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Joyce Bateman, Tory Candidate, Accuses Retired General Of Being Anti-Israel

The remark sparked chants of "shame."

A Conservative incumbent sparked boos at a debate this week after reading out a list of Liberal candidates and volunteers she identified as anti-Israel.

But those jeers reportedly turned to cries of "shame" when Joyce Bateman, running again in Winnipeg South Centre, got to Andrew Leslie, the Liberal candidate in the Ontario riding of Orléans.

Leslie is a retired Canadian Forces lieutenant-general who commanded troops during the war in Afghanistan.

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Dan Lett, who moderated the debate hosted by Jewish advocacy group B'nai Brith, described the scene in a column Saturday that has since gone viral.

"It is hard in retrospect to escape the feeling the 'enemies of Israel' blacklist Bateman was reading had a McCarthyesque blush to it," Lett wrote. "The names were read quickly and without any information establishing the veracity of the charges against the individuals named. It was a truly creepy moment."

According to CBC News, Bateman also singled out Mississauga Centre candidate Omar Alghabra, Etobicoke Centre candidate Borys Wrzesnewskyj, and Calgary Skyview candidate Darshan Kang. Alghabra and Wrzesnewskyj are former MPs, while Kang was an MLA in Alberta.

A CBC video captures Bateman pressing on despite the boos, and Winnipeg South Centre Liberal candidate Jim Carr later saying, "We don't build ourselves up by calling other people down."

Leslie was unavailable for an interview Saturday, but said in a statement to The Huffington Post Canada that he believes "the crowd expressed the feelings of all reasonable Canadians."

Tories have targeted ex-general in past

Leslie is considered a star Liberal candidate and a new poll suggests he may unseat Tory incumbent Royal Galipeau. He already serves as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's foreign policy and defence adviser.

At the Liberal convention in 2014, Leslie said that while Conservatives tried to recruit him to run under their banner, he opted to go with the Grits because he wanted a leader he could follow "heart and soul."

Leslie said at the time that he could withstand attacks from Tories because he has been "shot at by real bullets."

Last summer, Leslie sparked controversy after a woman approached him at a veterans' event to ask his professional opinion about the Israel-Gaza conflict. The woman — who Liberals later said was a staffer in the office of Tory MP Rob Anders — leaked a recording of the exchange to Sun Media.

Leslie said Israel had a right to defend itself, but went on to accuse the Israeli military of "firing indiscriminately onto Palestinian women and children."

He also said that the terrorist group Hamas, not the Palestinian people, was the enemy.

Tories wasted little time pouncing on the remarks. Finance Minister Joe Oliver took to Facebook to say Leslie was placing "the blame on Israel for defending itself."

Conservatives used the comment as a fundraising opportunity, branding it "another Liberal smear."

Harper has turned support for Israel into 'political football': Trudeau

Israel was hardly discussed at last week's Munk foreign policy debate in Toronto. However, Harper did bring up his approach to the Jewish state as an example of how his government takes positions shaped by principles.

"This government has been perhaps the most unequivocal in the world on the fact that, when it comes to the Middle East, we are not going to single out Israel," he said.

Harper said threats directed at Israel are threats to Canada as well.

"We recognize, unequivocally, the right of Israel to be a Jewish state and to defend itself," he said.

Trudeau shot back by saying that all leaders on the stage feel the same way about Israel.

"The issue of Israel where we most disagree as Liberals with Mr. Harper is that he has made support for Israel a domestic political football, when all three of us support Israel and any Canadian government will," Trudeau said.

But there are a handful of hotly contested ridings where Israel is an issue that can greatly impact the vote. The Free Press identified Winnipeg South Centre as one such riding where the Jewish vote could shape the outcome.

In Montreal's Mount Royal — a Liberal stronghold long coveted by Harper — Israel is a key issue. Liberal candidate Anthony Housefather told HuffPost that he spends a lot of time beating back rumours that Trudeau is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.

Housefather, who is Jewish, said a woman came up to him at a local synagogue to say: "I'm shocked to hear you don't like Jews."

Housefather said the incident "profoundly hurt" him.

"You know, when you put yourself in public life, you have to expect to be hurt. I have very thick skin, I'm used to people saying anything and everything about me," he said. "But you don't expect to be called something that is so ludicrous."

In the Toronto riding of York Centre — where an estimated 20 per cent of voters are Jewish — Tory incumbent Mark Adler sparked controversy early in the campaign with a sign noting he is "the son of a Holocaust survivor."

His claim in campaign materials that he was the first "child of a Holocaust survivor" to be elected to the House of Commons was also called into question by former Liberal MP Raymonde Folco.

Folco told The Canadian Jewish News it was "disgusting" that Adler would "use the Holocaust in this way, for personal ends."

CLARIFICATION: On Oct. 5, The Winnipeg Free Press ran a correction on Plett's column stating that the quotation marks around "enemies of Israel" and "enemies" were for emphasis and were not intended to be seen as an attribution to Bateman.

With files from Mohamed Omar, Althia Raj

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