NDP leadership

Open letter: It’s time for the NDP to stand with Palestine

A message to the party leadership candidates from over 80 academics, community leaders and organizations
Photo: Scott Campbell

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation, and as NDP leadership candidates and activists prepare for Sunday’s leadership debate, a group of over 80 academics, community leaders and organizations have authored this open letter to send a message for the NDP: It’s time to commit to a bold policy of support for human rights in the occupied territories.

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To the membership and leadership of the New Democratic Party of Canada,

We send you this letter at a time that necessitates strong principle and action. For 50 years, the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza have been subjected to a military occupation imposed upon them by the State of Israel. This system of subjugation draws itself across ethnic and racial lines, and dominates every aspect of Palestinian life. We have been told from the very start that Israel’s occupation is temporary, and yet for half a century now, it is only entrenching itself further.

The Palestinian people are victims to decades of brutal mistreatment by the State of Israel.

In the West Bank, Israel’s illegal settlements continue expanding on top of Palestinian lands with the sponsorship and protection of the Israeli government. The manner by which these settlements expand strips Palestinian families of their private properties, pushes them into small pockets of territory and shatters the prospect of a viable Palestinian state.

To secure the settlements from opposition, the Israeli military commits grave human and civil rights violations against Palestinians. These violations are well documented, by both international human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Israeli ones like B’Tselem. The violations are too numerous to exhaustively list but among their most serious is the dual legal system that enforces punitive military law on Palestinians and lenient civilian law on Israeli settlers. It is because of this legal system’s character of racial discrimination that over 6,300 Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom are held without charge or trial, sit in cells whose squalid conditions they protest through hunger strikes.

The roughly two million Palestinians living in the tiny Gaza Strip find themselves in a different situation that is no less repressive. For over a decade they have been held captives to a total military blockade put in place mostly by the Israeli government, with support from the Egyptian government, in an act of collective punishment strictly prohibited by international law. This was in conjunction with several Israeli military attacks in the strip that killed thousands of Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians. Since the beginning of the blockade, few Palestinians have been able to leave, and limited supplies have been allowed to enter. Indeed, the humanitarian conditions that arise from this blockade are so dire that the United Nations has warned Gaza will become uninhabitable by 2020.

Let the story of the NDP on Palestine be one that we all can praise.

Of course, the Israeli occupation, whose 50th anniversary we mark this month, began a mere 19 years after another Palestinian trauma, namely, the forced removal from Israel’s territory of over 750,000 Palestinians who would have otherwise become Israeli citizens. Not only were they barred from ever returning to their homes precisely because they were Palestinians, but their property was also confiscated, and no compensation was ever given. To this day, 69 years later, they remain in a state of limbo and dispossession, awaiting return.

Acknowledging this reality does not make one biased or one-sided, and most certainly not anti-Semitic. It is simply a statement of truth and fact: the Palestinian people are victims to decades of brutal mistreatment by the State of Israel. And while there is no doubt that at times innocent Israeli lives have been lost at the hands of Palestinians, and that their humanity must never be belittled or negated, we insist that the solution to Israeli fears is identical to that of Palestinian suffering: alleviating the systemic injustices Palestinians face. First and foremost, this means an end to the ongoing military occupation.

It is in this spirit that we, the undersigned, send this letter. We send it in the hope of energizing a stagnant conversation within your circles on this issue, and to appeal to your unique history of progressive leadership. We are indeed at a watershed moment that will be looked back upon and scrutinized for stories of principled conviction. Let the story of the NDP on Palestine be one that we all can praise.

With that intent, we propose that the New Democratic Party of Canada commit to the following, both in opposition and in government:

  1. condemning Israeli settlements as a violation of international law and as an impediment to a just resolution;

  2. calling upon the State of Israel to halt any further settlement construction, respect the political and civil rights of its Palestinian citizens, pursue a fair solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees, lift its blockade on Gaza and end its military occupation of the Palestinian Territories;

  3. calling upon legitimate representatives of the State of Israel and the Palestinian people to negotiate in good faith a just resolution that respects the spirit and intentions of UNGA Resolution 194 and UNSC Resolution 242;

  4. pursuing and supporting the use of diplomatic and economic means to exert pressure on the State of Israel in such a manner as to achieve a just resolution. This includes:

  • using Canada’s stature and position in the international community to push for meaningful progress on the topic of Israel and Palestine
  • renegotiating the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement in such a manner as to divert from the Canadian market any product made in Israeli settlements
  • suspending security trade and cooperation between Canada and Israel indefinitely and until the Gaza siege is lifted, the occupation ends and a just peace is achieved
  • revoking the tax-exempt status of any organization operating within Canada that is known to financially support or benefit from Israel’s military occupation
  • requesting that the International Criminal Court give greater attention to the situation in Israel and Palestine
  • recognizing the State of Palestine

Do not allow arguments of electoral convenience to distract you. The premise upon which these arguments are built does not apply in this case. Simply, we contend that the proposals we set forth are ones that a majority of Canadians can get behind.

None of us must indulge seriously those who pit the potential of alleviating suffering and injustice against the convenience of doing so.

In fact, support for Palestinian rights is already the expressed policy of trade unions like the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux and the Canadian Labour Congress; student groups like the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario; and faith-based institutions like the United Church of Canada. But perhaps infinitely more important than any endorsement is this fundamental moral tenet: none of us must indulge seriously those who pit the potential of alleviating suffering and injustice against the convenience of doing so. For the sake of Palestinians, we hope you will share this view.

Sincerely,

Academics

Greg Albo, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, York University

Sylvat Aziz, Associate Professor, Department of Art, Queen’s University

Reem Bahdi, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor

Jody Berland, Associate Professor, Division of Humanities, York University (also a member of the NDP)

Philippe Bourdin, Professor, French Studies and Linguistics, Glendon College, York University

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Janet Conway, Canada Research Chair in Social Justice, Department of Sociology, Brock University

Peter Eglin, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University (also a member of the NDP)

Barry Eidlin, Assistant Professor of Sociology, McGill University

Christo El Morr, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health, York University

Mohammad Fadel, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Occupied Palestine (2008-2014)

David Fancy, Associate Professor, Department of Dramatic Arts, Brock University

Randa Farah, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Western Ontario

Peter Fitting, Emeritus Professor, University of Toronto

Amal Ghazal, Associate Professor, Department of History, Dalhousie University

Mark Golden, Professor (Emeritus) of Classics, University of Winnipeg

Allan Greer, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Colonial North America, Department of History and Classical Studies, McGill University

John Greyson, Filmmaker and Assistant Professor, Department of Film, York University

Judith Haiven, PhD, Professor, Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University (also a member of the Nova Scotia NDP)

Larry Haiven, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University (also a member of the Nova Scotia NDP)

Budd Hall, Professor, University of Victoria

Jens Hanssen, Assistant Professor, Middle Eastern History, University of Toronto

David Heap, Associate Professor, French Studies & Linguistics, University of Western Ontario

Ilan Kapoor, Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Michael Keefer, Professor, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph

Muhammad Ali Khalidi, Professor, Department of Philosophy, York University

Shahnaz Khan, Associate Professor, Women’s Studies & Global Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University

Alex Khasnabish, Associate Professor, Sociology/Anthropology, Mount Saint Vincent University

Samantha King, Professor, Department of Gender of Gender Studies, Queen’s University

Gary Kinsman, Professor, Department of Sociology, Laurentian University

Martin Klein, Professor Emeritus, History, University of Toronto (also a member of the University-Rosedale NDP federal riding association)

Thomas Lamarre, James McGill Professor, East Asian Studies and Communications Studies, McGill University

Margaret Little, Professor, Queen's University

Marcia Macaulay, Associate Professor, English and Linguistics, Glendon College, York University

Sara Matthews, Associate Professor, Global Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University (also a member of the NDP)

David McNally, Professor of Political Science, York University

Rodica Livia Monnet, Professor, Comparative Literature, University of Montreal

Colin Mooers, Professor, Department of Politics & Public Administration, Ryerson University

Michael Neumann, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Trent University

Jeff Noonan, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Windsor

Peter Nyers, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, McMaster University

Patricia Palulis, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa

Nalini Persram, Associate Professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University

Glyne Piggott, Professor (Emeritus) of Linguistics, McGill University

Justin Podur, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Trevor Purvis, Assistant Professor, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University

Diana Ralph, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Carleton University

Omar M. Ramahi, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo

E. Natalie Rothman, Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto

Ariel Salzmann, Associate Professor, History, Queens University

Richard Shearmur, Professor, McGill University

Christina Simmons, Associate Professor of History and Women’s Studies, University of Windsor

Susan Spronk, Assistant Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa

Rinaldo Walcott, Associate Professor, OISE, University of Toronto

Community Leaders and Activists

Amina Abawajy, Halifax student and community leader

Michael Bueckert, Former Chairperson, Ontario Graduate Caucus, Canadian Federation of Students - Ontario

Yves Engler, author and political activist

Hammam Farah, community leader and resettlement worker for Syrian and Iraqi refugees

Jim Guild, Halifax-based activist and member of the Nova Scotia NDP

John Hutton, former Co-President of the Nova Scotia Young New Democrats

Yazan Khader, member of the Nova Scotia NDP’s Provincial Council

Masuma Khan, Halifax student leader and organizer

Paula Krasiun-Winsel, former Co-President of the Young New Democrats of Canada

Dimitri Lascaris, lawyer, journalist and activist

Ehab Lotayef, President of the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy

Jane MacMillan, Halifax-based activist and member of the Nova Scotia NDP

Robbie Mahood, member of the Mount Royal NDP riding association

Robert Massoud, Director of Beit Zatoun

Anne-Marie Roy, Deputy Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students

Kiana Saint-Macary, Co-President of the Quebec Young New Democrats

Hossam Sleiman, community leader and organizer from Windsor

Peyton Veitch, Treasurer, Canadian Federation of Students

Nate Wallace, NDP member and volunteer

Joy Shand, Halifax-based Activist and member of the NDP

Charles Takvorian, co-President of Université de Montréal NDP

Davis Whittington-Heeney, Ottawa-based activist and NDP Member

Organizations

Independent Jewish Voices

NDP McGill

NDP Concordia

Solidarity Halifax

Young New Democrats of Quebec

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