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Former Green MP Jenica Atwin adjusts position on Israel after joining Liberal caucus

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OTTAWA — Jenica Atwin has adjusted her position on Israel to align with the governing Liberal party she joined just four days ago.

The Fredericton MP left the Greens on Thursday after openly criticizing party leader Annamie Paul's call for de-escalation of the recent deadly hostilities between Israel and Palestinians.

Atwin had said she stood with Palestine and maintained there were "no two sides to this conflict, only human rights abuses" by Israel, which she accused of pursuing a policy of apartheid.

But Atwin now says her words were intended to "send strength and love" to people in need of support and she's making it clear that applies not only to Palestinians.

"Palestinians are suffering. Israelis are also suffering as well as their loved ones in Canada and around the world," she said in a statement Monday posted on Twitter.

"No one wins with war. I regret if my choice of words caused harm to those who are suffering."

She went on to say that antisemitism and Islamophobia are wrong and that everyone has a responsibility to "listen and learn as much as we can and try to help."

"I am still learning the best ways to offer support for people on the ground," she said, adding that she looks forward to working with her new Liberal colleagues "of all faiths and beliefs" to continue supporting peace and "a two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last week, the governing party faced criticism from Jewish groups, Conservatives and even from some Liberals for welcoming Atwin into the fold given what they saw as her inflammatory, one-sided rhetoric that failed to acknowledge Israelis have also been under attack from Hamas, a listed terrorist organization.

The most recent conflict left at least 230 Palestinians dead — including 65 children — and killed 12 Israelis.

In welcoming Atwin into the Liberal fold last week, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the Liberals welcome divergent opinions, even when it comes to Israel.

However, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau subsequently made it clear that does not extend to accusing Israel of apartheid.

"I will simply say that the position of the Liberal government is extremely clear on the question of the apartheid label. We reject it, categorically," Garneau told the House of Commons on Friday.

"It is not part of our approach with respect to Israel or the Jewish community. We, of course, are completely against any antisemitism that would be displayed by any Canadian citizen."

Nevertheless, during an interview Sunday on CTV's Question Period, Atwin denied she was backing away from her assertion that Israel is an apartheid state.

"No, no, no. I certainly stand by what I'm saying," she said.

Monday's statement suggests otherwise, although Atwin did not specifically retract the apartheid label.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2021.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press