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Many concerned about targeted Tory advertisements


Some Jewish voters are upset after receiving mailings that tout the Conservatives as better allies of Israel and Canadian Jews than the Liberals.

Recipients of the flyers, which were delivered by Canada Post, are also wondering how the Tories targeted Jewish homes by mail.

The mailings have turned up in several ridings in and around Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg.

“Who is the real friend of Israel and the Jewish community?” the double-sided flyer asks. The flip side shows a checklist of 10 issues. Boxes on the Conservative side of the page are all ticked, while those on the Liberal side are marked with a negative “X.”

Issues include the Conservatives’ pledge to move Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; the fight against terrorism; relations with Iran; Canada’s 2016 motion to condemn the BDS movement; and the restoration of funding to UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees – money the Conservatives say they would eliminate.

It says the Conservatives “will not permit anti-Semites to run for our party,” in contrast to the Liberals, “who have approved candidates with anti-Semitic history.” The mailing said the Tories also opposed the $10-million settlement paid to Omar Khadr.

“Yesterday a constituent came into my office visibly distraught,” tweeted Liberal incumbent Karina Gould, who is running for re-election in Burlington, Ont. “She received the mail from the #CPC (Conservative Party of Canada). She is Jewish. She was upset that the #CPC would personally target her this way and fan the flames of division.”

Receiving the mailing “felt creepy – like I was being targeted,” said Jennifer Libman, who lives in Toronto’s York Centre riding. “Did someone give them my name or did they assume I’m Jewish because of my name?” Libman wondered. “I’m also outraged that the Conservatives think I have only one issue in this election.”

Ottawa resident Benita Siemiatycki, who also received the flyer in the mail, said she “would love to know” where the Conservatives got the names and addresses of the recipients. “And do they think they and only they support the Jewish community and Israel, that we are a monolith who vote according to which party supports Israel?” she asked.

Elliot Borins, who lives in the Toronto riding of Don Valley North, voiced similar complaints, saying that, “It’s creepy as hell that a federal party is both aware and concerned about my religious affiliation,” and that “they assume Jews are naive and sheepish to follow the first person who says, ‘we support Israel.’ ”

Liberal candidate Michael Levitt, who is running for re-election in York Centre, said he finds it “sleazy and dishonest to claim that any one party is the only true friend of the Jewish community when any true friend would work to build support among all Canadians, not try to use our community’s very real concerns as a wedge issue.”

He called the mailing “manipulative and wrong. It politicizes the very real threat of anti-Semitism and wrongly tries to make support for Israel a partisan issue.”

In response to the Conservative mailing, Levitt’s campaign hand-distributed a flyer in York Centre summarizing what he called “a more positive” summary of nine Liberal achievements on Israel relations and communal issues, including boosting funding to a program that helps defray security costs at synagogues and community buildings, the signing of an enhanced trade deal with Israel and the enactment of Jewish Heritage Month each May.

Levitt’s Conservative opponent in York Centre, Rachel Willson, did not return The CJN’s messages as of press time.

Gary Gladstone, the Liberal candidate in Thornhill, which has the highest proportion of Jews of any riding in Canada, posted a document on social media touting his party’s achievements on Israel and combating anti-Semitism, which linked to his website.

The document doesn’t mention the Conservatives by name, but asks, “Which party has done the most to support the Jewish community and Israel over the last four years?” About 1,000 copies of content on Israel and the Jewish community from his website, which were printed as a brochure, were available at the debate hosted by B’nai Brith Canada last month between Gladstone and his Conservative opponent, Peter Kent.

Gladstone said he’s received a number of phone calls from voters “wondering how and why they were targeted as Jews (via) the mail by the Conservative party.”

Kent did not return a message seeking comment.

John Longhurst, a religion reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, told The CJN that Jews in the riding of Winnipeg South Centre received the mailing, but that he did not write a story because local Jewish leaders declined to comment (the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg did not respond to The CJN’s query, either).

Longhurst, however, forwarded an email from Ian Barnes, the official agent for Joyce Bateman, the Conservative candidate in Winnipeg South Centre. Barnes had sent the message to Bateman’s campaign manager, in response to concerns raised by the mailing.

The flyer “was sent to many Canadians with an interest in the Middle East for one of the following reasons: 1) They may have answered a survey from us on issues and expressed support for Israel in the past; 2) They may live in an area where support for Israel is heavy,” Barnes wrote.

“If they ask how we knew they were Jewish, we didn’t, we just based it (on) data that we had available to us. In summary, the (Conservative) party is stating that it is responding to those folks who have expressed an interest in this topic.”

The mailer “was meant to address the party position as a snapshot or very summarized points on issues that have been previously identified by constituents as important. (It’s possible, in my opinion, such points can come across as awkward at times.) If there is some way to implement this process better, our team absolutely invites input,” Barnes continued.

Bateman, he said, “is absolutely aware and respectful of what a list means to those that may be particularly sensitive.”

The CJN reached out to several Conservative spokespeople, including one for leader Andrew Scheer. None returned their messages.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs did not return a message seeking comment and B’nai Brith said it would not comment on the matter.