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

JustNews Winter 2016 issue: Towards Effective Action


By JustNews Editor Philip Symons

To view this issue, click here.

Social Justice workers are looking for new, more effective ways to change government policies and improve the lives of all through stronger democracy, less inequality in wealth, and more compassion for our fellow citizens. Politicians too often and too easily ignore letters, rallies, petitions and even delegations—unless you happen to have $1,500 in your pocket and the fare for travel to a dinner in Ottawa. So this issue of JUSTnews focuses on other possible methods of changing government policies.

The lead article chastises liberal churches, including ours, for worrying more about retaining membership and keeping costs low than standing up for the moral right, thereby committing suicide. Then, Micah White has written a book, reviewed from different perspectives by two CUSJ members, on The End of Protest as a means of obtaining justice. A letter from the Honourable Scott Reid to Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef suggests finding allies amongst politicians can be effective. Language is always important, as noted by a member of Fair Vote Canada. And then there’s the community-organizing process started by Saul Alinsky that is gaining traction in various cities across Canada and elsewhere.

Other ideas and suggestions are welcome and, as always, will be considered for publication in future issues of JUSTnews. Please write.

CUSJ endorses plea for urgent climate action

In October 2016, the CUSJ signed on to the Civil Society Equity Review on national pledges made at last year’s UN Climate Summit in Paris. CUSJ had signed on to the previous report by the same organization in 2015.

This short report focuses on the urgent need for governments to aim higher when it comes to climate change mitigation goals. The report analyzes 2020 pledges and support, against a 2020 emissions benchmark that is consistent with a true 1.5°C mobilization. It draws simple but challenging conclusions about the changes that will be needed, before 2020, if we honestly intend to make a just and successful transition to a zero carbon world.

CUSJ President Margaret Rao states, “All developed countries are woefully lacking in moving to national and international climate change mitigation and investment in renewable energy alternatives. … We have a long way to go with immediate, short and long-term carbon reduction goals.”
The report states that any pathway that has a reasonable chance of holding the warming to 1.5°C requires an extremely ambitious mitigation effort that should begin very soon. The report uses 40 GtCO2eq as a 2020 emissions level that is consistent with a rapid shift to a 1.5°C pathway. By comparison, the business-as-usual emissions level would be roughly 54 GtCO2eq in 2020. Therefore, to reach the more ambitious 40 GtCO2eq benchmark would require about 14 GtCO2eq of annual mitigation to be put in place by 2020. This is an extremely challenging prospect, given that emissions are now nearing 50 GtCO2eq.