Attempts at demonization and delegitimization of Israel on the world stage are, sadly, nothing new as far as the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement goes.
But reports that Denis Lemelin, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), has decided not only to attend but to speak at a major three-day anti-Israel conference in Montreal later this month is a disturbing revelation.
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies brought the information to light late last week, with Avi Benlolo, the centre’s president and CEO, decrying Lemelin’s participation as “shameful… especially while the peace process is actively being pursued by both sides on the ground.”
From Oct. 22 to 24, the Global BDS Movement, the key organizer of the event, will present speakers and “experts” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the majority of whom will likely spew their usual vitriol and condemnations against all forms of perceived Israeli atrocities committed in the name of the “occupation.” False linkages to the South African system of apartheid will no doubt be spoken about as well.
Why the head of one of Canada’s most essential, hard-working, multicultural workforces feels that this is the time to openly push an anti-Israel agenda on behalf of his membership is anyone’s guess. It should be noted, however, that CUPW began supporting the BDS campaign when it passed a resolution on the matter in 2008, and Lemelin has since stated that his union – which represents more than 54,000 postal workers – views all Gazans as “prisoners.”
A recent Canada Post decision to temporarily suspend delivery of Canadian outbound mail to Gaza, due to the arrest of the head of the Palestinian Postal Authority over Israeli security concerns, may have served to further raise the ire of Lemelin and his colleagues.
In a Sept. 2 interview with The CJN, Lemelin showed a disquieting amount of ignorance, willful or not, about the nuances of the conflict, and he made it clear which side he has chosen to support.
When asked whether he believed Israel had legitimate security concerns based on the wording of Hamas’ charter, a document that calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews, Lemelin uttered a succinct reply: “That’s what you say.” He then went on to defend Hamas, a recognized terrorist entity by most western governments, as a democratically elected body.
What he seemingly did not take into account or acknowledge are the reasons why Israel has implemented stringent security measures with respect to Gaza in the first place – namely, to protect Israeli citizens from coming under continual attack from an organization that refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and actively seeks its elimination.
Perhaps it’s time for the Jewish community to undertake more dialogue with CUPW and its leaders in order to clarify Israel’s position for our valued mail carriers.
For now, it appears that neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the head of Canada’s postal union from espousing his particular views on Israel.
It’s a message that should be returned to sender.