Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lambasted a local activist for “vile anti-Semitic smears” following a tweet which accused a pair of Jewish lawmakers of being more loyal to Israel than to Canada.
On Thursday, Dimitri Lascaris, a board member of the progressive grassroots organization Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), said MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt were more loyal to “apartheid Israel.”
The tweet followed an article Lascaris posted on his website, which criticized a pair of women who participated in a rally organized by B’nai Brith Canada and then posted a video calling for Trudeau and other liberal lawmakers to receive the death penalty.
Lascaris then called on Housefather and Levitt to condemn the women, though it was not clear what their connection was to them or to B’nai Brith, beyond that the lawmakers are Jewish.
“Apparently, Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt are more devoted to apartheid Israel than to their own Prime Minister and their own colleagues in the Liberal caucus,” he tweeted.
Lascaris’s tweets prompted a quick response from Trudeau and lawmakers across the political spectrum.
“Vile anti-Semitic smears like this are completely unacceptable, and should always be called out. Thank you @LevittMichael and @AHousefather for standing up to this, and for everything you do for your communities and our country,” tweeted Trudeau on Saturday.
Vile anti-Semitic smears like this are completely unacceptable, and should always be called out. Thank you @LevittMichael and @AHousefather for standing up to this, and for everything you do for your communities and our country. https://t.co/WCGgT55GWP
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 7, 2018
Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer called it “shameful to see two MPs subjected to such anti-Semitism, accused of dual loyalties, simply because they’re Jewish & support Israel.”
The leader of the NDP social democratic party Jagmeet Singh and Green Party head Elizabeth May also tweeted out criticism of Lascaris.
Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel released a statement noting how “those who seek to demonize and ultimately dismantle the Jewish State, through BDS and other toxic forms of advocacy, are becoming bolder and more aggressive.” Fogel was referencing Lascaris’s position on the board of CJPME, an organization that CIJA claims supports the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.
In response, Lascaris released a statement of his own saying that his comments were posted on his own Twitter account and reflected his views alone, not those of CJPME. At the same time, the activist stood by his remarks.
“Politicians are routinely criticized for prioritizing the interests of a particular constituency over the national interests. There is nothing unusual about such criticisms,” he wrote.
In a follow-up statement to The Times of Israel, Lascaris wrote, “It is wrong to suggest… that I criticized the priorities of Levitt and Housefather because they are Jewish. Their ethnicity and religion had nothing to do with my tweet. It had everything to do with their near-fanatical support for Israel.”
Readers, said Lascaris, “cannot possibly understand why I made that statement about Messrs. Levitt and Housefather without knowing of their unambiguous record of unqualified support for Israel, including their appalling decision to support Israel when the IDF shot Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani in May of this year.”
For his part, Fogel thanked Trudeau and the various other elected officials who condemned Lascaris’s tweets.
“We are not alone in this fight. Elected leaders at the highest levels increasingly recognize that hatred of Israel goes hand-in-hand with hatred of Jews. It is a powerful statement to have federal party leaders unite, despite their many other differences, in defense of our community when we are targeted for antisemitism,” he said.