08.16.2016 01:00 AM

In this week’s Hill Times: an open letter to Elizabeth May

Dear Green Party leader Elizabeth May:

You seem like a good person. You seem to be honest. You are the kind of thoughtful person we need in public life.

So, you should quit.

Now, that may sound a little contradictory. That (on the one hand) you are good, honest and thoughtful, but that (on the other) you should resign the leadership of the Green Party of Canada. But it isn’t contradictory at all.

Because the problem isn’t you. The problem is the lunatics, bigots and conspiracy theorists who now make up your party. The problem is that they are pulling you down. And they are ensuring that the Green Party will never be anything more than what it presently is.

Which is – without you – nothing.

After your party’s latest move – a suicide note it called a “policy” – you told the Ottawa media you are taking a period of reflection. You told the assembled reporters that you need to decide if you should continue as leader of the Green Party.

You shouldn’t.

Firstly, and most seriously, there is an argument to be made that your party is anti-Semitic. That’s a serious allegation, and we don’t make it lightly. But it’s pretty accurate.

A few days ago, at your biennial convention in Ottawa, your party voted to support the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions – known by its antiseptic acronym, as BDS – against Israelis. BDS is what its name implies – a tool to hammer Israeli citizens with boycotts and divestment and sanctions, and effectively starve them into submission. To punish them at a personal level for the alleged omissions of their government.

The resolution said: “BE IT RESOLVED that the GPC supports the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (“BDS”) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the [occupied territories]…”

Anticipating what would happen next, your fellow party members added this: “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the GPC opposes all efforts to prohibit, punish or otherwise deter expressions of support for BDS.”

Sadly, the Green Party’s BDS motion was one of two foreign-policy statements that targeted the Jewish state at your convention. The other one called on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund. (For planting trees. We are not making this up, as much as we wish we were.)

Anyway. Some facts are in order about BDS – which might more appropriately be described as bully, deceive and smear.

That’s because BDS is, as you are aware, essentially racist. Its leadership, in the main, do not support Israel’s right to exist – or even the idea of Israel. The movement’s founder, Omar Barghouti, has denied that Israelis are a people – or even that they have any collective rights as a people.

As such, he has accused average Israelis of “massacres” and “ethnic cleansing” – things that are the most serious of crimes, as you know, practiced by the likes of the Nazis and ISIS.

Barghouti couches his opposition to Israel’s existence in exquisitely benign terms. But, as the New York Daily News editorialized after publishing one of his many open columns, Barghouti is tremendously “skilled as a propagandist,” and also one who “piles falsehood upon falsehood to present Israel as relentlessly oppressing the Palestinians in violation of human decency, and to hold Israel exclusively responsible for the ills afflicting them.”

And that is the problem, Ms. May. BDS holds only average Israeli to a higher standard – a standard that is not observed by any of the anti-democratic states that surround it. A standard that no other country in the world, in fact, is being asked to observe in the same way.

Another problem is this: the Green Party’s BDS position – and BDS generally – seeks to replace dialogue and debate with punishment.

When implemented, it hurts average Israeli citizens – and the Palestinians who work with them in Israel, because many Palestinians do. The factories in the disputed territories? They overwhelmingly employ Palestinians, as you know.

The main pro-Jewish lobby group in Canada was rightly appalled by your party’s resolutions. While that organization effectively became an extension for the propaganda of the former Conservative government, it got one thing right. It said that BDS “seeks to censor and blacklist Israelis, [and is] fundamentally discriminatory and utterly at odds with Canadian values.” Because it targets average Israelis. Average folks.

Proof of this is found, regrettably, in the words of your most senior people. Your party’s justice critic, for instance, effectively called for Israelis to be punished. Previously, he had called Israelis terrorists (when they aren’t) and expressed affection for Hamas (who are).

This mindset is revealed in that last part of the Green Party’s now-infamous resolution – the part that condemns any Green Party who has the temerity to oppose the BDS resolution. Namely, you.

That, you see, is the main problem with the Green Party’s BDS stunt, Ms. May. Internationally, no one particularly cares a whit what a minuscule Canadian political party – a party with a single, solitary seat in the House of Commons – has to say. You lack the means to defeat governments or change policy in any meaningful way. You don’t matter so much, legislatively.

What matters is this: the Green Party resolution – particularly that last part – is aimed at you, not Israel. Your fellow Greens knew you vehemently opposed the resolution, but they added that last bit to say that they don’t really support you in return. Oppose us, they said, and you are no longer part of us.

That’s the problem with BDS, too. It seeks to win through division and punishment. It seeks to drive average people apart, when they are the ones needed to create a peaceful and just Middle East.

The Green Party doesn’t like the Jewish state, Ms. May. And, now, it’s apparent they don’t like you much, either.

You are a good and decent person. A thoughtful person.

Your party, officially, is not.

Time to leave them to their resentments and their seething hatreds. Time to quit, and join with those who want to bring people together, not drive them apart.




  1. e.a.f. says:

    Not much to add to what you have written. Thank you.

  2. Manuel says:


  3. Lance says:

    ……and to join the Liberal Party.

  4. Frank says:

    Excellent piece, Warren!

  5. doconnor says:

    The BDS idea is based on the sanctions against South Africa in the 1980 which Canada took a leadership role on. In the Weah Bank there are different laws based on ethnicity. One set of laws for the Palestinians one for the Israeli settlers. There is open talk in Israel now of expanding this system by transferring parts of Israel proper with high Arabic population to be under the Palestinian government.

    On ethnic cleansing, many thousands of refugees where forced out be the wars in the 1950s and 60s and haven’t been allowed to return in violation of international law.

    Israel is held to a higher standard because it is a Westernized Democracy and it is repressing a large population.

    • e.a.f. says:

      its a “western democracy and is repressing a large population”. Gee the same can be said of Canada and its treatment of First Nations and the U.S.A. in its treatment of people of colour. So is the Green Party going to pass resolutions regarding that? not so much I am sure.

      Its true many left when Israel was founded. what I always found interesting is none of the other Arab countries welcomed these “refugees” into their countries. They left them in the refugee camps for decades and they’re still there, but now they have their own governments.

      • doconnor says:

        I’m sure the Green Party has pass many resolutions on the treatment of First Nations.

        One difference is that while First Nations remain subject to discrimination, legally they have all the rights they everyone else has. They can vote, have all the Charter rights and can move wherever in Canada they want.

        Most of the Palestinian refugees in Jordan are now citizens of Jordan.

      • bluegreenblogger says:

        Uh, yes they have passed exactly the resolutions you refer to. Actually, you can go back to the founding resolutions of the Green Party of Canada, and there you shall find what you seek. The Green Party was founded to contest your treatment of native Americans, people of colour, and a lot of other things besides.

  6. Luke says:

    The NDP doesn’t have any leadership candidates…

  7. The Doctor says:

    2 things:

    1. While I agree with you that Liz May is on the correct side of this issue, I don’t share the fist-pumpingly positive view of her that many people have. Even leaving aside her cringe-inducing drunken rant at the PPG Dinner (which would have terminated the career of any Tory, Liberal or NDP leader), to me she definitively jumped the shark when she tabled that 9/11 Truther petition in Parliament.

    2. The only reason we all don’t know more about the kooks in the Green Party is because they’re not considered a serious contender and, related to that, they have become this blue sky party onto which many people simply project what they want to see (as opposed to what’s really there). A shining example of this was the statement on the issues from the West Van-Sunshine Coast Green candidate a few years ago that I read in the local paper. It was so wacko and out there, it was like the product of political satire. But again, nobody really noticed or said a peep about it.

  8. PJH says:

    Imagine that…..the Green Party being critical of a country that has done more to assist the environment than I dare say any other…..drip irrigation(invented by an Israeli), water recycling(nearly ninety percent….the next closest is Spain, at 20%), planting millions of trees to help reduce desertification, every home having a solar water heater, and a leader in solar technology…..to the point now their efficiencies are almost close to the cost of generating electricity using fossil fuels…..
    Ms. May should leave the Greens behind, and quickly…….

  9. e.a.f. says:

    Harvey Overfeld, Keeping it Real, has an interesting post up about the Greens and the impact they could/would have under a proportional representation system.

    In a proportional representation system small parties can hold government hostage to some of their wacky policies. there are any number of countries which have proportional representation systems where this has happened. Israel, Spain, Italy, etc.

  10. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Agreed. However, where is the next Israeli and Palestinian Rabin? No where, that’s where…

  11. Ron says:

    This BDS “policy” brings a famous quote to mind.

    “Looks like chit. Feels like chit. Smells like chit. Tastes like chit. Good thing we didn’t step in it.”

    ~ Cheech & Chong

    • bluegreenblogger says:

      I had that album, I think it was called ‘The Big Bambu’ and had an enormous rolling paper inside. I loved the dogs skit. ‘Dave’s not here’ was on that album too.

  12. Francis says:

    I could write a 6-page essay on the annals of Elizabeth May and her role in Canadian politics. But I’ll reduce my bloviation to a few bullet points:

    – Elizabeth May has passed her best-before date; the 2015 federal election was her last opportunity to take the Greens to new heights and a place of relevancy, in my opinions.

    – The Green Party is sadly, irrelevant, within Canadian politics. We’ve been talking about a breakthrough for the Greens for nearly a decade now and nothing has remotely materialized of significance

    – To add to the previous point: if you’re a Green, you can’t simply kick up all your electoral woes to the existing voting system because even in places where you are most competitive, you continuously fail to produce successful results. The Greens have a fundamental brand problem and as far as Canadians know, they are a single issue party with no tenability in government.

    – The Green Party is Elizabeth May and Elizabeth May is the Green party; neither are independently relevant. This relationship was great when the Greens had the optimism of substantial growth, but that reality has eluded them thus far and now its become a one act show.

    – Elizabeth May has gone about as far as possible for the leader of a third party with no official recognition in the House. Some would even say much further than normal circumstances. The novelty of her presence has worn off. While she may be very well respected in Ottawa circles and is viewed favourably by Canadian voters as an individual leader, the question of “why are you here?” is ever growing now that our federal political scene is undergoing a change of faces in leadership.

    – Susan Delecourt wrote a good piece today about May possibly joining the Liberals: this makes absolute sense. Let’s face it, while she very much an independent thinker, she is much more sympathetic to the Liberals (particularly under Trudeau) than she is to the NDP (who don’t like her) or the CPC (who don’t understand her).

    – Having said that, it would be a terrible decision: a) because she’s far too independent to tow any party line and the Liberal agenda on the environment is nowhere near where May wants it, this is a recipe for conflict and b) it would breed a shit-load of cynicism about Canadian politics. It would be a seen as a betrayal of a longstanding commitment between May and the Greens. Ultimately, this is a marriage till the end.

    – With the recent events at the Green convention, its clear that Elizabeth May’s time with the Greens has expired. To stick around as the sole MP for the party but not its leader is ridiculous, especially if you’re someone as well-known as May. With the NDP facing existential questions about its role in Canadian politics, the Greens need to realize that without May, they are less relevant than they already aren’t.

    To sum up, I think May has an opportunity for a graceful exist from federal politics with a possible Senate appointment in her near future (somewhere where she’d flourish).

  13. bluegreenblogger says:

    Having read your link, I found a fair number of reasons to support her after all. It seems that half of the ‘evil’ she did was be the only vote against really bad policies and legislation.

  14. Andre Goulet says:

    I have a hard time understanding the passionate support for Israel in Canada`s media and from it`s political class, and I say this as someone who married into a Jewish family and remain fascinated by the Jewish people.

    Israel is an ugly, semi-theocratic democracy surrounded on all sides by enemies. This has caused them to become a very violent and politically unstable militarist state. They have nuclear weapons. They are led politically by thugs and racists. Do Canadians pay attention to some of the vile policy positions taken by cabinet minsters Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman? These men believe Arabs to be animals. That strikes me as problematic, to say the least.

    Does equating BDS with anti-Semitism blind us to the reality of life in that country for leftists, humanists and progressives?

    Here`s an excellent article published this week in the Haaretz newspaper, `I`m an Israeli Staying in Berlin; It`s Not the Land of Despair`, providing some perspective on what it`s like for progressive Jews in that country: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.736707

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