By Yves Engler
At next week’s New Democratic Party convention in Ottawa Palestinian rights are set to be a major flashpoint.
The NDP Socialist Caucus has submitted a resolution calling on the party to “actively campaign in support of the demand of Palestinian unions, civil society and unions across Canada and around the world which call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state until it dismantles the apartheid wall, allows refugees to return home, ends its demolition of Palestinian homes and olive groves, lifts the siege of Gaza, ends its occupation of Palestinian lands, and terminates its apartheid practices.”
A more moderate “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice” has been endorsed by two dozen riding associations. The motion mostly restates official Canadian policy, except that it calls for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”
Already the Canadian Jewish News, Electronic Intifada, National Post, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, Toronto Star, Le Devoir, Mondoweiss, Canada Talks Israel Palestine and Rabble have published stories regarding the resolutions. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has called on the party leader to “push back against marginal elements within the party” promoting Palestinian rights while the more explicitly antidemocratic Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal has “Urged NDP to Disallow Anti-Israel Resolution at Upcoming Convention”.
Unfortunately, corporate-media-focused party operatives may heed the CIJA/Wiesenthal call. Party insiders will no doubt do everything in their power to avoid discussing the Socialist Caucus BDS resolution and will probably seek to block the Palestine Resolution from being debated publicly on the convention floor. If their backroom procedural shenanigans fail to stop the resolutions from a public airing expect a great deal of concern about associating with the international BDS movement.
For NDPers scared of BDS here is an alternative resolution that places no demands on Israel:
1. The NDP will refrain from excluding electoral candidates who speak up for Palestinian rights.
(During the 2015 federal election the NDP responded to Conservative party pressure by ousting as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations to be candidates because they defended Palestinian rights on social media.)
2. NDP MPs will refrain from participating in any Israel parliamentary group until the party is represented on a Nigerian, Algerian or Spanish parliamentary group.
(Vancouver Island MPs Randall Garrison and Murray Rankin are currently members of the Canada Israel Inter-parliamentary Group.)
3. The NDP foreign critic will refuse requests to participate in all expense paid trips to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference.
(Hélène Laverdière spoke at the 2016 AIPAC conference in Washington DC.)
4. NDP MPs will participate in all expense paid lobbying trips to Israel at no greater rate than Paraguay, which is of similar size and distance from Ottawa.
5. NDP officials will abstain from attending events put on by explicitly racist organizations.
(In 2016 Hélène Laverdière participated in an event in Jerusalem organized by the openly racist Jewish National Fund while NDP MP Pat Martin spoke at a JNF event in Ottawa to “recognize and thank the people that have helped to make JNF Canada what it is today.” Owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land – which was mostly taken from Palestinians forced from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947-48 – the JNF openly discriminates against the 20% of Israelis who are not Jewish. Its website notes that “a survey commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.”)
My alternative resolution makes no demands of Israel so it’s hard to link it to the BDS bogeyman. Best of all, the party has the power to immediately implement this small gesture of support for the long-suffering Palestinians.
I will be speaking about “What’s Wrong with NDP Foreign Policy?” on the sidelines of the convention.
– Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit his website: yvesengler.com.