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It's time for the NDP to stand for democracy and human rights for Palestinians

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I am a rabbi in Vancouver and a long-time active member of the NDP. I am also active in the struggle for justice for Palestinians. I lived in Israel for four years and have a deep sense of attachment to it. This attachment and the love and appreciation that I hold for the people of Palestine and Israel is what motivates me to take action against Israel's ongoing dispossession and subjugation of millions of Palestinians.

It is time for the NDP to apply to Palestinians the same clarity and courage in support of democracy and human rights that we promote for everyone else.

At this week's convention in Ottawa, NDP delegates will be able to substantially shift our party's relationship to Palestine and Israel. We can finally move past the dead-end pretense of Canadian even-handedness in a conflict where there is no parity of power between the parties. We can push for changes which bring hope of breaking a deadlock that has lasted for generations.

A resolution has been submitted to the NDP convention to update the NDP's policy on Palestine. It is supported by human rights advocates, veteran NDP activists, including ex-MP Libby Davies, and my organization, Independent Jewish Voices Canada. If adopted, it would significantly shift the discourse in Canada about Palestine. Its ripple effects would reach even more widely.
The resolution has three points. It says the NDP will:

  • Call upon Israel to end its occupation and settlement program, lift the Gaza blockade, recognize its Arab-Palestinian citizens' right to full equality, and address refugee claims fairly;
  • Call for banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation;
  • Oppose Canadian parliamentary efforts to undermine non-violent movements seeking a just resolution; in other words, oppose efforts to criminalize advocating for boycott, divestment and sanctions as Palestinian civil organizations have asked overseas supporters to do.

These points have already met powerful opposition trying to suppress even the discussion of this vital proposal. The point targeted for most opposition is the ban on illegal settlement products -- not full BDS, but a position close to that of the United Church of Canada and Amnesty International. More than two-thirds of Canadians think sanctions of this kind are "reasonable," according to a recent EKOS poll. Without peaceful sanctions such as this proposed settlement products ban, international law cannot be meaningfully enforced

Despite widespread support -- 26 riding associations in six provinces voted to endorse it -- this resolution was assigned an impossibly low priority in the listing of foreign affairs resolutions for discussion at Convention. It's a familiar pattern from what should be a bygone era when NDP candidates selected by riding associations were swept aside by headquarters because of their views on Palestine. 

To enable the Palestine Resolution to reach the floor, be discussed, and voted on, delegates need to go to the priority-setting panel on foreign affairs early on February 16 at the Convention in Ottawa. 

NDP members across the country who care about democracy and human rights for Palestinians as much as for anyone else need to let Convention delegates know that the time for change is long overdue. Supporters can follow and share #PalestineResoNDP on social media to help spread the word.

David Mivasair is a rabbi in Vancouver and a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

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