Jewish community groups are not mincing words in response to the Green party’s decision to pass a resolution that supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, which is now official party policy, despite leader Elizabeth May’s opposition.
In May, the party announced that it would table two resolutions at its August convention in Ottawa – one in support of the “Palestinian self-determination and the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions,” and another that sought to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Canada.
At the Greens’ national convention in Ottawa over the weekend, delegates passed a resolution in favour of the BDS campaign, while a motion that targeted JNF was amended to urge the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charitable status of organizations that violate Canadian and international human rights laws.
In a statement released by the party after the convention, May said, “As a leader, I am disappointed that the membership has adopted a policy in favour of a movement that I believe to be polarizing, ineffective and unhelpful in the quest for peace and security for the peoples of the Middle East. As is the right of any member, I will continue to express my personal opposition to BDS.”
In a joint release by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and the JNF, both organizations condemned the party’s decision.
“The BDS movement, which seeks to censor and blacklist Israelis, is fundamentally discriminatory and utterly at odds with Canadian values,” said CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel, adding that May “was right to oppose this toxic initiative as well as the disturbing assault on JNF, in keeping with her longstanding rejection of BDS.”
JNF CEO Josh Cooper said he was pleased that May helped to ensure that delegates removed all reference to JNF from the resolution, “particularly given that the original proposal contained malicious distortions and falsehoods.”
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies president and CEO Avi Benlolo said the party’s vote in favour of BDS “shows the party has been infected by a vicious strain of anti-Jewish hate.
“That the Green party has adopted a racist policy directed against the Jewish state as its only foreign policy is telling… The defamatory boycott movement has been roundly quashed by civil society and democratic governments. As a party whose sole foreign policy is based on anti-Semitic hatred, the Greens have demonstrated they are manifestly unfit to govern.”
B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said the party “has firmly entrenched itself beyond the fringe of mainstream Canadian politics.”
“Greens have chosen to embrace the policy position of shills for 9/11 conspiracy theories and terror apologists rather than side with the democratic and environmentally friendly State of Israel. This clearly reflects how out of touch the Green party has become with Canadian culture and values, and it has made itself less relevant after its convention this weekend by voting for the politics of division and demonization.”
Mostyn said Canadians should be concerned that the party voted to adopt the policy, given that in February, a motion passed in Parliament calling on the government to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement.”
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) released a statement congratulating the party for endorsing BDS.
“During the debate on the motion, members speaking in support of the BDS motion outnumbered the opponents by approximately 10 to one,” said CJPME president Thomas Woodley.
“When the vote was taken, the resolution was so overwhelming [sic] approved that the chair did not even find it necessary to count the votes.”
But the decision to endorse the anti-Israel motion was by no means unanimous.
The party’s small business and entrepreneur critic, Jean-Luc Cooke, took to Facebook to express his “strong objection” to the divisive vote, adding that the decision to endorse the movement as party policy left him to do some “soul searching.”
Richard Zurawski, a past Green candidate, told the Globe and Mail that he feels “marginalized” by the vote and said “when we specifically single out Israelis, I worry about the buzzwords and subtext and code language, which is anti-Semitic.”
But Green party federal council president Ken Melamed said in a statement that he is “proud of our efforts and accomplishments this weekend.”
He added that despite the BDS endorsement, the party still supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), an organization that supports the BDS campaign against Israel, applauded the party’s “courage to engage in open debate about issues relating to Palestinians’ human rights.”
In a statement released in advance of the Aug. 7 vote, IJV spokesperson Tyler Levitan said the BDS resolution, as well as the resolution that singled out JNF for practising “institutional discrimination… reflect the values of the Green Party members and ordinary Canadians, who oppose discrimination, regardless of where it is practised.”