On Wednesday, I received a reply from the Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, to my email querying her opposition to the BDS movement. I am pasting it below, and you’ll see that it’s a form email that was presumably sent to those who’d contacted her about Bill 202, the failed private member’s bill that would have blacklisted BDS activists.

I responded to Wynne’s reply yesterday evening; it too is pasted below. There is one addition in square brackets of material that I inadvertently deleted from the version I sent to Wynne. I include it here merely for clarity of thought.

“Thank you for your email regarding the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. I have noted your comments and welcome this opportunity to respond. I would like to begin by emphasizing that our government condemns all forms of racism and prejudice, including anti-Islamism and anti-Semitism.

Let me be clear: The Ontario government does not support the BDS movement. We believe that boycotting Israel will not lead to the much-desired peace that people are looking for in the region. We also believe that shunning those who are advocating for the boycott of Israel, as the bill sought to accomplish, will not lead to a more secure, stable and democratic region.

Moreover, my colleagues in the Ontario government and I support the right of all people to freely express their views without fear of discrimination or persecution, whether in Ontario or in the Middle East. Freedom of speech is something that all Canadians value, and we must vigorously defend. But it is unacceptable for anyone to feel unsafe or discriminated against. We oppose movements that attempt to divide our society and create fear and hate in our communities, whether it is anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism or homophobia.

Thanks once again for raising this matter with me. Please accept my best wishes.

Kathleen Wynne

Premier of Ontario”

Dear Ms Wynne,

Thanks for your prompt reply to my email of July 6th. I’m afraid it raised more questions than it answered, though, so I trust you will indulge three more.

You state your opposition to the BDS movement rather forcefully, without specifying why.

Israel is in violation of close to 30 UN resolutions, including Res. 242 which demands its withdrawal from Palestinian land. That resolution is almost 50 years old. This week the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that settlement building on Palestinian land does not aggrieve Palestinians; instead he blamed Facebook.

Given the strength of your view on BDS, I imagine you have similarly clear ideas about what strategy is more likely to secure Palestinian rights and compel Israel to respect international law?

Can you confirm that you also opposed boycotts of South Africa, which operated similar apartheid policies? Let me be clear: ‘apartheid’ is not a word I use lightly. I have borrowed it from Alan Duncan, a Conservative Member of Parliament here in the UK, who used it in a speech in London in October 2014. Mr Duncan has spent much time in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and is evidently rather shocked at what he has seen: separate roads, the diversion of natural resources, two systems of justice, arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention without charge. He called it ‘apartheid.’

Finally, you raise the issue of safety and ‘discrimination.’ [In fact, I have read numerous media reports of Jewish students feeling ‘unsafe’ when Israeli violations of international law are criticised. These feelings arise despite virtually unconditional support of Israel by the country’s media and political establishment, including your government.]

Your recent trip to Israel generated a widely circulated photo of you smiling and shaking hands with Mr Netanyahu. As you know, his cabinet is considered the most right wing in Israeli history. It includes Ayelet Shaked, the Justice Minister who advocated killing Palestinian children, who she called ‘little snakes,’ and Avigdor Lieberman, who called for Palestinians to be beheaded and advocated the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel.

I understand that these are the people with whom you wish to strengthen Ontario’s ties.

Could you tell me what steps your government has taken to reassure your constituents of Palestinian origin, alongside those who advocate on behalf of Palestinians, that they are ‘safe’ and will not be smeared, harassed, denied employment, or physically assaulted because of their commitment to justice and peace for Palestinians?

With best wishes,

Juliana Farha

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