MP Salma Zahid says invitations to the reception were ‘circulated widely,’ and it was attended by nearly 150 people, including several MPs
A Liberal cabinet minister, the leader of the Green party and MPs from other parties all attended an event earlier this week that hosted the publisher of a newspaper known to publish Holocaust denialism and with a long history of publishing antisemitic content.
The event, held on Tuesday, known as International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, was hosted by Toronto-area Liberal MP Salma Zahid, chair of the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Nazih Khatatba, publisher at Meshwar Media, was present as an invited guest. His newspaper, al-Meshwar, has claimed the Holocaust was a Jewish plot, and has referred to it as a “holohoax.”
MPs photographed at the event included Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi, NDP MPs Niki Ashton, Blake Desjarlais, Lindsay Mathyssen and Matthew Green, and Bloc MPs Denis Trudel and Mario Beaulieu, as well as Conservative MP Larry Brock.
A story posted in Arabic to Meswhar Media’s website on Wednesday described the event under the headline “Parliament stand in solidarity with Palestine and call on the Government of Canada to support the Palestinian people.” It read:
“The speakers at the ceremony, including deputies and representatives of associations and civil organizations, affirmed their solidarity with Palestine and their condemnation of the killings that Palestinians are subjected to at the hands of the occupation forces and settlers,”
“Member of Parliament Niki Ashton said that Canada can play a better role for peace in the Middle East and is keen on human rights in the world, especially for the Palestinians.”
Meswhar Media has a history of publishing articles and opinion pieces rife with antisemitic tropes — including celebrating last week’s Jerusalem bombing attack that killed 16-year-old Canadian-Israeli Aryeh Schupak.
In Nov. 2017, an article published in the al-Meshwar newspaper claimed the Holocaust was a Jewish plot, claiming banks associated with the “Zionist movement” funded Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s.
Earlier that same year, Khatatba gave an interview on a Rogers TV program, urging Canadians to “not believe the fairy tales claiming Jews have suffered oppression.”
A 2014 story published by the Canadian Jewish News documented an al-Meswhar newspaper editorial penned by Khatatba describing a Jerusalem synagogue massacre as “courageous and qualitative,” and described the Holocaust as the “holohoax.”
Ashton’s previous history with Khatatba included her public disavowment of his endorsement during her 2017 NDP leadership bid, where she issued statements stating she “in no way” supports his views and “does not accept support from people who hold such views.”
A photo of Ashton and Khatatba, taken at a 2017 fundraiser in Mississauga hosted by the Palestine Aid Society, was used in online and in print endorsements for her leadership bid, including on the front page of Khatatba’s newspaper.
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In a post on Twitter Thursday, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, who was not at the event, said Meshwar Media was asked to return a government grant issued during the pandemic due to their antisemitic content.
A Nov. 10 statement posted on Meshwar Media’s Facebook page denounced Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez for demanding the money be returned, stating in Arabic that they “refuse to apologize” or stop publishing “articles criticizing Israel that they consider anti-semitic.”
The federal Liberals faced a scandal earlier this year after Laith Marouf — a self-described “anti-racism” trainer with a history of posting antisemitic and racist tropes on social media — collected over $600,000 in federal contracts over the past seven years.
“In following up with the Minister’s office, they had determined based on the antisemitism they saw in the newspaper, that asking for the money to be returned was warranted, and that happened,” Housefather told the National Post.
“I’m very disappointed to see that he was here (on the Hill) — there were members of Parliament there from all parties, and I can only hope none of my colleagues there knew who he was and what he stood for.”
In a statement to the National Post, Zahid said invitations to the reception were “circulated widely” and it was attended by nearly 150 people.
“We are not able to research the history of every attendee that responded,” the statement read.
“As chair of the group, I will continue to be a voice for the human rights of the Palestinian people and for a just and fair two-state solution achieved at the negotiating table.”
In a follow-up email, Zahid maintains she has “long been a voice against antisemitism,” and provided text of a statement she delivered in the house six years ago denouncing anti-semitic attacks.
A spokesperson from the transport minister’s office likewise denied any connection to Khatatba.
“This event was a parliamentary friendship group event that included MPs and members of the Palestinian community from across the country,” the statement read.
“What this individual said is offensive and anti semitic and must be condemned. Minister Alghabra had no contact with this person or even knew that this person was present at this event.”
B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn urged parliamentarians who attended the event to denounce Khatatba’s views.
“Each and every parliamentarian, regardless of their particular perspective on the Middle East, owes a duty to Canadians not to be seen as condoning antisemitism or any other form of racism through their public association with a discredited and hateful news source.,” he wrote.
The Conservative MP, Brock, said he was invited to the event by a constituent, and said if he was aware of Khatatba’s attendance he wouldn’t have attended.
“This individual has expressed their sickening and vile views publicly and made statements of support in response to the massacring of Jewish people and children,” he said.
“I fully condemn anti-Semitism and reject these disgusting views. They have no place in Canadian society.”
An NDP spokesperson wrote that the party denounces antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and that MPs who attended the event wasn’t aware of Khatatba’s presence.
A statement from the Green Party stated May was not aware Khatatba was attending the event, saying that party leaders attend “all sorts of events” and seldom have control over attendees.
“I wholeheartedly denounce antisemitism but let me be clear once and for all: showing solidarity with Palestine isn’t antisemitism and neither is criticism of the state of Israel’s human rights record,” May said in a statement to the National Post.
“We denounce all forms of violence and show solidarity with civilian Israeli and Palestinian victims alike.”
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