Serious questions have arisen about the position regarding Palestine of Green Party of Canada leader (and only sitting MP) Elizabeth May following the release of the transcript of an interview in which she expresses opposition to “any forms of boycotts of Israel,” reiterates “the Green Party’s strong support for the State of Israel” and praises the Jewish National Fund for “the great work that’s done in making the desert bloom.”
Comments by May, who is one of the keynote speakers at the December 5 annual fundraiser for Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) called “Championing Human Rights,” were first published in a November 19 article by the B’nai Brith Canada’s Jewish Tribune:
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May is distancing herself from the “anti-Israeli stance” of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), despite agreeing to speak at one of its fundraisers.
“A pro-Netanyahu, ‘whatever Netanyahu does, right or wrong, is okay with Canada,’ is not the Green Party position, but neither would we ever want to be associated with the anti-Israeli stance of the [CJPME],” May told the Jewish Tribune by phone from Vancouver.
CJPME “have made a mistake in thinking that they will advance the goal of peace in the Middle East by basically putting forward an agenda hostile to the state of Israel. I don’t think that’s a constructive way forward [and] I plan to tell them that…. I’m not going to pander.”
May said she accepted CJPME’s invitation to speak in Ottawa next month without realizing it was a fundraiser “so mea culpa on that.”
She added, “I think there are many good people who belong to this organization but [they] have not thought through the real politic of life in the Middle East [and] the positive role that Israel plays as the bulwark of democracy in the Middle East.”
On November 27, May sought to clarify statements attributed to her in the article, publishing a short statement on the Green Party website:
In the course of a fairly combative interview in the context of a very aggressive response to my upcoming speech at the Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East (CJPME) on December 5th 2013 in Ottawa, some misleading statements were published.
For the record, I did not suggest the CJPME had failed to tell my staff that the event was a fundraiser and I did not describe the CJPME as “anti-Israel”.
Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Ottawa, November 26, 2013
On November 29, the Jewish Tribune posted an audio recording and verbatim transcript of May’s interview which called May’s clarification “factually incorrect.”
In the interview, May says that “I don’t plan to give a speech that deviates from the Green Party’s strong support for the State of Israel.” May also voices opposition to the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), saying, “We don’t support any forms of boycotts of Israel: we oppose those.”
Regarding the positions of CJPME, May says, “To the extent that Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, I think have made a mistake in thinking that they will advance the goal of peace in the Middle East by basically putting forward an agenda hostile to the State of Israel and I don’t think that’s a constructive way forward. I plan to tell them that.” May also states that “a pro-Netanyahu, ‘whatever Netanyahu does, right or wrong, is okay with Canada,’ is not the Green Party position, but neither would we ever want to be associated with the anti-Israeli stance of the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.”
May reiterates the Green Party’s position is that “a two-state solution is essential and at the heart of that is the absolute inviolability of the principle that Israel has a right to exist and that its nearest neighbours are often threatening in stance and certainly Iran is a particularly worrying case in point.”
On the building of Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank, which is illegal under international law, May says, “the continued settlement construction, when we are trying to restart a peace process, isn’t helpful.”
In the interview, May also reveals she participated in the October 29 Negev Dinner, a fundraiser for the Jewish National Fund, saying, “I went to the Negev Dinner in Ottawa the other night and goodness, I could see that we were successful; it was a great event. It was sold out and the tickets were a significant commitment to the great work that’s done in making the desert bloom. No doubt in my mind a lot of money was raised there.”
Since its founding in 1901, the Jewish National Fund has been one of they key mechanisms for the historic and ongoing displacement of Palestinians from their land and the destruction and erasure of Palestinian villages. Perhaps most notable to point out to May are the critiques of the JNF’s greenwashing. The crimes of the JNF have led to an international campaign to Stop the JNF, and a campaign in Canada — where the activities of the JNF are subsidized by taxpayers because of the organization’s charitable status — led by Independent Jewish Voices to Expose the Jewish National Fund.
May’s comments about “making the desert bloom” are particularly troubling given the current Prawer Plan, which will see forced displacement of up to 70,000 Bedouin from the Negev (Naqab). Tomorrow, November 30, has been called by Palestinian activists as the Day of Rage against this latest round of ethnic cleansing.
If you’re concerned about Elizabeth May’s comments or her perspectives on Palestine-Israel, let her know!
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By mail (no postage required):
518 Confederation Building
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You can also contact the Green Party.