Canada to treat boycotts against Israel as hate speech

Revised Canadian law expands to include “nations” to be protected from hate speech, considers boycotts against Israel “anti-Semitism”

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Canadian government led by Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that they would treat boycotts against Israel as “hate speech.”

The global “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS)” seeks to employ what it calls “non-violent punitive measures” to encourage Israel to comply with international law by ending "occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands" and dismantling the Wall, recognising "the fundamental rights of [Israeli Palestinians] to full equality," and "respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties."

Independent Jewish Voices, a proponent of BDS in Canada, has received support from over 80 national organisations who have endorsed “a statement defending the right of Canadians to freely criticise the State of Israel and employ the tactic of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a legitimate form of protest.”

The BDS tactic has been far more successful for the Palestinians than armed struggle, CBC News reports, with its financial impact on Israeli exports.

In January, Canada and Israel signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that aims to combat BDS, calling it “the new face of anti-Semitism.”

A few days later, speaking to the UN Assembly in New York, Canadian Public Security Minister Steven Blaney gave the kosher supermarket attack in Paris as an example of anti-Semitism being on the rise and added, “Canada has taken a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination including rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement."

Blaney aide Josee Sirois, in response to CBC’s questions about what “zero tolerance” of BDS means, noted that “Canada has one of the most comprehensive sets of laws against hate crime anywhere in the world.”

She proceeded to highlight what she called “hate propaganda” provisions in Canadian law and pointed out that the promotion of hatred of an identifiable group was a criminal offense, and that the definition of “identifiable group” has been expanded to include “religion or national or ethnic origin.”

The addition to include “nations” to the definition of identifiable groups is a recent development in Canada, only in effect since October 2014.

A similar law in effect in France has led to the conviction of twenty French citizens supporting the BDS movement, Independent Jewish Voices reports, on charges of inciting racial hatred.

Independent Jewish Voices insists that it condemns “all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism” before emphasizing “it is not anti-Semitic to criticize the state of Israel.”

Meanwhile, in a letter dated Apr. 13, sixteen European foreign ministers asked EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini for “correct and coherent” labelling of Green Line Israel and Palestinian products but stopped short of recommending a ban.

The letter provoked the ire of Israeli authorities.

Making a reference to the Nazi Germany practice of forcing Jews to wear the Star of David on their clothes for identification, the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio “I have a recommendation for them. They can take a yellow badge and mark all the products from Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights with a yellow badge.”

Germany did not sign the letter.

TRTWorld and agencies