Joint Submission by SFSC and IJV-Canada to the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights about Bill C-13, the supposed Anti-Cyberbullying Legisation.
Written by Dr. Michael Keefer
The international campaign calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, as a peaceful means of persuading that state to abandon its systematic violations of international law and its policies of apartheid dispossession, colonization, and blockade in the occupied Palestinian territories, has recently enjoyed a burgeoning number of successes.1
In early February 2014, The Economist noted that BDS “is turning mainstream,”2 and former Israeli Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg wrote in Haaretz that the “BDS movement is gaining momentum and is approaching the turning point […. at which] sanctions against Israel will become a fait accompli.”3
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a point of indicating that he and his allies would respond vigorously to this trend. Some of the reports about a cabinet meeting where tactics were discussed revealed more about internecine divisions between those ministers invited to take part and those who were excluded than about the substance of the meeting.4 Yet although Israeli media indicated “that ‘the discussion was held in secret’, with an imposed ‘media blackout’,” one source that reported this fact was able to give a fairly precise sense of what went on behind closed doors:
Ideas apparently discussed by senior ministers included lawsuits “in European and North American courts against [pro-BDS] organizations” and “legal action against financial institutions that boycott settlements … [and complicit] Israeli companies”. There is also the possibility of “encouraging anti-boycott legislation in friendly capitals around the world, such as Washington, Ottawa and Canberra”, and “activat[ing] the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S.” for such a purpose.5
This kind of “lawfare,” as it is sometimes called, is nothing new (nor, one can add, is the notion, also discussed at this meeting, of bolstering surveillance of pro-BDS organizations by military intelligence, the Shin Bet Security Service, and the Mossad). It’s also evident that the pro-Israel lobby has been active in mobilizing politicians in the “friendly capitals” of Washington, Ottawa, and Canberra for many years.
Recent fruits of that labour have included, in Canberra, threats made in June 2013 by Julie Bishop, a senior member of Julia Gillard’s incoming Australian government, that “supporters of an academic boycott of Israel” would have their “access to public research funds summarily cut off.”6 In Washington, a bipartisan “Protect Academic Freedom Act” that would deny federal funding “to colleges and universities that participate in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars”7 has been brought before Congress.
But what of Canada, whose Prime Minister is Mr. Netanyahu’s most faithful friend?8
This essay will argue that revisions to the Canadian Criminal Code proposed by the Harper government contain wording that is designed to enable lawfare prosecutions of human rights activists in precisely the manner desired by Mr. Netanyahu and his associates.