Green Party votes to replace controversial Israel boycott policy

The Green Party voted this weekend in Calgary to continue to call for consumer boycotts, institutional divestment and other sanctions to pressure Israel over Jewish settlements in occupied territories — while issuing a statement saying it "rejects the goals of the 'BDS movement' as they do not include supporting the right of the State of Israel to exist."

Green Party 'rejects goals of BDS movement' but continues to call for economic and other sanctions

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had threatened to step down as leader after the party endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on Israel in the summer. The party voted last weekend to replace its controversial endorsement but continues to endorse a ban on products from "illegal Israeli settlements" and other sanctions. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The Green Party voted this weekend in Calgary to continue to call for consumer boycotts, institutional divestment and other sanctions to pressure Israel over Jewish settlements in occupied territories — while issuing a statement saying it "rejects the goals of the 'BDS movement' as they do not include supporting the right of the State of Israel to exist."

The Greens became the first federal party to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on Israel movement during the party's biennial convention in Ottawa in August.

The BDS movement had been condemned by the House of Commons in February and Elizabeth May herself said that she didn't support the August BDS resolution — publicly musing about whether she could continue as Green Party leader.

The August endorsement drew denouncements from some Canadian Jewish groups, while others such as Independent Jewish Voices Canada applauded the move.

The party held a special general meeting in Calgary on Dec. 3-4 to revisit the BDS endorsement, which Alberta Green Party leader Janet Keeping said had "threatened to rupture the party."

Eighty-four per cent of the Green Party members present voted to replace the BDS resolution with a compromise supported by May — an addendum to an existing policy on the two-state solution laid out in its Vision Green.

"The Green Party explicitly rejects the notion of boycotting the state of Israel," the Green Party said in a news release on its website.

"The Green Party rejects the goals of the 'BDS movement' as they do not include supporting the right of the State of Israel to exist. Many well-meaning Canadians support this movement, but on examination of its goals, it is clear that they are incompatible with Green Party policy."

However, party members voted in the addendum to continue to promote economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes to pressure Israel over settlements in occupied territories, considered illegal under international law.

The addendum is titled "Measures to pressure the government of Israel to preserve the two-state solution: addendum to current Middle East policy."

Among other points, the addendum states:

"Be it resolved that the Green Party of Canada reconfirms its policy of condemning illegal settlement construction in the OPT, and calls for an immediate end to further settlement construction and expansion, and the dismantling of current settlements in the OPT, and,

"Be it further resolved that Canada take strong diplomatic action, including economic pressure, in order to ensure the attainment of the three objectives identified in the preceding paragraph and to encourage Israel to enter into good faith negotiations with legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people for the purpose of establishing a viable, contiguous and truly sovereign Palestinian state. Such economic pressure should include, but not be limited to:

  • "A ban on the importation into Canada of products produced wholly or partly within or by illegal Israeli settlements, or by Israeli businesses directly benefiting from the illegal occupation;
  • "Renegotiation of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) such that it explicitly excludes products produced wholly or partly within or by illegal Israeli settlements, or by Israeli businesses operating within the OPT;
  • "The strengthening of CIFTA compliance/audit provisions in such ways and clauses as to ensure that imported products labeled "Made in Israel" are actually produced, entirely and exclusively, within Israel's internationally recognized borders;
  • "The termination and indefinite suspension of all military and surveillance trade and cooperation between, on the one hand, the Government of Canada and Canadian corporations or residents of Canada and, on the other hand, the State of Israel, Israeli corporations or residents of Israel's illegal settlements;
  • "The repeal the House of Commons resolution condemning the BDS movement."

"We emerged very solid, very energized," May told CBC News on Sunday after the special general meeting.

The new resolution has to be ratified by an online vote.

 Calgary Jewish Federation 'strongly condemns' new resolution

At least two Jewish federations took exception with the new resolution.

The Calgary Jewish Federation issued a statement saying it "strongly condemns" what it called the latest "anti-Israel resolution passed by the Green Party of Canada yesterday in a special meeting."

The CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) also issued a statement, calling the resolution "one-sided, biased and discriminatory."

May re-affirms willingness to go to jail to block Trans Mountain pipeline

May also said after the vote that she'll likely lead the Green Party into the next federal election.

"At this point I'd say it's very likely I'll lead the party into the 2019 election, but I'm the kind of leader who's always looking for succession planning and, if somebody emerges, I'd step aside for that person and we'd have a leadership race."

On Sunday, topics included electoral reform and the issue of pipelines — namely opposing them — which will be a major one for the Greens in the coming months and years, said May. 

"The major effort we've identified is public education across Canada," she said.

"Those of us in British Columbia realize Canadians, just as soon as you get east of the Rockies, don't even understand why we oppose pipelines. They don't see that there is an unacceptable degree of risk for British Columbia because once you take that solid stuff, bitumen, and mix it with a diluent, the sole purpose of which is to get it to flow through a pipeline, you've created a material that can't be cleaned up."

Last week, May said she would be willing to go to jail in an effort to stop Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline from being built, one of two projects approved by the federal Liberal government, the other being Line 3.

The Northern Gateway project was rejected by the Liberals. 

Re-affirming her willingness to be arrested, May said the issue is about more than just her.

"I really wish people didn't think it was a media thing, that I'm willing to go to jail," she said.

"It's the least interesting part of what I was trying to say, which is that there will be thousands of British Columbians who are prepared to conduct non-violent, civil disobedience."

Kinder Morgan hopes to start construction on the Trans Mountain project by September 2017 but May figures that could hinge on results of the provincial election happening in B.C. in the spring.

"The first hurdle they face is whether the British Columbia government will think their conditions are met," said May.

"You've got to remember the premier of British Columbia [Christy Clark] is going into an election this spring, if she wants to make sure she's not re-elected, she tells [Alberta Premier] Rachel Notley this is all OK with her, so we'll see what happens."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story had a number of errors that required correction and clarification.
    Dec 06, 2016 9:25 AM MT

With files from Andrew Brown