Canadian MP Quits Over Party's Support for Israel

Sana Hassainia, an MP for the New Democratic Party quits the caucus over her party leader's "excessively pro-Israel stance".

Dalit Halevi and Elad Benari ,

Canadian parliament
Canadian parliament

A Canadian MP for the New Democratic Party (NDP) quit the caucus on Wednesday over what she felt was an excessively pro-Israel stance on the current conflict in Gaza, The Canadian Press reported.

Sana Hassainia, who represents the Montreal-area riding of Vercheres-Les Patriotes, was specifically critical of NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in a blog post that appeared online Wednesday.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Hassainia said her unhappiness with the leader and party began after the 2012 leadership race. She said she was removed from a Commons committee and relegated to the backbench because she had supported Mulcair's rival Brian Topp.

But "the straw that broke the camel's back", she said, was Mulcair's distinctly pro-Israel stance, despite the heavy civilian casualties in Gaza this summer.

She said she could no longer remain silent in the name of loyalty to the leader and electoral strategy.

"I said to myself, my God, we're a social democratic party, and we're saying that Israel has the right to defend themselves against a people that are completely powerless," said Hassainia, suggesting she was not alone in that viewpoint.

"When there's such a huge difference of opinion between MPs and their leader, are they supposed to support that position or are they going to evolve with the situation?" she told The Canadian Press.

Hassainia, a Tunisian-born Muslim, underlines that she recognizes Hamas is a terrorist organization, but feels it is civilians and not Hamas that are bearing the brunt of the conflict.

NDP sources fired back, saying Hassainia has never before voiced concern over Mulcair's position on Israel and accused her of simply looking for an excuse to cover the fact that she rarely shows up for work.

Mulcair, speaking at a news conference in Toronto, said the party has never made a secret of its position on the Middle East.

"The NDP has a long-standing position in favor of the two state solution in the Middle East -- a safe, secure state within negotiated borders for Israelis and a safe, secure state within negotiated borders for Palestinians," he was quoted by The Canadian Press as having  said.

"Sana in her note made it clear she doesn't agree with that. That's been our position for many years, it was [former NDP leader Jack Layton's] position, it's mine, and so she's decided that she doesn't want to sit with us. That's her choice," said Mulcair.

Canada's conservative government has long supported Israel and stressed its recognition of Israel's right to defend itself.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently called on Canada’s allies and partners to recognize that Hamas’s terrorist acts “are unacceptable and that solidarity with Israel is the best way of stopping the conflict.”

Harper’s foreign minister, John Baird, has also been supportive of Israel. He recently called for a United Nations investigation of the discoveries of weapons caches at schools it operates in Gaza.

Baird was also critical of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and its appointment of a committee to investigate accusations of "war crimes" in Operation Protective Edge - a committee headed by an outspoken opponent of the Jewish state.

The "UN Human Rights Council continues to be a sham for advancing human rights. It's an utter shame and will do nothing to promote peace and dignity in Gaza for the Palestinian people," wrote Baird on his Twitter account.