On August 6, 2019, the Green Party of Canada (GPC) issued a press release in which it declared its support for the Canadian Federal Court’s recent, landmark ruling that “Product of Israel” labels on wines produced in Israel’s West Bank settlements are “false, misleading and deceptive.”
The GPC press release stated (in part) that:
The Green Party of Canada applauds the Federal Court’s ruling to remove the ‘Product of Israel’ labels from wine produced in West Bank settlements… “The Green Party calls for accurate labelling so that consumers can differentiate between products of Israel and those of disputed areas,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “Canadians should be able to make purchases that reflect their beliefs and values which is why it’s vital to correctly identifying the source of a product.”
On the surface, the GPC’s expression of support is laudable. My client, Dr. David Kattenburg, regards it as a good start, and has so advised GPC leader Elizabeth May.
But there are disturbing flaws in the GPC’s statement.
The West Bank is not a “disputed” area
In the GPC’s press release, Elizabeth May refers to the West Bank as a “disputed” area.
In so doing, she has embraced the discredited terminology of apologists for Israel’s criminal project of dispossessing Palestinians.
In international law, the West Bank is not a “disputed” area. Rather, it is occupied territory.
As Ms. May – a lawyer – must know, the question of whether the West Bank is “disputed” or “occupied” is not simply a question of semantics.
The West Bank’s status as occupied territory imposes upon Israel, the occupier, onerous restrictions vis-a-vis the occupied people. These restrictions include the prohibition against the transfer of the occupier’s civilian population to the occupied territory. That prohibition is contained within Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The transfer of the occupier’s civilian population to the occupied territory constitutes a war crime.
Israel denies that the West Bank is occupied and describes it as “disputed” in order to evade criminal liability and other forms of accountability for its naked theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank
That the West Bank constitutes “occupied territory” under international law is now beyond rational dispute, as I explained to the Federal Court in Dr. Kattenburg’s brief on the illegality of Israel’s West Bank settlements:
On August 2, 2019, four days before the GPC issued its press release, the NDP issued its own statement of support for the Federal Court’s decision. In that statement, the NDP correctly characterized the West Bank as “occupied”.
The GPC’s own policy on Israel-Palestine (Palestine Policy), which Elizabeth May claimed in 2016 to support, repeatedly characterizes the West Bank as “occupied.”
The international legal consensus that the West Bank constitutes occupied territory is so broad that even the Trudeau government – which has shamefully preferred the interests of Israel’s settlement producers to those of Canadian consumers – openly acknowledges that the West Bank has the status of occupied territory in international law. The Global Affairs Canada website states:
It is thus inexcusable for Elizabeth May to adopt Israel’s specious characterization of the West Bank. By doing so, she is, in effect, facilitating Israel’s theft of Palestinian land.
The Palestine Policy calls for a complete ban on the importation of settlement products
In the GPC’s press release, there is no reference to a key plank of the Palestine Policy. That policy not only calls for accurate labelling of settlement products sold in Canada, it also calls for a complete ban on their importation:
One can hardly imagine a better opportunity than the Federal Court’s landmark decision for Elizabeth May to draw voters’ attention to this key aspect of the Palestine Policy, but she elected to say nothing about it.
Elizabeth May fails to correct her errors in the GPC press release
On August 7, Dr. Kattenburg emailed Elizabeth May and her chief of staff, Debra Eindiguer, to notify them of these two important flaws in the GPC press release of August 6. (Dr. Kattenburg is, by the way, the CEO for the GPC Electoral District Association of Winnipeg Centre – a fact that is mentioned nowhere in the GPC’s August 6 press release.)
In his August 7 email, Dr. Kattenburg wrote:
I believe the use of the term ‘disputed areas’ should be exchanged for “… and those from illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (or occupied West Bank).” The ‘disputed’ term is what Israel and its agents here in Canada use, misleadingly and inaccurately… Don’t pander to Israel’s agents
here in Canada by avoiding the term.
Secondly, this statement makes no mention (predictably) of the GPC’s membership-supported resolution (SGM P16-013) calling on the Canadian govt. to impose sanctions on Israel and its settlement enterprise, topped by a complete ban on settlement products. Elizabeth — you supported this resolution. I won’t ask why you refuse to give voice to it. I know why…
If I were the one drafting statements of this sort — which of course, I am not –they would be much more forthright and courageous. I guess this is better than remaining silent.
Hours later, Elizabeth responded to Dr. Kattenburg by email, stating:
The team put [the press release] out with huge pressures on my time on other issues. I thought they did a good job, but I did not have time to oversee the process.
In the three days that have elapsed since Dr. Kattenburg’s email exchange with Elizabeth May, the GPC has corrected neither of the defects about which Dr. Kattenburg complained.
Elizabeth May continues to mislead Canadians about the Palestine Policy
Quite apart from the two defects identified by Dr. Kattenburg in his correspondence with Elizabeth May, the GPC’s August 6 press release repeats a claim about GPC policy on Israel-Palestine that is, at a minimum, highly misleading. The claim is that “the Green Party explicitly rejects boycotting the state of Israel.”
As I explained earlier this year after Elizabeth made similar comments to Canadian Jewish News, the Palestine Policy embraces both the goals and the tactics (including boycotts) of the BDS Movement.
Thus, how can Elizabeth May claim in good conscience that the GPC “explicitly rejects boycotting the state of Israel?”
Elizabeth May cannot let go of the two-state delusion
At the conclusion of the GPC press release, Elizabeth May reiterates, yet again, the GPC’s commitment to the two-state solution:
Yet Ms. May must surely understand by now that the settlements have become so extensive (primarily due to the 50-year failure of Western governments to sanction Israel for building them) that the two-state solution is practically impossible.
In a recent speech at the PalExpo in London, England, renowned Israeli journalist Gideon Levy made precisely that point, and did so in the starkest of terms.
According to Mr. Levy (starting at 15:32 of this video), “those who speak today about the two-state solution are the greatest supporters of the occupation”:
Indeed, the time has come for all Canadians who care about Palestinian suffering to ask: are the hundreds of Canadian politicians who cling to the two-state delusion nothing but closet supporters of the occupation?
Following the publication of this article, the GPC revised its press release. The revised press release uses the term “occupied territories” and no longer employs the phrase “disputed areas.”[Original text]