Last month, the Canadian House of Commons voted 229-51 for of a resolution calling upon the government to denounce the virulently anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) movement. The Conservative opposition to the Trudeau government introduced this anti-BDS resolution, and the ruling Liberal Party supported it. The New Democratic Party (NDP), however, voted against it, with some NDP members saying that they did so not because they supported BDS, but solely on free speech grounds.
An NDP MP, Charles Angus, suggested in a parliamentary session that the principle of free speech was at stake in supporting the anti-BDS motion. He said: “I note that last August the United Church of Canada, which represents two million Protestants, supported the divestment movement…This has nothing to do with my colleague’s claim that it is delegitimizing the State of Israel. This was a choice it made.”
Why would the United Church of Canada (UCC) make that choice? Solely on free speech grounds? Then why did it refer to Israel as “the thief,” “the occupier,” and “the aggressor” in their 26-page working group report on a bogus fact-finding mission to Israel? (Only three people constituted this “working group” that went on this “mission,” yet they presented themselves as a “working group” that represented the UCC. I have personally spoken to many pastors in the UCC who are against this and felt that the UCC had been were infiltrated by an agenda that was muscled into the church without their knowledge and against their will.)
NDP MP Angus went on to say: “My Conservative colleagues are asking Parliament to stand up in the House and condemn individuals in this country for their right to debate…We are being asked…to deny and condemn individual students for debating politics.”
On the other hand, Liberal foreign affairs minister Stéphane Dion said: “The Liberals do not support this boycott movement, because we do not believe it is conducive to achieving peace in the Middle East.”
That’s much more realistic. BDS is an aggressive movement forced upon universities by Islamists on campuses globally and in Canada through the Muslim Student Association, which do indeed debate politics, as NDP MP Angus stated: the Muslim Student Association has direct ties to terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood. BDS is clearly a delegitimization of the state of Israel. Constitutionally, it can be disingenuously presented as needing to be protected under a right to free expression, but it is not ultimately about the freedom of expression. The BDS movement is about the branding of Israel wrongfully. Israel is a state that is threatened with obliteration while BDS and other anti-Israel propagandists accuse it unjustly of everything from apartheid to crimes against humanity.
In light of that fact, voting against the anti-BDS motion, as the NDP did, is not, in fact, a free speech or free expression issue. It is an anti-Israel/antisemitic issue which is disguised as an issue of the freedom of expression or the right to one’s own opinion. What other nation on the face of the earth faces threats to its existence in the face of ongoing attacks? None. Not even states that regularly carry out severe abuses against their own citizens and engage in the persecution of religious minorities. Only Israel.
The idea that the NDP actually opposes the BDS movement, while simply supporting the freedom of expression, is extremely dubious claim on other grounds as well. For example, during the debate on this resolution, NDP MP Hélène Laverdière asked whether by adopting the motion, she would be condemning the Ontario arm of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which endorsed BDS.
One CUPE local site features this anti-Israel propaganda: an article entitled, “Raid on the Gaza Flotilla Israel’s Attack on Us All.” This CUPE article asserts that “Israel is on a “collision course” with international standards of decency, solidarity, and respect for human rights.” How, pray tell, did the Canadian Union of Public Employees ever think it was part of its duties to get involved in Israel’s business?
For the record, on the CUPE site it states: “CUPE is a founding partner of the NDP. We are proud to be New Democrats.”
Because we value the freedom of expression, BDS is able to flourish stop in our democracy, but the NDP’s opposition to the anti-BDS motion is motivated by an agenda that is far more ominous than a simple determination to defend the freedom of speech, given the NDP’s history and its partnership with CUPE.
Christine Williams is an award-winning broadcast journalist; advisor to Canada’s Office of Religious Freedoms; and Public Affairs/Media Consultant, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem–Canada.