Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Posted Friday, December 2, 2022 5:33 pm EST
OTTAWA – A spokesman for the chairman of an all-party parliamentary group says it is “carefully” reviewing how it handles events with outside guests after a newspaper editor accused of holding anti-Semitic views took part in a recent meeting.
Members of Parliament from all parties, including Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, attended a meeting this week organized by the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Among the guests was Nazih Khatatba, editor of the Arabic-language newspaper Meshwar Media.
Subsequently, both B’nai Brith Canada and the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs said on social media that it was reprehensible that he was allowed to attend.
During question period in the House of Commons, Conservative Vice-President Melissa Lantsman called Khatatba a “dangerous anti-Semite, Holocaust denialist and sympathizer of terrorism”, saying that his publication has referred to the Holocaust as a hoax and “the biggest lie in history.”
In a written statement to The Canadian Press, Khatatba said he was invited to attend the event by Palestinian organizations and denied perpetuating anti-Semitism and Holocaust denialism
In the House, Lantsman also asked Alghabra to denounce Khatatba and apologize, and the Transport Minister responded by saying that Khatatba should not have been invited or welcomed to the event.
Alghabra, who appears to have been the only cabinet minister to attend the event, also said anti-Semitism and all forms of hate must be condemned.
Conservative MP Larry Brock, NDP’s Niki Ashton and Green Party’s Elizabeth May were also at the event, among others.
Brock said on Twitter that he did not know who Khatatba was or was at the event, saying that if he had known of the editor’s presence there, he would not have attended.
“I am deeply sorry and apologize for the damage and damage this has caused,” he tweeted.
Ashton said in a statement that parliamentarians from all parties are part of those friendship groups and that the event was aimed at recognizing the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
“New Democrats unequivocally denounce anti-Semitism and holocaust denial. No NDP MP invited this person nor did we know he would be present. We remain allies in the fight against anti-Semitism,” he said.
May, co-leader of the Green Party, said in a statement on Friday that she “denounces” anti-Semitism, but added that “showing solidarity with Palestine is not anti-Semitism and neither is criticizing the human rights record of the State of Israel.”
Parliamentary friendship group chairperson and Liberal MP Salma Zahid issued a statement saying invitations to the event had been sent to the local Palestinian community and that “we are unable to investigate the background of every responding attendee.”
Zahid’s spokesman, Jeff Jedras, said neither his office nor the parliamentary caucus invited Khatatba, but added that “we will certainly carefully review how we handle future events with outside attendees.”
In his statement, Khatatba said his newspaper “is not anti-Semitic, and we have never spoken ill of Jews in Canada or other countries. Rather, we criticize the Israeli occupation policy and support the Palestinian people.”
On Friday, B’nai Brith Canada called on Zahid to distance himself more firmly from Khatatba and his publication.
“Salma Zahid has a special obligation, particularly in her capacity as chair of the Canada-Palestinian Parliamentary Friendship Group, to reject Meshwar Media and its publisher by name,” CEO Michael Mostyn said in a statement.
“Zahid owes it to the public to better explain through which channels Khatatba gained access to the event on Parliament Hill. Zahid must commit his Friendship Group to end all association with those who distort the world. Holocaust and pursue anti-Semitic agendas.”
In response, Jedras said that Zahid’s office had nothing more to add.
The Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said he also searched for an explanation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 2, 2022.