On December 1, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, voted overwhelmingly to condemn the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
Motion 36, submitted by Conservative MPP Gila Martow (Thornhill), said the legislature should: “Stand firmly against any position or movement that promotes or encourages any form of hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance in any way; Recognize the longstanding, vibrant and mutually beneficial political, economic and cultural ties between Ontario and Israel, built on a foundation of shared liberal democratic values; Endorse the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism; And reject the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”
The motion passed with a vote of 49 in favour and just five opposed. The governing Liberals and the Progressive Conservative Party – the official Opposition – supported the motion while the New Democratic Party was opposed.
Almost half the members, including three-quarters of NDP members, and almost all Ottawa-area MPPs were not in the legislature at the time of the vote. The only Ottawa member present was Progressive Conservative Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton), who spoke in favour of the motion during the debate.
With the vote, the Ontario legislature follows the House of Commons, which passed a similar motion in February. Comparable motions have also been passed by the United States Congress and 16 U.S. states.
Among the criticisms of the BDS movement is that it unfairly places entire responsibility on Israel for lack of progress in resolving Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, and completely absolves Palestinians – both the Palestinian Authority, which holds power in the West Bank, and Hamas, which holds power in Gaza – of any accountability at all. This is despite the fact that the Palestinians walked away on numerous occasions from nearly completed agreements and have used every subterfuge at their disposal to avoid further negotiations – despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated invitations to sit down without preconditions and negotiate a peace agreement and Palestinian state.
And, while I don’t believe that all BDS activists are anti-Semitic, or, anti-Semitic in their intent, anti-Semitism is at the root of the BDS movement in that it unilaterally stigmatizes the world’s only Jewish state with all responsibility for the situation. This is what renowned human rights activist and former justice minister of Canada Irwin Cotler has referred to as “the new anti-Semitism” in which Israel is singled out as “the Jew among nations.”
Pro-BDS groups, though, like to paint themselves as the true human rights activists and deny there is any element of anti-Semitism in their actions or intent.
But, just two days before the BDS vote in the Ontario legislature, pro-BDS groups at Ryerson University in Toronto prevented the Ryerson Student Union from even voting on a motion put forward by Ryerson Hillel in support of Holocaust Education Week at the school.
Holocaust Education Week was not about Israel. It was about education and commemoration of the worst genocide in history – a genocide that was perpetrated just over seven decades ago, in the lifetime of many students’ grandparents, against the Jewish people. To stand against Holocaust education and commemoration is nothing but anti-Semitism.
If those pro-BDS groups were truly about human rights activism, and if they were not at all anti-Semitic, they would be among the first standing up in support of Holocaust education and commemoration – not blocking it.
As mentioned, pro-BDS groups like to paint themselves as human rights activists, or as peace groups. But, really, their entire raison d’être is to delegitimate the State of Israel. No less a figure than Norman G. Finkelstein, the former DePaul University professor who is perhaps the world’s most vocal and visible Jewish anti-Zionist, agrees. In a 2012 interview, he attacked the BDS movement, which he repeatedly referred to as a “cult,” for its “silliness, childishness, and a lot of leftist posturing,” in seeking to hide its true goal: the elimination of the State of Israel.
Although the Ontario motion rejecting BDS was put forward by an opposition member, it’s important to note the support it received from the government was unequivocal.
“I want to make this clear,” said Minister of Transport Steven Del Duca, “the Ontario provincial government does not support the BDS movement, or any other positions or movements that attempt to divide our society. Rejecting the boycott of Israel is in keeping with Ontario and Canadian tradition.”
Our legislature has done the right thing.