The Conservative Government of Canada may use hate crime laws to go after those who encourage boycotts of Israel
Just when you thought Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s lipstick print couldn’t get any browner on Netanyahu’s ass, his government is now set to use hate crime laws against groups that are boycotting Israel.
According to CBC News, the Harper Government is taking a “zero tolerance” approach to groups participating in a loose coalition called Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS). The BDS tactic has been far more successful for the Palestinians than armed struggle. And it has caught on internationally, angering Israel, which says boycotts could cost its economy hundreds of millions of dollars.
Last January however, Canadian foreign affairs minister, John Baird, signed an agreement with Israeli authorities in Jerusalem, pledging to combat BDS. The pledge described the movement as “the new face of anti-Semitism.”
Canadian Public Security Minister Steven Blaney went even further suggesting that boycotts of Israel is equal to anti-Semitic hate speech and violence. Sounds ridiculous coming from anyone let alone a government official.
The targets of the Harper Government will include some well-known hate groups such as the United Church of Canada, the Canadian Quakers and campus protest groups. Obviously these aren’t really hate groups, they are in fact the exact opposite, but not according to the conservative government who have all but labelled them as anti-Semitic.
If these groups or any other were to actually be prosecuted under Canada’s hate crime laws, it would require an assent from a provincial attorney general and it would almost certainly be challenged under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well.
Still, you must be thinking this adds up to nothing more than some form of political terror, but it may be more than that. How would boycotting products and services from an entire country constitute a hate crime? How on earth could this stand up in court? Well, thanks to a change in Canada’s hate crime laws we don’t really know.
Last year the government changed the Criminal Code definition of hate speech, adding the criterion of “national origin” to race and religion. This change could lump people who speak against Israel in with those who speak against Jews, in the eyes of the law. You have to wonder if protesting a foreign government or even booing their national anthem will soon be considered illegal.
In France for example, they have had the same law for years criminalizing hate speech based on national origin. Authorities there have in recent years been using it to prosecute BDS advocates, of whom more than 20 have been convicted. Under the guidance of our Conservative Government we may be destined to go down the same path.
The greatest tragedy here of course is that it’s complete and utter bullshit. Boycotts are the ultimate in passive forms of protests. Boycotting is essentially the act of doing nothing. When I boycott Wal-Mart for example, I don’t need to “do” anything, I just don’t go there. Only in the conservative mind could not doing something be considered a crime.
No one can really say for sure whether boycotting Israel and its hardline government is an effective way to protest almost 50 years of occupation and illegal settlement building. Nevertheless, speaking as a half-Jew, I do know without a doubt that it is not anti-Semitic or wrong and no conservative bureaucrat is going to tell me otherwise.