The other shoe has dropped. Barely a few days after Harper’s Conservatives, with the help of the Liberals, pushed Bill C-51 through the House of Commons, we get more proof that this government is, in fact, all about silencing dissent by any means necessary.
Top government officials indicated that they would enforce their zero-tolerance policy towards criticism of the State of Israel by treating the promotion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as hate speech.
Government Policy is Not a Person
Canada’s hate speech laws are a very good thing. They prevent promoting discrimination based on gender, race, religion and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the way Harper now plans to use them is an insult to those who are actually victims of hate speech.
Last year, national origin was added to the list, presumably to make it easier for the government to follow the approach they are now following. Previously, they would have had to prove a correlation between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, which may be possible when talking to their base, but not in a court of law. Also try calling Jewish people who support BDS anti-Semites and you’ll be in for quite the argument, to say the least.
Harper and company have opted instead for the dubious route, but they still don’t have any real footing. Encouraging economic boycott of Israeli products is not a criticism of or discrimination against the people who produce those products based on national origin or anything else.
Those people could produce the same products in a different country and not be under boycott. In fact, if they voted out the current government and replaced them with one that eliminated the policies the BDS movement is protesting, or if the current government went that route, the people could produce the same products in Israel and not be under boycott.
The boycott is against goods produced under the current government policy in the State of Israel and government policy is not a person and therefore cannot be the victim of hate speech.
Double-Standard for Israel
One thing staunch supporters of the current Israeli regime’s policies love to bring up is the notion of a double-standard. In fact, a few years ago, the Harper Government was trying to get everyone who criticized Israel to also criticize another country at the same time, otherwise be labelled an anti-Semite.
Well, when it comes to double-standards, this could turn out to be a whopper. If it’s hate speech to urge boycott of Israel, presumably because the country’s population is majority Jewish, even though their government has some horrible policies, does that mean it would also be hate speech to boycott the products of a country whose population is largely Muslim whose government has some ethical issues to account for?
Let’s take Saudi Arabia as an example and imagine people in Canada urging a boycott based on ethical grounds. Wait, we don’t have to imagine such a scenario, thanks to Ezra Levant.
Wouldn’t the former Sun News, now independent, pundit’s Ethical Oil campaign be considered hate speech under this new definition? He is urging us to boycott Saudi oil, after all. Come to think of it, wouldn’t any Buy Canadian campaigns be considered hate speech against the country we are buying from instead of Canada?
I really don’t think so, because, after all, this isn’t actually about right and wrong or hate speech. It’s about using the law to silence political opponents of our government at home or allies abroad.
The Politics of BDS
Since this is an election year, it’s important to remember that the only type of discrimination Stephen Harper cares about is discrimination against his party at the ballot box. This new approach didn’t become public knowledge at this time by accident.
Harper is playing to his base, that much is clear. But this is also an attempt to derail one of his opponents. C-51 took care of Trudeau (plus Trudeau is in lockstep on BDS), now all but hardcore Liberals will admit his is pretty much just Harper with better hair. This plan is aimed at Mulcair.
The NDP leader has garnered quite a bit of support for his principled, logical and, at some points passionate opposition to C-51. I sincerely hope that he doesn’t take Harper’s bait on this one.
Personally, Mulcair is a strong supporter of Israel. This nearly cost him the support of the NDP base a few months ago when his response to Israel’s assault on Gaza came very close to the one-sided approach both Mulcair and Trudeau were espousing. Fortunately for the party and for him, he changed his tune in an op-ed in the Toronto Star.
That only came after the party faithful occupied NDP offices and forced his hand. This time around, he doesn’t have the luxury of time to realize he has to support what his party wants.
If some reporter asks Mulcair for a comment on the CPC plan to use hate speech laws against BDS supporters, I sincerely hope that his response doesn’t focus on his personal views on BDS which, as far as I know have not been declared, but one can guess.
Instead, I hope he uses his logical and constitutional mind and attacks the gross misinterpretation of a law meant to help the real victims of hate speech. He can even admit his views on the actual subject, just not dwell on them.
To do otherwise would waste a good chunk of the unity fostered by the NDP being the only party (with a chance of winning) strongly against C-51. With all three parties appearing as basically the same to some, many on the left will stay home and Harper will win.
I also hope that those critical of the BDS movement realize that Harper is trying to use you. Even if you don’t agree with boycotting Israel, arguing that those who do support it are uttering hate speech is a stretch that defies all logic.
Economic boycott is one of the most peaceful and accepted methods of dissent. Now, Harper is trying to take that away in order to earn a few cheap political points. Don’t let him.