Dimitri Lascaris attempts to clarify what his Green Party BDS resolution does/does not mean
Does he succeed? Watch this 36-minute video of a Sept. 7 Town Hall meeting and judge for yourself.
No 1787 Posted by fw, September 28, 2016
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. —George Bernard Shaw
Just to be clear, I support the Green Party’s BDS resolution authored by Dimitri Lascaris. I just don’t think that the text itself is sufficiently clear. In my opinion, it creates confusion largely because it fails to provide explicit examples of the kinds of actions that could conceivably flow from the three clauses. For example, clause two of the resolution states: “The GPC will support such a form of BDS until such time as Israel implements a permanent ban on further settlement construction in the OPT, and enters into good faith negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian people for the purpose of establishing a viable, contiguous and truly sovereign Palestinian state.”
What’s missing are concrete examples of the BDS support actions that could conceivably contribute to “Israel’s implementation of a permanent ban on further settlement construction.” As I wrote in a related post, Rebuttal of Jeff Wheeldon’s critique of the argument for adoption of BDS as a Green Party policy: “Support can take many forms – ranging from facilitating or encouraging others to use BDS, to adopting internal GPC procurement and other procedures to boycott and divest in appropriate situations. How to give effect to the resolution becomes an internal matter, specifically tailored to meet GPC needs.”
So, Mr. Lascaris, what action, if any, will the party leader and party members engage in to realize this goal? Or is “support” to be so benign as to amount to little more than tacit complicity, effectively giving Israel carte blanche to carry on its ongoing “incremental genocide” of Palestinians. I hope it is not that. Please clarify, Mr. Lascaris — What do you mean?
On Aug 7, 2016 the Green Party of Canada adopted a resolution supporting the use of Divestment, Boycott and Sanctions (BDS) “that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
Green party leader Elizabeth May faced controversy over the resolution which she called ‘polarizing’. After threatening to resign, she recanted, announcing she will remain the party’s leader.
On Sept 7, the resolution’s submitter and justice critic in the shadow cabinet of the Green Party, Dimitri Lascaris, spoke at a Town Hall held in Toronto, at Beit Zatoun, a cultural center. Six days after this event, Lascaris and two other Shadow Cabinet members were removed from their positions by the Party.
Below is an embedded repost of the video of that September 7 Town Hall meeting. The video was just published yesterday by the Real News Network.
Dimitri Lascaris appeared as one of three panel members in a meeting that lasted almost two hours, including a Q&A which begins at the 50:24-minute mark. This post focuses exclusively on Lascaris who spoke first for about 36 minutes. Below the embedded video are rough notes that I jotted down as I watched his talk. My notes are chronologically indexed to facilitate a viewing of selected parts of his talk for those who choose not to watch the full segment.
Note: At about the 21:25-minute mark an audio humming sound begins and continues throughout the rest of Lascaris’ talk, almost drowning him out. And the video-recording technique could have been better in places.
A panel discussion on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement with Dimitri Lascaris, Constantine Kristonis, and Lia Tarachansky
Dimitri Lascaris (DL)
00:00-00:49 — On Screen Notes:
- On Aug 7, 2016 the Green Party of Canada adopted a resolution supporting the use of Divestment, Boycott and Sanctions (BDS) “that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
- Green party leader Elizabeth May faced controversy over the resolution, which she called ‘polarizing’. After threatening to resign, she recanted, announcing she will remain the party’s leader
- On Sept 7th, the resolution’s submitter and justice critic in the shadow cabinet of the Green Party, Dimitri Lascaris, spoke at a Town Hall held in Toronto, at Beit Zatoun, a cultural center.
- Six days after the Town Hall, Lascaris and two other Shadow Cabinet members were removed from their positions by the Party.
00:50-01:14 – Opening remarks —
- Begins with Elizabeth May inviting him to become a member of the shadow cabinet; did not foresee what has happened since Aug 7 with the party’s adoption of the BDS resolution, which he authored;
01:15-11:27 – Recounts visit to Bethlehem and Hebron — [While talking, Dimitri is showing photos which online viewers cannot see]
- DL speaks of a driving force to bring forward his resolution;
- has long been concerned about “the plight of the Palestinian people”;
- as part of his job as a lawyer, in April-May of this year he was sent to Israel;
- before departing he had seen an interview with Gideon Levy, reporter for Haaretz, who said that to see Israeli apartheid in action, go to Hebron, the largest city in the West bank;
- when in Israel in April-May, Lascaris went to Hebron and what he saw there motivated him “more than anything”;
- but before going to Hebron, he goes to Bethlehem to visit Rehab Nazzal, a Palestinian Canadian woman who, while filming dump trucks pouring noxious fluids on Palestinian homes, was shot in the leg by an Israeli sniper;
- Canadian government has done nothing about this incident;
- Nazzal took DL on a tour of Bethlehem to witness things that illustrated the plight of the Palestinians, including the infamous Separation Wall;
- then on to Hebron to see the ethnically cleansed commercial centre, an enclave occupied by fanatical settlers who have lost all sense of humanity, heavily armed Israeli checkpoints
- in the “old” city of Hebron a net that caught garbage and dirty water throne down by settlers living above, most disturbing of all were signs calling for the release of a settler who fireballed the home of a Palestinian family burning to death an 18-month old baby and his parents
11:28-13:32 — Key features of the BDS resolution –
- The first clause — “The GPC supports the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (“BDS”) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT”;
- this resolution is not anti-Israel, it’s anti-occupation, a brutal occupation much worse than South African apartheid;
- The second clause – “The GPC will support such a form of BDS until such time as Israel implements a permanent ban on further settlement construction in the OPT, and enters into good faith negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian people for the purpose of establishing a viable, contiguous and truly sovereign Palestinian state;”
- DL says he will explain later why that is a “very, very modest demand”, with “nothing divisive or extremist about it”;
13:33-18:57 – Process for adopting a resolution —
- resolution submitted by DL along with 32 Green party members — under operating rules at least 20 members of good standing must sponsor the resolution;
- it was submitted in the first half of 2016;
- resolution must pass 3 steps of review:
- 1) online vote completed in June with 58.5% approval, 13.3% were opposed, 28.42% voted to consider improvement at a workshop – which means that in excess of 86% were either supportive or comfortable with the intent of the motion;
- post-vote criticism was that much less than the majority of all party members voted in the online vote;
- close to 2,000 people voted out of about 20,000 members, but that’s typical;
- another party rule is that if you get less than 60% of the online vote but more than 50%, the resolution goes to workshop at the convention for a consensus discussion;
- if there’s no consensus there’s a vote, but the support for the resolution was obvious with no need for a hand count;
- next the resolution went to the plenary forum and after a “very extensive debate” the margin of victory was so large that again there was no hand count
18:58- 25:43 — What happened after the resolution passed – [At about the 21:25-minute mark an audio humming sound begins and continues throughout Lascaris’ talk, almost drowning him out]
- the arguments put forward in defence of the resolution swayed the grassroots;
- immediately, attacks came from “apologists for the fascist Netanyahu government” and other pro-Israel voices including National Post, Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator, charging anti-Semitism and worse, showing no respect for the truth;
- DL commences naming names of the opposing voices, quoting their false allegations;
- also quotes the supporters of the resolution;
- “We are not alone” he affirms, mentioning Green parties of US and UK have taken a lead in this matter, where the hostility to BDS is just as great or greater than it is here;
- the Green parties there are not at risk of disintegration; they did it, we can do it.
25:44-31:22 — Does our resolution amount to an endorsement of the BDS movement? –
- DL rejects the endorsement claim, which he says ignores the fact that the Green Party of Canada has set a precedent by endorsing the Leap Manifesto, which is not a partisan political document, it’s a social movement that exists outside the Green Party;
- so why is it unacceptable to endorse BDS, also a social movement? as it happens, the GPC is not “endorsing” BDS movement;
- DL drafted the resolution expressly in a narrow way to avoid the endorsement argument, making it as minimalist as possible in order to maximize the chances the party would adopt it;
- here’s how DL did that – the BDS movement has 3 objectives:
- 1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands which means the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights;
- 2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
- 3) Protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194;
- DL personally embraces all of those objectives;
- but the Green Party’s BDS resolution does not embrace these objectives;
- rather it talks about one thing, the one thing that is reflected in Canadian government policy – the settlements are a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention and they must cease, and until they do they are an obstacle to peace;
- how else is his resolution different from the BDS movement? –
- The BDS movement calls for boycotts “to be applied to Israeli and international companies that are involved in the violation of Palestinian human rights, as well as complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions.” –
- “the GPC resolution does not go that far because it is not only the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories that are being violated, it is also the rights of Palestinians in Israel itself and in refugee camps that are being violated.
- We don’t call for sanctions, boycotts and divestment to be applied to those who are violating the rights of Palestinians in Israel or in refugee camps.
- We only talk about the settlements in the West Bank”;
- to say our resolution goes too far is absurd. “The GPC resolution is consummate with Canadian government policy.”
31:22-32:45 — “We now have to deal with the possibility that this resolution may be gutted or rescinded altogether” –
- the Federal Council of the Green Part has called for a meeting this December in Calgary for the purpose of revisiting this resolution.
- DL has agreed to participate in good faith negotiations in an attempt to achieve a consensus, mindful of the effect it’s having on the party;
- there are certain principles on which we will not compromise;
- if the discussions do not end in a consensus, there will be a vote in an attempt to gut this resolution or rescind it altogether
32:46-36:34 – Any member of the Canadian public can help to preserve this important victory for human rights –
- if you’re not a member of the party, become a member;
- if you are a member make your voice heard; don’t join just to participate in this one issue, there are other ways you can support the Palestinian cause;
- the GPC’s progressive values and policies are reason enough to join the party, and he cites them;
- for more information go to the Green’s website at https://www.greenparty.ca/en