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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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B.C. premier voices strong support for Israel

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Christy Clark

VANCOUVER — Israel has a friend and ally in B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who posted a letter of support for the Jewish state in its fight against Hamas in Gaza on the website of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

In her July 27 statement, Clark said that the current conflict in Israel and Gaza is “of great concern to anyone who believes in democracy and human rights,” but that Israel has a “right to defend itself and its citizens against terrorist attacks.”

The letter continued: “At this difficult time, let us remember the values we share with Israel: a vibrant, culturally rich democratic nation committed to maintaining the rights of its citizens, regardless of gender or religion. Israel is an example not only to the region, but the world. As the world continues to hope for a peace that satisfies both Israelis and Palestinians, I’m proud that British Columbia can be counted as a friend of Israel.”

The statement was read to a crowd of some 800 people who had assembled at a community gathering in Vancouver that evening to show solidarity with Israel.

CIJA’s Pacific region director, Darren Mackoff, said B.C.’s Jewish community is “grateful for Premier Clark’s supportive statement regarding the tragic situation in Israel and Gaza.”

“The premier’s statement reflects the values of the vast majority of British Columbians who believe in democracy, freedom, peace and the right to live free from terror and violence,” he added.

“Premier Clark has been a steadfast supporter of British Columbia’s Jewish community, supporting our communal institutions, services and standing with us in good times and in bad. She is a true friend, and because of that, we were not surprised to receive what was a moderate, supportive and balanced statement.”

Prior to entering politics and becoming premier, Clark travelled to Israel and learned about the history, politics and centrality of Israel to the Jewish People. She had an opportunity to meet several Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the course of her visit, and was exposed to a broad mix of viewpoints, said her press secretary, Sam Oliphant.

He told The CJN that Clark “is proud to stand with British Columbians who are concerned about security in Israel. Her statement supports a peaceful resolution, and the shared values that British Columbians hold in common with people across Israel.”

He added that many British Columbians have written to Clark in response to her statement, most of them expressing strong support.

Over the past year, members of Clark’s cabinet have met with Canada’s ambassador to Israel and with DJ Schneeweiss, Israel’s consul general to Toronto and Western Canada. The purpose of the meetings was to discuss opportunities for expanding Israel-B.C. co-operation, Oliphant said.

Mackoff said B.C. and Israel have a very dynamic, growing and mutually beneficial relationship based on shared values and an optimistic vision for the future.

“At the provincial, municipal, university and business levels, B.C. and Israel are collaborating on innovative projects and research related to medicine, science and the environment,” he said.

Hanna Kawas, chair of the Vancouver-based Canada Palestine Association, called Clark’s statement “outrageous” and based on ignorance, Canadian Press reported. He added that Clark doesn’t speak for all British Columbians and shouldn’t be wading into areas outside provincial jurisdiction.

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