Feb 292016

Canadian policy states, “As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

At the same time that Canada considers Israeli settlements to be illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, it does nothing to stop settlement goods from entering Canada. There is not even a requirement for products sold in Canada and made in illegal settlements to be labeled accurately. Instead, Canada accepts the inaccurate label “Made in Israel”.

On February 18th CBC published a story that leads with, “So, the Trudeau government intends to join with the Conservatives next week and condemn the United Church of Canada and the Quakers, along with every other organization and individual participating to any degree in a boycott of Israeli goods and services.”

Quakers have written an FAQ about why we support a boycott of the products of illegal Israeli settlements. Our support of this partial boycott has nothing to do with anti-Semitism and is in line with Canada’s own official policy. Why, then, the “condemnation”?

The separation wall near Bethlehem, Occupied West Bank, Quakers support a boycott of the products of illegal settlements

The separation wall near Bethlehem, Occupied West Bank. Canada’s official policy says the wall is “contrary to international law under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Canada not only opposes Israel’s construction of a barrier extending into the occupied territories, but also expropriations and the demolition of houses and economic infrastructure carried out for this purpose.”

Last May, Canadian Friends Service Committee, the peace and social justice agency of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) wrote to the leaders of all opposition parties at the time with three simple questions:

  1. Do you agree with the [then] present government’s assessment that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is “anti-Semitic” – why or why not?;
  2. If your party formed a government, what would be your response to the BDS movement?; and
  3. What would be your position for seeking a lasting peace in Israel/Palestine?

Responses were only received from the Green Party (PDF) and the Liberal Party (PDF).

It is important to point out that BDS does not promote an indefinite boycott, a boycott for the sake of boycott, or a boycott because Israel is a Jewish state. The boycott is a nonviolent technique to try to change specific conditions in an unbearable situation. The boycott will end once these specific issues are resolved. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it,

The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that these are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

– An Experiment in Love, 1958

Read a joint statement signed on to by CFSC and seven other groups supporting the right to dissent.

Read more about why we came to support a boycott of the products of illegal Israeli settlements.

Read the research paper Canadian Friends and BDS (PDF). It includes a very short background about the BDS movement, discussion of BDS vs. dialogue (many opponents of BDS feel that dialogue alone can bring peace to Palestine/Israel), and some of the positions of individual Friends who responded to a survey about BDS.

Learn more about Friends’ support for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.