A new private member’s bill that targets the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement against Israel will be introduced today at Queen’s Park.
Drafted by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies president and CEO Avi Benlolo, Liberal MPP Mike Colle, and Conservative MPP Tim Hudak, “Standing Up Against Anti-Semitism in Ontario Act” identifies the BDS movement as “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel globally, and is increasingly promoted on university campuses in Ontario. The BDS movement violates the principle of academic freedom and promotes a climate of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel speech leading to intimidation and violence on campuses.”
“We’ve been working on this for more than six months… trying to crate a bi-partisan bill to essentially limit BDS activity,” Benlolo told The CJN.
The Standing Up Against Anti-Semitism in Ontario Act aims to use the strategy of BDS supporters against them.
It calls on the government to abstain from doing business with companies that support the BDS movement against Israel.
The proposed legislation says that provincial pension funds should divest themselves of investments in businesses that boycott Israel.
It also asks that college and university administrations be prohibited from supporting or participating in the BDS movement.
“It is a bill that is purely economic… It has nothing to do with free speech, because some people are trying to paint it that way. It’s really just about who you want to do business with. Do you want to do business with people who are anti-peace, or do you want to do business with people who are pro-Israel and allies of Israel?” Benlolo said.
The National Post published a piece by Benlolo, Colle and Hudak that emphasized the significance of the proposed bill.
“It will provide the legislative muscle to reinforce Ontario’s commitment to its Jewish community and our friendship with Israel – a friendship solidified by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s first mission to Israel [this week] and the principled stand she took in declaring this week that, ‘The BDS position is certainly not mine, nor is it that of our government, and I entirely oppose the movement. In fact, I stand firmly against any position that promotes or encourages anti-Semitism in any way.’”
Colle said helped draft the bill to support his constituents.
“I represent a constituency at Eglinton-Lawrence, which has the second-highest number of people of Jewish heritage in Ontario… and one of the largest Holocaust survivor communities… I’m very sensitive to anything that smacks of anti-Semitism, and this whole so-called BDS movement is really a very insidious attack on Jewish People and the State of Israel. This is a continuation of centuries and boycotts and anti-Semitism, which has resulted in horror,” Colle said.
“The government of Ontario should not support people who support this kind of corporate anti-Semitism.”
Speaking to The CJN just hours before the bill was to be introduced at Queen’s Park, Benlolo said he couldn’t speculate about whether or not it would pass first reading.
“If it doesn’t go the way we want it to, we will re-look at it and re-introduce it, but at least we’re standing up and we’re making a statement, and we’re also educating MPPs,” he said.
Colle said the NDP doesn’t support the bill, “but we’ll see what happens… The success of this bill shouldn’t be evaluated on whether it passes or not… It puts this on the platform and it’s an opportunity to let people know… that [the BDS movement] is hate of everything Jewish… this movement just picks on one country, which is obscene.”
“Ontario has a long history of standing against racism, hatred, or intolerance, but that is exactly what the BDS movement is, a new form of anti-Semitism,” Hudak said in a statement.
“Ontario should take a leadership role in using the weight of government to produce the first of its kind legislation.”
In a statement, the FSWC urged members of the Jewish community to reach out to their MPPs and ask them to support the bill.