Toronto (November 21, 2022) – Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) is deeply disturbed by Ontario NDP MPP Joel Harden's antisemitic rhetoric and anti-Israel misinformation shared in an interview that surfaced on social media over the weekend.
This morning, in the aftermath of an apology issued by Harden, in which he committed to "work with Jewish leaders" to better understand antisemitism, FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt spoke with NDP interim leader Peter Tabuns regarding the Jewish community’s upset over Harden’s remarks and offered education on antisemitism as an essential step forward, both for Harden and the party. During the call, Tabuns, who yesterday issued a condemnation of Harden's interview, expressed both regret and an understanding of why Harden's words were so harmful to the Jewish community, thanking FSWC for the offer of antisemitism education.
In the interview published more than a year ago but which appeared on social media over the weekend, Harden – the Ottawa Centre member of Ontario’s provincial parliament – makes a series of false claims demonizing Israel, including accusing the country of conducting “the longest-running military occupation in the world” and being “the single greatest origin of violence in the Middle East.”
He also claims current leadership in Israel has “dehumanized” Palestinian people, including Khalida Jarrar who is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organization that Canada recognizes as a terror group.
Harden further states he has “asked many questions of Jewish neighbours here about how much longer we should put up with this.” According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, adopted by the Ontario and Canadian governments, holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel is a form of antisemitism. He then goes on to defend antisemitic rhetoric from Palestinians and anti-Israel activists, stating he “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.”
Harden fails to recognize and condemn the ongoing incitement to hatred, violence and deadly terror attacks that the Jewish people of Israel face.
He has previously been criticized for expressing support for Khalida Jarrar, a prominent member of the PFLP, who had been convicted of incitement to violence and promoting terrorism.
FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt issued the following statement:
“Not for the first time, MPP Joel Harden's inflammatory words and actions have caused real harm to Jews in his riding and across the country. The fact that he confronted 'Jewish neighbours' and challenged them on Israel's actions in the Middle East is textbook antisemitism. Education is foundational to FSWC’s approach to combatting antisemitism, and we truly hope this incident serves as an opportunity to engage in a meaningful educational process with both Harden and the Ontario NDP."