A boycott is a boycott: The Greens and BDS

The complainant, Constantine Kritsonis, thought it was wrong to refer to the result of the BDS resolution passed at the Green Party Convention as “supporting a movement boycotting Israel.” It’s more selective he said - the resolution specifies sectors of the economy that benefit for the occupation of the territories. I found that this was not a meaningful distinction. Read why.

COMPLAINT

You expressed concern about a reference to a Green Party resolution. You said that it created the wrong impression. You were concerned about a sentence in a story on cbcnews.ca which dealt with the possibility that Green Party leader Elizabeth May might resign. The sentence that caused you concern was:

"Greens passed a controversial resolution supporting a movement boycotting Israel — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)".

You stated that this created a false impression -- readers would think that the Green Party had passed a resolution to boycott the “general Israeli economy”. You added that the actual resolution is more selective:

The Green Party DID support BDS of specific sectors benefiting from the illegal occupation.

You asked that there be a clarification, to make this distinction, based on the words of the Green party resolution passed by the party members.

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE

The Managing Editor of @cbcnews, Steve Ladurantaye, responded to your concern.

He informed you that the thrust and focus of this story was not BDS or the resolution passed at the party convention; it was about the potential impact of the party leader resigning. He did not think that given the stated position of the BDS movement and the “looseness” of the party’s own resolution, that any clarification was needed:

... you raise an interesting point - the vote indeed centred around a resolution that said the boycott, divestitures and sanctions be “targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

It was further resolved that the party oppose “all efforts to prohibit, punish or otherwise deter expressions of BDS.”

And finally, the backgrounder says there is “only one, non-violent option to the Palestinian people for realizing their dream of self-determination within their lifetimes. That option is BDS. Further, because BDS seeks to achieve Palestinian self-determination through economic and political sanctions rather than the use of force, BDS is entirely consistent with the GPC’s commitment to peace and mutual respect.”

REVIEW

There are few topics more controversial than the Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign against Israel. You say what the Green Party has proposed is a selective boycott. That may be true, but regardless of cause or circumstance, if there are sanctions and boycotts imposed on sectors of any country’s economy, then it would have an impact on the entire economy, and of the country. If the resolution had spelled out which sectors would be affected, that might demand a need for more precision.

The Green Party resolution stated:

BE IT RESOLVED that the GPC supports the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (“BDS”) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the GPC will support such a form of BDS until such time as Israel implements a permanent ban on further settlement construction in the OPT, and enters into good faith negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian people for the purpose of establishing a viable, contiguous and truly sovereign Palestinian state.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the GPC opposes all efforts to prohibit, punish or otherwise deter expressions of support for BDS.

I note that the website that explains and solicits support of the BDS movement defines boycott, divestment and sanctions this way:

BOYCOTTS involve withdrawing support for Israel and Israeli and international companies that are involved in the violation of Palestinian human rights, as well as complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions.

DIVESTMENT campaigns urge banks, local councils, churches, pension funds and universities to withdraw investments from all Israeli companies and from international companies involved in violating Palestinian rights.

SANCTIONS campaigns pressure governments to fulfil their legal obligation to hold Israel to account including by ending military trade, free-trade agreements and expelling Israel from international forums such as the UN and FIFA.

By any definition, that would have an impact on the entire country in question. The Green Party resolution may be signalling a more selective approach, but it is by no means clear, and in the context of a piece that is actually about the future of the party if the leader resigns, the broader description is entirely acceptable. The point you make is a distinction looking for a difference. The article you cited was entitled “Green Party will suffer ‘great blow’ if Elizabeth May resigns: deputy leader.” The reference to the boycott resolution was to provide the reason why she was considering leaving. It stated:

May has been debating whether she wants to keep her position after the Greens passed a controversial resolution supporting a movement boycotting Israel — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

Boycotting generally involves economic activity, which is, by definition, designed to have an impact on the country which is targeted. I see no need to spell out the exact details in this context. There was no violation of CBC policy.

Sincerely,

Esther Enkin
CBC Ombudsman