BDS

Trudeau’s shameful BDS stand gives carte blanche to Israel

Here’s a Middle East multiple choice question for you (warning: one of these will get you condemned by the government of Justin Trudeau).

Would you rather that the Palestinian people 1) once again take up armed struggle in order to end Israeli occupation of their land or 2) pursue a non-violent strategy of Boycott, Divestiture and Sanctions (BDS) until such time as Israel recognizes the rights of the Palestinian people?

Advocating a return to the use of violence against Israel may or may not get you condemned by the prime minister. But it is definitely not OK to advocate for the non-violent BDS campaign. This was made clear by the government’s support of a Conservative resolution opposing the campaign “which promotes the demonization and de-legitimization of the State of Israel,” and called upon the government “to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

This is a sickening violation of Canadians’ basic rights enshrined by Justin’s father 35 years ago. As the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair (who once described himself as an “ardent supporter of Israel”) said, the resolution “makes it a thought crime to express an opinion.” The NDP and the Bloc, joined by three Liberals, voted against the resolution.

Lockstep with the Israel lobby

That the Liberal government is so in alignment with Israel lobby groups raises a number of questions: Just who actually makes Canadian policy towards Israel? Did Trudeau think this through at all – such as, is this in Canada’s interests? But perhaps more to the point, is it even in Israel’s interests? Does the Trudeau government have some brilliant ideas about how to get Israel to the bargaining table? Or does it believe the current situation doesn’t need resolving? It smacks of political cowardice. It’s as if Stephen Harper still rules the day on this critical foreign policy issue. Indeed the resolution reflects Harper’s declaration that criticism of Israel’s government is the “new anti-Semitism.”

We are left to wonder whether the Trudeau government can imagine any action by Israel that would cause it to “condemn” its government rather than its critics. And to wonder whether it seeks to further polarize the region or help cooler heads prevail. Giving carte blanche to the actions of Israel’s increasingly extremist government simply reinforces its determination to never negotiate and to keep pushing the envelope, whether it’s building new settlements or slaughtering civilians in Gaza. Against that prospect, how many parliamentarians have even the slightest clue what the Palestinians are seeking through the BDS campaign? Do they know its origins?

As stated by movement leaders, Israel must:

End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the Wall; Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
This latter demand is hotly rejected by Israel even though Jews from literally anywhere in the world have, through the 1950 Law of Return (to Israel and now the occupied territories) the same right.

The roots of BDS

The BDS campaign (which boycotts only goods made in the occupied territory) was inspired by the successful boycott and sanctions campaign that finally brought an end to South African apartheid – a campaign, incidentally, given a major boost by none other than then prime minister Brian Mulroney. The BDS campaign was launched in 2005 by 170 Palestinian civil society groups representing virtually every sector of Palestinian society “including all political parties, unions, refugee networks, NGOs, and organizations representing Palestinians living under occupation, in Israel, and in exile.” The decision was rooted firmly in a commitment to non-violence and in international law regarding the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.

Israel’s occupation is routinely compared to apartheid by Israelis – and not just critics of the government. Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s attorney general from 1993 to 1996, wrote:

We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories …. We developed two judicial systems: one – progressive, liberal in Israel. The other – cruel, injurious in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture.

Other senior Israeli political figures agreed. Shulamit Aloni, education minister under Yitzhak Rabin, and former prime minister Ehud Barak both made the comparison. Ehud Olmert, another former PM, declared: “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights…the State of Israel is finished.” With the two-state solution on life-support – and no pressure on Israel from the West to revive it – the situation so feared by Olmert is arguably already here.

In fact, the BDS campaign may be Israel’s best hope to avoid Ehud Olmert’s nightmare. Perhaps that is why Israel’s extremist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so determined to fight BDS. In a 2014 speech to the powerful pro-Israeli U.S. lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he referred to the BDS campaign 18 times, calling on American Zionists to “fight back” against BDS advocates.

Waning support for Israel

The BDS campaign might not worry Netanyahu so much if it weren’t for the fact that Israel now ranks near the bottom of the pile when it comes to world opinion. A BBC poll in 2013 interviewed more than 26,000 people in 25 countries and found only 21 per cent of participants had a positive view of Israel, while 52 per cent viewed the country unfavourably. Only Iran, Pakistan and North Korea fared worse. In just the last year, the percentage of Americans viewing Israel favourably dropped dramatically from 70 per cent to 59 per cent while positive attitudes towards Palestinians jumped from 17 per cent to 24 per cent.

Justin Trudeau and his government could not be more mistaken if they believe they are doing Israel a favour by supporting the repugnant Conservative thought crime resolution. Every time a Western government turns a blind eye to Israeli apartheid it reinforces that system by signalling to Netanyahu that he can do whatever he pleases.

By steadfastly denying the apartheid reality in Israel, successive Canadian governments in fact betray the long-term of interests of that country – not to mention, of course, those of millions of Palestinians.

Trudeau Government to Condemn the BDS Movement

The Canadian Parliament is on course to “condemn any and all attempts” by Canadian groups to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The motion to condemn BDS was put forward by the Conservatives, but on Thursday the Liberal majority government announced it would vote in favour. The NDP says the motion is an attack on freedom of expression and is opposing it.

BDS, which calls for an economic boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, has become a major issue on university campuses. Its proponents include the United Church of Canada and a Quebec labour union.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who seconded the motion, described BDS as a movement that stifles academic freedom and opposes Israel’s right to exist.

“The BDS movement brings physical intimidation and a spirit of demonization into the Canadian discourse of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” she said.

“This is not Canadian, and thus I condemn it.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion accused the Conservatives of being divisive and reducing the debate to black-and-white terms.

But he revealed the Liberals will support the motion regardless, because they view the BDS movement as harmful and ineffective.

“The world will win nothing for boycotting Israel,” said Dion.

With both the Liberals and Conservatives onboard, the motion will easily pass when it goes to a vote either later today or next week.

The NDP lashed out at the other two parties for not supporting freedom of belief. They said the motion is designed to muzzle people who hold contrary opinions.

“What kind of world are we living in here in Canada where we’re starting to attack the fundamental right to disagree,” said NDP MP Hélène Laverdière.

Green Party MP Elizabeth May is also opposing the motion.

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/paulmcleod/the-canadian-parliament-is-going-to-condemn-the-bds-movement?bftwcanada&utm_term=.afjlz0xnx#.nw6ezv7N7

Image Source: http://canadatalksisraelpalestine.ca/2015/03/16/trudeau-joins-harper-blaney-in-condemning-bds/

 

Conservatives Pushing to Criminalize Israeli Boycott

From People’s Voice

The Harper government is signalling its intent to crack down against the movement for Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. But it remains to be seen whether criminal penalties will be imposed against BDS activists before the October 19 federal election.

This controversy has been building up for several years, as the Conservatives make Canada the most vocal international supporter for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. PM Harper and his cabinet ministers have become increasingly shrill in their backing for the policies of the Netanyahu government. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is moving in the opposite direction, in support of full Palestinian statehood, and recognizing that Israel’s racist policies resemble the apartheid system created by the minority white South African regime which held power until 1993. Last month, 16 European foreign ministers denounced the “expansion of Israeli illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories,” demanding that any imported goods originating in the settlements be distinctly labelled.

Here in Canada, there is rising support for the Palestinian cause, particularly in the wake of Israel’s bloody military assaults against Gaza, the growth of settler communities on expropriated Palestinian areas, and the “apartheid wall” which slices the shrinking Palestinian areas of the West Bank into ever tinier, unsustainable chunks.

The Harper Tories have condemned public opposition to these racist policies as “hate speech.” The Conservatives and their allies (and many leading Liberals and NDPers) have spoken out strongly against campus events to mark the annual Anti-Israeli Apartheid week, and in particular against the BDS campaign which was begun in 2006 at the request of Palestinian non-governmental organizations.

(more…)

Partners in Apartheid: Boycott Indigo Books and Music

Branches of Indigo Books and Music and its subsidiaries Chapters, Coles, SmithBooks, and IndigoSpirit are a familiar site to Canadians from coast to coast, thanks to the company’s monopoly control of retail-bookstore sales in Canada. But behind the inviting facade of each store there lies a terrible reality – the murder of Palestinians.

Heather Reisman, the founder and CEO of Indigo Books and Music, and her husband, Gerry Schwartz, the co-founder of Onex Corporation, are among the most rabidly pro-Zionist capitalists in Canada. With a combined net worth between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion they donate millions of dollars to support Israeli soldiers in their occupation of Palestine through the Heseg Foundation, an organization they founded that provides scholarships and other support to foreign-born soldiers that serve in the Israeli military and participate in the oppression of the Palestinian people. The Heseg organization handed out over a hundred thousands dollars worth of rewards to Israeli soldiers that participated in the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza.

28 December: Palestinians gather in the crater left by an Israeli missile strike on a building used by Hamas in Gaza City - Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP - The Guardian

28 December: Palestinians gather in the crater left by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City – Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP – The Guardian

The assault, which had nothing to do with ending rocket fire, an act of resistance legal under international law when a nation is occupied, but to murder Palestinians and to weaken the democratically elected Hamas into submission, killed 200 Palestinians in a single day, and killed more than 1, 400 Palestinians, including 400 children, in total. Reisman and Schwartz are close to several powerful Israeli military leaders and war criminals. “On the Heseg board are army and air force chiefs of staff, the head of Israeli intelligence (Mossad), and Maj General Doren Almog who has been charged with war crimes by Britain for his role in bombing civilians.”

During Israel’s genocidal war on the people of Lebanon in 2006, a war that killed thousands of Lebanese civilians and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, Reisman and her husband, in a highly publicized spectacle, switched from supporting the Liberals to supporting the Harper neo-conservatives due to Harper’s support for Israel. Kate Gilmore, speaking for Amnesty International, dismissed claims that Israel tried to avoid civilian casualties: “Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of power and water plants, as well as the transport infrastructure vital for food and other humanitarian relief, was deliberate and an integral part of a military strategy,” she told the press.

Destruction in Beirut, Lebanon, August 2006. Marco Di Lauro/http://www.marcodilauro.com/

Destruction in Beirut, Lebanon, August 2006. Marco Di Lauro/http://www.marcodilauro.com/

The level of destruction in Lebanon invalidates Israeli claims of ‘collateral damage’ and indicates that the war was about much more than ‘self-defense’. The Lebanese government estimated that 30, 000 houses, 900 businesses, 120 bridges, 94 roads, and 31 other vital points were destroyed in the 7, 000 Israeli airstrikes and 2, 000 naval shells launched against targets in Lebanon. The firing of over a million cluster bombs has left large swathes of southern Lebanon uninhabitable, and the extensive use of cluster bombs near the end of the war “looked suspiciously as if Israel had taken the brief opportunity before the war’s end to make south Lebanon – the heartland of both the country’s Shi’ite population and its militia, Hezbollah – uninhabitable, and to prevent the return of hundreds of thousands of Shi’ites who had fled Israel’s earlier bombing campaigns.” The use of white phosphorus shells, a chemical weapon that “causes skin to melt away from the bone and can break down”, a clear war crime committed by Israel. In total an estimated 700, 000 Lebanese were displaced and around 1, 100 murdered by Israel forces in the 34 day campaign against the people of Lebanon.

All peace loving people should support the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid’s boycott of Indigo Books and Music.