September 26, 2019
B’nai Brith Canada
OTTAWA – Three of this country’s elected officials have attended events associated with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), B’nai Brith Canada has learned.
Two of the officials expressed regret when approached by B’nai Brith. One, with the backing of Ottawa’s mayor, did not.
During its investigation, B’nai Brith reached out to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa City Councillor Eli El-Chantiry with concern that the Councillor, while acting on the Mayor’s behalf, attended SSNP-linked events and presented a “letter of congratulations.”
The SSNP, founded in 1932, agitates for a “Greater Syria” encompassing modern Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Cyprus, Israel and other territories. It is closely aligned with the Hezbollah terrorist group and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, with its armed wing aiding him throughout Syria’s brutal civil war.
In 2010, the Federal Court rejected a refugee claim on the basis that the claimant was a member of the SSNP, which the Court said “has engaged in acts of terror.”
The SSNP is now misusing the appearance of the Canadian politicians’ attendance at these events for propaganda purposes.
In 2016, El-Chantiry presented a “letter of congratulations” to the “Syrian Canadian Club,” whose website lauds the SSNP and its founder. In 2018, he attended the commemoration of SSNP founder Antoun Saadeh’s birthday in Ottawa. El-Chantiry brought official greetings from the Mayor’s office and delivered remarks. The event featured a cake adorned with the SSNP logo and an enlarged photo of Saadeh prominently displayed beside the podium. One speaker at this same event called for “boycotting the Zionist entity” while another called Israel “the abominable entity” and accused it of transforming Jerusalem from the “Place of G-d” into the “Place of the Devil.”
When responding on behalf of Watson and El-Chantiry, the City Clerk failed to explain their actions. The City Clerk wrote to B’nai Brith that congratulatory letters are given in recognition of “the commitment of individuals and organizations within the city whose efforts enhance our community.”
Conversely, when B’nai Brith reached out to Fayçal El-Khoury, the Liberal Party candidate for Laval—Les Îles, and John Fraser, the Interim Leader of the Ontario Liberals, both legislators apologized and expressed remorse for having attended these events.
“I in no way support the SSNP,” El-Khoury told B’nai Brith in a letter, adding that three SSNP events he attended “were presented to [him] as opportunities to meet with and engage [with] a diversity of people and communities.”
El-Khoury also said: “I apologize unreservedly if my presence at these events offended anyone in any way, including members of the Jewish community.”
“I don’t support any organization that does not strive to work collaboratively and peacefully here at home and around the world,” Fraser told B’nai Brith. “I apologize that the interpretation of my presence at the [SSNP] event has offended or hurt B’nai Brith Canada, the Jewish community and indeed, people of all faiths… Thank you for the work B’nai Brith does to fight hate in our community.”
El-Khoury and Fraser each held separate constructive telephone conversations with B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn.
“We commend Mr. El-Khoury and Mr. Fraser for doing the right thing and rejecting the SSNP,” Mostyn said. “The SSNP’s extremism and violence are antithetical to Canadian values, and should be kept far away from our Parliament and provincial legislatures.”
The SSNP is bitterly antisemitic. The same website referencing politicians at SSNP events has an entire section called “Know Your Enemy,” containing nothing but dozens of negative articles about Jews and/or Israel.
At a 2015 SSNP event in Montreal, the local SSNP chief railed against the “Talmudic ISIS dragon” in a speech, insinuating that the terrorist group is inspired by the Talmud, a central source of Jewish religious law. Conspiracy theories alleging Jewish control over ISIS are widespread in the Arab world.
Mostyn is appalled by the refusals of Watson and El-Chantiry to treat the issue with the seriousness it commands and immediately rescind the awarded letter – even after three attempts to change the City’s mind.
“One cannot even begin to understand why certain politicians in our diverse country would ever dream of allowing themselves and the city they represent to be associated with a group as violent and extreme as the SSNP,” Mostyn said. “The fact that Mayor Watson and Councillor El-Chantiry would not immediately rescind this letter is very disheartening to Canadians. Remember, thousands of Syrian-Canadians fled to Canada to escape the violence and chaos of the Assad regime.”
Just this week, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland revoked the appointment of a Syrian Consul for his support for the Assad regime. She also acknowledged the fear and distress this nomination has posed for Syrian refugees living in Canada. In 2015, the Liberal Party of Canada blocked the candidacy of Nour El Kadri in the Ottawa riding of Nepean after his SSNP ties came to light.
B’nai Brith is calling on Canadians to demand that Mayor Watson and Councillor El-Chantiry immediately rescind their letter of congratulations, and to condemn and disassociate themselves from the SSNP.