Citizen Action Monitor

Philosophy prof makes compelling moral case for Canada’s Green Party to affirm support for BDS

Anyone who opposes non-violent means of struggle against colonial injustice denies the humanity of the oppressed group.

No 1777 Posted by fw, September 14, 2016

In a recent article, BDS: A Legitimate and Moral Response to Israeli Policy, James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute wrote:

“These actions [to force a change in Israeli behavior in the occupied territories] are not only legitimate expressions of political concern, they are also a profoundly moral response to Israel’s behavior. When confronted by: Israel’s continued defiance of international law; its theft of Palestinian lands in order to construct Jewish-only settlements and roads; and its daily displays of brutality and humiliation of captive Palestinians — the desire to disassociate from and refuse to support that behavior is the right thing to do. And when confronted by an international system that has neutered itself, refusing to act decisively to put the brakes on Israeli conduct in the occupied territories, then the response of the BDS movement becomes even more supportable.”

What continues to astonish me about the debate flowing from the Green Party of Canada’s (GPC) BDS intra-party conflict is that, as far as I know, no one has raised the moral argument for a pro-BDS stand by a political party. So let me raise it here.


University of Windsor Professor of Philosophy weighs in on Green Party of Canada’s BDS conflict

Since I am not schooled on moral duty issues or the moral decision-making process, I contacted an acquaintance, Dr. Jeff Noonan, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Windsor, to get his thoughts on the issue.

I began my email to Jeff with some background information about the GPC’s BDS intra-party conflict, beginning on August 7 with the Party’s adoption of the pro-BDS resolution, through September 2 with the GPC’s summary of results of a membership survey, which showed that 44% of respondents requested a repeal of the resolution. A special meeting of the Party has been scheduled for Dec, 3-4 in Calgary to re-open the pro-BDS policy resolution adopted on August 7.

Turning to my question for Jeff, here is how I phrased it:

Jeff, in this BDS case, to an international cause, I am unclear about the extent to which moral duty should trump conventional Canadian political party decisions that are typically made for the anticipated internal benefit of the party.

In this context, my question is this — Is there a case to be made that Canada’s political parties have any moral responsibility to support the Palestinian BDS movement?

Here is Jeff’s response, exactly as he wrote it:

1/ Political parties form around specific ideologies, or interpretations of ideologies, and I do not think that they have any generic moral duty to support one policy or another, but rather to articulate a coherent policy perspective given their ideological commitments.  A party like the Conservatives, historically committed to capitalism and the sorts of international policies required to defend it, has no moral duty, as the political party it is, to support BDS, or anything else in particular, beyond what it takes to be a coherent articulation of its interests.

2/ But moral duties stem from deeper obligations than party allegiance—they follow from human vulnerabilities and the need to ensure the protection and development of life.  Hence, we can criticize particular political parties (or the policies of a party to which we belong) on the grounds that its position fails to serve the higher moral purposes of life-protection and development.

3/ In the case of BDS, it is clearly an attempt on the part of Palestinians to use non-violent means—means which have long been adopted by other national liberation struggles like the ANC in South Africa.  Anyone with a concern for a peaceful resolution of the conflict must be in favour of BDS.

4/ In the case of the Green Party, if it wants to prove its progressive bona fides it is imperative that support for BDS be affirmed.  It is very clear who the aggressors are and very clear who the obstacle to peace is:  the Israeli government.   If you support a just resolution to the problems that Canadian colonialism has caused indigenous people here, then, by analogy, consistency demands that you support a just resolution of the Palestinian demands for a state.  Anyone opposed to violent solutions but committed to a solution must logically support non-violent means.  That is what BDS is.

And let me add: anyone who opposes non-violent means of struggle against colonial injustice is, de facto, in support of colonialism, and therefore against the human rights of the group in struggle.  In effect, therefore, they deny the humanity of the oppressed group (right to self-determination).  There are no two ways about this issue.

I hope Dr. Noonan’s cogemt thoughts help to inform and elevate the discussion and get the Party to a just decision for all concerned, directly or indirectly.

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