Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the hon. member for Calgary Midnapore.
I, too, would like to congratulate the member for Mount Royal on his fabulous speech. I would like to cut and paste his speech over to my time if I could, but I do not think our technology is there yet.
I am pleased to rise in the House today to support the motion of my colleague:
That...the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.
As the Member of Parliament for Edmonton West, with a population of some 5,550 people of the Jewish faith in my city, many of whom have ties to Israel, I am proud to stand in support of this motion.
As a member of the organization called CUFI, the Christians United for Israel, I am extremely proud to stand here today.
Not too long ago I attended a service at the Beth Israel Synagogue in my riding of Edmonton West. My personal friend Rabbi Daniel Friedman is a leader of the interfaith community in the riding. He has reached out to the leadership of the local Christian churches and our mosque so they can work together to promote harmony among the faithful.
That morning after the service, he came to me to tell me that the night before the Synagogue had been defaced again with hateful graffiti. Anti Semitism still exists and BDS promotes this.
What the people behind BDS will never tell us is this: Israel is multicultural, multiracial, diverse, and tolerant. This truth is the most powerful antidote to the apartheid lie. We are devoted to aggressively disseminating this truth to everyone.
BDS activists promote the false idea that Israel is solely responsible for the Arab-Israeli conflict and in turn push for a boycott of the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, while exempting the world's worse human rights violators from such attention. These boycotts take many forms, such as telling consumers not to buy Israeli products, calling for universities to cut ties with Israeli professors and academics and for Israelis to be banned from international sports competitions.
By advocating economic coercion against Israelis, BDS is an assault on all Israelis, ironically including those Israelis who are staunch peace activists. BDS uses the kind of language and imagery reserved for pariah states.
There are several reasons why we must reject BDS in all of its forms.
For one, BDS is a form of discrimination. In targeting all Israelis, BDS is a modern-day blacklist and a form of discrimination based on national origin. Just as boycotts have targeted Jews throughout history, today BDS activists call for a boycott of the citizens of the world's only Jewish state, and the only liberal democracy in the Middle East.
Many leaders in the BDS movement openly declare that their goal is not a peaceful, two-state solution but rather the destruction of the state of Israel.
The BDS movement is not pro-Palestinian; it is simply anti-Israel. It is not about helping the people of Palestine; it is about punishing Israel and punishing Jews.
To further this, BDS undermines peace, something that all members in the House want. BDS does nothing to bring the two sides together, to promote peace, or to improve the quality of the life of the average Palestinian. Instead, BDS lays all blame for the conflict on Israel, and removes all responsibility from the Palestinians.
Were BDS successful, it would threaten the livelihood of thousands of Palestinians employed by Israeli companies.
BDS also imports this conflict into Canada. BDS does this by illegitimately targeting businesses, universities, university students, and civil society institutions. Canadian organizations should never be manipulated as a platform for social exclusion and the demonization of Canadians based on their national origin or their religious beliefs, both of which are at odds with Canadian values.
BDS has already failed. Boycotts of Israeli companies are ineffective and, time and again, have only mobilized the Jewish and pro-Israeli communities to buy the very products targeted for boycott. Despite calls for BDS, the Israeli economy has experienced immense growth, as have business, academic, and cultural ties between Israelis and Canadians.
Even more so, BDS hurts those it claims to be helping.
Kristin Lindow, senior vice president at Moody's Investors Service, and Moody's lead analyst for Israel, has pointed out this very fact. She made this point in an interview with Forbes magazine. She said:
The impact of BDS is more psychological than real so far and has had no discernible impact on Israeli trade or the broader economy...the sanctions do run the risk of hurting the Palestinian economy, which is much smaller and poorer than that of Israel, as seen in the case of SodaStream.
I would like to move away from the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian relations for a moment, to bring to the attention of the House the economics of the relationship between the two.
Regardless of what our personal thoughts are on Israel or Palestine, the numbers speak for themselves.
Israel, with a population of just eight million people, has a GDP of just under $300 billion. The Palestinian Territories, with a population of four million people, has a GDP of $11 billion.
Israeli sales to the Palestinian Authority were $4.3 billion, about 5% of Israeli exports, which is less than 2% of the Israeli GDP.
In 2012, Palestinian sales to Israel accounted for 81% of Palestinian exports. Palestinian purchases from Israel were two-thirds of total Palestinian imports.
Palestine enjoys a trade surplus with Israel that has tripled over the past several years. Such trade flow asymmetry shows Palestine needs Israel, that the BDS crowd would impair economic ties between these areas, which is something that would hurt Palestinians.
Additionally, despite evidence that trade actually brings people closer together and closer to the ultimate goal of peace, BDS supporters want to obliterate the vast trade surplus Israel extends to Palestine and offer nothing in its place, something that would damage relations between Israelis and Palestinians and something that would lessen peace in the region.
While I know some members in the House may claim that the economic benefits Palestinians receive are grossly overstated, even the Palestinian National Authority's newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida found that salaries and benefits were vastly higher across the board for Palestinians who worked for the Israeli companies. Why? Because Israel does not discriminate.
Israel and Israelis alike do not care where people come from, their religion, or their societal group. Instead, they focus on the hard work, perseverance, and diligence that individuals bring to the job. Israeli companies open doors for Palestinians and provide opportunities for them, despite the political conflicts that may be ongoing.
I know some members may find the arguments being presented to be rather one-sided. I will quote a gentleman, who has been quoted earlier today, Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist, political analyst, and commentator on Palestinian domestic affairs. He wrote an article on the BDS movement and how it did not in any way quell the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Part of his article states:
Unfortunately, almost all of those so ostensibly dedicated to finding a solution have their own agendas, and these may not be to the advantage of either Palestinians or Israelis. A prime case in point is the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. As a Palestinian dedicated to working for peace and reconciliation between my people and our Israeli neighbors, I do not believe that the BDS advocates are helping our cause. On the contrary, they are just creating more hatred, enmity, and polarization....
There is no connection between the tactics and objectives of the BDS movement and the on-the-ground realities of the Middle East. Israelis continue to come to the West Bank to do business, and most Palestinians continue to buy Israeli goods. Indeed, if you ask Palestinians what they want, they'll tell you they want jobs, secure education, and health.
He goes on to say:
BDS spokespeople justify calling for boycotts that will result in increased economic hardships for the Palestinians by asserting that Palestinians are willing to suffer such deprivations in order to achieve their freedom. It goes without saying that they themselves live in comfortable circumstances elsewhere in the world and will not suffer any such hardship. It would seem, in fact, that the BDS movement in its determination to oppose Israel is prepared to fight to the last drop of Palestinian blood. As a Palestinian who actually lives in east Jerusalem and hopes to build a better life for his family and his community, this is the kind of “pro-Palestinian activism” we could well do without. For our own sake, we need to reconcile with our Israeli neighbors, not reject and revile them.
Israel is among the freest and most democratic nations in the world. It is certainly the freest and most democratic nation in the Middle East.
That is why our Conservative caucus is putting forward this motion, a motion calling upon the House to support Israel by rejecting boycott, divestment, and sanctions and condemning organizations that promote this ludicrous movement.
As the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, Israel reflects the values and beliefs that we Canadians hold near and dear to our hearts, values like respect for a democratic role, tolerance of a multi-racial and multi-religious society, and respect for the rule of law. Israel's Arab citizens enjoy more rights than Arabs in any other country in the world. They serve in the Knesset, Israel's version of our Parliament, the judiciary, foreign service, and in all facets of Israeli society.
Sadly some Canadian universities—