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NDP deputy leader Libby Davies.

Lyle Stafford

What would happen if the deputy leader of the NDP, hypothetically, came out and said that health care should be privatized in Canada? What if the deputy leader of the NDP came out and said - again, purely hypothetically - that Canada spends too much on foreign aid? Or the poor? Or natives?

Let me make a wild leap and suggest that if the deputy leader of the NDP parted ways with a whole host of NDP orthodoxy that she wouldn't be deputy leader for very long. Jack Layton is a serious leader and he wouldn't just let his deputy freelance on core policy and let her remain in the role.

So what has happened to the current deputy leader of the NDP, Libby Davies, when she questions the right of Israel to exist by saying: "[The occupation started in]'48. It's the longest occupation in the world" and called for an international boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel?

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Well, nothing.

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To his credit, Jack Layton apologized to the Israeli ambassador and made clear her views do not represent the NDP's; but in terms of actual consequences to her? Not a thing.

Even her "apology" was a bit confusing. It starts off promisingly:

"My reference to the year 1948 as the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory was a serious and completely inadvertent error."

I'm not sure how one makes such a "mistake," but okay. Except she goes on to deny that she did anything of the kind:

"I reject the allegation that I hate Israel, and I reject the assertion that I said that Israel is illegitimate or an abomination. Neither are true."

So she rejects that she said what was clearly in the video. Not that she's sorry for saying it (that was so last paragraph), not that she was somehow taken out of context - she simply rejects that she said it. Except of course she clearly did.

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Oh, and she also called for that boycott, divestment and sanctions, which she makes no apology for whatsoever.

And before the haters of Israel start once again bombarding me with hate mail, please note that it's not just me who feels that she clearly said it and was wrong for doing so: Jack Layton clearly agrees with me - or else why did he apologize to the Israeli ambassador?

And I also don't buy that the NDP doesn't believe in demotions for MPs as a form of punishment, given that they have not just called for multiple cabinet ministers to resign over the years but much more. when Ruby Dhalla was dealing with her trumped-up charges last year, the NDP didn't only call for her to resign as opposition critic but went to so far as to suggest she should be thrown in jail (and to be crystal clear, no, I'm not suggesting Davis should be put in jail, just making the point that the NDP clearly believes that sanctioning MPs with role demotions - including opposition MPs - for transgressions is a legitimate form of punishment).

But I guess the question for Layton is if MPs in the NDP caucus aren't allowed to simply freelance policy (as per Thomas Mulcair) - and you buy that if a hypothetical deputy leader freelanced on something core to the NDP like universal, public health care or foreign aid then they would no longer be deputy leader - then why is support for Israel any less important to the NDP?

(Photo: Lyle Stafford for The Globe and Mail)

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