On May 19th, a motion given to the Ontario Legislature titled the “Standing Up Against Anti-Semitism in Ontario Act” was defeated 39 - 18. Bill 202 would have blacklisted supporters of the Palestinian led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by prohibiting public institutions from working with people who support BDS. The Bill also would have specifically prohibited colleges and universities from enacting BDS because of the movement's success in getting students and student unions to support BDS through general meetings and referendums. Not only was the Bill a McCarthyite attack on democratic rights and those fighting for human rights in Palestine, but the Bill also spread misinformation, stating supporters of BDS are “anti-Semitic” and call for the boycott of Jewish businesses, which has never been the case.
Liz Sandals was one of the Liberal MPP’s who voted against the Bill, but this did not stop her from stating that BDS is anti-Semitic in her reply to a template letter against the Bill I sent her. The template I used was from the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) and you can read it here.
See Liz’s reply:
Dear Peter: Thank you for your email about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Neither I nor the Ontario Government endorses BDS. Our government entirely opposes any position that promotes or encourages anti-Semitism in any way. Premier Kathleen Wynne has been very clear on this issue and reiterated it during remarks she made in Israel on May 17, 2016.
I do support people’s rights to freely express their views, without fear of discrimination or persecution. Freedom of speech is a right that all Canadians value and must vigorously defend.
That being said, it is unacceptable for students, parents or anyone to feel unsafe or discriminated against. That is why I oppose movements that are attempting to divide our society and are attempting to promote anti-Semitism, homophobia, anti-Islamism and other movements that create fear and hate in our communities. If we are to have a world that supports humanity, we must find a way to stand against all of these positions.
Our government is committed to creating a strong, diverse and inclusive society where everyone has the right and opportunity to thrive.
Bill 202 lost on division on May 19, 2016.
Thank you for your email and for sharing your views with me.
Honourable Liz Sandals,
The cowardice of defending Israeli crimes against Palestinians by calling activists against apartheid racist is shameful. It is turning the situation on its head as the Israeli state oppresses the Palestinian people through occupation and apartheid. As it mentions in CAIA’s letter, “BDS is based on basic principles of anti-racism (including anti-Semitism) and anti-oppression, and aims to end the ongoing racism and oppression against the Palestinian people. Far from addressing the racism of anti-Semitism, Bill 202 will institutionalize racism against Palestinians, including Palestinian Canadians, and supporters of Palestinians' rights under international law.” Liz’s reply shows Israeli lobby groups are in the ear of the Liberal Party, spreading misinformation because BDS is picking up steam as an effective movement.
Sandals is kidding herself in saying that “our government is committed to creating a strong, diverse and inclusive community where everyone has the right and opportunity to thrive.” Her government has the opposite policy both domestically and abroad. Along with strong direct relationships with Israel despite its grave human rights abuses, her government has made huge cuts to education, healthcare, welfare and disability rates, and is criminally selling off Hydro One, wilfully losing important revenue for social programs in order to fill the pockets of the banks.
Sandals’ support of Israeli apartheid means as the Minister of Education, she endorses an apartheid education system. This Electronic Intifada article by Nadia Elia and Rima Najjar outlines how Israel denies Palestinians their right to education by bombing schools in Gaza, denying study permits to Palestinians wishing to study abroad, violating the freedom of movement of children in the West Bank under occupation, grossly underfunding Palestinian schools in a segregated school system, denying education to some Palestinians entirely, and more.
While supporting Israel’s crimes abroad, Liz and her government is attacking public education in Ontario. She recently tried to scapegoat teachers for “taking advantage” of their sick days and is behind huge education cuts, with the goal cutting up to $500 million by 2017-18. This includes making big cuts to programs for students in special education.
BDS supporters don’t seek to divide society with anti-Semitism, but increase the amount of supporters for the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination. While Liz Sandals would like us to think that she is on the side of creating an “inclusive society” she is actually a servant to big business in Ontario and its imperialist interests who have tied themselves to the reactionary forces behind Israeli apartheid. These are the same business interests that support cuts and privatization in public education.
Recently, Premier Kathleen Wynne pledged to work with the opposition to create a “unifying” anti-BDS motion that will probably be crafted much like the recent anti-BDS motion passed by the Liberal majority Federal Parliament, drafted by Conservatives and supported by the Liberals. If Wynne follows through, this “unifying” motion must be defeated as well.