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Ontario MPP issues apology for using ‘antisemitic stereotype’ in Israel-Palestine interview

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Ottawa Center MPP Joel Harden has issued a statement apologizing for comments he made in an August 2021 interview with the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine that included what he termed as an “antisemitic stereotype”.

“I would like to apologize unreservedly to the Jewish community for comments I made,” Harden said in the statement released Sunday.

“I spoke in a way that perpetrated an antisemitic stereotype towards Jewish neighbors. I regret my choice of words and sincerely apologize to the Jewish community.”

The interview with forum chair Peter Larson was posted online last summer, but resurfaced on social media recently and drew criticism.

In a series of tweets, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the advocacy agent of Jewish federations across Canada, said it became aware of the video recently, and that Harden’s comments “can only be called antisemitism and misinformation about Israel.”

“In a time when anti-Jewish hate is on the rise, it’s deeply disappointing that an elected official representing Jewish Ontarians would share such rhetoric so casually,” a subsequent tweet said.

“Unfortunately, these types of comments have been a trend from MPP Harden and based on his history we’re not hopeful for an apology, but we can assure he will not silence the Jewish community.”

Harden’s support for Palestinian human rights

In the interview, Harden spoke about his support of Palestinian human rights and the conversations he’s had with constituents.

“I understand why people are active and vigilant in fighting antisemitism because it’s a real problem,” Harden said in the interview.

“I can also understand, from the pro-Palestinian standpoint, how the barbarity and the scale of viciousness can lead someone to strike out with intemperate, hateful language because of that real hurt where people are at. But I always tell friends in pro- Palestinian movements if they engage in that talk, it doesn’t help us.”

In April, an annual audit by Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith found there were 2,799 anti-Jewish hate crimes in Canada over a one-year period, including beatings, vandalism of synagogues and swastikas in schools.

Incidents of antisemitism rose overall by seven per cent from the year before, but the number of violent incidents increased by more than 700 per cent, from nine in 2020 to 75 in 2021, according to the audit.

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