NDP demotes Robinson because of 'misperception'

Alexa McDonough takes over Middle East file after Svend Robinson calls Israeli invasion into West Bank 'state terrorism.'

NDP Leader Alexa McDonough has assumed responsibilities for Middle East issues, after her party's foreign affairs critic, Svend Robinson, made controversial statements about Israel.

"I've taken on this responsibility as leader at this time because of a regrettable public perception that the NDP has abandoned its longstanding balanced position," McDonough said.

Robinson will remain foreign affairs critic.

McDonough refused to criticize him directly, stressing that he handed over the Middle East file because of a "public misperception" of his views. McDonough said Robinson's true views are in line with the party's policies.

Robinson visited the Middle East this month. Television images showed him confronting Israeli soldiers in an effort to reach the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

When he returned, Robinson accused Israeli troops of torture and murder.

Robinson agreed with McDonough's decision to take over Middle East responsibilities. But he continued to denounce Israel Thursday, calling its military operations "state sponsored terrorism."

"What has happened in Jenin is a humanitarian disaster," he said. "There must be a full inquiry to determine precisely what has taken place in Jenin. It appears that there was a massacre in Jenin at the hands of Israeli defense forces. And if that's happened, that is a war crime."

Robinson also condemned Palestinian suicide bombers, calling them terrorists.

After question period, McDonough reiterated her demand for a United Nations fact finding mission in the Middle East. But she said Israel is not conducting "terrorist acts" on Palestinian land. "I think it's not helpful language," she said.

An Ipsos-Reid poll shows seven per cent of Canadians support Israel, six per cent support the Palestinians and 79 percent take neither side.