BDS is a movement in the spirit of human solidarity

Here is a letter that CUSJ President Margaret Rao wrote recently to Prime Minister Trudeau and to Chrystia Freeland.

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you on behalf of Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice (CUSJ), a national faith-based organization that advocates for peace and justice in our world. I have written to you on other occasions pointing out that the global, grassroots, Palestinian-led BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement is non-violent in nature, promoting economic and cultural boycotts as a means to end Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and international law. The BDS movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and to pressure Israel to comply with international law. Specifically, the BDS campaign seeks to end more than 5 decades of Israel’s military rule over 4.5 million Palestinians, including the 11 year illegal blockade of Gaza, the killing and maiming of unarmed Gazan protesters and medics, the ongoing forcible eviction of Palestinians from their homes, the expulsion of indigenous Bedouins from their traditional lands and the construction of illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank.

The boycott movement also seeks equal rights for Palestinian (Arab-Israeli) citizens of Israel, currently discriminated against by dozens of racist laws and enshrined in the new Nation-State Law, defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. In December 2016, former Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out that the State of Israel “can be Jewish or it can be democratic – not both!’ Criticism of the State of Israel has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, nor with Judaism. When you conflate the Palestinian people’s struggle for basic human rights and freedom with anti-Semitism, you do a grave injustice to freedom- loving Jews and non-Jews everywhere.

Your recent statement of apology to the Jewish people for turning away a boat full of Jewish refugees in 1939 was right and good and well overdue. “There is little doubt that our silence permitted the Nazis to come up with their own final solution,” you stated. And what of Canada’s and the international community’s decades-long silence on the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people? Palestinian refugees constitute nearly 50% of all Palestinians. As Holocaust survivor and IJV (Independent Jewish Voices) supporter, Suzanne Weiss expressed to you in an open letter,’ “We must all demonstrate the spirit of human solidarity that Canada failed to show in 1939 to counter the persecution and suffering of all afflicted peoples, including the Palestinians.” Let us take the hard lessons learned from the past and apply them to the present, so that we may work together, Palestinians, Jews, and non-Jews, to cultivate a world of peace, justice and dignity for one and all.

Standing on the Side of Love and Justice!!

Margaret Rao

President, Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice

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