From the Desk of Avi Benlolo
Events of the past week show how profoundly important education and advocacy is: just a few days ago I spoke with police regarding an Imam in London, Ontario who took to Facebook to share his message of hate and wishes that the fires in Israel would destroy the country. Mid-week I learned of a shameful incident at Ryerson University, where student groups shut down a motion to support Holocaust Education by walking out of a student union meeting, preventing quorum and a vote on the motion. As one student noted following the meeting, "It was the first time I could truly feel what my grandmother felt back in Poland in 1940." I also wrote a lengthy letter to Elizabeth May about our concerns regarding the Green Party's new platform, which still includes economic sanctions; this weekend the Green Party of Ontario will vote on a new BDS motion to replace the current Israel boycott resolution, which is polarizing the party- as if there is a watershed level of hatred which is acceptable.
And, at the beginning of the week I spoke with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie to advise her of my concerns regarding renewed Canadian funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The Secretary assured me that all measures will be undertaken by Canada to ensure funds are not misappropriated to support terrorism.
Late yesterday afternoon the Ontario Legislature passed a motion proposed by Thornhill MPP Gila Martow. Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) is pleased to support this motion, which included both an endorsement of the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism (in which I participated), and the rejection of the differential treatment of Israel, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and the Jewish people.
I was very pleased to see that just this week the Ohio House of Representatives approved a bill legislating against businesses that boycott Israel. Laws to boycott the boycotters are in fact growing in legislatures across the U.S. Many states, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and New York have all made it illegal to conduct business with companies that support anti-Israel boycotts. South Carolina Representative Alan Clemmons, the driver of a bi-partisan anti-BDS bill passed in South Carolina in 2015, predicts that most states in the country will have laws addressing BDS within the next three to four years.
FSWC is proud that our efforts helped pave the way for this issue to soften our provincial legislature; these measures include bringing New York Assemblyman Walter Mosely to Queen's Park to share his experiences in drafting anti-BDS legislation in New York state with MPPs this past spring (see brief video at Queens Park, left), holding a series of sessions and seminars with university students at Queens Park to provide personal testimony about the problems they face as Jewish or pro-Israel voices on campuses across the province, and the distribution of FSWC's BDS policy paper. Meetings with stakeholders over the past twelve months including Liberal Transportation Minister Stephen Del Duca and Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown all helped pave the way.
On a positive note, and as a proud Canadian, I am pleased to recognize our government's principled stand at the UN through Canada's vote today against six anti-Israel resolutions targeting the Jewish state.
And I congratulate MPP Martow on her successful effort to ensure the government lived up to its pledge to address the boycott issue, and on gaining the support of the Ontario legislature in recognizing its importance.