Here We Stand, Stand With Us!!
Voice of Palestine collective is issuing this second position paper to explain why we feel supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel is so crucial and urgent. Our motion calling for our station Vancouver Coop Radio to support the BDS movement until the Israeli state complies with international law was regrettably defeated at the Nov. 27/11 AGM. However, given the format and atmosphere of the AGM debate, we feel that both the basics of the BDS call and its significance for alternative media like Coop radio have been obscured and need clarification.
“On July 9 2005…Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.
The campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS)…urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:
Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”
Three very simple and basic rights that we would hope all progressive people would support.
BDS 102.7 FM
We would like to re-state at the outset that this issue ended up at our AGM in the form of a draft resolution because the Coop reps at the National Campus and Community Radio Association NCRA convention in Halifax, June/2011, did not support the call by the NCRA (which was adopted) to endorse the BDS movement. After learning of this startling news, we approached the Board for an explanation, hoping they would clarify that our station did indeed stand with the Palestinian civil society call. After unproductive email correspondence in which we called on the Board on Sept. 8, 2011 to support the NCRA resolution, we felt our concerns were not being taken seriously and were obliged to present an official motion to the board (the same one we presented to the AGM). We attended the Board meeting on Oct. 11, 2011 to explain the importance of adopting such a resolution and to answer Board members concerns. After a subsequent Board meeting on Nov. 8, we were informed on Nov. 10, 2011 that “The board is still considering this issue and will be making a decision soon…” and when pressed they said “We are hoping to have a decision on this before the AGM”. We even emailed them a few days before the AGM and suggested: “…if the Board is not comfortable with passing our resolution, perhaps they could consider passing a statement that says they welcome or applaud the NCRA’s work on BDS and other social justice issues as passed at the Halifax convention.” Again, this was not supported by the Coop Board. However, from what we later learned, it seems the Board voted against our motion at their Nov. 8, 2011 meeting, but decided to draft and approve another that referred to the Voice of Palestine show but avoided any mention of BDS.
What Happened at the AGM
During the debate on the BDS motion at AGM (and after), there were several arguments raised that we would like to respond to in detail.
1. Coop Radio will be in trouble with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission CRTC if such a motion is passed.
This argument was not directly substantiated but was clearly the “fear factor”, and played a subtle but pivotal role in helping to defeat the motion. However, if the CRTC has become a government censorship tool acting on behalf of Canadian Zionist and reactionary forces, then surely it is in the interest of the Canadian public to know that and our job to expose it. We should then ask why the CRTC is not taking a stand against the many corporate TV and Radio Stations who stand in support of Israeli war crimes and Israeli apartheid.
2. Coop Radio did not take a position in support of the boycott against South African Apartheid, so why should the station support the Palestinian BDS movement?
Is it a condition for any institution that will support BDS to have supported the boycott against S. African Apartheid? And frankly we consider it a stain on Coop Radio’s history that the station never publicly supported the South African boycott; even the previous Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney jumped on the band wagon of the apartheid boycott at the later stages.
3. Other community stations have not independently adopted a similar resolution in support of the Palestinian BDS call.
As we stated previously, the majority of Canadian community and campus station representatives supported the NCRA resolution; by doing this they took a political stand in support of BDS, while our station did not. This was the only reason we even considered introducing our motion. Any claim now that Coop radio supports the BDS campaign through its programming is only sugar-coating to avoid responsibility for letting down the Palestinian people’s struggle at the NCRA Convention.
4. And finally, there was the favourite mantra that the station should not take a political position.
One of the Coop representatives who attended the NCRA convention, in an email to us dated Sep. 6, 2011, questioned the right of that “association to take a public position on a specific foreign political conflict.” This argument not only serves the status quo and sides with the oppressors, it also goes against the social justice principles and work all over the world. All stands are political, the only difference in these stands are whether they are reactionary or progressive. As the late Israel Shahak stated, the litmus test of any progressive is where he/she stands on the Palestinian issue.
It was particularly distressing that during the debate on the BDS motion many Coop members obviously lacked the basic understanding of the difference between Judaism and Zionism. Some comments from various members tried to paint the conflict as a “Jewish-Palestinian” conflict, that passing such a resolution might “threaten Jewish people” at the station, and as Coop Radio we should not interfere in this “Jewish-Palestinian” conflict. After a quarter century of Voice of Palestine being on the air at Coop Radio and our many efforts to further understanding about the nature of the Palestinian struggle (i.e. it is not against the Jewish people but against a political settler colonialist movement), we were profoundly disappointed that this stereotyping of both Jews and Palestinians was being openly expressed and tolerated at the AGM. In fact, it is worth noting that Aaron Lakoff, one of the people who helped to introduce the BDS resolution at the NCRA, is a progressive Jew. We suggest people who want to learn more visit the Canada Palestine Association website and read Mr. Baird: Don’t Equate Zionism with Judaism and Jason Kenney Is Promoting Racism
Support for Palestine is Support for BDS
Why do Palestinians and their supporters feel that BDS action is so necessary? And how can Coop Radio help to concretely support the struggle of the Palestinian people? Supporting BDS is one of the simplest and most effective ways to show grassroots support, especially with political advocacy such as supporting specific functions in the community, passing resolutions as a body to add our moral and political voice to the growing global BDS wave that will eventually help to isolate the Israeli state till it complies with international law, or by supporting our national organization NCRA in its work. Increasing the depth and scope of our programming on this issue, especially with initiatives spearheaded by the Programming Committee, is also important. All of the above are part of the larger strategy for people who want to support the Palestinian struggle; and the Palestinian-led Boycott National Committee (BNC) as well as other Palestinian NGOs have repeatedly emphasized that one of the leading ways for international friends to help further the struggle for peace with justice is to become part of this grassroots BDS movement. As was the case with the resolution presented to the Coop AGM, it is left to local groups to best decide for themselves how to implement BDS support within their environment. But as the Kairos Bethlehem call and a recent call from Gaza have noted, now is the time to speak out and let the Palestinian people know that their call for action has been answered.
It is particularly incumbent upon civil society here in Canada, where our government and official institutions are openly complicit in supporting Israeli war crimes, to raise our voices in supporting Palestinian civil society in its non-violent and ethical resistance. Coop Radio’s silence at this crucial point in history reflects only on its own failings, not on the international legitimacy of the Palestinian call. As the statement from Bethlehem noted: Here We Stand, Stand with Us!!
Coop Radio places itself on the wrong side of history (includes original AGM motion)