A crude read of Alliance leader Stockwell Day's criticism of Canada's position on violence in Palestine suggests he is prepared to take his electoral chances with the Jewish community at the expense of Muslim and Arab voters.
Before the Middle East peace process imploded, Day was making inroads among both conservative Jews and Muslims by promising support for parochial schools. But his goodwill in the Muslim community has evaporated.
Day was in a conference call with Canadian Arab and Muslim leaders on Saturday, defending his recent comments that the Chretien Liberals have taken sides by signing on to a UN resolution with an "anti-Israel bias."
UN resolution 1322 "deplores the provocation" at Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Temple Mount), a reference to Likud leader Ariel Sharon's visit to the holy site.
The Security Council also condemned the "excessive use of force against Palestinians."
Day called the resolution "finger-pointing" and suggested Canada should instead be "working with both sides cooperatively."
Atif Kurbursi, president of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, who was on the phone with Day, says the Alliance leader nitpicked at language in the resolution. "He was picking and choosing things like Haram Sharif (as opposed to the Israeli name Temple Mount) and 'occupation' and we drew to his attention that these are totally benign compared to the fundamentals, which are really that these are a people under occupation," says Kurbursi.
Day was asked to retract his statements, but Kurbursi says the Alliance leader simply said he would study the matter further.
Jehad Aliweiwi, executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation, says Day has "eaten away a lot of his support, among the Muslims especially." He adds that the federation will be targeting Alliance candidates for defeat in Mississauga, Markham and Scarborough ridings with high concentrations of Arabs and Muslims.
Alliance foreign affairs critic Monte Solberg, who was on the phone with Day, says they are not taking sides, but "the resolution was itself inflammatory."
Number of Jews in the GTA: 200,000
Number of Muslims: 500,000
Number of Arabs: 250,000