MONTREAL (Dec. 8)
A Quebec-based member of Canada’s Parliament has drawn the ire of Canadian Jews and many Christians for sending constituents a Christmas card featuring Yasser Arafat.
Legislator Jean-Guy Carignan had his picture taken with the Palestinian Authority president in May, when Carignan visited Ramallah with other Canadian politicians on a trip paid for by the Toronto-based Palestine House.
He used the photo as the front of the Christmas card he sent this year to 2,000 constituents.
Though Carignan says he is “in favor of peace and justice” in the Middle East, Jewish groups are angered by what they see as a misjudgment at best, and a provocation at worst.
“We know that Arafat operatives have claimed responsibility for numerous acts of terror against civilians,” said the national president of B’nai Brith Canada, Rochelle Wilner. “Arafat is the one who says to them, ‘Go out and do your suicide bombings.’ Where is the peace in that?
“To show yourself photographed with him at this time of year, in a message of peace to your constituents, is absolutely outrageous,” she added.
Joseph Gabay, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, also was upset.
“I am angry that our” tax “money is being used to send a biased message like this,” Gabay said. “This is an awful message of peace.”
Christian callers to local radio talk shows also were incensed by Carignan’s card.
“What does a Yasser Arafat, a Muslim, have to do with the celebration of Christmas?” one caller asked. “And I am against politicians using this important holiday to further their political causes. This has nothing to do with peace.”
Another caller suggested that if Carignan really wanted to convey a message of peace, he could have sent a card with the image of a dove on it.
Carignan, 61, was a Quebec provincial bureaucrat in 2000 when he ran for a seat in the federal Parliament for the Liberal Party, narrowly defeating the incumbent.
Carignan represents a mainly French-speaking district near Quebec City with virtually no Jews.
A member of the Canada-Israel Parliamentary Association, he pointed out that he recently attended a Chanukah party thrown by Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Haim Divon.
Canadian legislators routinely are invited to such affairs.
Carignan defended his position on the Middle East, saying that he backs the creation of a Palestinian state, is sympathetic to the Palestinian people “because they live in far worse conditions than their neighbors,”
does not consider Arafat a terrorist.
“Don’t forget he is the elected president,” he said. “And he won a Nobel Prize.”
Carignan has been the center of controversy before. Last year, he was convicted for a hit-and- run accident in 2000 that left a woman with impaired vision. He was not sentenced to any jail time after pleading guilty to leaving the scene, instead of pleading to an impaired-driving charge.
Carignan resigned from the Liberal caucus at the time. Last spring, however, he appealed and won the right to argue for a new trial on the grounds that he was not drinking at the time of the accident, but was in a trance caused by an over-the-counter allergy remedy called Drixoral.
He is due to appear in court next week to argue his case.