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Canadian Liberals object after Conservatives say they’re stronger Israel backers

(JTA) — Canada’s opposition Liberal Party is crying foul after the ruling Conservatives mailed out flyers extolling themselves as stronger supporters of Israel.

Barbs flew in the House of Commons Thursday after the taxpayer-funded leaflets were sent to electoral districts with high concentrations of Jewish voters in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. The mailings accuse the Liberals of participating in the 2001 UN anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, which the pamphlets described as "overtly anti-Semitic," and of supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.

The flyers also attacked Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff for accusing Israel of committing war crimes in its 2006 war with Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, meantime, were lauded for refusing to take part in the Durban II conference, spurning terrorist groups, and osupporting Israel’s right to self-defense in 2006. The pamphlets ask voters to choose which federal leader "is on the right track to represent and defend the values of Canada’s Jewish community."

Liberal MPs denounced the mailings as propaganda filled with half-truths. They pointed out that many nations, including the United States and Israel, attended at least part of the Durban I conference, and that it was Canada that helped blunt the language in the final communiqué to Israel’s satisfaction.

The Liberals also point out it was they who listed Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations in 2002.

The mailings are "totally misleading [and] false," Montreal MP Irwin Cotler, a former federal minister of justice, told the Toronto Star. They "basically seek to associate the Liberal party with anti-Semitism. This is shocking … this has no place in Canadian politics."

But Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney denied the government was suggesting the Liberals were anti-Semitic. "Anyone who’s suggesting that is being completely over the top and mischievous," he told reporters. "These are facts. They are on the record. They [Liberals] are uncomfortable with that."

Karen Mock, a Liberal candidate in the heavily-Jewish neighborhood of Thornhill, north of Toronto, attended the Durban I meeting as part of the Canadian delegation and as chair of the International Jewish Caucus.

"That the Tories feel Jewish voters are so gullible as to accept second-hand information and divisive propaganda on these important issues is outrageous," she said.

Other opposition parties denounced the mailings as a new low in partisan politics in Canada.

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