Here is a powerful letter my friend, the poet Nyla Matuk, wrote recently to candidates vying for the leadership of Canada’s New Democratic Party. Formerly the country’s progressive option, the NDP has followed other such parties across most Western nations in the rightward creep that began under Reagan and Thatcher.

The leadership vote takes place in October, but the issues are already exposing deep moral divides among the candidates, not least on Israel-Palestine. The NDP’s previous leader, Tom Mulcair, was a virtually unconditional supporter of Israel, a military superpower, expressing shamefully equivocal concern about that country’s savage 51-day blitz of Gaza, while ruthlessly punishing party members who broke ranks to stand up for Palestinian rights.

Sadly, shameful equivocation was as good as it got in Canada during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge and since, with barely a cigarette paper between the country’s then PM, the Teflon-haired and -hearted Stephen Harper, and his photogenic replacement, Justin Trudeau, who consistently alleges that non-violent advocacy of Palestinian human rights runs contrary to Canadian values.

This is Nyla’s letter:

‘I am writing to you all today as a Canadian of Palestinian descent, born in Winnipeg and living in Toronto. I work in the field of multiculturalism.
Given the NDP’s statement on International Human Rights Day, that “every person has the fundamental right to freedom, equality, justice and dignity,”
it’s simply beyond my understanding how it might be commensurate with Helene Lariviere’s reported recent attendance at a conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee and her subsequent support for the apartheid-endorsing Jewish National Fund.

Please read the report I’ve linked here, on the NDP activities that are supporting the dispossession and continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their own land, and change the party behaviour so that you will all be seen on the right side of history. Do this immediately and show yourselves to be a truly progressive political party.

In addition, I might direct your attention to the ongoing brutalization, political detention and imprisonment, illegal home searches, extra-judicial killings, trials of children in military courts, and home demolitions and evictions, among other contraventions of the Geneva conventions, that Israel continues to perpetrate on non-Jews who are indigenous to the region.

Do you believe Palestinians do not deserve human rights? That is what your party is saying when your representative attends AIPAC and supports the JNF.

Sincerely,

Nyla Matuk

Toronto

Those who saw my letter last week to Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May in anticipation of her party’s conference in Ottawa on the weekend might be interested in the result. You can read the media release from Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) below, but in short the Greens passed the resolution in support of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, with Lisa Barrett, its Shadow Cabinet Critic for International Affairs, saying ‘[W]e as a party have to support social justice. We’ve seen BDS tactics work against the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and if we hadn’t pursued it vigorously then, Nelson Mandela would have died in jail.’

The Green Party also passed a modified version of the resolution to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund over its flagship ‘Canada Park,’ which sits on West Bank villages that were cleansed of Palestinians in 1967. Instead of singling out the JNF, the resolution that passed calls on the government to revoke the status of all charities that violate Canadian and international human rights law.

Indeed, according to IJV, May affirmed, ‘I want to be clear about this: the Jewish National Fund has been complicit and involved in human rights violations in building Canada Park on top of land that was dispossessed from Palestinians who are living there in 1967.’

Still, Mondoweiss report that May fought the resolutions tooth and nail, claiming the BDS movement is divisive and counterproductive, without offering any alternative, and working behind the scenes to protect the JNF from any direct criticism. This is a marked contrast to Dr Jill Stein who leads the Greens in the US and Natalie Bennett who heads the party in England and Wales, both of whom support the strategy.

As I’ve argued here before, it’s rather odd that the only tactic that’s had any impact on Israeli businesses profiting from its occupation and illegal settlements has met with such bitter opposition from people who claim to support Palestinian rights.

Still, it’s so rare that a political party of any stripe has the courage to call it like they see it on this issue, I confess that I almost cried when I read this, for we all know the cost: B’nai Brith et al. have predictably gone berserk, as have the trolls in the newspapers. Naturally, The Globe and Mail ran a highly misleading piece alleging that the vote had ‘divided’ the Green Party, and quoting five anti-BDS voters but only one in favour. In fact, support for the BDS resolution was so overwhelming, the Chair didn’t bother counting the votes.

So for now, I’ll focus on this from the Greens’ Justice Critic, Dimitri Lascaris, who submitted the BDS resolution. The IJV media release follows.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 8, 2016  Independent Jewish Voices congratulates the Green Party of Canada on the passage of its historic Palestinian rights resolutions  “The Green Party of Canada has pa […]

Here’s the rest: Independent Jewish Voices congratulates the Green Party of Canada on the passage of its historic Palestinian rights resolutions