Prime Minister Harper’s director of communications about NCCM / CAIR-CAN: “We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas.”
Author: David Akin
Source: Toronto Sun, January 16, 2014 (Internet edition)
ORIGINAL TITLE: Muslim group wants rabbi tossed from Harper’s Israel trip
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper hasn’t even started packing for his first visit to the Middle East, but the trip already has its first controversy.
A Canadian Muslim group wants Harper’s officials to boot a Toronto rabbi out of the official delegation that will travel with the prime minister.
In a letter sent to Harper on Tuesday, the National Council of Canadian Muslims said it objected to the presence of Toronto Rabbi Daniel Korobkin as part of Harper’s official delegation.
Korobkin declined to comment, but Jason MacDonald, the prime minister’s director of communications, slammed the NCCM — formerly known as the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR-CAN — for even making the suggestion.
“We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas,” MacDonald said.
“The delegation accompanying the prime minister to the Middle East includes a range of stakeholders from various business, religious and community organizations.”
Korobkin is the senior rabbi at Beth Avraham Yoseph Congregation, the largest Orthodox congregation in Canada, and is a former regional vice-president of the Rabbinical Council of America.
The NCCM rejected MacDonald’s statement as “absolutely false” and says it is neither associated with any terrorist group nor is it anti-Semitic.
In an e-mail, NCCM executive director Ihsaan Gardee said: “Our legal counsel is of the view that this statement is defamatory and libelous and we will be taking this up with the PMO. Furthermore, the statement is below the dignity of the office of the prime minister in responding to legitimate concerns raised by Canadians and only serves to distract from the legitimate issues raised.”
The NCCM said Korobkin should be disqualified from going to Israel with the prime minister because, in September, Korobkin “introduced, defended and praised” two American anti–Muslim campaigners.
Those two campaigners, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, are founders of a group called Stop Islamization of America. Korobkin gave some brief remarks at an event in Toronto where Geller was the featured speaker.
The NCCM, which says it is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit group that funds its work through donations, has had a long-running battle with Geller and Spencer.
“Mr. Korobkin has chosen to align himself with some of the most recognized and vitriolic anti-Muslim activists of our time,” Gardee said in his organization’s letter to Harper dated Jan. 14.
“The highest political office in our nation should not lend its legitimacy to such parties and views that are entirely contrary to our shared values of mutual understanding, acceptance and respect.”
On her blog, Geller fired back.
“If only these Muslim groups used their coercive intimidation to shut down hate imams who preach jihad and incitement to violence. No, but they attack those of us who do,” Geller wrote.
The official delegation of media, politicians and VIPs for the Middle East trip numbers about 170, believed to be largest delegation to ever travel with Harper on any trip.
The prime minister’s plane takes off Saturday night for a seven-day trip, which will take him to Israel and Jordan. His itinerary includes meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and, during a visit to Amman, with King Abdullah II of Jordan.
While in Israel, Harper is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will receive an honorary doctorate at Tel Aviv University.