A former Liberal MP says Harper Conservatives are attempting to use the conflict in Gaza for their own political gain.
Omar Alghabra, an MP for Mississauga from 2006 to 2008 and Liberal candidate for the next federal election, was accused by the Tories of "attacking" Israel in a Facebook post he wrote Sunday. But Alghabra says his words are purposely being misrepresented to score cheap points.
Over the weekend, Alghabra shared a news story on his personal page about Israeli airstrikes that killed four Palestinians.
"Tragic! My thoughts and prayers are with the innocent civilians caught in blind and cruel bombing," he wrote.
Alghabra told HuffPost Canada he edited his post a few minutes later to read: "Tragic! My thoughts and prayers are with the innocent civilians, on both sides caught in bombing."
Alghabra's posts caught the attention of a Tory rival who wasted little time denouncing him.
In a media release Monday, Conservative MP Costas Menegakis accused Alghabra of quietly deleting a "flagrant attack" against Israel.
Menegakis said in the release that Alghabra called Israeli airstrikes a "blind and cruel bombing." The Tory MP also criticized Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for not "standing with Israel" like Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"While Trudeau's silence on the current situation in the Middle East is deafening, he uses spokesmen like Omar Alghabra to deliver anti-Israel messages to certain segments of the Canadian public," Menegakis said in the statement.
The Tory MP also accused Liberals of drawing a false equivalence between Hamas, a terrorist organization, and a democracy defending itself.
"The truth is that Israel uses weapons to protect its civilians, while Hamas uses civilians to protect its weapons," said Menegakis, who serves as parliamentary secretary to the minister of citizenship.
Conservatives issued a tweet attacking Alghabra and the Liberals Monday, linking to a page soliciting donations.
Menegakis also appeared on CBC's Power & Politics to discuss the situation in the Middle East. He again accused Alghabra of making "reprehensible comments against Israel and Israel's actions."
But Alghabra told HuffPost in an email that "disappointingly, but not surprisingly," the Tories are twisting his words.
"I expressed a human, in fact a Canadian moment of sympathy for innocent civilians on both sides caught in bombing," he wrote.
"Minutes later, I decided to edit my statement to make that point even more pointedly, knowing how sensitive that subject can be."
Alghabra, who has blogged for HuffPost in the past, maintains he did not delete his comment but merely edited it. He denies he attacked Israel.
"The Conservatives are shameless and disgusting," Alghabra said. "There is no limit to their ugly politics and no cause, no matter how tragic or serious it is, they are unwilling to exploit."
Liberals have expressed support for Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas but, like the NDP, have called for negotiations that can lead to a ceasefire.
"All sides must demonstrate restraint and a real commitment to peace if this violence is to be quelled," Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau said in a media release last week.
Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird have called on the international community to rally around Israel, saying solidarity with the Jewish state is the best way to stop the conflict.
"The indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel are terrorist acts, for which there is no justification," the prime minister said in a statement issued Sunday.
Harper said it is evident Hamas is using human shields in the region.
"Failure by the international community to condemn these reprehensible actions would encourage these terrorists to continue their appalling actions."
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