Last week we were looking at the turmoil in the Green Party of Canada (GPC) caused—not so much by the resolution supporting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction(BDS) effort aimed at convincing Israel to comply with UN resolutions–but by the fit that GPC leader, Elizabeth May, was throwing over not getting her way on this resolution at the GPC convention. And that was before the leader of the BC Green Party (BCGP) came totally uncorked over the BDS resolution that he had no stake in as, by his own admission, he is not even a member of the GPC. He is so upset about the democratic decisions at the GPC convention that he wants to rename the BCGP so it has no hint of a connection to the GPC. He doesn’t suggest a new name but social media was quick to pick up on “BC Liberals Lite” as the most appropriate appellation.
Before we move on to look at this BDS movement which is attempting to change the apartheid policies and actions of Israel; what it is, what it means, what it hopes to do and why it might succeed where lack luster efforts by western governments have not, I want to step aside from the Israel/Palestinian issue per se to look at a most intriguing sidebar to Elizabeth May and Andrew Weaver’s aggravations with the practice of democracy in the GPC.
It is interesting that as May attempts to browbeat the party membership into line with her demands she is also one of the stand out leaders to bring in Proportional Representation to make Canada more “democratic.” Canada –but clearly not the GPC—needs to be more democratic according to May. In the GPC single minded rule by the leader is the only RULE acceptable to May. Certainly makes me wonder about how a government based on party appointed MPs would more democratically reflect the will of the electorate than one where members reflect—first of all—the people who elect them to office. How many voices would be around speaking up for human rights in Palestine if May was in charge of hiring? Clearly she has already sacked a number of her shadow cabinet for speaking up for the democratically expressed values of GPC members. Well, she wants consensus—of course– consensus is simply the rule of the most obstinate. There is no absolute consensus that May continue as leader in the GPC but “a democratically expressed large majority” seems good enough for electing her as leader—it’s just not good enough for conforming to international law when Israel is the violator or ending the bulldozing of homes in Palestine, or for Israel when it is violating the most basic of humanitarian needs of Palestinian people. Wouldn’t it be better-way more democratic-if we chose an electoral system that enhances the need for leaders like May and Weaver to listen to and work with the democratically expressed values of their constituents? Wasn’t nine years with Harper enough for all of us to become disillusioned with electoral systems like first past the post that concentrate control in the hands of a powerful few or fill the seats in our parliament by appointed lackeys of powerful party leaders?
BDS–Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions is a non-violent international campaign based on the successful campaign of the same three pillars that was so instrumental in bringing an end to the brutal practice of apartheid in South Africa. The South Africa campaign, with its focus on direct, non-violent action was able to bring about the transition to democracy in SA without the blood bath that so many of us feared and without having to wait for governments to act for rights that are contrary to corporate interests in their own countries. While BDS detractors try to downplay the impact of BDS on the transition to democracy in SA or its similarities to the current BDS effort to nonviolently convince Israel to respect international law and human rights standards in Palestine, the current BDS effort against the Israeli occupation is modeled closely on the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa. F. W. De Klerk’s autobiography talks very clearly about the powerful influence of BDS in the decision to begin negotiation with Nelson Mandela for a peaceful transition to democracy in SA. In Canada—the only BDS campaign I was a part of—there were information pickets in front of almost all stores selling SA products. SA wine aged and aged on the liquor store shelf as very little left the shelf to face the pickets outside the liquor store. Both Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu have clearly identified the actions of Israel in Palestine as essentially the same apartheid program as oppressed the black people of SA.
It is important to note that BDS is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israeli. It is anti-Israeli policy. While those who want to forestall any action that would force Israel to recognize the humanitarian needs and human rights of Palestinians argue over and over that BDS isn’t needed, there is no basis to believe that any of the lack luster efforts of Israel’s friends like the United States will ever bring meaningful pressure to force the Israeli government to change its oppressive ways. Peace talks are a farce when all engaged know that the US will continue to fund and arm the Israeli oppression no matter what happens before, during or after “peace negotiations” that are always and simply for show. It was the same in SA until the people of the world took the reins of action and governments finally saw that they were so far outside public opinion that they need to get on board or get left behind.
BDS is the only effective tool we, as citizens have to convince our all but stone deaf governments to listen to our voices for justice and compassion recognizing that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.
While May and Weaver pretend that BDS is some off the wall, fringe effort to save a people who were dumb or unfortunate enough to get in the way of Israeli expansion, BDS is, actually, a large and growing global movement of unions, churches, grassroots movements, governments and political parties, individuals, trade and academic associations. They are having an impact.
There are, now, more than 7 million Palestinian refugees while one-fifth of Israeli citizens are Palestinians who suffer legislated racial discrimination. All Palestinians, in and out of Israel proper suffer near constant harassment. We hear almost daily about new Israeli state sanctioned encroachments on Palestinian land and homes by Israeli settlers, BDS keeps alive the dream that the stealing of land will stop and the oppression end.
A 2014 UN report notes a 46% drop in foreign direct investment in Israel can be largely attributed to BDS. It becomes harder and harder to sell Israeli export products in Europe as more and more people join the call for justice in Palestine. According to Commondreams.org, “The BDS movement is inspiring Palestinians and people of conscience across the world to speak truth to power, to challenge hegemonic, racist power structures and to assert that Palestinian rights must be respected and implemented. “
With Green Parties around the world supporting the BDS movement, it is seems that there is no necessary connection between supporting Green values and thumbing one’s nose at Social Justice. I think there is a very direct connection between caring for our Earth and caring for the people of the Earth; it is why I use the sign off “for a just, sustaining and sustainable Earth.” There is a direct/necessary connection—not a disconnection—between environmental awareness for the well-being of ourselves and the awareness that without a co-commitment to the well being of the people of the Earth, there will be no well-being for ourselves, for other people or for our Earth. Strange that Green Parties in Canada don’t get that simple truism.