The Problem with Andrew Weaver

(This op-ed originally appeared in Ricochet Media on May 8, 2017.)

When I travelled to Ottawa for the Green Party of Canada’s biannual convention in August 2016, I didn’t know much about Andrew Weaver.

I knew that Mr. Weaver was the leader of the B.C. Green Party, as well as the B.C. Greens’ only member of the provincial legislature. I knew he was a climate scientist who had done important work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I knew he had successfully sued Postmedia, Canada’s largest newspaper publisher, after a Postmedia newspaper published false and defamatory statements about Mr. Weaver’s work as a climate scientist.

Based on these facts, I had a positive opinion of Mr. Weaver. I had never spoken a critical word about him, whether privately or publicly.

At its Ottawa convention, the Green Party of Canada (GPC) adopted a human rights policy resolution that I had authored. A few months before the convention, while serving as the Justice Critic in the GPC’s shadow cabinet, I had travelled to the West Bank and had witnessed with my own eyes Israel’s brutal and suffocating occupation of Palestinian territory. I returned to Canada determined to advance a resolution calling for the application of boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, to those who profit from that occupation.

In drafting the BDS resolution, I studiously avoided reference to the most controversial aspect of the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel – namely, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. I also avoided the use of terminology which, although completely justified, might inflame the GPC’s debate over BDS, such as “war crimes”, “racism” and “apartheid”. The BDS resolution was a modest defence of Palestinian rights, and one that a party ascribing to the values of non-violence, social justice and respect for diversity should have no difficulty espousing. A large majority of those who attended the GPC’s biannual convention agreed. The BDS resolution was adopted. So strong was members’ support for the resolution that it passed over the strong objections of the GPC’s leader, Elizabeth May.

The human rights abuses that motivated me to author and advance this resolution have been documented for decades by reputable human rights organizations, including U.K.-based Amnesty International, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, and Israel-based B’Tselem. Those abuses include Israel’s settlements, which are almost universally recognized (including by the Canadian government) as a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel also engages in collective punishment, the indefinite detention without due process of peaceful dissenters, and torture, including the torture of children.

Despite Israel’s well-documented and decades-long contempt for human rights, Andrew Weaver immediately criticized the GPC for adopting the BDS resolution. Within hours of the conclusion of the GPC’s convention, the B.C. Green Party issued a press release in which Mr. Weaver was quoted as stating that the adoption of the BDS resolution “represents a significant step away from the values that define the BC Green Party. This is not a policy that I nor the B.C. Green Party support… BDS is a politically motivated movement that damages any attempt at peace in the Middle East by assigning blame to one party.”

Upon learning of Mr. Weaver’s criticism, I was reminded of the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has compared Israel’s occupation to South African apartheid: “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” I nevertheless decided that, by engaging in a dialogue with Mr. Weaver, and by sharing with him the views of Archbishop Tutu and other human rights defenders who have condemned Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, I might be able to persuade him that the BDS resolution was not a “significant step away” from the values of the B.C. Green Party, but that it was fully consonant with, and indeed mandated by, those values.

I therefore sent a private message to Mr. Weaver requesting the opportunity to discuss the BDS resolution with him. Mr. Weaver responded to my invitation by refusing to speak to me and by condemning the BDS resolution as “discriminatory”.

In light of Mr. Weaver’s refusal to engage in dialogue, 24 GPC members who had sponsored and supported the BDS resolution, including 12 former GPC candidates and 3 sitting members of the GPC shadow cabinet, decided to author an op-ed responding to Mr. Weaver’s public criticism of the resolution. In our op-ed, we commended Mr. Weaver for his work as a climate scientist but argued that his criticism of the BDS resolution was “misguided.”

Mr. Weaver swiftly reacted to this op-ed with bitter attacks upon its authors. In comments to Postmedia (the giant newspaper chain that Mr. Weaver had successfully sued for defamation), he described us as “a rogue group with an agenda” and asserted that the GPC had been “hijacked by extremist fringe elements.” He warned that members of the B.C. Green Party were considering changing the party’s name to distance itself from the GPC. He also pronounced that he’d be shocked if GPC leader Elizabeth May did not take action against me and the other two members of the GPC shadow cabinet who had signed the op-ed.

On the same day that the op-ed was published, Ms. May did indeed take action against us. She demanded that we apologize to Mr. Weaver or be removed from shadow cabinet. In good conscience, I could not apologize for defending a humanitarian policy from Mr. Weaver’s misguided attacks. Ms. May therefore removed me from shadow cabinet. She also removed shadow cabinet members Lisa Barrett and Colin Griffiths, who had signed the op-ed with me.

Six months later, EKOS Research Associates, a well-respected Canadian polling firm, conducted a poll on Canadian attitudes toward Israel/Palestine. I sponsored that poll along with political commentator Murray Dobbin and two human rights organizations, Independent Jewish Voices Canada and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. The poll found that 78% of those who expressed a view believed that a Palestinian call for a boycott on Israel was reasonable. More tellingly, it found that a whopping 91% of respondents who identified themselves as supporters of the GPC felt that the Palestinian call for a boycott was reasonable. One could hardly imagine a more powerful refutation of Mr. Weaver’s claim that the GPC supporters of the BDS resolution were “extremist fringe elements.”

Mr. Weaver’s conduct during the GPC’s BDS debate raises a serious question about his commitment to progressive values. For 50 years, Israel has been stealing Palestinian land in flagrant violation of international law. In 2004, the International Court of Justice unanimously ruled, with the concurrence of a United States judge, that Israel’s settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. After decades of dispossession, the Palestinian people remain stateless. Their prospects for a viable sovereign state are more remote than ever.

In the face of such facts, it is unfathomable that an individual of Mr. Weaver’s intelligence could claim that the imposition of peaceful economic sanctions on those who are responsible for these crimes is ‘stepping away’ from the values of social justice, non-violence and respect for diversity – three of the B.C. Green Party’s six core principles. It is even more remarkable that Mr. Weaver would smear the proponents of this humanitarian policy as a “rogue group” comprised of “extremist fringe elements.”

To be fair to Mr. Weaver, when it comes to the plight of the Palestinian people, he is no worse than B.C.’s current leader. In 2014, as Israel’s military rained bombs down on 1.8 million Palestinians trapped in the densely populated and besieged enclave of Gaza – a bombardment that ultimately resulted in the massacre of 500 Palestinian children and the wounding of 3,000 more children — B.C.’s current Premier, Liberal Christy Clark, showered praise on Israel, calling it “a vibrant, culturally rich democratic nation committed to maintaining the rights of its citizens, regardless of gender or religion.” “Israel is an example not only to the region,” Clark gushed, “but the world.”

Nothing obliged Christy Clark to laud Israel even as it committed war crimes in Gaza. Indeed, in Canada, foreign policy lies within the jurisdiction of the federal government, not provincial governments. But it is equally true that nothing obliged Andrew Weaver to insert himself into a foreign policy debate within the federal Green Party, a party of which he was not even a member.

Unfortunately, Mr. Weaver’s refusal to take a stand for Palestinian human rights is far from the only reason to doubt his commitment to progressive values.

On the day that he all but demanded our dismissal from the GPC’s shadow cabinet, Mr. Weaver told the right-leaning Vancouver Sun that the B.C. Green party is “centrist” in its ideological approach. ‘Centrism’ is little more than a euphemism for the preservation of the status quo. At best, it is a call for incrementalism. As a climate scientist, however, Mr. Weaver surely understands – or ought to – that decades of political inaction now oblige us to take radical action to transform the provincial, national and global economies. The system of ruthless, crony capitalism prevailing in much of the Western world lies at the core of the climate crisis. As stated by Naomi Klein:

We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe — and would benefit the vast majority — are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.

In British Columbia, the guardians of deregulated capitalism are the incumbent Liberals. Yet Andrew Weaver is offering an economic plan that he unabashedly declares to be “much closer” to that of the Liberals than the NDP. Mr. Weaver argues his plan is superior to that of the NDP because “their economic plan is to have government retrofit its buildings with union workers. You know, that doesn’t incentivize industry. You need to send a signal to the market and let the innovation and creativity happen there in the market.” That sounds a lot like a politician who wants to distance himself from organized labour while perpetuating the myth that markets can save us from a looming climate catastrophe.

Mr. Weaver raised further concerns about his commitment to organized labour when he recently met with two members of the Greater Victoria Teachers Association (GVTA) to discuss current issues in public education. In a Facebook Post, one of those teachers wrote that Mr. Weaver complained in the meeting that the GVTA “grieves everything. That’s all you do is grieve, grieve, grieve. It’s the wrong approach. The [B.C. Teachers’ Federation] has some responsibility for this because you protect these bad teachers.” The teachers say they left the meeting “feeling shocked and surprised by the disrespectful treatment they experienced.” They added that “many British Columbians perceive the Greens as a progressive party but many of their policies are libertarian and not aligned with the values people think they represent.”

Other aspects of Andrew Weaver’s record raise serious questions about his political orientation. As Murray Dobbin recently observed:

[Andrew Weaver] supported two Liberal Party budgets. He supported the Liberals’ run-of-the-river hydro privatization that will keep hydro rates sky-high for the next two decades. He supported the idea of an oil refinery at Kitimat to refine tar sands bitumen — when most environmentalists are saying we have to keep most of it in the ground.

And just this week he came as close as possible to endorsing Clark when asked in a Global News interview which leader he would be “most comfortable” working with. Weaver would not answer but repeatedly referred to Horgan’s temper and how he would have to control it if Weaver was to work with him. And then he praised Clark: “[Y]ou can have a respectful disagreement in a one-on-one conversation and it’s not personal.”

Both the B.C. Greens and the NDP oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, whereas the B.C. Liberals support it. Both the B.C. Greens and the NDP support a proportional representation electoral system, whereas the B.C. Liberals have no interest in abandoning a first-past-the-post electoral system that has been very generous to them. Both the B.C. Greens and the NDP want to prohibit corporate political donations, whereas the B.C. Liberals are awash in corporate money.

As the May 9 election day approaches, polls indicate that the B.C. NDP has a slight lead on the Liberals, with both parties hovering near 40%. Mr. Weaver’s Greens are a distant third at around 18%. Thus, there is no realistic prospect of Mr. Weaver’s Greens winning this election, but his Greens might influence whether the Liberals are returned to power or are replaced –mercifully – by the NDP.

As B.C. voters head to the polls, they would do well to ask: what matters more to Andrew Weaver – John Horgan’s manners, or Christy Clark’s slavish devotion to big business?

Does Canada have a Foreign Policy that is Independent of U.S. Foreign Policy?

On April 4, just before Trump’s attack on the Syrian government, I interviewed Yves Engler for the Real News. The question which Yves and I discussed was whether Canada truly has an independent foreign policy. As Yves explains in this interview, there are few if any material differences between Canadian and U.S. foreign policy on the key foreign policy issues confronting the Canadian government. Sure enough, within days of this interview, the Trudeau government expressed unqualified support for Trump’s attack on the Syrian government. Trudeau declared his support for Trump’s attack despite the facts that Trump has demonstrated utter contempt for human rights, and Trudeau had just acknowledged that it was not yet known who had committed the gas attack in Syria. It therefore appears that Trudeau will continue Canada’s inglorious tradition of reflexive and unqualified support for U.S. foreign policy. With a man like Trump in the White House, this should be deeply worrying to all Canadians.

My interview of Yves can be seen here:

http://therealnews.com/t2/story:18815:Does-Canada-Have-a-Foreign-Policy-Independent-of-the-US%3F

After a B.C. Court Refuses to Quash UBC’s BDS Referendum, B’Nai Brith and its CEO Resort to Desperate Measures

Today, B’Nai Brith Canada published yet another hit-piece on advocates for Palestinian rights. This time, B’Nai Brith’s targets were student activists at UBC who have brought forward a referendum on BDS.

B’Nai Brith published its hit piece the day before voting begins on UBC’s BDS referendum. The timing, of course, is not coincidental. Indeed, B’Nai Brith’s modus operandi is ambush by slander.

The ambush comes hot on the heels of an extraordinary attempt by an anti-BDS student to persuade a B.C. Court to prohibit UBC’s Alma Mater Society from conducting the referendum. That attempt failed  just days ago. Now that the B.C. Court has rightly rejected attempts to suppress the democratic rights of UBC students, B’Nai Brith and its CEO Michael Mostyn have resorted to the most desperate of measures.

Entitled “Hamas-Linked Slogans Promoted at UBC Anti-Israel Event,” the article’s central claim is that, at a March 17 event called “A Night with Palestine” hosted by the UBC chapter of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), SPHR sold scarves with the Arabic slogan “Jerusalem is ours – We are coming!” According to B’Nai Brith, the slogan is “affiliated” with Hamas. The article also quotes Mostyn (pictured above) as stating that “The promotion of anything associated with Hamas by a student group is unacceptable.”

What exactly do B’Nai Brith and Mostyn mean by the claim that the slogan is “affiliated” and “associated” with Hamas? That is unclear. B’Nai Brith writes that “The slogan attracted global notoriety in 2014 when Malik Obama, former U.S. President Barack Obama’s half-brother, was pictured wearing a scarf with the same slogan while embracing representatives of the Hamas terrorist group.” Thus, their claim that the slogan is “affliated” and “associated” with Hamas appears to mean nothing more than: Hamas officials and persons sympathetic to Hamas have used the slogan.

So what? Hamas officials have long asserted that Israel’s settlements violate international law. The mere fact that Hamas officials have made this assertion does not mean that the assertion is false or offensive. On the contrary, virtually the entire international community, including Canada’s own government, agrees with Hamas’s position that Israel’s settlements violate international law.

What about sovereignty over Jerusalem? After the Second World War, the State of Israel was established and gradually recognized by most of the world’s countries. Although the U.N. recognized the state of Israel in 1949, it placed the whole city of Jerusalem under international control (a ‘corpus separatum’). That is why most embassies in Israel are located in Tel Aviv and not in Jerusalem despite the fact that Israel declared long ago that Jerusalem is its capital.

Importantly, Israel has gone well beyond declaring Jerusalem to be its capital. Following the 1967 war, Israel declared that Israeli law would be applied to East Jerusalem and enlarged its eastern boundaries, approximately doubling Jerusalem’s size. The vast majority of states deemed the action unlawful and refused to recognize it. In addition, the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly described the action as an annexation in violation of the rights of the Palestinian population.

Thirteen years later, Israel passed a law declaring that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”.  That law too was declared null and void by the Security Council in Resolution 478 and by the U.N. General assembly in numerous resolutions.

Following the Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 478, successive Israeli governments continued to assert Israel’s dominion over all of Jerusalem. Moreover, they did so using language that is strikingly similar to the “Hamas-affiliated” slogan. In 2005, for example, Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, declared “Jerusalem is ours for eternity and will never pass into foreign hands,” Four years later, Israel’s current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crowed “Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided.” In 2012, Netanyahu went so far as to pour scorn on international condemnation of Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, proclaiming “I don’t care what the U.N. says.”

Not only has Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem, but it continues to build settlements there in brazen violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The international community has repeatedly condemned those settlements. Its most recent condemnation was issued only four months ago, when the U.N. Security Council adopted, by a vote of 14-0, a resolution reaffirming that “the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

Thus, Israel’s government has gone far further than Hamas in laying claim to Jerusalem: the Israeli government not only claims dominion over all of Jerusalem, but it in fact exercises dominion over all of Jerusalem, has illegally annexed East Jerusalem, and continues to build settlements in East Jerusalem in “flagrant violation” of international law.

Israel’s crimes in Jerusalem do not appear to bother B’Nai Brith Canada in the slightest. But B’Nai Brith would have us believe that the sale of scarves bearing the slogan “Jerusalem is ours – we are coming” is an outrage of unspeakable proportions.

You can’t make this stuff up.

 

 

27 Former Attorneys of Wall Street Law Firm Sullivan & Cromwell Call on Trump’s Nominee for SEC Chair to Denounce Trump’s Travel Ban

I have joined 26 other former attorneys of Sullivan & Cromwell in signing an open letter to Jay Clayton, a Sullivan & Cromwell partner who has been named by Donald Trump to head the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In our letter, we call upon Mr. Clayton to speak out against Donald Trump’s travel ban. The full text of our letter is set forth below.

A NY Times article discussing our open letter can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/business/dealbook/sec-nominee-travel-ban-trump-jay-clayton.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share.

[Open Letter of March 16, 2017]

Dear Jay,

We the undersigned are former attorneys of Sullivan & Cromwell. As your colleagues in the legal profession and your former colleagues at the firm, we congratulate you on your recent nomination by President Donald J. Trump to the position of Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Not all of us have worked directly with you. But by observation and reputation each one of us regards you as a person of professionalism and integrity and as a leader of the firm, our profession and our community.

We write to ask you, as a leader of the firm, our profession and our community, to speak out against President Trump’s Executive Order 13769 of January 27, 2017 and subsequent Executive Order 13780 of March 6, 2017—both entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”—and the actions of the current administration relating to the Executive Orders.

We are certain that you are familiar with the recent actions and statements of the President, and the administration you have been asked to serve, regarding individuals of the Islamic faith and regarding the entry into the United States of refugees and immigrants.

We have observed these actions and statements with growing alarm.

On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13769, which, among other things, suspended for 90 days the entry into the United States of citizens of the Muslim-majority countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya; suspended all United States refugee admissions for 120 days; and suspended indefinitely the entry of all Syrian nationals as refugees.

We are aware, as you must be, of the disturbing reports and allegations regarding the implementation of Executive Order 13769 by officials of this administration. Those reports and allegations include: that such officials have detained individuals to whom the United States has already granted legal permanent residency; that they have pressured holders of lawfully issued U.S. visas to waive their rights under those visas and leave this
country under threat of deportation; that they have barred detainees from speaking with legal counsel; and that they have acted in contempt of federal court orders to desist.

We hope you understand that we oppose any such actions and the harm they threaten to inflict on countless individuals and their families, and the moral standing and security of the United States.

On March 6, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13780, to take effect March 16, 2017, superseding Executive Order 13769 and modifying its terms in response to judicial scrutiny and public criticism. Among other things, the March 6 Executive Order exempts U.S. legal permanent residents and individuals holding valid visas on the effective date of the Executive Order (Sections 3(a), 3(b)), and no longer suspends entry to the United States by Iraqi nationals (Sections 1(g), 2(c)).

Executive Order 13780 again suspends for 90 days the entry to the United States of any citizen of Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia or Libya who is not covered by an exemption or a discretionary waiver by U.S. officials, and states that these individuals “present heightened risks to the security of the United States” (Sections 1(e), 2(c)). The revised Executive Order also reinstates the President’s suspension of refugee admissions for
120 days (Section 6(a)).

We cannot predict either the further modifications that may be made to the
Executive Order, or the course of the ongoing litigation relating thereto. We have noted, however, the administration’s statements that the revised Executive Order does not reflect any change in the intentions or the policy of this administration. We believe that despite any such modifications, the revised Executive Order will continue to cause needless confusion,
suffering and fear.

Among those directly affected by the Executive Orders are members of the
legal profession seeking to join U.S.-based firms such as Sullivan & Cromwell. Thanks to the uncertainty created by the Executive Orders, for example, law graduates who have earned and accepted offers of employment at U.S. firms now fear they will be unable to practice in the
United States, merely because they are citizens of countries identified in the Executive Orders. Signatories to this letter already know of students who have been so affected.

We believe the issues surrounding the Executive Orders to be of such importance that all of President Trump’s nominees to serve this administration should be asked, during the confirmation process, to state for the record whether they support or oppose the Executive Order, either in its original or revised form; whether they agree with the actions that have been taken to implement the Executive Orders; and whether they accept or reject this administration’s ongoing efforts to ban refugees and Muslims—including many of our colleagues in the legal profession and, in all likelihood, some of your past, present and future colleagues at the firm—from entering the United States. We intend to call on our congressional representatives to demand as much.

When the time comes to record your own position, we ask that you honor the values of our profession, our community and our country by unequivocally opposing the Executive Orders and the unlawful, cruel and shameful actions of this administration.

We have no doubt that as Chairman of the SEC you will fulfill your
responsibilities with integrity and in keeping with those values. We trust that, in carrying out those responsibilities, you will continue to oppose unlawful actions and abuse of power by this administration, as we are asking you to do now.

By refusing to remain silent on this matter, you will join us and the many others in our community who have stood, and will continue to stand, in defense of those targeted at the order of the President you are about to serve—in the courts, in the streets, in airport terminals in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere. We believe that our present circumstances demand no less.

Very truly yours,

Mohammad Fadel
S&C 2001-2005

Chiansan Ma
S&C 2011-2016

Amma Anaman
S&C 2012-2015

M. Shams Billah
S&C 2011-2015

Peter Chang
S&C 2010-2014

Randall Clark
S&C 2010-2012

Julie Bellware Crampton
S&C 2012-2016

Ahmed el-Gaili
S&C 2003-2009

Moshe Fessel
S&C 2001-2008

Connie Lam
S&C 2013-2016

Dimitri Lascaris
S&C 1990-1995

Marine Le Quillec
S&C 2013-2015

Sung-Jin Lee
S&C 2010-2015

Nicholas Melling
S&C 2012-2013

Kamil Robakiewicz
S&C 2012-2014

Damien G. Scott
S&C 2009-2013

Maureen Sheehan
S&C 1998-2004

Kai Sheffield
S&C 2012-2017

Jorge Solís
S&C 2010-2015

Danielle Stampley
S&C 2010-2012

Heather Stevenson
S&C 2011-2014

Nisha Vora
S&C 2012-2014

Benjamin J. Wolfert
S&C 2012-2014

Vic Xu
S&C 2015-2016

Kashif Zaman
S&C 2001-2005

Elise Zealand
S&C 2000-2003

Daniel Zharkovsky
S&C 2011-2014

Standing Up For Human Decency

[A slightly modified version of this op-ed first appeared in The Gazette, the student newspaper at Western University in London, Ontario.]

In June 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel began its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Less than six months later, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 242. Resolution 242 invoked the foundational international legal principle of the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and called for “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

Almost 50 years later, the occupation grinds on. Most Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have spent their entire lives under the jackboot of Israeli military oppression.

Not only has Israel’s brutal occupation endured for half a century, but throughout that time, Israel has forcibly confiscated more and more occupied territory to make way for Jewish-only settlements. In 2004, the International Court of Justice unanimously ruled (with the concurrence of the United States judge) that Israel’s settlements violate article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 49 states “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”

The international community has repeatedly condemned Israel’s settlements. The most recent example is U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted in December 2016 by a vote of 14-0. Resolution 2334 “reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.” Consistently with Resolution 2334, Canada’s government acknowledges on its Global Affairs website that the settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and constitute a “serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

On February 6, 2017, Israel’s Knesset responded to Security Council Resolution 2334 with an act of supreme chutzpah: it passed a ‘Settlement Regulation’ Law which purported to legalize retroactively dozens of wildcat settlements.

Israel’s violations of international law are by no means limited to its ever-expanding settlements and its endless occupation. Internationally renowned human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, have long documented Israel’s torture – including the torture of children, its use of collective punishment (another violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention), its indefinite detention without due process of peaceful Palestinian dissenters, and its ‘extrajudicial assassinations’ (a euphemism for murder).

How has Israel gotten away with these crimes for so long? The answer is simple enough: a law that is never enforced is a dead letter. Although the international community has repeatedly condemned Israel’s human rights abuses, Western governments have shielded Israel from any meaningful sanctions, and have accorded to it a privileged status. Indeed, in 2016, the Obama administration granted Israel, a wealthy state possessing the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, the largest military aid package in United States history.

In response to Israeli impunity during decades of lawlessness, over 170 Palestinian citizens’ organizations have called for the use of boycott, divestment and sanctions, or “BDS”. The BDS movement is a peaceful, anti-racist movement modelled on the boycott movement that helped to bring an end to South African apartheid. Yet Western governments, anxious to perpetuate Israel’s impunity, have sought to demonize the BDS movement. Recently, Conservative and Liberal MPs and MPPs voted to condemn the BDS movement in Canada’s Parliament and Ontario’s legislature.

But Canadians aren’t buying it. This year, a new poll conducted by EKOS Research Associates shows that 78% of those who expressed an opinion believe that a boycott is a reasonable measure to ensure Israel’s respect for international law. Sixty-six percent of those who expressed an opinion said that Canadian government sanctions on Israel would also be a reasonable deterrence measure. The EKOS poll showed that most Canadians oppose Parliament’s condemnation of the boycott movement, while only 26% support it.

It is in this context that students of King’s College have brought forward a resolution supportive of the boycott campaign. King’s students will vote on that resolution on March 13 and 14. In advance of the vote, Israel’s apologists on Western’s campus have sought to misrepresent the nature of the BDS movement. They falsely conflate the state of Israel with all Jews, and assert that boycotting companies that are complicit in violations of Palestinian human rights is tantamount to persecution of the Jewish people.

But this claim conveniently ignores that that the boycott movement does not target the Jewish people, and never has. On the contrary, it targets – peacefully – human rights violators. Indeed, the BDS movement is supported by many Jewish intellectuals, and by rapidly growing Jewish organizations that advocate for Palestinian rights, including Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, and Jewish Voice for Peace. More and more, members of the Jewish community declare that the government of Israel does not speak for them, and that its inhumane oppression of the Palestinian people is an affront to Jewish values.

Indeed, Israel’s regime of occupation and dispossession is an affront to our most basic sense of human decency. By supporting a boycott of those who profit from that regime, the students of King’s would do nothing more – and nothing less – than stand up for human decency.

EKOS Poll Part 2: The vast majority of Canadians are receptive to sanctions and boycotts on Israel

NEWS RELEASE
March 1, 2017

A second batch of results from an EKOS survey of Canadians’ attitudes towards Israel reveals a dramatic schism between Canadian government policy and Canadians’ deep concerns about Israel’s violations of international law. The first release on February 16th revealed Canadians’ mostly negative opinion of the Israeli government and their feeling that Canada’s government was pro-Israel. This release reveals overwhelming acceptance of sanctions and boycotts as “reasonable” means to pressure Israel to adhere to international law.

For example, 91% believe that sanctions are a reasonable way to censure countries violating human rights and international law. That number drops to 66% when respondents were asked whether “government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable.”

“The number of respondents who support sanctions drops when talk turns to Israel, but that number is heavily skewed by Conservative supporters, 70% of whom reject sanctions on Israel,” said Diana Ralph of Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV). Receptiveness to sanctions on Israel from supporters of other parties ranged from 75% for Liberals to 94% for the Bloc Quebecois. Eighty-four percent of NDP respondents regarded sanctions on Israel as reasonable.

Similar openness to the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel was revealed in the survey. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed believe the Palestinians’ call for a boycott is “reasonable.”  Again, Conservative supporters expressed radically different views from respondents of other parties: 51% rejected a boycott.  Supporters of other parties who were receptive to the Palestinian call for a boycott ranged from 88% for Liberals to 94% for the Bloc Quebecois.

“These results are particularly stunning in light of the vilification of those calling for sanctions and boycotts by leaders of both the Conservative and Liberal parties,” said Tom Woodley of CJPME. “While calls for boycotts and sanctions have been denounced as ‘the new anti-Semitism,’ two thirds of Canadians apparently disagree; 66% of respondents were receptive to sanctions and 78% to boycotts.” Results from the earlier survey release cast serious doubts about acceptance of the notion of a ‘new anti-Semitism’: 91% of respondents rejected the notion that criticism of Israel was necessarily anti-Semitic.

In February, 2016, the House of Commons passed a resolution condemning those who support sanctions and boycotts against Israel. When asked whether or not they support this condemnation, 53% of survey respondents said no and 26% answered yes. Almost twice as many Conservative supporters answered yes but a significant number – 33% – said no.

Former Green Party Justice critic Dimitri Lascaris highlighted the enormous gap between the Trudeau government’s blanket support for the Israeli government and the very critical position of a strong majority of Canadians. “Since taking office in late 2015, the Trudeau government has voted against United Nations resolutions that were critical of Israel on over twenty-five occasions. It has never voted in favour of a U.N. resolution that is critical of Israel, putting Canada at odds with all but the US, Israel and four tiny island states.”

The survey, conducted in the last week of January and early February, was co-sponsored by a coalition consisting of Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), Dimitri Lascaris and political commentator Murray Dobbin.

A detailed report on the second batch of the EKOS survey results can be viewed here: http://www.cjpme.org/survey.