In an astounding move, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has lined up with Stephen Harper and Steven Blaney in calling for a ban on discussion of a boycott of Israel on Canadian campuses.
It is one thing to oppose the growing international movement to boycott Israel called BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) or to be uncomfortable with it. Many Canadians, even those who disapprove of a lot of what Israel does, still feel awkward about calling for a boycott of the Jewish state. They worry that it may be unfair, or one sided.
But it is entirely another thing to say, as Trudeau has done, that discussion of Israeli human rights violations, and what the appropriate response should be, should be banned from Canadian campuses. This is a remarkable statement in favour of curbing free speech.
Surprisingly, Trudeau’s tweet came only a few days after he gave what was billed as a key policy speech on the importance of freedom and liberty.
Whatever happened to a free society’s requirement that we can disagree with a person’s choices, but must defend their right to make them? – Justin Trudeau, Toronto, March 10th
Banning BDS or Israeli Apartheid Week would make sense if they were rooted in anti-Semitism or were promoting hate speech. Either would be despicable, and the second would even be against the law. But BDS has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. None of the Israeli Aparthied week activities on any Canadian campus I am aware of, has anything to do with anti-Semitism or hate speech. They focus on human rights, justice and international law – issues which Trudeau says he supports.
Not surprisingly, Trudeau’s tweet has been condemned by Palestinian human rights activists. But it should also be criticized by members of his own caucus and all those who really do support freedom of speech and critical thought.