Panelists from the Green Party, CJPME and Concordia students deliver panel on BDS
On Thursday, Concordia hosted the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) Town Hall, which featured four panelists discussing the goals and achievements of the movement, as well as the misconceptions surrounding it.
The speakers included Grace Batchoun, the co-founder of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME); Dimitri Lascaris, a former member of the Green Party of Canada’s shadow cabinet; Alex Tyrrell, the leader of the Green Party of Quebec; and Rami Yahia, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) internal affairs coordinator.
Tyrrell said these discussions are leading up to the Green Party of Canada convention in December, intended to overturn the party’s current BDS position. The Green Party of Quebec is in support of the BDS movement, however, Tyrrell later said at the federal level, Elizabeth May refuses to support the policy. “We really hope that as many Green Party members as possible show up to support BDS,” said Tyrrell.
According to the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the goal of the BDS movement is to promote Palestinian rights. The movement calls for the boycott of Israeli and international companies that infringe on Palestinian human rights and occupy Palestinian land. According to BNC, the movement also pressures other governments to end military and free-trade agreements with Israel, and remove the country from international associations such as the United Nations and International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).
Lascaris discussed how a trip to Palestine gave him a first-hand look at the injustices the Palestinians face. One man he met, a 77-year-old citrus farmer, cried as he said, “They are breaking my connection to the land.” The Israeli state had extended the wall that separates the two nations—right down the middle of his lemon tree grove, Lascaris said.
“The companies that profit off of Palestinian suffering are profiting off of suffering all over the world,” said Yahia. He listed G4S, Caterpillar and Elbit Systems as examples of companies the BDS movement is boycotting. Yahia said that more and more companies are dropping their Israeli subsidiaries in response to BDS tactics.
Two years ago, Yahia was part of a campaign that succeeded in having the CSU officially endorse BDS. “That motion was to condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government after the massacre of 2014,” said Yahia.
Yahia said 2,500 students participated in the referendum, making it the “highest turnout in by-election history on campus.” This summer, Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir (SdBI) institute also gave their official endorsement. The panelists encouraged students to lobby their own faculties to do the same.
Yahia discussed the opposition he’s faced for his pro-BDS stance. Before the referendum, opposers of the BDS movement on campus labelled the campaign as antisemitic. Yahia even faced criticism from the CSU which he had believed to be progressive and supportive of this movement. “I was told I was too pro-Palestine to join an executive team at one point within the [CSU],” said Yahia.
Similarly, Lascaris lost his position within Parliament when he and other Green Party shadow cabinet members criticized the B.C. Green Party leader’s condemnation of the BDS movement.
Batchoun suggested that community members send letters to their MP requesting meetings to discuss the BDS movement. She also suggested signing up with CJPME as a media responder, which entails thanking publications who have covered the issue fairly and criticizing ones who, for example, say it is disputed territory when it is occupied territory.
Starting Oct. 3, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights is hosting “Decolonize Palestine,” a week filled with events in correlation to BDS and Palestinian culture. Additional information can be found on the SPHR Facebook page.
Graphic by Florence Yee