The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has launched a campaign asking the community to contact the Green Party of Canada, and its leader, Elizabeth May, asking that resolutions endorsing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and calling on Revenue Canada to rescind the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund of Canada (JNF) be rejected at the party’s upcoming national convention, August 5 to 7, in Ottawa. www.cija.ca/green/
As CIJA points out, the two resolutions are the only foreign policy resolutions on the convention’s agenda.
Richard Clark, CIJA’s Ottawa-based assistant director of digital communications, told the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin there are “radical, anti-Israel elements that are trying to hijack the Green Party” and expressed both shock and concern at recent developments.
“BDS has proven itself over and over again to not be about peace but rather about delegitimizing the State of Israel,” said Clark. “Israel is a world leader in environmental and green technology… so why the Green Party would want to boycott Israel and all of these Israeli companies that [do so much for] the environment raises a bunch of questions.”
Clark added that since the JNF’s inception, it has planted more than 240 million trees and has established more than 1,000 parks.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May told the Bulletin that she plans to oppose both motions at the convention – despite the fact that her name is listed as a sponsor of the JNF resolution.
May has attended several JNF Negev Dinners – in Ottawa and elsewhere – and has been quoted commending the organization for its “great work” in “making the desert bloom.”
Asked why she sponsored the JNF resolution, May conceded that she sometimes is “too open to people” who approach her for resolution sponsorship. She stressed she does not support the JNF resolution and hopes that it fails.
May said that she did have some concerns about JNF’s Canada Park having been built on “occupied territory” but met with JNF Canada CEO Josh Cooper and said she’s relieved to have more information on the matter and to hear about the work JNF is doing to bring people together and make Israel greener.
May also condemned the BDS resolution and said she hopes it will also fail at the convention. However, she expressed deep concern regarding the ability to conduct meaningful dialogue on issues relating to Israel, especially about the expansion of West Bank settlements.
May said members of the Green Party are becoming increasingly frustrated about the lack of progress in the peace process and about Israel’s settlement policy.
Alex Hill, a Hillel Academy graduate and two-time candidate for the Green Party in Ottawa West-Nepean in recent Ontario provincial elections, is a sponsor of both the BDS and JNF resolutions.
Hill told the Bulletin he sponsored the BDS resolution because he sees “a lack of substantive conversation” on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“It seems to be a very skewed and one-sided discussion and there was potential for the Green Party to bring forward a different perspective on the issue,” Hill said.
“BDS, as I understand it, I don’t really support,” said Hill, who agrees the movement seeks to delegitimize the State of Israel itself. However, he does support a more proactive approach to Israeli settlement policy and is hoping that through non-violent action and meaningful dialogue, settlement expansion will cease and a lasting peace can be achieved.
“I would say that a major driving force on these issues is my identity as a practicing Jew and a member of the community and I see a lack of willingness to come to terms with some of the questionable activities within the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Hill.
CIJA reported on Friday afternoon that nearly 4,000 members of Canada’s Jewish community had already responded to the campaign in the first 48 hours and contacted May and the Green Party to express their concern about the resolutions.