New Democratic Party leadership hopeful Niki Ashton has won top grades for her stand on Israel and the Palestinians.
Two pro-Palestinian groups sent questions to all four candidates for party leader, to gauge how strongly they support rights for Palestinians and condemn Israel. Both gave Ashton an A+.
The candidates were asked for their views on 10 key issues related to the Middle East, specifically the Israel-Palestine conflict, by Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME).
Both groups behind the report cards have strongly opposed Israeli policy in the territories captured during the Six Day War, and forcefully advocated for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
In its assessment of the other NDP candidates, IJV awarded an A- to Quebec MP Guy Caron, a B to Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh and a C+ to Charlie Angus, an MP from northern Ontario.
Those candidates fared slightly better when graded by CJPME: Singh received an A, Caron a B+ and Angus a B.
Ashton “has been the most forthright of the candidates in speaking out for a principled approach to the Middle East,” wrote CJPME in its summary. The Manitoba MP “is frank about the need for a just and purposeful resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict – one that addresses the underlying roots of the conflict. With Ashton at the helm, the NDP would undoubtedly provide more vocal and effective leadership on Middle East issues.”
Last month, Ashton rejected the endorsement of an Arabic-language newspaper that has denied the Holocaust and praised terrorist attacks against Israel.
In May, B’nai Brith Canada denounced Ashton for attending a rally in support of Palestinian terrorists and for questioning Israel’s right to exist in a Facebook post.
At the rally, Ashton said she “was honoured to stand with many in remembering the nakba,” an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe” that is used to refer to the establishment of Israel, B’nai Brith noted.
In a statement to IJV summarizing her Mideast policy, Ashton said she favours a ban on goods from “illegal” Israeli settlements, would consider sanctions against Israel and would end all-expense-paid trips by MPs to Israel, unless they included input from Palestinian organizations.
Ashton would be “the best potential NDP leader on the issue of Israel-Palestine,” IJV said.
Caron’s candidacy is also strong, IJV noted, but he equivocated on BDS, saying that he doubted it would be constructive. And while Caron said in the survey that he would ban paid trips by MPs to Israel, he went on one himself in 2012, IJV charged.
‘With Ashton at the helm, the NDP would undoubtedly provide more vocal and effective leadership on Middle East issues.’
IJV said it admires Singh’s “principled courage” in opposing the Ontario legislature’s passage of a motion condemning BDS last year. Singh was the only MPP to vocally oppose the measure, saying he feared it would stifle speech.
Singh told IJV that he supports mandatory labelling of products originating from “Israel’s colonies,” and is open to a ban. He would also support sanctions against Israel, “in response to human rights violations.”
But IJV found most of his responses to the questionnaire “evasive or uninformed.”
Under Singh, NDP policy on the Middle East “might become more progressive, but not quite as energetically or assertively as it would under Ashton,” according to CJPME.
Angus’ replies were “surprisingly weak, given his past record of publicly speaking for Palestinian rights,” IJV said. The MP said in his reply that “settlements in the occupied territories are among the biggest obstacles to lasting peace,” but that the BDS campaign is “wholly inappropriate.”
‘We are proud to be recognized for our commitment towards peace and justice in the Middle East.’
CJPME said Angus’ positions on the Middle East are “generally encouraging, but also sometimes fuzzy.”
The CJN reached out to all four candidates to find out how they feel about their grades. Only Ashton replied by deadline, saying, “we are proud to be recognized for our commitment towards peace and justice in the Middle East,” and “proud of our record of speaking out against Islamophobia, anti-black racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.”
In a statement to The CJN, CIJA said that “at this time, we have nothing to add” to the rankings.
CJPME and IJV’s top marks for Ashton “reconfirms their absolute disconnect from mainstream Canadians,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said in a statement.
Voting by mail and online for a new NDP leader begins Sept. 18 and could run as late as Oct. 15, depending on how many rounds of voting are required.