Arzenu

International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists

ARZENU and the Israeli Green Party's Correspondence with the Green Party of Canada

MK Yael Cohen Paran
The Knesset, Jerusalem 9691961
Tel: +972-2-6408114/5 Fax: +972-2-6408113 yaelparan@knesset.gov.il

7/29/2016

MP. Elizabeth May
Chairman, Green Party of Canada
elizabeth.may@parl.gc.ca

Dear MP. May;

I am writing on behalf of the Green Movement of Israel to express our disappointment over resolutions that the Green Party in Canada is apparently discussing, which would boycott Israel and punish the Jewish National Fund for its support of Israel.

Our party shares many values with the Green Party of Canada. We are tireless advocates of environmental justice; we are fighting for a more responsible domestic climate policy; we are promoting legislation to better protect local biodiversity. Not surprisingly, we are part of the opposition to Israel’s present government and have deep and significant reservations with the present government’s policies in a range of areas. We seek a two-state solution which provides reasonable recognition of both sides’ legitimate national rights. Surely the Green Party of Canada agrees with our perspective that both parties need to show greater flexibility and acceptance of the other sides’ narratives if we are to move forward.

But the newly proposed resolutions that your party are considering are deeply troubling. We consider such moves disingenuous, unfair and most of all – not constructive in the context of facilitating the peace process in our region. Essentially, these resolutions question Israel’s right to exist.
Like every country, Israel is not perfect. But Israel is a true democracy, with an active Supreme Court that has robust judicial review and upholds human rights. It has made and continues to make efforts to minimize violations of individual rights in the interminable Arab-Israel conflict. Moreover, the singling-out Israel for condemnation, alone among all actors and issues around the world, is simply outrageous. Has the Green Party of Canada protested the truly egregious human rights violations in China, Iran, Turkey and many other places?

I believe that the cause of Mideast peace would be best served were the afore-mentioned resolutions cancelled. To give you a sense of our perspective: I can’t imagine that we would presume to pass resolutions that judge unfavorably Canada’s historic treatment of its indigenous people and call for boycotts, even though the record in many cases is hardly exemplary.

Such virulently anti-Israeli policies undermine our efforts and those of the peace camp in Israel. Boycott resolutions only serve to isolate Israel and reward the Palestinians for their intransigence. They don’t advance the cause of true peace.

I would be glad to host you on a visit to Israel in the near future, at which time we can study together our common environmental challenges, and discuss amicably issues of contention in Mideast affairs.

Sincerely,

Yael Cohen Paran
Member of Knesset
Chairman, Green Movement of Israel

Letter from Rabbi Lawrence Englander to Elizabeth May, leader of Green Party of Canada, folllowed by her response:

Thank you for writing about the proposed resolutions to the Green Party of Canada convention. I appreciate you taking the time to share your views.

In my work in Parliament, I have raised human rights concerns about many nations, but not Israel. I point this out only to provide context to the CIJA email that suggests the Green Party is singling out Israel.

That said, our members come up with resolutions independently. I am not - nor is anyone in the leadership of the party - in charge of resolutions. Nor do we know ahead of time what resolutions will come forward.

The Green Party resolution process is very different from other parties. We do not have any screening process. Resolutions of all kinds go forward for a vote. Until the convention in August in Ottawa, we will not know if there is sufficient support to change our current policy.

The Green Party of Canada opposes the use of Boycott, Divestment and Sanction tactics to influence the policies of the Netanyahu government. Some members wish to change that policy. That is their right as members.

The resolution relating to the Jewish National Fund is more problematic. There are clearly a number of problems with the draft resolution.

I had a very productive and respectful meeting with Josh Cooper, CEO of JNF Canada, to talk about the resolution. I have invited JNF Canada to participate in the convention and speak to the resolution if it comes to the convention floor. It may well be defeated in on-line voting and never make it to a debate. 
Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Respectfully,

Elizabeth May, OC
Member of Parliament
Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada

Dear Ms. May,

I was dismayed to learn that the Green Party, at its upcoming convention in August, plans to pass two resolutions that are discriminatory toward Israel and its relation to Diaspora countries:

1. To support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israeli companies and organizations

2. To advocate the withdrawal of charitable status from the Jewish National Fund of Canada.

I searched for further details on your website but was unable to find any mention; thus I rely on a communiqué from CIJA and JNF Canada. However, I did read your party’s platform with regard to the Middle East conflict and realize that you and I share more in common than in disagreement.

I would like to share with you my reaction to each of these proposed resolutions and explain why I believe they are ill-advised.

1. With regard to BDS: Although I agree that Israel must end its occupation of Palestinian territories, I believe that there are better means to do so than by punitive measures – which often harm people who share our ideology. To draw a parallel with the prison system, I assume that the Green Party would stress rehabilitation over punishment of prisoners. If that is the case, why would you seek punishment of an entire population? I believe that a more effective policy is to seek out those organizations in Israel and in Canada that are working for a democratic, egalitarian civil society in Israel and the Middle East. To give you just a few examples:

- The New Israel Fund of Canada works toward Arab-Jewish dialogue, civil rights, women’s equality and freedom of religion (as well as freedom from it).

- The Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC) of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) brings cases to the Israeli Supreme Court defending individual human rights for Arab and Jew alike.

- The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) works to empower underprivileged people within Israel.

- JSpace Canada provides a forum for progressive Zionist voices within Canada, as does ARZA Canada within the Reform movement.

2. With regard to JNF. I would like to ask if you or your party has contacted JNF in Canada – and in Israel – to pose detailed questions about their policy and activities. If you have done so, have you received a reply? And if so, what did you find in the reply that you found unsatisfactory? It seems to me that before one aims to punish an individual or organization, one should first hear their side of the story.

As I mentioned earlier, as a citizen of Canada living in Toronto, I share many of the principles and objectives of the Green Party. 
However, this recent development has lost my support.

I am copying this letter to the following individuals and am giving them permission to circulate it as they wish:

- Miriam Pearlman, Chair, ARZA Canada
- Les Rothschild, President, Canadian Zionist Federation
- Joan Garson, Chair, New Israel Fund of Canada
- Orit Sarfati, Executive Director, Israel Fund of Canada
- Karen Mock and Hart Schwartz, Co-Chairs, JSpace Canada
- Anat Hoffman, Executive Director, Israel Religious Action Centre
- Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director, Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism
- Reuven Marko, Chair, IMPJ
- Sharon Abraham-Weiss, Executive Director, ACRI
- Dalya Levy, Executive Director, ARZENU (international Reform Zionist organization)
- Steve Denenberg, Resolutions Task Force, ARZENU
- Rabbi Dan Moscovitz, Chair, Reform Rabbis of Canada
- Rabbi Jordan Cohen, Chair, Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto
- National office, JNF Canada

I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Lawrence A. Englander
Rabbi Emeritus, Solel Congregation of Mississauga
Chair, ARZENU

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