In the days leading up to the federal byelection in the B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, the Green party put out a video of its candidate, Paul Manly, and party leader Elizabeth May.
In the video, May made a pitch for Manly and embraced him, saying she loves him like her own brother. Manly, in turn, asks for support, so together he and May can advance the party’s environmental agenda.
While Manly, who was elected as a member of Parliament on May 6, did not express his views on Israel and BDS in the video, or anytime during the campaign, uncertainty about his opinions on the subject are causing some in the Jewish community to question the policy direction of the Green party.
A recent report in the online news website the Post Millenial, which in turn refers to a 2016 article in the Vancouver Sun, claims that Manly supports the BDS movement.
In August 2016, the Green party endorsed a resolution supporting BDS.
Critics of BDS say it is camouflage for anti-Semitism and that proponents of the movement are seeking Israel’s destruction.
In a telephone interview from Ottawa, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said the party repealed the August 2016 pro-BDS resolution in December of that year. It spent $100,000 and went to great lengths to reconvene a larger gathering of the party, in order to do so.
“We have nothing to do with BDS,” May said. “We repealed it. We are not a party that condones BDS. We would never tolerate anybody in our party who violates our core values, who are anti-Semitic.”
May said that Manly likewise does not support the BDS movement and that contrary to media reports, he did not leave the NDP because of his support for BDS.
In a news conference on May 10 introducing Manly as the second Green MP, Manly was asked about his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Manly said he supports the party’s position on the issue. “BDS, Israel and Palestine is not an issue I campaigned on. People confuse me with my parents,” he said.
That was a reference to his father, Jim Manly, a former NDP MP who was on a ship that was part of a flotilla in 2012 that attempted to run Israel’s blockade of Gaza. The elder Manly was taken into custody by Israel and released five days later.
Manly said he received no help from his colleagues in the NDP and wrote the party a letter, which was leaked to the media, expressing his displeasure. The New Democrats later refused to allow him to run in the 2015 election, after which Manly found a new home in the Green party, May said.
The 2016 Vancouver Sun article, which claimed that both Manly and former Green candidate Dimitri Lascaris supported BDS, quoted former party member Cyrille Giraud, who suggested that some activists were trying to make the Green party a tool with which to criticize Israel.
Asked about Lascaris, May said he was no longer in the party.
May pointed to Vision Green, the Green party’s platform on a number of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
In it, the party endorses Israel’s right to exist, calls for an end to violence and says the Green party will “Accurately label products so that consumers can differentiate between products of Israel and those of disputed areas,” and “Amend the Canada-Israel Free Trade pact to allow for product differentiation.”
It also calls for “an end to the collective siege of Gaza so that medical and humanitarian aid can be provided,” and urges “Israel to stop expansion and the building of illegal settlements beyond the 1967 borders.”
Despite May’s assurances, Jewish organizations seemed to be operating under the assumption that the party supports a boycott of Israeli products.
The Green party’s position on BDS is ambiguous and confusing,” said Karen Mock, president of JSpaceCanada. “The Green party appears to be struggling internally with the issue of BDS. We hope it eventually will join the other Canadian parties in clearly rejecting it. We fear that its current ambiguous stand on BDS will attract followers who are only interested in BDS and have no interest in Green party’s other policies.”
Mock pointed to a news report from around the time when the party repealed its BDS motion. The story states that, “The Green party voted this weekend in Calgary to continue to call for consumer boycotts, institutional divestment and other sanctions to pressure Israel over Jewish settlements in occupied territories – while issuing a statement saying it “rejects the goals of the ‘BDS movement’ as they do not include supporting the right of the State of Israel to exist.”
Referring to Manly’s election, Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said, “It’s not a good sign that the Green party is moving in this way.
“This strongly sends a chill into the community that this is the direction that the Green party wants to go. The Canadian public does not like this kind of animosity against Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. This will marginalize the Green party,” Benlolo said.
Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said that, “Because byelections are not necessarily reflective of general elections, we are not overly concerned. However, at a time when we just released our Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2018 and revealed a regrettable, continuous evolution of anti-Semitism in Canada, we are concerned that the Green party continues to hold a modified BDS position, as the BDS movement is anti-Semitic.”
Shimon Fogel, the CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said the Green party “policy is rife with historical distortions and places the Green party at odds with the Canadian consensus that BDS is discriminatory and counter-productive to peace.
“The Green party has been co-opted by extreme activists who – in their obsessive campaign of prejudice against Israelis – threaten the party’s own credibility and relevance in Canadian politics.”