For a country significantly smaller in land area than Vancouver Island, and with just over nine million people, Israel seems to capture attention and attract negativity, significantly disproportionate to its size.
Last year, in just one microcosm, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted 17 resolutions condemning Israel alone, while adopting six resolutions for all other countries combined (one for North Korea, one for Myanmar, one for Iran, one for Syria, and two over the Russian-occupied territory of Crimea). Put another way, Israel represents one of roughly 200 countries in the UNGA (half of one percent), but represents nearly 75 percent of all UNGA resolutions.
Unfortunately, the obsession with Israel is not relegated to the halls of the United Nations. Here in Canada, the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) held its annual policy convention over the weekend with 2,000 party faithful in virtual attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic, and while traditional NDP issues such as paid sick days, discrimination and social security were discussed, one-sided resolutions singling Israel out for opprobrium was also on the menu.
One resolution which was passed by an overwhelming 80 to 15 percent margin was a statement which condemned Israel and blamed the Jewish State exclusively for the impasse with the Palestinians.
The resolution called on the NDP to end “all trade and economic co-operation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine” and “suspending the bilateral trade of all arms and related materials with the State of Israel until Palestinian rights are upheld.”
Certainly, Israel is by no means perfect, and its advocates have never claimed that it’s without any faults, but to fixate on tiny Israel while making no mention of other contentious conflicts around the world, to say nothing of the Hamas terror-dictatorship in Gaza or the corrupt Palestinian Authority regime in the West Bank, is to purposefully boil down a complex conflict into an infantile blame game.
Although the resolution adopted at the NDP virtual convention is non-binding, in an interview with CBC News, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, appeared to be open to the possibility that this condemnation of Israel could potentially become a bona fide part of the NDP’s platform moving forward.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) released a statement on Sunday condemning the resolution, saying it served no purpose other than to demonize Israel. “In order to make a constructive contribution to the complex discussion about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the NDP must forego its pathological preoccupation with Israel, recognize there are two parties to the conflict, and stop infantilizing the Palestinians,” said the CIJA statement.
Advocates of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel claim that censuring Israel through economic or political mechanisms is necessary for the allegedly wayward Jewish state to change course, and that criticising resolutions like the one the NDP adopted is little more than censorship against anti-Israel viewpoints, but that’s just fatuous.
The resolution adopted by the NDP is problematic because it’s one-sided, is a gross oversimplification of a complex issue, and does nothing to advance the peace process or Canada’s historic role in it.
As John Ibbitson wrote in the Globe & Mail on April 11, criticizing Israel’s policies does not equate to antisemitism, but infatuation with Israel goes far beyond legitimate critique. “An obsessive fixation on condemning Israel can be a mask for antisemitism, which is on the rise in Canada and around the world and which bedevils progressives as well as conservatives,” Ibbitson wrote.
Canada’s NDP has a long history of advocating for causes and issues important to progressive Canadians, and it has an important role to play in Canada’s political discourse. But applying a blind, one-sided attack on Israel is dishonest, is based on misinformation, and serves only to make the NDP a hindrance to the cause of peace. It also, wittingly or not, acts as valuable rhetorical fodder for antisemites.
Canada’s media should not give the NDP – or any party for that matter – a free pass when it comes to these kinds of one-sided and toxic resolutions. Just as the Conservative Party was criticized widely for a resolution on climate change, so too the NDP should be held to account when it votes to censure Israel at the exclusion of all other parties.
At a time when Jews represent the single largest target of hate crimes across Canada, adopting a resolution which demonizes the world’s only Jewish state, with no nuance or balance, creates a negative atmosphere for Canadian Jews and does a disservice to all Canadians, regardless of their political stripes.