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Jewish group condemns Quebec MNA's comments on Israel-Hamas war

Quebec Solidaire MNA Haroun Bouazzi questions the government, at the legislature in Quebec City, Thursday, April 6, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec Solidaire MNA Haroun Bouazzi questions the government, at the legislature in Quebec City, Thursday, April 6, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
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An organization representing the Jewish community says Québec solidaire (QS) deputy Haroun Bouazzi is "unworthy of an elected official" after suggesting that the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) government is complicit with Israel in war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

Bouazzi refused to explain his statements to journalists at the National Assembly on Tuesday, but said at the end of the day that his message "could have been better formulated". His parliamentary leader, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, said he agreed "in substance" with him.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), however, added its voice to B'nai Brith's to condemn the remarks, saying, "The [message] couldn't have been better worded as its premise was rooted in hatred," the group posted on X.

"This kind of disproportionate attention and rage toward the world's only Jewish state is unworthy of an elected official and should alarm all Quebecers of good conscience who reject the rise of anti-Semitism."

Brith, for its part, felt that Bouazzi was inciting hatred.

At the root of the controversy is the QS MNA's controversial message last Thursday when he said that by opening a Quebec Office to do business in Israel, the CAQ "makes us accomplices of an extreme right-wing government that racks up war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and that started a genocide a few months ago".

On Tuesday afternoon in the House, the Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, tabled a motion dissociating the National Assembly from any remarks insinuating that the Quebec government is complicit in "crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide".

But QS chose to defend its MNA: QS parliamentary leader Alexandre Leduc refused consent to debate the issue.

The B'nai Brith organization, which defends the Jewish community in Quebec, associated Bouazzi's statement with incitement to hatred and on Tuesday called on the MNA to withdraw it.

"No, it's not incitement to hatred," replied QS parliamentary leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, adding that he agreed with his deputy on the substance.

"I have no problem conceding that the tweet was, well, a bit intense," he said in a press scrum. "Basically, we're all saying the same thing, it sends a very bad message. It sends the message that the Quebec government is comfortable doing business with a government full of far-right ministers."

"It's true that my tweet on Thursday could have been worded better," said Bouazzi on X. "But I know we all agree on the essential point: opening a Quebec office in Tel Aviv is a diplomatic act that sends a very bad message. Now, in the middle of a war, this diplomatic act is a serious political mistake."

"All it does is fuel incitement to hatred towards Quebec's Jewish population and that's dangerous; it shouldn't be launched in the public sphere, especially when someone is an elected official, a member of parliament," said B'nai Brith's Quebec regional director Henry Topas in an interview with The Canadian Press Tuesday. "It's not wise," he added, because the public watches elected officials and learns lessons about how to behave and what can be said. Topas said MNAs must therefore act responsibly.

However, the B'nai Brith spokesman did not consider the remarks to be antisemitic and did not ask for an apology.

At a press conference on another issue at the National Assembly in the afternoon, Bouazzi refused to answer.

The QS press attaché argued that he was running out of time in the press conference on disability pensions, as the opening speeches had lasted more than 25 minutes and there were only two journalists at the press conference.

"For the respect of all these people who have been fighting for 25 years, it's their day, we're going to invite you to stay on the subject," said Bouazzi.

"When I saw such comments, I thought it crossed the line, that it went beyond the limits, that it was unjustifiable, but I'm going to let Québec solidaire govern itself," said the interim leader of the Liberal opposition, Marc Tanguay, whose MNAs represent, among others, a large part of the Jewish community in Montreal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Feb. 20, 2024.  

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