Open Letter to the Green Party’s Elizabeth May

by Larry Englander, June 29, 2016

Dear Ms. May,

I was dismayed to learn that the Green Party, at its upcoming convention in August, plans to pass two resolutions that are discriminatory toward Israel and its relation to Diaspora countries:

  1. To support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israeli companies and organizations
  2. To advocate the withdrawal of charitable status from the Jewish National Fund of Canada.

I searched for further details on your website but was unable to find any mention; thus I rely on a communiqué from CIJA and JNF Canada. However, I did read your party’s platform with regard to the Middle East conflict and realize that you and I share more in common than in disagreement.

I would like to share with you my reaction to each of these proposed resolutions and explain why I believe they are ill-advised.

With regard to BDS: Although I agree that Israel must end its occupation of Palestinian territories, I believe that there are better means to do so than by punitive measures – which often harm people who share our ideology. To draw a parallel with the prison system, I assume that the Green Party would stress rehabilitation over punishment of prisoners. If that is the case, why would you seek punishment of an entire population? I believe that a more effective policy is to seek out those organizations in Israel and in Canada that are working for a democratic, egalitarian civil society in Israel and the Middle East.

To give you just a few examples:

  • The New Israel Fund of Canada works toward Arab-Jewish dialogue, civil rights, women’s equality and freedom of religion (as well as freedom from it).
  • The Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC) of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) brings cases to the Israeli Supreme Court defending individual human rights for Arab and Jew alike.
  • The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) works to empower underprivileged people within Israel.
  • JSpace Canada provides a forum for progressive Zionist voices within Canada, as does ARZA Canada within the Reform movement.

With regard to JNF. I would like to ask if you or your party has contacted JNF in Canada – and in Israel – to pose detailed questions about their policy and activities. If you have done so, have you received a reply? And if so, what did you find in the reply that you found unsatisfactory? It seems to me that before one aims to punish an individual or organization, one should first hear their side of the story.

As I mentioned earlier, as a citizen of Canada living in Toronto, I share many of the principles and objectives of the Green Party. However, this recent development has lost my support.

I am copying this letter to the following individuals and am giving them permission to circulate it as they wish:

  • Miriam Pearlman, Chair, ARZA Canada
  • Les Rothschild, President, Canadian Zionist Federation
  • Joan Garson, Chair, New Israel Fund of Canada
  • Orit Sarfati, Executive Director, Israel Fund of Canada
  • Karen Mock and Hart Schwartz, Co-Chairs, JSpace Canada
  • Anat Hoffman, Executive Director, Israel Religious Action Centre
  • Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director, Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism
  • Reuven Marko, Chair, IMPJ
  • Sharon Abraham-Weiss, Executive Director, ACRI
  • Dalya Levy, Executive Director, ARZENU (international Reform Zionist organization)
  • Steve Denenberg, Resolutions Task Force, ARZENU
  • Rabbi Dan Moscovitz, Chair, Reform Rabbis of Canada
  • Rabbi Jordan Cohen, Chair, Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto
  • National office, JNF Canada

I look forward to your reply.


Rabbi Lawrence A. Englander
Rabbi Emeritus, Solel Congregation of Mississauga

Filed under: Reflections

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