Despite Federal Green Leader Elizabeth May’s vocal opposition to the passing of a resolution that supported the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel at the party’s convention last summer, the text of a new policy on Israel and Palestine – which lists May as one of its sponsors – is being criticized by Jewish leaders as “divisive,” “discriminatory” and “anti-Semitic.”
In August, the Green party passed a resolution in Ottawa in support of the “Palestinian self-determination and the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions.”
Although the policy passed with a majority, but not by consensus, it still became party policy. May considered stepping down as leader as a result, saying she was “disappointed that the membership has adopted a policy in favour of a movement that I believe to be polarizing, ineffective, and unhelpful in the quest for peace and security for the peoples of the Middle East.”
Following a family vacation, May ultimately announced she would stay on as leader, partly because the party’s executive council agreed to call a special meeting to give members the opportunity to revisit the BDS resolution.
Earlier this month, the party posted a new policy on its website that will come before a special general meeting scheduled for Dec 3-4 in Calgary. If it passes by consensus, it will replace the policy that passed in August.
The new “Policy on Israel and Palestine,” states, among other things, that the “Palestinian people are among the indigenous people of the geographic region now designated as Israel and the [occupied Palestinian territory],” and it supports “only non-violent responses to violence and oppression, including economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes.”
It calls for a ban on products produced “wholly or partly within or by illegal Israeli settlements, or by Israeli businesses directly benefiting from the illegal occupation,” and it calls on the Canadian government to repeal the House of Commons resolution that condemned the BDS movement last February.
In a statement, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said the new resolution is “anti-Israel and suggests that Palestinians have no role or responsibility in advancing the peace process.”
CIJA chair David Cape, said he is “appalled that the Green party’s leadership would propose such a divisive policy that is hostile toward Israelis and riddled with egregious historic distortions. Among many examples, perhaps most outrageous is the suggestion that the Jewish People have no ancestral or indigenous roots in Israel.”
Cape also spoke to a “reckless flip-flop by May, given her previous unequivocal statements against boycotts,” adding that the policy has “shut its doors to mainstream Jewish Canadians and signalled to all voters that it’s not ready for the serious business of policymaking.”
B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said “it’s unfortunate that after rightly voicing her opposition to the BDS movement, Elizabeth May is now bowing to pressure from extremist elements within her party and targeting the Jewish state with this discriminatory and anti-Semitic motion.
“Ms. May previously stated that she ‘entirely opposed’ a more moderate version of the Green party’s motion to support BDS, a view she claimed the majority of her party also held. How can she now justify not only the Green Party’s strengthening of this resolution, but her vocal support of it?”
Requests for an interview with May went unanswered, but Green party federal council president Ken Melamed said the new policy, which he expects will gain consensus in December in Calgary, in part because it’s backed by May, is a “compromise resolution” compared to the one that passed in August.
“It reconfirms the existing policy, which spoke to a non-violent, peaceful two-state solution, recognition of both states, but I think for me, the big difference is that the previous policy… speaks to diplomatic approaches to resolving the conflict. This new policy seems to suggest that diplomatic measures have not been successful. The situation has not improved, and it moves into economic measures while maintaining a deep commitment to non-violent solutions,” Melamed said.
He said when it comes to critics who feel that the new text is one-sided against Israel, Melamed said others will interpret it differently.
“It clearly acknowledges Israel’s right to statehood. It clearly acknowledges that both parties have to be part of the solution. It condemns anti-Semitism, it condemns Islamophobia, and an attempt has been made to be two-sided. We support both sides in trying to find a peaceful resolution.”
While Melamed said the new resolution expresses support for boycotts, divestment, sanctions and arms embargoes, its drafters were careful not to specifically endorse the international BDS movement.
“I think that was one of Elizabeth’s main sticking points. She was uncomfortable with that, and it tarnished, in a way, the previous resolution. It was a deliberate and careful redrafting to eliminate a direct reference to the movement.”
Independent Jewish Voices Canada spokesperson Tyler Levitan said in a statement that the pro-BDS group is “delighted” with the Green party’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“This proposed resolution is in keeping with the Green party’s declared values and reflects the values of Canadians who are sympathetic to the plight of oppressed peoples, including the Palestinians. If this resolution passes, it will serve as an example for other parties to emulate.”
Cape said CIJA is encouraged by Green party members who have spoken out and voted against the previous resolution.
“We will continue working with our allies within the [Green party] in the hope that they will be successful in reversing this shameful resolution.”