This is an excerpt from a serious answer to my letter sent to Ontario MPP Tim Hudak regarding his motion opposing the movement to boycott Israel. To see his full letter and my response to it, read more…
A few days ago, I wrote an open letter to Ontario MPP’s Tim Hudak (Cons.) and Mike Colle (Lib.) who had entered a motion in the legislature opposing the world wide movement to boycott Israel known as the BDS movement.
In that letter, I pointed out that both the title of the bill, (An act to fight antisemitism in Ontario) and the rationale given for it, were highly misleading and based on erroneous information.
Mr. Hudak subsequently responded to me in a personal email which I reprint below. In his response he explains in detail his reasons for proposing and supporting the legislation. (Ed. note – I received his letter a few hours after the motion had failed to pass in the Ontario legislature as all NDP and all Liberals but one in the house voted against it.)
Here is the full text of Mr. Hudak’s letter. I think it is worth reading because I assume Mr. Hudak will have used these same arguments in discussion with his legislative colleagues and concerned constituents. Following his letter is my further response to him.
Thank you for your email about Bill 202, the “Standing Up Against Anti-Antisemitism in Ontario Act”. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to convey your thoughts to me.
The primary goal of this Bill co-sponsored with me by respected, veteran Liberal MPP Mike Colle, was to address the true face of the BDS Movement. “BDS” stands for the Boycott of, Divestment from, and Sanctions against Israeli academics and students, corporations and businesses, and cultural institutions.
This Movement’s objective is to promote the de-legitimization of the state of Israel. It fosters hatred and animosity against those of the Jewish faith and supporters of Israel.
As As’ad Abukhalil, a leading BDS activist said in 2012, “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel … that should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
With anti-Antisemitism on the rise both here in Canada and abroad, it was critical to confront this hatred and send a strong message that Ontario will stand against discrimination. I appreciated the thoughtful tone of your correspondence. However, yours is among exceptions.
Whether you agree with this characterization of the goals of the BDS Movement or not, the vitriolic, hateful and anti-Semitic emails, calls and messages I have received have reinforced my view.
BDS campaigns have a clear history of violating the principle of academic freedom and promoting a climate of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment leading to intimidation on university and college campuses. I have attached some of the research of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies that document this sad reality.
Ontarians have a history of promoting the right to study or to work in safe and inclusive environments while standing against hateful divisions, intolerance, exclusions and hostility based on ethnicity, national origin and religion.
That is why Mr. Colle and I brought forward Bill 202 – to reinforce Ontario’s long standing values.
We did our homework. Fortunately, support for legislative tools to combat the consequences of the BDS Movement is widespread and growing. As you may know, American President Barak Obama recently signed legislation to combat BDS and British Prime Minister David Cameron has enacted similar tools to prosecute municipalities and public institutions that boycott Israel. France and Scotland have also enacted strong measures. Twenty-two American states representing well over half the population have either passed or are considering measures similar to those in Bill 202.
So we had a lot of examples from which to choose best practices. I have attached a partial list of those jurisdictions for your interest. If you have other suggestions of those similar laws or a legislative tool I overlooked, kindly let me know.
The goal is clear. People and business owners should be able to hold whatever views they like. The Bill simply sought to ensure the Province of Ontario will not support businesses that participate in campaigns fueled by intolerance and anti-Semitism. We made a clear statement that Ontario stands with Israel and Jewish-Ontarians and any effort to economically undermine the legitimacy of one of our strongest allies will not be subsidized by Ontario taxpayers.
The Bill did not infringe on free speech. Those who would rather engage in propaganda rather than debating the facts will claim this to try to distort the issues. But they didn’t write Bill 202. We did.
The Bill actually contained the following provisions:
- The Government will not be able to enter into contracts with businesses that support or participate in BDS.
- Provincial pension funds will not invest in businesses that boycott Israel.
- No college or university shall support or participate in the BDS movement.
Our message was that if you try to cut off doing business with Israel in an attempt to promote intolerance, then we will cut off doing business with you.
While disappointing to lose a vote, I remain proud that we held a principled position on what was clearly the right thing to do. I look forward to further opportunities to achieve the purpose of fighting discrimination, intolerance and hostility on Ontario’s campuses.
Tim Hudak, MPP
Niagara West – Glanbrook
MY RESPONSE TO HIS LETTER
Dear Mr. Hudak,
Re: Bill 202 is based on mistaken information
Thank you for taking the time to answer my letter to you and your colleague Mr. Colle. I appreciate the seriousness with which you dealt with my criticisms of your proposed bill.
I am very unhappy to hear that you have received “vitriolic and hateful anti-Semitic emails”. That is totally inappropriate and I unreservedly condemn such actions both in language and content.
However, I am confident that you have not received any such emails from anyone who speaks officially on behalf of the BDS movement. The BDS movement is resolutely opposed to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.
Dr. As’ad Abukhalil, whom you cite in your letter as a “leading BDS activist” is not a spokesperson for the BDS movement. (His wikipedia entry indicates that he has a number of controversial views.) But a quick check with the BDS national coordinating committee would have confirmed for you, as it did for me, that Dr. Abukhaliils views are his own, not those of the BDS movement.
Mr. Hudak, as the former leader of the Ontario Conservative party, I am sure you know that sometimes party adherents may express views that the party does not support or endorse. (Some Ontario Tories may even have anti-Semitic views, but I would not think it appropriate to use their statements as a way to condemn your party.)
Secondly, the BDS movement and its supporters do not target Jewish Canadians or Jewish-owned businesses. It may be of interest to you that I am a happy member of the Solway Jewish Community Centre in Ottawa, I buy great eggbread from the Jewish-owned Rideau Bakery in Ottawa and my excellent dentist is an orthodox Jew who wears a kippah.
The BDS movement is a peaceful, non violent movement that seeks to apply pressure on a state – the State of Israel. Its three very specific demands (ending the occupation, equality for non-Jews living in Israel and a just solution for the Palestinian refugees) are consistent with fairness, international law and official Canadian government policy.
Mr. Hudak, if you would like to know more about the BDS movement, you might want to consider calling expert witnesses to appear before a legislative committee to discuss the matter in depth. I could suggest a number of excellent, knowledgeable organizations including secular ones like Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) or faith-based ones like the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI), or Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV). I am sure that their testimony would reassure you and your colleagues that the BDS movement is in no way either anti-Semitic or organized to oppose Jewish Canadians or their businesses.
Finally, Mr. Hudak, I thank you for writing. Please do not hesitate to call on me if I can be of any further help in this matter.
- cc. Premier Kathleen Wynne
- Andrea Horvath, leader of the NDP
- all MPP’s
Comments? Anything else I should have said to Mr. Hudak? Or perhaps you disagree with me? Any comments, respectfully made, are welcome.