antisemitism and refrain from making similar remarks in the future.

“Not for the first time, MPP Joel Harden’s inflammatory words and actions have caused real harm to Jews,” Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center President and CEO Michael Levitt said on Monday.

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“The fact that he confronted ‘Jewish neighbours’ and challenged them on Israel’s actions in the Middle East is textbook antisemitism. Education is foundational to FSWC’s approach to combating antisemitism, and we truly hope this incident serves as an opportunity to engage in a meaningful educational process with both Harden and the Ontario NDP.”