The Green Party of Canada set a disturbing precedent at its biennial convention in Ottawa on August 7 when it voted to adopt the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) platform.
Seven months after the Canadian parliament strongly condemned the BDS movement, the Greens became the first political party in Canada to embrace it.
It’s a somber development, even though the party holds only one seat in the House of Commons, the federal parliament. It may yet encourage some pro-Palestinian parliamentarians in the ruling Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to push for acceptance of the BDS philosophy.
Elizabeth May, the Green Party leader who won its sole seat in last year’s general election, expressed personal opposition to the BDS motion, but two of its major figures, justice critic Dimitri Lascaris and foreign affairs critic Lisa Barrett, parted ways with her.
“Let’s stand up for social justice,” said Barrett in an indirect criticism of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
Lascaris, who submitted the resolution supporting the BDS campaign, said: “For nearly 70 years, the Palestinian people have been without a sovereign state. It is time for the international community to give to the Palestinian people a realistic and non-violent path to self-determination. In the current circumstances, BDS is, in the view of the submitter, the only such path.”
With the Green Party having added BDS to its Middle East plank, May sent mixed signals to the party faithful.
On the one hand, she said she was “pretty devastated” and “deeply disappointed” by the vote. “The party policy on this issue is a position I can’t support,” she said, describing BDS tactics as ineffective and “polarizing.” She also held open the possibility that the party may amend its policy at the next convention in 2018.
On the other hand, May seemed proud of the party’s decision in favor of BDS. As she put it, “It may attract people to us to know that we’re the only political party that doesn’t shut down debate …”
The party’s adoption of BDS will be applauded by Canadians who think that Israel was born in sin and has no right to exist as a sovereign state.
BDS has three broad objectives.
It demands a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (which is currently under the control of Hamas). It calls for equal rights for Israeli Arabs. And it supports the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.
The first two demands, though opposed by the present Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are reasonable and fall within the range of an international consensus on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict through diplomacy and granting Israel’s Arab citizens full equality.
The third demand, however, is unreasonable and unacceptable, as it would spell the end of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. The return of possibly millions of displaced Palestinians and their descendants to Israel would be an unmitigated demographic disaster, leading to the eventual formation of a binational state in place of a Jewish state.
This solution, even if possible, would engender still more acrimony and strife. In any fair settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute, Palestinian refugees who so desire should be resettled in a Palestinian state rather than in Israel.
Judging by its adoption of the BDS program, the Green Party seems oblivious, if not indifferent, to the real meaning of the right of return. Regrettably, May did not bother addressing the glaring and quite obvious discrepancy between the party’s support of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and its full-throated backing of the Palestinians’ right of return. This is a contradiction that will probably cause internal turmoil within the party in the years ahead.
But at least the Greens watered down another objectionable resolution, which would have called on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund over its practice of planting trees in formerly inhabited Palestinian areas. In a compromise backed by May, an amendment removed explicit references to organizations complicit in the violation of human rights.
This was a step in the right direction, but the Greens are still saddled with an ill-conceived resolution in support of BDS.