Trudeau’s sunny ways do not include Palestinians

Trudeau’s sunny ways do not include Palestinians

Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan

Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan

The Conservatives lost power in last October’s election. But they still seem to be running aspects of Canada’s Middle East policy.

The Tories moved to have the House of Commons “reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and de-legitimization” of Israel and said the government should condemn Canadians who promote the movement.

With Liberals’ support the motion passed by 229 votes to 51. The New Democratic Party opposes BDS but it also objects to stifling freedom of expression. Only the Bloc Quebecois said BDS constitutes legitimate criticism of Israeli policies.

Foreign Minister Stephen Dion conceded that several Canadians support BDS in the belief that it is nonviolent and will facilitate a just solution of the conflict.  Instead of using “intimidation, name-calling and accusations,” he said it is better to explain to them why boycotting Israel is a “false solution.” He did not explain what Canada feels is a “true solution” and how it should be attained.

As Judy Haiven wrote in a Halifax newspaper: “Think back to the 1980s. What would progressive Canadians have thought if Parliament had passed a motion that Canadians reject the boycott of South African produce to protest Apartheid? Other than an armed insurrection, or a war, how else could Apartheid have been dismantled?

“Make no mistake, today boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel are no different. Over the last 50 years the United Nations has passed more than 77 resolutions which have condemned Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

“Typically, the nations that oppose the UN’s resolutions in support of Palestine include Canada, the US and its half dozen client states such as the Marshall islands and Micronesia. Canada has played a nasty role in its blanket and unwavering support of Israel - to the dismay of more than 150 other nations.”

She expressed anger  as a Canadian Jew that the new “sunny ways” of the Liberal government have been held captive by the Tory motion.

Diana Ralph, president of the Independent Jewish Voices, Ottawa branch, sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders that said in part: “ … Do not believe the hasbara  (Israeli propaganda) lies which conflate legitimate, nonviolent actions against unjust government policies with the so-called ‘New Anti-Semitism.’ Israel consistently has flouted international law and Canadian foreign policy by constructing the separation barrier, by its expanding settlement construction in the West Bank, by its house demolition policies, and by repeatedly committing war crimes against the people. It does this, in spite of near universal condemnation by UN states, because the US, Canada, and a few other countries continue to subsidize and politically support these injustices.

“I am an observant Jewish Canadian… I have concluded that BDS is congruent with Jewish values of justice, peace, and humanity through tikkun olam (repairing the world). I join many other Jews of conscience here in Canada and around the world in supporting BDS. We do this to support the three basic demands of the campaign: that Israel end its illegal occupation of the West Bank,  grant equal rights to non-Jewish citizens of Israel, and recognize the right of the Palestinian refugees whom Israel had illegally ethnically cleansed in 1948 and 1967 to either return or receive compensation…..

“Canada currently imposes sanctions on 22 countries whose policies it condemns. If your government is serious about Canada’s foreign policy in support of a two-state solution and against settlement construction, it will at least threaten to impose meaningful sanctions on Israel. Instead, criminalizing those who support BDS, sends the opposite signal; conveying that you actually support Israeli oppression and oppose those who have the courage to stand up against it.”

IJV is a minority among Canadian Jewish organizations. But other Canadians, such as Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, are also firm in favoring human rights for Israelis as well as Palestinians. The movement is gaining ground in Canada and the US, especially among youth, academics, churches and human rights group. Perhaps that is why the Israeli government and its supporters smear it by calling it anti-Semitic. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to BDS in a speech to the  American-Israel Public Affairs Committee 18 times and told supporters to fight the movement.

A United Nations report said that in 2014 foreign direct investment in Israel dropped 46 percent in one year, partly because of BDS. In North America, trade unions, churches and universities are dropping investments in Israel. In Europe the movement is even more successful.

Thomas Woodley, president of CJPME, told his followers: “Join me in defiance! Sign up to be condemned by the Trudeau government. Consider it a badge of honor, like me, to be condemned for upholding human rights.

“Let’s challenge our spineless politicians to follow through on this absurd motion, and see how ridiculous they look as they condemn all Canadian ‘individuals’ for upholding human rights, and exercising their right to free expression.”

— Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan  is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge.