Home News Canada NDP to debate BDS motion at its national convention in Ottawa

NDP to debate BDS motion at its national convention in Ottawa

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Jagmeet Singh in 2014. BGM RIDING ASSOCIATION PHOTO

A resolution that calls on Israel to “end its occupation” of Palestinian land and on Canada to employ boycott, divestment and sanctions strategies against the Jewish state, will be debated later this month at the NDP convention in Ottawa.

The resolution, titled, “Supporting a just peace in Israel/Palestine,” calls on “all parties to abandon violence and negotiate a resolution grounded in international law,” and urges Israel to end its occupation and settlement program, lift the Gaza blockade and recognize Arab-Palestinian rights and refugee claims.

It also calls on the Canadian government to ban products from Israeli settlements, and opposes “parliamentary efforts to undermine non-violent movements,” which is likely a reference to the federal anti-BDS motion that passed in 2016.

This resolution is meant to replace the party’s current policy on Israel, which states that the NDP believes in “working with partners for peace in Israel and Palestine, respecting UN resolutions and international law, supporting peaceful co-existence in viable, independent states with agreed-upon borders, an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and an end to violence targeting civilians.”

Geneviève Joëlle and Jake Cohen, both members of the NDP and Independent Jewish Voices, are part of the group that drafted the resolution.

READ: WILL THE NDP BUCK THE LEFT’S ANTI-ISRAEL TREND?

It has been endorsed by 24 riding associations nationwide, as well as numerous campus clubs, politicians and activists, including Yves Engler, who penned a 2016 essay for the Huffington Post, in which he posited that the term anti-Semitism “is now primarily invoked to uphold Jewish/white privilege.”

Joëlle said that the language used in the resolution was carefully chosen.

“We crafted it in a way that counters any form of attempts by groups to label this as something that is inherently anti-Semitic (and) puts forth something that is grounded in the respect of human rights and international law,” she said.

Cohen said the resolution aims to “constitutionalize some of the policies that are not in the constitution, like calling on Israel to end the blockade on Gaza, so it’s a bunch of things that have already been said by NDP MPs, but isn’t necessarily in the policy book.”

He said he doesn’t anticipate that this resolution will divide the membership, adding that a 2017 survey showed that 84 per cent of New Democrats believe that it’s reasonable to sanction Israel.

Former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, centre, at the party’s convention in 2012. MATT JIGGINS PHOTO

“People will disagree,” said Cohen. “We do see some opposition towards this, as there has been in the past … but we think it’s time we take a stance.… We want our policy to start reflecting what the membership thinks.”

Joëlle added that the resolution has a lot of support within the party.

“It is in alignment with what our party stands for. We’re confident that we can get this passed,” she said.

Cohen said that during the party’s leadership race in 2017, every candidate in the running took a position against Israel’s occupation.

“Our current leader, Jagmeet Singh, we’re not sure where he stands on our particular resolution, but we know that he did tweet about the blackout in Gaza,” Cohen said, referring to a series of pro-Palestinian tweets that Singh posted in July.

We want our policy to start reflecting what the membership thinks.
– Jake Cohen

Responding to the resolution, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel said in a statement that, “CIJA has enjoyed an excellent relationship with the party and with its last two leaders, Tom Mulcair and Jack Layton, and we are hoping to build a similar relationship with Jagmeet Singh and his team.”

He praised both Layton and Mulcair for their leadership, when it came to “pushing back against marginal elements within the party that sought to advance an extreme agenda to the detriment of the NDP’s broader policy priorities,” and said he hopes that Singh will do the same.

In a statement from the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies, president and CEO Avi Benlolo said that he sent a letter to NDP president Marit Stiles, urging her to keep the “divisive and one-sided resolution off the agenda.”

“The resolution is misleading and paints Israel as a villain, failing to mention the violence perpetrated by Palestinians and the willingness of the Palestinian Authority to support that violence,” Benlolo said.

B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said he communicated his strong opposition to the resolution to NDP leadership and expects “the federal NDP to reject this anti-Israel resolution,” which is “based on falsehoods and will contribute nothing toward the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict.”