TORONTO (JTA) — Canadian leaders have asked the country’s prime minister to disavow a taxpayer-funded Conservative flyer they say portrays the opposition Liberal Party as anti-Semitic.
In a letter signed by 120 prominent Jewish and non-Jewish Canadians, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is asked to withdraw the mailing, which was sent to electoral districts with large Jewish populations.
The one-page flyers laud the Tories for having a better record on Israel and accuse the Liberals of having "willingly" attended the "overtly anti-Semitic" Durban I anti-racism conference in 2001, and of opposing the defunding of Hamas and Hezbollah.
"We find it highly disturbing that any party or parliamentarian would attempt to use Israel as a wedge to divide the Jewish community and, indeed, Canadians, for partisan gain," states the letter, which is signed by businesspeople, academics, politicians, lawyers and well-known Jewish community figures.
It adds that the Liberal Party "has a history of support for Israel, working cooperatively and effectively with the Canadian-Jewish community and of speaking and acting against terrorism."
The letter notes that when they were in power, the Liberals condemned the anti-Semitism at Durban I and that the Canadian delegation remained at the parley at the specific request of Israel. It also was a Liberal government that designated Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist organizations in 2002, the letter adds.
The Conservative mailing touched off a fierce debate in Canada not only on support for Israel but also the politics of ethnicity.