Sunday, August 23, 2015

FEDERAL ELECTION SERIES: Where do the parties stand on justice and peace in Israel-Palestine?

With a federal election campaign now underway in Canada, it is a good time to take stock of where the country is at in relation to the question of Palestine. I find that coverage of that issue as it relates to electoral politics is spotty at best and is usually related to gaffes and other events that can be used by one political party (or its supporters) to make another look bad. In addition, there is some criticism of all of the parties coming out of civil society groups. So given the scarcity of this sort of coverage, I will be publishing a series of blog posts to help fill the void in a small way. I will go through each of the political parties and do a little analysis of where they are at with regard to Palestine. I will look at three things for each party: their position on the Israel-Palestine issue, their willingness to discuss it in public (which has become a major issue in some parties), and the diversity of opinions within their caucus. I will begin the series with a few broad thoughts and comments related to Israel-Palestine in Canadian electoral politics. 

The first is that it is a very positive development that for the first time that I’m aware of in Canada’s history, the leaders of the major political parties will have a public debate focused solely on foreign affairs. It will take place on September 28th. I am very hopeful that Israel-Palestine will be the focus of at least one question that evening. Be sure to tune in.

Secondly, advocacy group Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is releasing a series of materials throughout the election campaign related to where the parties stand on Middle East issues. So far they have released 3 of 15 analyses. Not all of them will be related to Israel-Palestine (the group focuses on other areas of the Middle East as well), but one of the ones already released is on the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement related to Israel-Palestine. All of the analyses are being posted here.

Thirdly, I wanted to point out the existence of a little-known group within Parliament called the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group. A Google search of the group brings up very little, but it is a multi-party group made up of MPs that is chaired by NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice. I wanted to put the word out about it in case anyone reading has access to a list of the group’s membership. This group is likely the only official one made up of MPs getting together to discuss issues related to Palestine. I first learned of its existence 5 years ago when NDP MP Libby Davies gave a talk at a federal NDP convention on a human rights delegation she was part of that travelled to the West Bank and Gaza. I found an article on the trip here.

Not mentioned in the article is that a Conservative Senator (I don’t recall which one) was part of the trip as well, although he did not attend the Gaza portion of the trip. At the time there were two Conservatives in the group, the other being Alberta Conservative MP Ted Menzies, who is now retired.

Lastly, I just want to lay out a brief framework for how I will analyze each of the parties related to the question of Israel-Palestine. I will look generally at the parties’ positions on a just and peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. I will look at statements the leaders have made and also positions they have taken on questions that reach UN votes, specifically related to the annual UN General Assembly vote on the Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question and the November 2012 vote on Palestinian statehood. Since, in my view, one of the issues with Israel-Palestine as it relates to Canadian politics, is a reluctance or resistance to public discussion of the topic, I will look at that issue for each party. And since it’s an issue that isn’t talked about much publicly, I will look at the diversity of opinions within each caucus and slate of candidates with regard to Israel-Palestine. That part is difficult to get much information on, but over the years I have noticed some things worth commenting on.

So stay tuned! I’ve actually written drafts already for pieces on the Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats, and a brief one on the Greens, so despite the sparseness of my blogs in the past, I promise these ones will actually happen and in a timely manner. I hope they help to stimulate more discussion on a topic that, in my view, doesn’t receive enough attention in Canadian electoral politics.

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