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Mulcair's NDP seems to have no backbone when it comes to Israel-Palestine

Why are the New Democrats are silencing voices in the party?

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks to supporters during a federal election campaign stop in Saint Jerome, Que., on Saturday, August 22, 2015.

The Canadian Press

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks to supporters during a federal election campaign stop in Saint Jerome, Que., on Saturday, August 22, 2015.

In July 2014, Sandra Azocar posted a quote on Facebook by a journalist who called the Israeli military’s disproportionate killing of Palestinian civilians “ethnic cleansing.”
“Where’s the NDP in this matter?” asked one of her

Facebook friends.

Azocar, the executive director of Friends of Medicare, replied, “…let’s just say that their silence is a concern to me…”

Twelve months later, Azocar’s sentiment proved an understatement, when the party rejected her nomination papers based on her views on the conflict in the Middle East, according to multiple sources.

This rejection places Azocar in the company of three other former NDP nomination seekers and candidates. It also puts her in the same boat as four Albertans Metro has learned were rejected as candidates by the NDP over the same issue: Syed Hyder Ali of Edmonton —Wetaskiwin, Bruce Baker of Battle River—Crowfoot and in Calgary Skyview, Saima Jamal and Gurinder Singh Sidhu, who were both effectively disqualified for their roles in Gaza peace rallies.

To run for federal office in this country, it seems one must now be a Canadian citizen of at least 18 years of age and, apparently, subscribe to a one-dimensional view on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Considering that Canadians have not made up their minds on the matter, that’s more than unfair. A 2014 Forum poll found that while 17 per cent Canadians sided with Israel and 16 per cent with Palestine, the vast majority — 64 per cent — sided with neither. Support in Canada for Israel had also dropped five per cent in two years.

Keep in mind that the poll was conducted before a six-week conflict resulting in 1,492 civilian deaths in Gaza (compared to five killed in Israel), it’s safe to guess Canadians’ views have shifted further still.

During that conflict, in which both Hamas and Israeli forces committed war crimes, says Amnesty International, the NDP positioned itself as the neutral and nuanced Canadian party. While defending Israel’s right to exist, Thomas Mulcair wrote: “We’re watching in horror at what’s happening in the region. The attacks and incursion into Gaza have already caused too many civilian casualties.”

But what a difference Mulcair being first in the polls seems to make.

In order to appeal to centre- and right-leaning voters, and presumably to stave off pro-Zionist smear campaigns, New Democrats are silencing some of their staunchest supporters.

At what cost? Not only does this litmus test preclude many youth and minority people who sympathize with the Palestinian plight, it’s weeded out some experienced people.
Azocar is a career child protection worker and labour activist. Baker was a speechwriter for Saskatchewan’s NDP premier in the 1970s and ‘80s. Jamal was an interfaith leader in Calgary.

While Trudeau cautiously backs his candidates who risk being smeared as anti-Semites, Mulcair muzzles his own on this one viewpoint of little consequence to Canadians, but that many, if not most, of his base probably supports.

Omar Mouallem (@omar_aok) is based in Edmonton and edits the Yards magazine.

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