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Liberals are set to vote for motion against BDS - What happened to free speech?

The Tory motion in Parliament should be defeated!

by Judy Haiven

This is not a good sign.(photo credit  ipolitics)
This is not a good sign.(photo credit ipolitics)

As a Canadian I ought to be glad – glad that the Tory motion which comes before Parliament on Monday calls merely for the “rejection” of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. It could be worse, it could be that Canada’s Parliament would try to criminalize BDS supporters– as they do in France, or penalize them as they do in Israel. In France, citizens can face jail time for calling for BDS, or boycotting Israeli products – in a public way. But a boycott is a time-honoured tradition.  It is one of the only non-violent and peaceful ways that members of civil society can use to persuade a government or a country to change its policy.

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 wine or 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. The UN even declared 2014 the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” Just a few months ago, the majority of UN member states voted to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to non-voting but official ‘observer’ status.  Those countries which voted against were Israel, the US, Canada, Micronesia and Panama.

Recently, another UN resolution denounced Israel as “the Occupying Power,” and called on Israel to “comply strictly with its obligations under international law.” 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.  Indeed in the last two years, Canada has voted against more than 20 UN General Assembly resolutions that condemn Israel for seizing illegal control over Jerusalem, and for grabbing Palestinian refugees’ property.

But as a Canadian and a Jew I am angry that the new “sunny ways” Liberal government has been held captive by the following absurd Tory motion: "That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call 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."

In their pledge to support the motion against BDS, one Liberal MP after the other has dispensed with any qualms about threats to free speech, The NDP, to their credit, takes a principled stand.  Though the NDP does not support BDS, the party does oppose the motion above because it shreds free speech. 

If the Liberals don’t respect free speech, what do they support?  Many Liberal MPs, including newly-elected Halifax MP Andy Fillmore, have gone on junkets to Israel, courtesy of CIJA (The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs).  Fillmore’s not the only one. Along with Fillmore, Tory MP Michelle Rempel (Calgary Centre-North) also just returned from an Israel junket which took place in early 2016. That’s right, at least two MPs just returned from a CIJA ‘mission’ to Israel, and the CIJA site boasts that at least one third of our MPs have been guests on one of their trips.

What’s wrong with a junket? Though CIJA claims that the funds for the junkets come from fundraising and donations with some costs borne by those participating in the ‘mission’, the fact is that these trips are offered at low cost (if any) to participants or “Canadian influencers” who have “shared values” with Israel.  According to an article in ipolitics, from 2005-2013 more than 116 MPs from all parties have benefited from free airfare and luxury accommodation in Israel courtesy of the pro-Israel lobby in Canada, including CIJA.  Ipolitics suggests that more than one quarter of Canadian MPs in the last Parliament have travelled on CIJA sponsored ‘missions’ to Israel.  And the trend, helped by CIJA’s deep pockets, shows no signs of slowing.

The Liberals should use their parliamentary majority to defeat the motion. Now is the time for our MPs to stand up for free speech– it is 2016, after all. 

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