When the Ontario legislature voted last December on a motion rejecting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the results were near-unanimous, with 49 votes in favour and only five votes in dissent, all cast by members of the provincial New Democratic Party. But while the vote, marking Ontario as the first province to rebuff BDS, was seen as a major win for the Jewish community, questions remained about where the Ontario NDP stood on the matter.
Last week, we got a more definitive answer when the provincial New Democrats became the latest Canadian political party to take a stand against BDS. As Ron Csillag reports this week, the riding association in Niagara Centre put forward a resolution at the NDP’s recent policy conference calling on the provincial party to “actively campaign for the right of return for all refugees, an end to Israeli settlements and Israel occupation of Palestinian lands, a halt to the armed aggression, the bulldozing of homes, the destruction of olive groves and farms, the assassination of political leaders and activists by the Zionist state, and demand the removal of the apartheid wall across the West Bank.”
But the resolution never even made it to the floor of the conference, a strong signal that the party had little interest in debating the issue.
The Ontario NDP vote comes on the heels of last year’s House of Commons motion condemning BDS, which was brought forward by the opposition Conservatives, backed by the governing Liberals and passed by a margin of 229-51.
And yet, as Canada’s major political parties publicly reject BDS, and with it anyone who calls Israel an apartheid state, one party continues to stand in stark contrast. That would be the Green Party of Canada.
Last summer, the Greens came under fire for passing a policy resolution supporting “Palestinian self-determination and the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions.” As a result, Elizabeth May said she was seriously considering stepping down as party leader.
But that claim was called into question just months later when the party posted an updated BDS policy supporting “only non-violent responses to violence and oppression, including economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes,” and calling for a ban on products made “wholly or partly within or by illegal Israeli settlements, or by Israeli businesses directly benefiting from the illegal occupation.” May was one of its sponsors.
In fairness, May and the Greens aren’t the only Canadian politicians who have failed to publicly dispute BDS. After all, the Conservatives’ anti-BDS House motion, which the Greens opposed, was also dismissed by some NDP and Liberal MPs, many of whom argued the resolution would stifle free speech.
Even so, the Greens are the only ones who have shown any consistent support for BDS. And that makes it hard not to wonder why May and her party still fail to comprehend what Canada’s other political parties are increasingly showing they understand implicitly – that BDS is patently unfair, and that those who demonize the Jewish state have less and less of a voice in Canadian politics.