Canadian Green Party Votes to Support Boycott of Israel

The resolution was opposed by party leader Elizabeth May, who said the vote was 'a position that I can't support.'

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, left,  marching in the 2016 Gay Pride Parade in Toronto with Canadian Premier Kathleen Wynne and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Nathan Denette/AP

Canada's Green Party voted on Sunday to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, despite the opposition of party leader Elizabeth May.

The vote followed a heated debate over Israel during the final plenary session of the party's national convention in Ottawa, according to reports in the Canadian media.

“I’m deeply disappointed,” May said after the vote. “The party policy on this issue is a position I can’t support,” she said, calling BDS tactics ineffective and “polarizing."

Opinions among Greens were sharply divided. “I’ve never felt prouder to be a member of this party,” said Dimitri Lascaris, the party’s justice critic who tabled the motion.

“We took a brave stand today for human rights,” he said, despite facing accusations of anti-Semitism. He added some Jewish delegates supported the position.

Richard Zurawski, a past Green candidate, called the BDS vote “distressing” and “destructive for the party. Any time we polarize things like this you lose people. I feel marginalized by this vote.”

“Every country has its issues,” he added. “When we specifically single out Israelis, I worry about the buzzwords and subtext and code language, which is anti-Semitic.”

On Friday, the party adopted a resolution to revoke charitable status from organizations complicit in violating international human rights law.

The original resolution was specific to the Jewish National Fund. But an amendment supported by May removed reference to any specific group.

“We knew it was going to be emotional. People are very passionate,” said party president Ken Melamed, who was chairing the plenary and dealt with some backlash as he tried to keep things moving along.

“What we want to do is develop policy that is broad-based and not targeted at one particular organization.”

Party leader May is the Greens' only member of parliament. In the 2015 election, the party won 3.45 percent of the popular vote.

In February, the Canadian parliament voted strongly in favor of a motion to condemn any groups or individuals supporting BDS. The motion came from the Conservative Party, but garnered significant support from Liberal ranks.