Citizen Action Monitor

Green Party’s BDS compromise: advocate economic pressure on Israel, while not endorsing BDS movement

“May seems comfortable leading the party forward with this position,” says Tom Woodley of CJPME

No 1827 Posted by fw, November 18, 2016

“The proponents of the August resolution, which made BDS official Green policy, also had much to gain through the compromise. Since August, May had leveraged party mechanisms to undermine the legitimacy of the August pro-BDS resolution. The pro-BDS voices thus faced a number of different hurdles to ensure their August resolution would stand…. In a testament to some good backroom negotiating, both sides seem to have gotten what they wanted in the new compromise resolution. The new resolution detaches Canada’s Greens from the international BDS movement — founded by Palestinian civil society in 2005. This seems to have been a priority for May: removing the actual “B.D.S.” abbreviation from official party policy.”Thomas Woodley, Huffington Post Canada

In the words of Canadian philosophy professor, Jeff Noonan:

“The touchstones of real opposition are whether one is willing to name the cause of the problem and willing to support the struggles of victims through meaningful acts of solidarity.  When oppressed people organize a movement and call for international supporters to adopt its demands, then real allies adopt those demands and do what they can in their own contexts to ensure their realization.”

Now that the Green Party has detached itself from the international BDS movement, it will be interesting – no, fascinating — to watch how it translates the words of its compromise resolution into actions that ensure their (the resolution’s) realization.

Moreover, the emerging Israel-Palestine reality may not save the Green’s compromise resolution from being irrelevant. As one informed analyst pointed out, even European leaders failed in their 2015 attempt to hold Israel to account for occupation violations. Moreover, he writes, it is “highly unlikely the EU will ever impose the level of pressure necessary to change Benjamin Netanyahu’s calculus.” Another expert notes that Israel and its enablers successfully blunt even the mildest criticism of abuse of Palestinians.

So, if Netanyahu isn’t listening to senior EU officials, and if the Israeli propaganda machine effectively blunts criticism, what practical impact can the GPC’s compromise resolution hope to have? – presuming “meaningful acts” flow from intentional resolutions.

In answer to my question, perhaps the primary meaning and significance of the Green’s resolution is to be found in the very act of adopting it.

An added thought, prompted by a piece in Mondoweiss, which may have implications for GPC’s December meeting —

When Sanders changed political reality. And hasbara culture slapped him down, by Yakove Hirsch, Mondoweiss, November 18, 2016 – Bernie Sanders, by pressuring Hillary from the left on Israel, opened a totally new, very exciting progressive position on Israel-Palestine. Bernie “was publicly sticking up for Palestinian rights and not backing down…. You can take these positions on Israel and Netanyahu and it’s not the end of the world. It might actually even be good politics.” Immediately, Sanders found himself up against “hasbara culture”: “an aggressive and proselytizing understanding of the world. It is a social construction of reality by a minority within the Jewish community…. Hasbara culturalists experience the world differently than the average American Jew does.” Whatever liabilities followed from Sanders’ progressive position, “lack of enthusiasm for the candidate wouldn’t be one of them. How refreshing would that be? There is a lot to be said for at least going down with a candidate you can be proud of.”

Thomas Woodley is President of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). Below is a repost of his article. Alternatively, to read his piece on the Huffington Post website, click on the following linked title.

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Green Party Finds Compromise Position On Boycott Of Israel by Thomas Woodley, Huffington Post Canada, November 16, 2016

The naysayers on both sides of the issue have been proven wrong. When the Green Party passed a motion in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on Israel in August, conservative voices felt Elizabeth May would be justified in stepping down as party leader. Progressive voices, however, urged her to stay on, and not to disavow the BDS movement.

May and the federal Greens may do both.

With the release of a draft “compromise” resolution last week, the Green Party of Canada (GPC) seems poised to advocate economic pressure on Israel — while not endorsing the BDS movement — and May seems comfortable leading the party forward with this position.

The international BDS movement, endorsed by a Green resolution in August, seeks to pressure Israel to respect the human rights of the Palestinians. Even though the three core demands of BDS align with both international law and existing Canadian foreign policy, the GPC is the only major federal party to have passed a pro-BDS resolution.

The incentive for a compromise around the issue was pretty clear. While May’s performance in Parliament is not without its critics, May remains the most familiar Green face in Canada. Polls indicate that May has an average approval rating of 50 per cent — second among federal leaders only to Prime Minister Trudeau. In contrast, the CBC reports that provincial Greens are largely unknown in their home provinces. Bottom line, the federal Greens would likely lose significant visibility were May to resign as leader.

May herself indicates that she considers her work as a public figure far from complete. In addition to other files, she has been heavily focused on the prospect of electoral reform in recent months.

The proponents of the August resolution which made BDS official Green policy also had much to gain through the compromise. Since August, May had leveraged party mechanisms to undermine the legitimacy of the August pro-BDS resolution. The pro-BDS voices thus faced a number of different hurdles to ensure their August resolution would stand.

After the environment, “social justice” is also listed as the next highest priority for Canada’s Greens.

In a testament to some good backroom negotiating, both sides seem to have gotten what they wanted in the new compromise resolution. The new resolution detaches Canada’s Greens from the international BDS movement — founded by Palestinian civil society in 2005. This seems to have been a priority for May: removing the actual “B.D.S.” abbreviation from official party policy.

Yet for BDS proponents, the new resolution still holds Israel to task for ongoing human rights abuses against Palestinians. Like BDS, the resolution also expresses support for Palestinian statehood, calls for the repatriation or compensation of Palestinian refugees, and demands equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Significantly, the new resolution also advocates strong action — including “economic pressure” on Israel — to galvanize it into good faith negotiations for a Palestinian state. It also green lights “government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes” to oppose violence and oppression in Israel-Palestine.

As a symbol of unity, both May and Dimitri Lascaris were quoted in the communiqué that went to Green party members last week. Lascaris is the former GPC justice critic and, as the author of the August BDS resolution, the most prominent pro-BDS voice within the GPC.

Many will welcome the détente within the GPC that may result from this compromise resolution. Some Greens see the issue as a distraction from the core mandate of the party — protecting the world’s environment assets — “ecological wisdom” in Green parlance.

But many other Greens see the Israel-Palestine conflict as a determinant global issue of social justice. After the environment, “social justice” is also listed as the next highest priority for Canada’s Greens. By tackling this issue and others, Canada’s Greens counter the common perception that they are a one-issue party.

But this is politics, and nothing is guaranteed. Until the compromise resolution is passed, August’s pro-BDS resolution remains on the books. Party members are due to come together in Calgary on December 3-4 to discuss not only the “compromise” resolution, but potentially four other resolutions relating to BDS. Whatever the outcome at the meeting itself, the GPC has also hinted that there will be an on-line ratification step involving all party members after the meeting.

May has also stated that the party will “review and adopt improved processes” for party policy development. In public statements, May frequently attributed the passage of the BDS motion in August to flawed convention practices. Proponents of BDS within the party may be wise to watch such developments closely.

After the August meeting, May attributed internal party dissension to the fact that “there were winners and there were losers.” With a little luck at the December meeting, everyone might come out feeling like a winner.

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