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NDP’s Niki Ashton rejects endorsement of ‘anti-Semitic’ supporter

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Niki Ashton at a Montreal NDP debate in 2013. JONATHAN ALLARD, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A candidate for the leadership of the federal NDP has rejected the endorsement of a newspaper publisher who has denied the Holocaust and praised terrorist attacks against Israel.

B’nai Brith Canada said it was “very pleased” that Niki Ashton rejected the backing of Nazih Khatatba and his Arab-language newspaper, al-Meshwar.

“There is no place in Canadian politics for Holocaust denial, the promotion of terrorism or Jew-hatred,” B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn said in a statement.

Earlier, B’nai Brith pointed out that in an Aug. 15 Facebook post, Khatatba wrote that it was a “duty and responsibility” to register as a member of the NDP and to vote for Ashton as leader, who Khatatba said is “known for her pro-Palestinian positions and (support) for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions).”

Khatatba endorsed Ashton on the front page of al-Meshwar’s Aug. 18 edition.

The endorsement came after Ashton was photographed with Khatatba at an Aug. 11 campaign fundraiser in Mississauga, Ont., that was hosted by the Palestine Aid Society, B’nai Brith said.

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“It has come to my attention that our campaign was shown support by a member of the public on Facebook known to hold anti-Semitic views and [who] has made public comments denying the atrocities of the Holocaust,” Ashton said in an Aug. 22 statement. “In no way do I support such views. I do not accept support from people who hold such views.”

Ashton said she “completely rejects any and all efforts to deny the Holocaust, as it represents an insidious and disgusting form of anti-Semitism.”

NDP leadership hopeful Niki Ashton with Nazih Khatatba at what B’nai Brith Canada says was a fundraising event in Mississauga, Ont. FACEBOOK, B’NAI BRITH PHOTO

Khatatba’s free bi-weekly newspaper, which circulates in southwestern Ontario, has a long of history of praising terrorism against Israel and of Holocaust denial.

It has referred to the Holocaust as the “Holohoax” – “the biggest lie in history.”

In 2014, it praised the synagogue massacre in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem, in which six Israelis, including a Canadian citizen, were murdered with axes, knives and guns, as “courageous.”

In 2015, the newspaper called Judaism a “terrorist religion,” in which killing is ingrained.

Khatatba reportedly appeared on an Arab-language program on Rogers TV, in which he called Jewish suffering a “fairy tale.” Rogers dropped the program.

In her statement, Ashton said that “as someone whose family members died at the hands of Nazi occupation and whose family members fought the Nazis and fascism in Europe, I oppose the denial of the Holocaust and all atrocities the Nazis committed.

“My stance has always been clear: we must continue to work for peace and justice, not ongoing violence and suffering. In no way do I support violence against any community, and completely reject any effort to perpetrate or condone violence and suffering.”

She said the rise of neo-Nazi and other hate groups are “formed out of division and fear. We must come together to condemn such hate. We must put a stop to the denial of the Holocaust in no uncertain terms. Such hate and violence has no place in our communities.”

A spokesperson for Ashton told CBC News that the photo of her with Khatatba was taken at a public event and that neither Ashton, nor her campaign, thought it would be used as an endorsement.

Ashton earned B’nai Brith’s scorn last spring for attending a pro-Palestinian rally in Montreal, after which she wrote that she was “honoured to stand with many in remembering the Nakba” – an Arab word meaning “catastrophe” in reference to the establishment of Israel.

In the wake of that incident, Ashton was endorsed by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, a pro-Palestinian group.