A Commentary by Doug Draper and some News from BDS Coalition representatives in Niagara and other regions of Canada
Posted June 29th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
From NAL publisher Doug Draper –
Members of groups – some of them Jewish and some of them not, but all of them saying they are opposed to current Israeli government policies they feel violate the civil rights of Palestinian people in the West Bank region of the Middle East – are pushing back at a motion approved by a majority on Niagara’s regional council earlier this June to condemn the so-called “Boycott-Divestment- Sanction (BDS) Israel movement” and a recent expression of support for the movement by some members of the Niagara Centre NDP Riding Association.
That expression of support, tabled at a riding association meeting where the ridings MPP, Cindy Forster, was not present, reportedly never received an ounce of support from NDP’s provincial party. But that didn’t stop Fort Erie regional councillor Sandy Annunziata from condemning members of the riding association for flirting with it and from publicly scolding Forster, in her absence, for not apologizing to Jewish communities in the region and beyond for the fact that support for the BDS movement had been entertained by one or more NDP members in her riding g at all.
I sat at the June 8th regional council meeting while mayors and councillors from across Niagara rung their hands for the better party of two hours over what to do with Annunziata’s motion of condemnation, and while three spokespersons for groups representing members of the Jewish community in Niagara and elsewhere in the province and country expressed their views that the BDS movement is nothing short of an expression of hate toward Jewish people – code for anti-Semitism – pure and simple.
But like so many other issues facing humankind in this world today, there is apparently nothing all that pure and simple about it.
I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of those representatives of Jewish community who spoke at the June 8th regional council meeting and believe that the BDS movement is fuelled by racism.
Then again, there are other members of the Jewish community across this region and country, and there are other citizens in this region and country, who do not believe that this movement is racist at all, but rather an expression of opposition to Israeli government policies in the West Bank they see as violating the civil rights of Palestinians living there.
Some of the people who hold this view plan on holding a demonstration outside the Niagara regional council headquarters this June 29th ahead of meetings of the region’s council, and I am posting a media release circulated about that demonstration below.
There are also members of an organization called Independent Jewish Voices Canada who are hoping to make a presentation of their own before the regional council in the weeks ahead to explain why they happen to support the BDS movement. A copy of an open letter to the council from a member of that group is also posted below.
As for Annunziata’s motion of condemnation, he can say, as he did, that it was not intended as a political attack against the Niagara area MPP, Cindy Forster, all he wants. I have problems buying that.
Of all the members of the Ontario legislature in this region, Forster has been the strongest when it comes to championing a call, supported by many Niagara citizens and a majority of the region’s local municipal councils, for a full audit of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s operations in the wake of laundry lists of questions and concerns over the way this body, which includes Annunziata and several other regional councillors on its board of directors, is spending millions of dollars of our tax money.
Annunziata, who just happens to be the NPCA board’s current chair, has levelled criticism at Forster before for continuing her push for an audit and for more accountability and transparency when it comes to NPCA’s operations, and I find it rather curious, to say the least, that of all the issues and challenges we face in Niagara that he could have tabled a motion on, he chose this one involving the BDS matter and the NDP association in Forster’s riding.
I also found it disappointing, as I sat there watching all of the hand wringing over Annunziata’s motion unfold, that of those dozen or so members of the regional council I have respect for only two – George Marshall of Welland and Kelly Edgar of St. Catharines – had the courage to stand up and call it a slam on Forster for her stance on the NPCA.
I suspect there was the fear among the others that they might be tarred as racists if they didn’t support the motion, but I still have problems understanding why more of the good members didn’t look Annunziata and his supporters in the eye and say something like; “I dare you to suggest in any way that I am an anti-Semitic for seeing through what I think you are trying to do here.”
More sickening than disappointing to me, however, were words from Annunziata, quoted in a June 9th edition of the St. Catharines Standard that went like this; “I want to offer my sincere apologies to the Jewish community. … Even though I am not the one who should be making the apology and begging for the forgiveness of the Jewish community, I feel compelled to ask for foregiveness for residents who have shared their remorse that something like this could be festering and lurking in Niagara.”
Who is Annunziata apologizing on behalf of? The NDP riding association, Cindy Forster, the Niagara region?
Please, someone deliver us from any more of this crap!
So now we have other members of Jewish communities and their supporters coming forward with an altogether different take on what the BDS movement is all about.
As they say, one reaps what they sow. And on and on we go with stuff like this at the regional council while so many other issues impacting on the health and welfare of Niagara residents need more attention.
Now here are the posts I referred to earlier from people more supportive of the BDS movement.
Niagara BDS Information Demonstration at Regional Building
“The first time I heard of BDS was from an Israeli who said ‘boycott us!’” – Ineke Medcalf
Niagara, Ontario – On Thursday, June 29, 2017, at 6 pm, and earlier at 4:15 pm, Ineke Medcalfe of Niagara BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Coalition will be leading a demonstration at the Niagara Region Headquarter’s Campbell West Entrance in Thorold, Ontario to offer information on BDS of Israel and counter misinformation behind Regional Council’s condemnation of BDS at the June 8th, 2017 council meeting.
“The first time I heard of BDS was from an Israeli peace activist who told me ‘boycott us! It’s the only way Israel’s policies will change” explained Ineke Medcalf.
Ineke has been a witness to Israel’s discrimination of Palestinians directly through four visits to the occupied territories, including once for three months. “Every Israeli peace activist has said the same thing; BDS is the only way to change Israel’s policies.”
The BDS movement, inspired by the BDS movement against South African apartheid, was launch in 2005 by 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks, women’s organisations, professional associations, and other Palestinian civil society bodies.
Jewish groups such as Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) Canada support BDS, and an EKOS poll this year sponsored by IJV Canada and Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East (CPJME) shows over 66% of Canadians support BDS as well (http://www.cjpme.org/survey).
Finally, here is a recently circulated open letter to Niagara’s regional council from Judy Haiven, on behalf of the steering committee for Independent Jewish Voices Canada, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia –
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