WILPF Canada’s position on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction Israel (BDS)-campaign

In response to a request from the German section of WILPF, the following letter was sent on August 8, 2020:

As individual members, most of us have supported the BDS movement all along but we are happy to state that we as a section of WILPF endorse it in principle. The annexation of the Palestinian Settlements is in complete violation of International law and it is our position that we have the right to advocate and take peaceful measures to get Israel to comply with international law.  BDS is a legitimate, non- violent protest to protect the rights of the Palestinian people.

The Government of Canada has always taken the position that the West Bank is an occupied Palestinian territory and that it does not form part of the State of Israel. The Canadian government opposed Israel’s construction of the barrier inside the West Bank and East Jerusalem,  which is contrary to international law under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Canada has taken the position that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of this convention.

However, the government of Canada, in its efforts to develop an antiracism strategy, adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism last year. There is a strong movement in Canada, led by academics, labour unions, the university student movement, church communities, non-governmental organizations such as Independent Jewish Voice, civil liberties associations, and Palestinian support groups to drop that definition. They argue that such a definition is political in nature and infringes on freedom of speech. It allows Israel to shield itself from accountability to universal standards of human rights and international law.

One of the opposition parties in Canada, namely the Green Party, has adopted the BDS as a legitimate protest action. There is growing pressure on the New Democratic Party of Canada, another opposition party in Parliament, to adopt such a policy as well.

The City of Vancouver in Canada recently rejected an effort to include the IHRA definition in a statement against racism, but passed a resolution to combat all forms of racism and hatred.

Canada’s federal court has ruled that “products of Israel” labels on West Bank Settlement wines are “ false, misleading and deceptive.” The court ruled that such labeling violates Canada’s Consumer Protection Laws that give us the right to know the actual place of origin of consumer products sold here.

We, as the Canadian section of WILPF, take the position that any definition of anti-Semitism worded in such a way as to intentionally equate legitimate criticism of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism is not acceptable.

It is our hope that the BDS movement will have an impact on the policies of the Israeli government just as the boycott of the Apartheid regime in South Africa did just a few years ago. We wish you the best in your search for fairness and justice for the people of Palestine, leading to peace in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

In solidarity we remain,

Canadian Section of WILPF