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by Ytzhak Saturday, Sep. 22, 2007 at 3:00 PM

No doubt all the Canadian political parties are watching how Canadian Arabs and Muslims and their friends respond to the repeated attempt to keep pro- Palestinian activists out of the Federal Liberal Party nomination process. Their reaction will indicate whether this community is a force to be reckoned with or if it can be ignored. ...


[By Linda Belanger - Canada-Palestine Support Network - Sept 21, 2007]

No doubt all the Canadian political parties are watching how Canadian Arabs
and Muslims and their friends respond to the repeated attempt to keep pro-
Palestinian activists out of the Federal Liberal Party nomination process.
Their reaction will indicate whether this community is a force to be
reckoned with or if it can be ignored. There are a number of examples of
this campaign against pro-Palestinian activists and their supporters over
the past several years.

In 2003, Carolyn Parrish, Liberal MP for Mississauga-Erindale, was targeted
for defeat by pro-Israeli groups. There was a brutal nomination contest
between Parrish and Steve Mahoney. Mahoney was also an MP in Mississauga
whose riding, after redistribution, overlapped with Parrish's. He chose to
run against a fellow sitting Liberal MP instead of running in Mississauga-
Streetsville, which also was part of his old constituency and had no
incumbent running. Mahoney received strong support from pro-Israeli
elements in the nomination battle.

Parrish narrowly won the nomination after a bitter battle and went on to
win the riding by a wide margin in the 2004 General Election. Parrish, who
was outspoken in her opposition to the Iraq war and Israel's treatment of
Palestinians, was eventually kicked out of the Liberal Party caucus after
she was quoted in the Globe & Mail criticizing Liberal leader Paul Martin
and his staff.

Elias Hazineh, a Christian Palestinian who worked in Parrish's constituency
office and served as President of the Mississauga-Erindale Liberal Riding
Association, decided to run for the now-open riding. Hazineh, however, was
barred from running by the Liberal Party because of his outspoken
criticisms of Israel's treatment of fellow Palestinians.

With Hazineh blocked, Omar Alghabra, President of the Canadian Arab
Federation, ran for the nomination with Hazineh's support. Despite having
strong community and professional credentials, Alghabra was strongly
opposed by the Liberal establishment. He was not expected to win the
nomination race to replace Carolyn Parrish and perhaps for that very reason
was at least allowed to run. Since the Party had previously barred Elias
Hazineh they could not appear to be blatantly anti-Arab and anti-Muslim and
deny Alghabra the right to run.

The Liberal Party did its best to discourage Alghabra, favoring instead
Charles Sousa, a bank vice-president and a personal friend of leader Paul
Martin. Thanks to the support

Alghabra received from the large Arab and Muslim community, he won the
nomination contest and then easily won the riding in the 2006 Federal
Election. But in the process, Alghabra was attacked by Zionists and anti-
Muslim elements. He was falsely accused of saying he supported turning
Canada into an Islamic state. Fortunately, the Toronto Star newspaper
exposed the false allegations made against him and helped counter the anti-
Muslim smear campaign.

Other candidates who have expressed pro-Palestinian views have been blocked
from running as Liberal candidates. Dr. Farid Ayad, a Palestinian, was
strongly discouraged from running in Mississauga-Streetsville, a riding
held by Pakistani Muslim Wajid Khan.

Khan was originally elected as a Liberal but then crossed the floor to join
the Conservatives. Dr. Ayad eventually withdrew from the race. It was clear
that he was not welcome in the Liberal Party. He is a dentist with a long
history of community activism and involvement with the large Arab and
Muslim community in Mississauga.

Grace Batchoun, a Palestinian activist with Canadians for Justice and Peace
in the Middle East, sought a Liberal nomination in the Ahuntsic riding in
Montreal held by the Bloc Québécois. Liberal Eleni Bakopanos had been
defeated in the January 23, 2006 federal election. Batchoun's supporters
sent more than 600 e-mails to Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, urging the
Party to accept her as a candidate. However, Dion and the Liberal Party
made it clear they were not interested in Batchoun running in that riding.
Dion preferred the previously defeated Liberal candidate Bakopanos who had
supported him in his bid for the Liberal Party Leadership. Batchoun,
despite having very strong support from the community, was discouraged and
eventually dropped out of the race.

It is perhaps because Carolyn Parrish and Omar Alghabra won their
nominations and their elections that pro-Israel elements in the Liberal
Party are now trying to block pro-Palestinian, pro-Arab and Muslim
supporters from even running for nominations.

This is what has happened to Ed Corrigan in the riding of London-Fanshawe.
Corrigan, a former London City Councilor, a Certified Specialist in
Citizenship and Immigration, a long time Liberal Party activist, and former
president of a federal Liberal riding association, was barred from running
for a Liberal nomination. He is also known for his strong support for the
Palestinians and opposition to the Iraq war through his academic writings
and political activism.

The Liberal Party Green Light Committee "red lighted" him over his supposed
lack of support for important Party principles and lack of support for
Liberal leader Stephane Dion. The principle he supposedly violated was not
identified, but it clearly referred to supporting Israel. The fact that
nearly 2,000 Arabs and Muslims signed up in London-Fanshawe meant that
Corrigan could win the nomination since he had strong support in that

The other complaint raised against Corrigan was that he circulated a letter
expressing concern about Dion's participation in a celebration of Israel's
founding. The letter explained to Dion that the founding of Israel resulted
in the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and posed a
number of questions about human rights - questions that are very much in
keeping with values that the Liberal Party claims to defend, e.g., non-
discrimination, anti-racism, human rights and respecting international law

The letter, dated May 14th, 2007, requested a meeting with Dion to "discuss
how the organizations could work with him in support of these issues of
human rights and international law." It was signed by the Canadian Arab
Federation and the Canadian Islamic Congress and 37 other organizations,
including five Jewish groups. As of September 14, 2007 such a meeting has
not yet been scheduled in spite of a number of follow-up calls to Dion's

If the distribution of this letter signed by organizations representing
Arabs, Muslims and Jews was grounds for excluding candidates from running
for the Liberal Party, this is in reality an attack on all Arabs and
Muslims in Canada. It is also an attack on free debate and democracy within
the Liberal Party.

If Corrigan had little or no chance to win the nomination, the Liberal
Party would have likely let him run. But London-Fanshawe has a large Arab
and Muslim population and is a very multi-cultural riding. Ab Chahbar,
another Muslim Arab candidate, was also running for the nomination in
London-Fanshawe and he also was not "green lighted." After a long delay, he
took the hint and dropped out of the race. In the end the nearly 2,000
Arabs and Muslims who had taken out memberships in the riding had none of
their preferred candidates running for the nomination.

Two of the three women who were "green lighted" in London-Fanshawe had
little or no involvement with the Arab and Muslim community. They also
demonstrated little or no knowledge of the communities' concerns yet they
alone were left running for a federal Liberal nomination in a constituency
where nearly 90 percent of the voting members were Arabs and Muslims. One
of the women candidates, Sandy White, a social worker and former City
Councilor did have good relations with the Arab and Muslim community.
However, the Liberal Party establishment did not want her to win either.
She was considered "divisive," no doubt because of her good relations with
local Arabs and Muslims.

In the end, only 15% of the Liberal riding members in London-Fanshawe voted
and the Party establishment candidate, Jackie Gauthier, a radio announcer
with no political experience, won the nomination. It remains to be seen if
the Liberals can win this riding from incumbent NDP Member of Parliament
Irene Mathyssen.

But even a candidate hand-picked by the party leader will not necessarily
have an easy ride if he/she is deemed to be anti-Israel. This was the case
with Jocelyn Coulon, a political scientist and former journalist who was
selected by Dion to run in the October 2007 by-election in Outremont.

Soon after his candidacy was announced in July, B'nai Brith Canada asked
the Liberal Leader to remove Coulon because of his past stance on Israel.
Coulon's analysis of Hamas's rise to power in the Palestinian Territories
is what concerned them. In a February 2006 opinion piece, Coulon wrote that
Hamas isn't just a terrorist organization, but a social and political
movement that won the Palestinian elections because of its commitment to
fight corruption and help people; therefore, the international community
should not isolate it. In late August, Coulon retracted his previous
position on Hamas at a meeting with Jewish community representatives.

The NDP at least has been open to letting Muslim, Arab and Palestinian
candidates run. Jim Kafieh, a Palestinian Christian and past President of
the Canadian Arab Federation, has run twice for the Ontario provincial NDP.
Monia Mazigh, wife of abductee Maher Arar, ran for the federal NDP in
Ottawa in 2006 on a pro-human rights, anti-security certificate platform.
Mohamed Boudjenane, Executive Director of the Canadian Arab Federation, is
running for the provincial NDP in Etobicoke North. In this riding,
currently held by a provincial Liberal, all three major parties are running

This is what Elias Hazineh, President of the Mississauga-Erindale Federal
Liberal Riding Association had to say about the rejection of Ed Corrigan
and the other candidates in a letter to Liberal leader Dion. "His
[Corrigan's] 'sin' apparently is his defense of the rights of the
Palestinian people. My understanding is that this has been a common
practice in the Liberal Party lately..."

Aside from Mr. Corrigan, Doctor Farid Ayad from Mississauga and Ms. Grace
Batchoun of Montreal were also denied the opportunity to run for the
Liberal Party despite their qualifications.

The problem here is much bigger than simply the nomination of one person,
the implication goes far beyond the nomination rejection of Mr. Corrigan,
Dr. Ayad and Ms Batchoun. Many loyal liberal supporters in the Canadian
Arab and Muslim communities are bound to draw the only logical conclusion
apparent from this sad episode; that pro- Palestinian candidates are not
welcome and "need not apply."

There are several Arabs running for Liberal nominations in the Ottawa
region, which also has a large Arab community. It remains to be seen how
these individuals are treated and if the Liberal Party is open to Arabs and
Muslims, including their concerns over human rights and social justice; or
if it will continue to pursue an anti-democratic and discriminatory
approach when it comes to candidates who are sympathetic to the plight of

If the Liberal Party is not supportive of the legitimate concerns of
Canadian Arabs and Muslims, there is little reason for this growing
community to vote Liberal -- and every reason for them to cast their votes

(Linda Belanger is founder of the Ottawa branch of the Canada-Palestine
Support Network and currently edits their website at This article was edited and slightly abridged for
the CIC Friday Magazine.)

Allhumma innaka afuwun tuhibbul-afwa fa'fu anni (O Allah you are
Forgiving and love forgiveness so forgive me).

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