Citizen Action Monitor

Canada’s Green Party in crisis, two progressive members blame Elizabeth May for aggressively opposing BDS

Question now is: Will other parties be even more resistant to popular pressure to sanction Israel over occupation of Palestinian land?

No 1759 Posted by fw, August 28, 2016

Participants at the World Social Forum earlier this month in Montreal, Canada took up the questions of tactics, organizing, and the role of political parties in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel

Below is a 6-minute embedded Real News video on BDS, shot at the World Social Forum in Montreal. Comments include: a video clip of Elizabeth May expressing certainty that most GPC members don’t support the adopted BDS policy; Scott Weinstein of Independent Jewish Voices alleging a tactical error on the part of the people and the groups behind them who introduced the BDS resolution; Green Party member Dimitri Lascaris expressing frustration with the Green’s reluctance to back progressive positions; Alex Tyrrell, leader of the Green Party of Quebec, faulting leader Elizabeth May for dividing the party; and Palestinian-American Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the BDS movement, arguing that BDS is a profound moral obligation to end complicity in an unjust system.

My transcript follows the video.


Architects and Organizers of BDS Reflect on Global Success, Fate Within Canada by The Real News Network, August 26, 2016


Narrator — At the World Social Forum earlier this month in Montreal, Canada, where progressives from around the globe gathered to discuss justice and resistance in the face of neoliberal forces, activists reflected on the progress of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, the BDS movement has made over the last ten years as it tries to place economic pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land.

BDS is having an impact of Israel’s economy

Ali Abunimah – In the last couple of years we’ve transcended the academic and cultural isolation of Israel’s regime to start to have an impact on Israel’s economy.

The “S” in BDS requires government action, and governments don’t act without grassroots pressure

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. Boycott has been incredibly successful because it’s popular, it’s civil society. Divestment is coming along. We’ve seen it in churches, again because it’s something that people are pushing through the grassroots. The “S” in BDS requires government action. We know that governments don’t act without real pressure from the grassroots.

The Green Party of Canada was the first major party to adopt BDS

Narrator – In the US, many states have sought to limit the effectiveness of the BDS movement. New York and New Jersey, for example, have recently put an end to doing state business with groups that support the movement. But at the World Social Forum, activists had gathered just days after Canada’s Green Party moved to adopt BDS into its policy platform, becoming the first major party to do so in Canadian history.

However, Green Party leader Elizabeth May has denounced her party’s adoption of a BDS resolution

The resolution to adopt hasn’t gone without condemnation. The party’s leader, Elizabeth May, denounced the decision to embrace BDS

Elizabeth May – I’m quite certain that most of our members don’t support this policy, but weren’t fully engaged in the consensus-building process we normally would have had…

The Green Party is now in crisis

Scott Weinstein, Independent Jewish Voices – You know, politically we won. But tactically and strategically we might have been ahead of ourselves. And now the Green Party’s in crisis.

Narrator – Scott W Weinstein, Independent Jewish Voices in Montreal has worked with a number of groups to get them to adopt BDS. But he fears efforts to force the measure onto the Green Party platform may have been premature.

Weinstein faults the people behind the BDS resolution for making a tactical mistake

Weinstein — …because generally speaking when we work with organizations in one capacity or another to approve BDS as a tactic. We do a lot of education for a year or so with their membership and all that, so that by the time they take the vote, they really know what they’re voting on. We did not do that with the Green Party. And I think that was a tactical mistake on the part of the people and the groups behind them who introduced the resolution…

Green members Lascaris and Tyrrell blame the leadership for not supporting the passage of the resolution

Narrator – But others blame the leadership unequivocally for not adopting the measure that they feel is overdue on the left in Canada.

Dimitri Lascaris – Polls have shown that some 16-17 percent of Canadians sympathize with the Palestinian people. Roughly an equal number – this is from a poll in 2014 — sympathize with Israel, and the rest don’t declare themselves to be more sympathetic with one side or the other. And this was before the war on Gaza in 2014 when 551 Palestinian children were killed.

Lascaris is frustrated with the Green’s reluctance to back progressive positions

Narrator – Dimitri Lascaris, a Green Party justice critic and board member of The Real News Network is among a group of Green Party officials who have grown frustrated with the Green Party and its reluctance to fully embrace progressive positions.

Lascaris – In our parliament, there is no voice for the millions of Canadians who care deeply about the plight of the Palestinian people.

Narrator – Alex Tyrrell, leader of the Green Party of Quebec, is also disappointed with the stance Elizabeth May has taken and says the disagreement reflects a larger schism with the party.

Tyrrell blames May for dividing the party

Alex Tyrrell – There’s definitely a certain amount of divide in the Green Party of Canada right now. And I think that the person that’s really pushing this divide is the leader of the party. I’ve faced a lot of opposition for being a socialist within the green movement especially from the Green Party of Canada. The thing about the Green Party of Canada is that the membership is actually far more progressive that the leadership. And we saw that when all these people supported BDS even though the leader had been speaking at the microphone quite aggressively against the resolution. So there’s definitely connections to be made between the way that the eco-socialist Green Party of Quebec has been marginalized and the way that the people who support BDS are now being marginalized.

Can Canada and other countries sustain pressure on their governments to achieve victory for BDS?

Narrator – The question now for Canada, along with many other countries around the world is can that pressure be sustained to the point of victory for the BDS movement. In the end, the BDS movement, which is ten years old now, has gained momentum, as some of the largest pension funds, for example, have started to pull out their investments from Israeli and international organizations involved in the occupation.

Government efforts to crush BDS reflects pro-Israeli fear of the power of the movement

Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of BDS movement along with Palestinian-American journalist, Ali Abunimah says that recent efforts on the part of many governments to crush BDS is a reflection of just how potent the movement has become.

We have a profound moral obligation to end complicity in an unjust system

Abunimah – As Martin Luther King Jr. said, at the basic level boycotting is withdrawing support from an evil system. Think about that. That is not heroic. That is not charitable. It’s a profound moral obligation to end complicity in an unjust system.

The more popular pressure we apply, the more we can demand of our governments

But I think it will be an outgrowth of popular pressure. Governments respond to that. They don’t give anything away for free. For example, the European Union requiring labelling of settlement goods, it’s a very minimal step, but it only came because of pressure. So the more that pressure is, the more we can demand of governments, the more they’ll have to give.

There is growing public pressure for an arms embargo against governments that supply arms to Israel

The key demand from governments really is to end the arms trade with Israel because it’s that arms trade that permits Israel to steal Palestinian land, to build settlements, to besiege and bombard Gaza. So that’s one of the key ways government’s complicit and we’re seeing a lot of pressure for an arms embargo.


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