NDP leadership candidate partly endorsed for anti-Israel support
March 13, 2012 | Joanne Hill - CorrespondentcloseAuthor: Joanne Hill - Correspondent
Name: Joanne Hill
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TORONTO – NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton’s support of the anti-Israel movement is only one the reasons she has been endorsed by the party’s Socialist Caucus, says its co-chair.
“We look at all the foreign and domestic policy issues” of the candidates when deciding who to endorse, said Barry Weisleder, co-chair, NDP Socialist Caucus.
A statement released by the caucus listed some of Ashton’s positions, and stated that, “...at the Socialist Caucus-sponsored leadership debate in Toronto, on March 1, she denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Ottawa, and defended freedom of speech for advocates of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions aimed at the Zionist apartheid state.”
Asked why Ashton’s positions on other countries were not mentioned in the caucus’s press release, Weisleder responded, “We didn’t go looking for that issue: she made a statement and we quoted that because it arose at the meeting that we hosted.”
Ashton also ranked first in a report by the anti-Zionist group Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). The group sent a survey to the seven leadership hopefuls asking them to respond to nine questions about Canada’s policies on the Middle East. The 100-page report analyzes responses to the survey as well as the candidates’ public statements and actions concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Weisleder said the caucus was aware of the report but, “I wouldn’t say it was a determining factor” in its endorsement of Ashton. “Our positions go a bit beyond the positions of the CJPME. They’re for a two-state solution. We’re for a single, secular, democratic state for all the peoples residing there now and for return of the Palestinian refugees.”
Leadership candidate Thomas Mulcair received the lowest score in the CJPME report. Mulcair, who provided a written response instead of completing the questionnaire, received a grade of C-, whereas fellow candidate Martin Singh was given a C, despite not having responded to the survey and the fact that, “CJPME has not found any information regarding Martin Singh’s positions on the Middle East,” according to the report.
If Mulcair held the same views on Israel as Ashton, said Weisleder, “that would have been a plus for him but we would still look at other issues and given his position, as he has described it, ‘to move the NDP more to the centre,’ we’re not likely to support any candidate, regardless of their position on Israel, who espouses that position.”
Members of the New Democratic Party will vote on March 24 to choose a federal leader to replace the late Jack Layton.
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