Elizabeth May expresses disappointment with Green Party support for ‘polarizing’ BDS movement

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May speaks to speaks to media on election night, October 19, 2015. May has publicly opposed the BDS movement in spite of the fact that her party now officially supports it. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Green Party leader Elizabeth May says she is disappointed that her party has chosen to throw its support behind a controversial boycott and divestment movement targeting Israel.

In a statement released early Monday, May called the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement “polarizing, ineffective and unhelpful in the quest for peace and security for the peoples of the Middle East.”

“As is the right of any member, I will continue to express personal opposition to BDS,” May noted.

At a convention held over the weekend, Green delegates voted to officially support the movement, which has a stated aim of ensuring Palestinians are granted “their fundamental rights” under international law. According to the movement’s official website, BDS supporters believe “Israel maintains a regime of of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation over the Palestinian people.”

What is the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement?

Actions advocated by the campaign include withdrawing support for Israeli companies, sporting, cultural and academic institutions, ending military and free trade with Israel, and having banks, local councils, churches, pension funds and universities withdraw investments linked to the Middle Eastern country.

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Canada’s Parliament voted to condemn the BDS movement last winter, and it has been strongly opposed by Israel. The campaign does have the backing of other Green parties around the world, however, as well as trade unions.

Student unions at universities across Canada — including York University, Concordia University and the University of Regina — have also thrown their support behind the movement, although their votes are not binding on their schools’ administration.

Ken Melamed, the Green Party’s federal council president, also issued a statement on Monday clarifying that the vote to support BDS does not change the party’s overall position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I want to be clear. The (party) supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and we continue to advocate for good-faith negotiations,” Melamed wrote.

“This support (for BDS) is intended to further advocate to that end. Our members, like many Canadians, will continue to search for ways to support both sides while acknowledging the complexity of the various security, economic, and religious concerns.”

The Green Party’s resolution process differs from that of other political parties in Canada, with members coming up with resolutions independently. The party’s leader and executive cannot reject resolutions once they are brought forward.

“This grassroots process is a testament to the democratic values of the party,” said the statement released by May’s office.

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Jewish groups express anger

But Michael Mostyn, chief executive officer of Jewish organization B’nai Brith Canada, called the Green Party’s position on BDS “antisemitic” in a statement issued Sunday night.

“This clearly reflects how out of touch the Green Party has become with Canadian culture and values and it has made itself less relevant after its convention this weekend by voting for the politics of division and demonization,” Mostyn wrote.

“B’nai Brith will continue to expose the bigotry that festers within Green Party ranks.”

In the same statement, the chief executive officer of the Jewish National Fund, Josh Cooper, said his organization was  “appalled that the Green Party has endorsed BDS.”

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