By Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) is an organization comprised of Jewish Canadians who share a commitment to social justice and universal human rights. IJV has challenged other organizations that represent Jewish Canadians to engage in public debate about the ongoing crisis in Israel-Palestine. Instead of agreeing to publicly debate their positions, these groups have chosen instead to vilify us.
The Vancouver Sun published an editorial opposing the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. When IJV objected to how it was characterized in the editorial, the Sun apologized and withdrew the editorial. While we are pleased that The Sun’s parent organization, Postmedia Network, agreed to remove this editorial from its websites and apologize for mischaracterizations of IJV, readers deserve an explanation of what this dispute is about.
We believe that the human rights of everyone, including Palestinians, deserve protection. We believe that Israel has been violating Palestinians’ human rights for decades by maintaining an illegal occupation, expanding its illegal settlements, and that Israel refuses to address what we consider is the institutionalized discrimination experienced by its Palestinian citizens. In our opinion, the Canadian government’s support for Israel reinforces Israel’s sense of impunity and its intransigence with regard to these issues.
Canadians should be aware of our view that the three demands of BDS are: ending Israel’s illegal occupation and tearing down the separation barrier that takes away portions of Palestinian territory; providing equal rights for Israel’s Palestinian citizens; and promoting the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes or receive compensation for having been forcibly displaced, as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. IJV believes that we must use BDS to apply pressure on Israel until it complies with international law and respects Palestinians’ human rights.
IJV encourages all forms of public debate and discussion on contentious political issues relating to the situation in Israel and Palestine, including the Green Party of Canada’s debate on the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund of Canada. We believe this issue warrants further public debate and discussion.
Opposition to Israel’s violations of international law and its mistreatment of Palestinians does not make us “anti-Israel.” Furthermore, the notion that IJV is anti-Jewish is absurd. Far from being anti-Jewish, IJV is proudly Jewish, being grounded in Jewish values that promote social justice for all. These values guide our demand that Canada stop enabling Israel’s endless subjugation of the Palestinians.
Finally, we — as well as the Palestinian leaders of the BDS movement — insist that there is no justification for any form of racism, including antisemitism, and that the battle against real antisemitism is undermined when Israel’s supporters label those who criticize Israel’s discriminatory laws and policies as antisemitic.
This Op-Ed was published in the print edition of the Vancouver Sun on November 1, 2016, and on the websites of the Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald for a week. It will remain on IJV’s website permanently.