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Politician Angers Canadian Jews by Charging Israel ‘gasses’ Arabs

February 26, 1991
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A member of the Canadian Parliament who would become foreign minister if his left-of-center New Democratic Party should win the next election takes an extreme anti-Israel position that has raised the ire and fears of Canadian Jews.

Svend Robinson, whose constituency borders Vancouver, has charged that Israel has “gassed” Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank. Robinson used the term “gassing” to describe Israel’s use of tear gas to quell rioting.

The remark, which Robinson made at a meeting of his constituency of Burnaby-Kingsway late in January, was called “extremely offensive” by Simon Kahn, public affairs director of the Ottawa-based Canada-Israel Committee.

His use of that particular word “displays regrettable insensitivity,” Kahn said in a statement released to The Jewish Western Bulletin.

“The term ‘gassing’ draws a parallel — whether consciously or otherwise — to the gassing of Jews at the hands of Nazis during the Holocaust,” he observed.

Robinson is his party’s external affairs critic, meaning that in the event the New Democratic Party came to power, he would be secretary of state for external affairs, the office now held by Joe Clark of the governing Progressive Conservative Party. The opposition NDP is currently running a strong second to the Progressive Conservatives in opinion polls.

At the January meeting, meeting, attended by 200 people, Robinson blamed Israel for the plight of the Palestinian people since the 1967 war.


“The reality is that there has been a profound injustice for decades for Palestinians on the occupied West Bank and Gaza,” he said.

Robinson also chastised Israel for flouting U.N. resolutions. “There has been, for 23 years, contempt for international law, U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338,” he said.

Robinson accused Israel of employing terror against Palestinians. He referred to the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut by Lebanese Christian Phalangists allied with Israel.

Kahn accused Robinson of being unfairly selective in apportioning exclusive blame to Israel for the circumstances of Palestinians.

“It is the Arab nations, with the sole exception of Egypt, who have consistently maintained their refusal to recognize Israel and negotiate peace with her,” he said.

He reminded Robinson that U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 call for Arab recognition of Israel and their formal renunciation of the state of war.

Late last year, Robinson initiated a mission to Iraq with two members of Parliament, Lloyd Axworthy and Bob Corbett, to negotiate the release of Canadian hostages.

He told the Toronto Globe and Mail before leaving that he intended to link Israel with a resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis, which Iraq’s Saddam Hussein has been seeking all along.

Several local Jews who attended Robinson’s constituency meeting said they were too intimidated by his supporters to raise questions.

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