OTTAWA — A spokesman for the chair of an all-party parliamentary group says it is "carefully" reviewing how it handles events with outsideguests after a newspaper publisher accused of holding antisemitic views took part in a recent gathering.
Members of Parliament from all parties, including Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, attended a gathering this week hosted by the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Among the guests was Nazih Khatatba, publisher of the Arabic-language newspaper Meshwar Media.
Afterwards, both B'nai Brith Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said on social media that it was reprehensible he was allowed to attend.
During question period in the House of Commons, Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman called Khatatba a "dangerous antisemite, Holocaust denier and a terrorist sympathizer," saying his publication has referred to the Holocaust as a hoax and "the biggest lie in history."
In a written statement to the The Canadian Press, Khatatba said he was invited by Palestinian organizations to attend the event, and he denied perpetuating antisemitism and Holocaust denialism.
In the House, Lantsman also asked Alghabra to denounce Khatatba and apologize, and the transport minister responded to say Khatatba should not have been invited or welcomed to the event.
Alghabra, who appears to have been the only cabinet minister to attend the event, also said antisemitism and all forms of hate should be condemned.
Conservative MP Larry Brock, the NDP's Niki Ashton and the Green Party's Elizabeth May were also at the event, among others.
Brock said on Twitter that he wasn't aware who Khatatba was or that he was at the event, saying that had he known about the publisher's presence there, he wouldn't have attended himself.
"I deeply regret and apologize for the harm and hurt this has caused," he tweeted.
Ashton said in a statement that MPs from all parties are part of such friendship groups and the event was intended to recognize the UN's International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
"New Democrats unequivocally denounce antisemitism and holocaust denial. No NDP MPs invited this individual nor were we aware he would be present. We continue to be allies in the fight against antisemitism," she said.
May, a co-leader of the Green Party, said in a statement Friday that she "denounces" antisemitism, but added that "showing solidarity with Palestine isn’t antisemitism and neither is criticism of the state of Israel’s human rights record."
Parliamentary friendship group chair and Liberal MP Salma Zahid issued a statement saying invitations for the event were sent around the local Palestinian community and "we are not able to research the history of every attendee that responded."
Zahid's spokesman Jeff Jedras said neither their office or the parliamentary group invited Khatatba, but added "we will certainly review carefully how we handle future events with outside attendees."
In his statement, Khatatba said his newspaper is "not antisemitic, and we have never spoken badly about Jews in Canada or other countries. Rather, we criticize the Israeli occupation policy and stand by the Palestinian people."
On Friday, B’nai Brith Canada called on Zahid to more firmly distance herself from Khatatba and his publication.
"Salma Zahid has a special obligation, particularly in her capacity as chair of the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group, to reject Meshwar Media and its publisher by name," CEO Michael Mostyn said in a statement.
"Zahid owes it to the public to better explain through what channels Khatatba gained access to the event on Parliament Hill. Zahid must commit her Friendship Group to end all association with those who distort the Holocaust and pursue antisemitic agendas."
In response, Jedras said Zahid's office had nothing more to add.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said it also reached out seeking an explanation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press