Israeli Arab MK criticized for pro-BDS speaking tour

Basel Ghattas
Joint List Member of Knesset Basel Ghattas

Following his anti-Israel lecture at the World Social Forum in Montreal last week, an event that was widely denounced as anti-Semitic, Israeli-Arab member of Knesset Basel Ghattas continued to spread his views throughout Ontario, ending his tour in Toronto on Aug. 18.

According to B’nai Brith Canada, whose representatives were on hand in Montreal to record Ghattas’ speech at the forum, the Joint List MK called for the international community to endorse the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, sympathized with families of Palestinian terrorists, and called all Israelis “colonial settlers.”

“This is the right description for Israel as a whole… We, as Palestinian citizens that have Israeli citizenship after 1948, are still victims of this colonial settler regime,” Ghattas said.

“Without boycotts and sanctions, Israel will not do and comply with international law.”


After Ghattas’ lecture at the forum, he spoke at the University of Ottawa on Aug. 15, at the Canadian Arab Society in London on Aug. 16, at a Hamilton mosque on Aug. 17, and at Beit Zatoun, a Palestinian cultural centre, in Toronto on Aug. 18.

Each of the lectures were part of a fundraising effort for the Women’s Boat to Gaza, an organization that says it challenges “the legality of the inhumane blockade of Gaza’s 1.6 million inhabitants,” and exposes “the Canadian government’s complicity in this act of collective punishment.”

“Ghattas, in his role as an elected Israeli official, is visiting Canada and promoting a discriminatory concept that is counter to Canadian public policy. There is no room for an Israeli member of Knesset to be speaking at venues that have a history of supporting anti-Semitism,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said in a statement.

According to B’nai Brith, the Canadian Arab Society’s Facebook page includes claims that Israel is helping ISIS export oil and was behind the terror attacks in Paris last year. In April, Beit Zatoun hosted Ken O’Keefe, a Holocaust-denier.

B’nai Brith spokesperson Marty York said he doesn’t think there is a precedent for a sitting Israeli MK to be doing a speaking tour in support of the BDS movement.


“I don’t think this has ever happened before. Even people who were on the same wavelength as him at one point are openly critical,” York said.

Former MK Talab Al-Sana, Israel’s longest serving Arab parliamentarian, who is no stranger to criticizing Israel – in 2013 he was involved in a violent protest against Israeli land policy in the Negev Desert – challenged Ghattas on his Facebook page.

Al-Sana suggested that Ghattas was a hypocrite for advocating a total boycott of Israel, asking, “If the boycott is the solution, why don’t you resign from the Israeli parliament? And how can you ask the world what you don’t ask of yourself?”

“Al-Sana’s condemnation of Ghattas clearly shows that Ghattas has crossed a red line with his latest antics. Ghattas’ Canadian tour, where he… advocated for a boycott of the state which pays his own salary, clearly merits some form of disciplinary action upon his return to Israel,” Mostyn said.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee chairman Avi Dichter said that “Ghattas is continuing his pattern of being in the Knesset and speaking against it and the democratic values by which it operates.”

Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer said Ghattas should be sanctioned for calling for a boycott of Israel, adding that Ghattas’ comments prove that Joint List MKs don’t belong in the Knesset.

“It is an unheard of act in any sane country in the world. It is not only delusional, it is against the law,” Forer said.

Israel’s deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Michael Oren, added, “Imagine a member of Congress calling for the destruction of the U.S. That is essentially what Ghattas did.”

Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuly condemned the BDS movement, as well as Ghattas, saying that Ghattas “is not a person who represents dialogue, peace and coexistence, and it is pretty ridiculous that he is invited anywhere to talk about such things following his pathetic provocations. He’s not interested in promoting peace. He wants to erase Israel from the map.”

In Canada, an MP can be expelled from Parliament for “conducting unbecoming the character of a member.”

The Knesset recently passed a new law allowing a member to be ousted “for incitement to racism and support of armed struggle against the state.”

“I can tell you that we have sources in Israel who tell us they are not happy with this and plan to deal with it,” York said.

York Centre Liberal MP Michael Levitt said in a statement that he was “extremely disappointed” that Ghattas “continues to engage in divisive dialogue in our country that seeks to vilify and delegitimize the State of Israel rather than advocating for the pursuit of peace in the Middle East.” He added that the position of the Canadian government is “that we oppose the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and that anti-Semitism is never acceptable.”

Jewish Defence League national director Meir Weinstein, who organized a protest at Ghattas’ Aug. 18 lecture at Beit Zatoun, said in a Facebook post, “Why does the State of Israel allow this BDS leader to serve as a member of the Israeli Knesset? How does Israel expect supporters of Israel to counter the BDS when the State of Israel does not enforce the law against the BDS in its own Parliament?”