Politics and its Discontents: BDS, May And Israel’s Occupation

The title for this post I took from the online flurry of letters that brought out the usual voices in The Star. I will reproduce a number below that both support and demonize the movement to sanction Israel for its depraved mistreatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. I remain convinced that words will accomplish nothing in this long and ongoing heartache. Only strong and principled action has a chance of success. For that reason alone, no concerted effort to label people like me and others who support the cause as anti-Semitic will have any effect whatsoever.

Re: May shouldn’t run away from boycott, Opinion Aug. 22

Thank you very much for your publishing Linda McQuaig’s powerful piece. As a Jewish-Canadian, I am deeply concerned about our collective failure to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes, human rights violations and ongoing military occupation of Palestine. Support for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is not only growing among campuses, church and union groups, it is also increasing in our Jewish communities.

Why have we been silent? Why have we not understood that it is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. It is, in fact, pro-human rights and taking the collective wisdom of our peoples’ histories of being persecuted. Tragically, we know the impact of global silence in the face of state terror.

Those of use who care deeply about Palestinian human rights were thrilled to see the Green Party take a courageous stand in support of BDS. I am very hopeful that Elizabeth May will support this position. This is not a radical position. It is simply taking a very obvious, peaceful stance against violence.

Unfortunately, people who publicly criticize Israel (including journalists and Jewish people) are subject to violent threats and accusations of anti-Semitism.

Much gratitude to Linda McQuaig for her excellent commentary and her courage to speak out about such an important issue. And thanks to the Star for printing this. Although you will likely receive pushback from pro-Israel folks, please know you that you are giving voice to a position supported by many of us.

Alisa Gayle, Toronto

Canada needs a principled position that respects Canadian values of human rights and the rule of international law. If BDS is one efficient way to lead to that end, then there is a well-justified reason to support this movement.

Dr. Nabil Tabbara, professor, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario

The problem with Ms McQuaig and her fellow travelers’ support of BDS is that it singles out Israel, not just in the region but amongst the nations of the world, and does nothing to move along the peace process. To say that the solution to the 100-year conflict lies solely on one side can only be rationalized by someone wearing blinders.

Ms May’s thoughtful rejection of supporting this movement should be praised. Ms McQuaig is the one to be admonished for her stance.

Morris Sosnovitch, Toronto

I agree with writer Linda McQuaig. The leader of the Green Party should not only stay but work as hard as ever that her party does not become the hijacked home base of the anti-Israel bashing club that singularly focuses on Israel and excludes all others.

The solidarity with Palestine is all well and fine except that there is only silence for the people of Sudan and Syria who we see slaughtered daily on a scale that is horrific and cruel.

The military occupation over Palestinian lands will end when there is trust and a true commitment in place to build peace based on a two-state solution by both sides. Peace will never flow by punishing and demonizing one side in a complicated two-sided conflict.

Elizabeth May needs to stay to fight for the soul of her party. She needs to ensure that the Green Party remains committed to real principles and not false narratives.

Martin Gladstone, Toronto

Linda McQuaig’s article presents several incorrect statements and a false narrative. BDS is not a “peaceful way to protest” Israel’s perceived misteps – it is an odious attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel. Palestinians live under Israeli occupation because Jordan refused to stay out of the Six Day War, forcing Israel’s hand to take the West Bank from Jordanian occupation. And the author fails to state that West Bank Palestinian Arabs enjoy far more rights than anywhere else in the Middle East.

David E. Bronfman, Toronto

I see the Star has stooped to a new low. This article exposes your proclivity to show your anti-Israel bias. To defend the BDS movement is exactly the same as calling for the destruction of the State of Israel, the only country of almost 200 in the world that is censured for destruction.

Marek Machtinger, Thornhill

The suggestion that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic is rooted in a narrative created by those who support the 49-year-long illegal occupation of Palestine. The ongoing violations by Israel of international human rights and humanitarian laws, the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions are why the majority of Green Party members and others support BDS.

The desperate situation in Palestine has been thoroughly documented by reputable human rights agencies such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Defence for Children International.

This year the Israeli government has significantly reduced the water supply to Palestinians. In addition, in comparison to 2015, the Israelis have increased the rates of arrests of Palestinian children and youth and increased their destruction of Palestinian homes leaving Palestinian children homeless.

Those in the media have the responsibility to read the evidence regarding the situation in Palestine compiled by internationally credible non-governmental agencies before they accuse the BDS movement of anti-Semitism.

Rev. Steve Berube, co-chair, United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel

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Northern Reflections: That’s What Leadership Is About

Elizabeth May has announced that she will stay on as leader of the Green Party. That will make Linda McQuaig happy. She had advised May to stay put. But she’s also advising May not to walk away from the BDS resolution which the party passed at its recent convention:

Whether you agree with the boycott strategy or not, it is a peaceful way to protest a serious violation of human rights: the fact that millions of Palestinians have been living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza for almost 50 years, with Israel effectively annexing their land.
Some commentators have suggested that it’s OK to criticize Israel, but a boycott goes too far.
In the end, words will not change things. Action is required — the kind of action which Brian Mulroney took against South Africa’s apartheid regime: 
Back in the 1980s, it was divisive when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney imposed sanctions against the white-minority regime in South Africa.
Today, everyone agrees that Mulroney’s stance was laudable. But at the time it was highly controversial, with Mulroney acting in defiance of business leaders, members of his own cabinet and caucus, as well as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and U.S. President Ronald Reagan. 
Some are uncomfortable comparing Israel to South Africa. Not so Desmond Tutu:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu considers the comparison valid. In a 2010 letter to students urging the University of California to divest from Israel, Tutu wrote: “[D]espite what detractors may allege, you are doing the right thing. You are doing the moral thing…I have been in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid.”
May is in a difficult position. But that’s what leadership is about. 
Image: Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press
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