Last June, a few days after the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, over 80 academics, activists, and community leaders signed an open letter calling for Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) to stand in support of Palestinian rights. The letter outlined the many facets of Israel’s daily oppression of the Palestinian people, and proposed several policy changes that would significantly improve the NDP’s stance on the matter.
At the time, the NDP was in the process of redefining itself and electing a new leader. Thomas Mulcair, the outgoing leader, had performed poorly, and many felt that he was pulling the party away from its progressive roots, especially on Israel/Palestine. In 2014, as Israel bombarded civilians in Gaza, Mulcair blamed Palestinians. A year later, in the 2015 federal election, he sacked several NDP candidates specifically because of their support of Palestinian rights. His stance disappointed many longtime New Democrats.
Those who crafted the open letter in June, myself included, wanted to make it clear that Mulcair’s views were not the norm, but that the very opposite was true. A 2017 survey noted that 84% of New Democrats and 66% of Canadians felt imposing sanctions on Israel was reasonable because of its settlement program. As the leadership race began to unfold, it became clear that leadership candidates understood this. Mulcair’s “Israel right or wrong” attitude was not only absent among all leadership candidates, it was even subject to open disdain. The discussion never revolved around which side candidates stood with. Rather, the question was to what extent they were willing to go to secure justice for Palestinians.
Many MPs have gone to Israel on junket tour. With the "solidarity" trip during Gaza war, its time to cut out this undue influence on MPs.
— Charlie Angus NDP (@CharlieAngusNDP) August 14, 2014
— Niki Ashton (@nikiashton) August 2, 2017
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) December 1, 2016
— Peter Julian (@MPJulian) May 28, 2017
All of this is a signal that the tide is shifting in the NDP and in Canadian politics in general when it comes to Israel/Palestine. The many campaigns led by Palestine solidarity activists in Canada are finally making progress.
In February, there will be another opportunity to make even more progress. That month, the NDP will be having its first convention after the leadership race, and members will debate and vote on new policies. One of the policies being discussed is specifically concerned with Palestinian rights.
If passed, the proposed policy on Palestine would make the NDP the largest party in Canada calling for the use of diplomatic and economic pressure to end Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories. It would also make the NDP one of the few parties demanding that any resolution be based on international law and human rights (including refugee rights) – as opposed to being based on unequal power dynamics that have stifled negotiations between Israel as the occupying power on the one hand, and the occupied Palestinians on the other.
The momentum around this proposal has steadily grown within the NDP since its initial suggestion a few months ago. Several politicians have shown interest in it, the NDP’s youth wing officially endorsed it, and many local NDP chapters supported its submission to the convention.
Canada must stand up for Palestinians' rights. This is why we will be supporting a resolution at the NDP Convention that takes a firm stand against Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine and opposes efforts to undermine non-violent movements seeking a just resolution. https://t.co/3pVZv6hIAK
— Canada's Young New Democrats (@ynd_jnd) December 21, 2017
But in the end, the proposal’s success will depend on the number of people in the room raising their hands to vote for it. Palestine solidarity activists must make use of this opportunity by attending the convention.
So I invite you. In February, join us and raise your hand for Palestine.