MONTREAL — The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has denounced a major Quebec labour federation’s decision to join the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
On April 14, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) announced that its central council had voted to join the campaign. The CSN represents 325,000 workers in both the public and private sectors, in close to 2,000 unions throughout the province.
Luciano Del Negro, CIJA’s Quebec vice-president and a former CSN activist, commented that CSN leaders are imposing “a campaign of denigration of the Jewish state that the majority of its members probably don’t support and of which even the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, disapproves.”
CIJA characterizes BDS as “anti-Israel extremism” whose “ultimate objective…is not the resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict but the dissolution of the only Jewish state into a new Arab state.”
The CSN, which has supported the Palestinian cause for many years, is not new to BDS. Its Montreal council endorsed the campaign in 2010.
This latest move at the top level, the CSN says, is in solidarity with Palestinian unions which endorse the boycott as a means of pressuring Israel to “respect international law, end the military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, respect the rights of Palestinian refugees and end racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
CSN vice-president Jean Lacharité said in a statement: “For decades, Israel has pursued in a shameful way and with violence a settlement policy of Palestinian territories and flouted international law with regard to the Palestinian people.”
He said the BDS campaign in Canada must be especially vigorous to counter what the CSN views as the Harper government’s “unconditional” support of Israeli “conservatives” and their “apartheid policies.”
The CSN insists that BDS, launched 10 years ago by Palestinian groups, is a peaceful strategy, not anti-Semitic, and recognizes the right of Israel to exist within the pre-1967 borders. The boycott covers the economic, cultural and academic spheres, and the CSN is calling for its members and Quebecers not to buy goods from Israel or invest in Israeli companies or other “complicit” businesses or banks.
Del Negro said BDS is not in the interest of Quebec, which is benefiting from increasing bilateral relations with Israel, especially in scientific and technological innovation. He also insisted the CSN could be of more help if it used its considerable resources to bolster the economic development of the Palestinians.