On Dec. 1, the Ontario legislature voted 49-5 to pass Motion 36, which rejects the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at Israel. The motion was backed both by the Liberals, who form the government, and the opposition Progressive Conservatives.
Tory MPP Gila Martow (Thornhill), who introduced the motion, noted in the legislature prior to the vote that: “BDS is boycotting not just Israel, but all Jews and other supporters of Israel.”
She explained that the BDS movement and its proponents have created a hostile environment at universities.
“We’re trying to make a statement about attitudes in society. I genuinely feel this is the first step in helping our students feel comfortable on campus. They’re choosing what program to study based on what campus they feel comfortable at,” she told the Independent.
“This is not just about BDS – we already went through this with Israel Apartheid Week. I think we need to make it clear from the government on down, we will not allow any type of antisemitism to masquerade as free speech.”
She hopes this message reverberates with school administrators.
“They’ve had tools at their disposal they haven’t bothered to use [to fight campus antisemitism] and I would suggest they might make a bigger effort than they did in the past,” she said.
Martow tipped her hat to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) for their community advocacy on the motion, while Joel Reitman, Greater Toronto Area co-chair of CIJA, noted: “[J]ust as Ontarians rightly oppose all forms of discrimination, our province rejects BDS and other bigoted campaigns against Israelis.”
In a statement, Sara Lefton, CIJA’s vice-president, Greater Toronto Area, added: “It also demonstrates that elected officials across party lines recognize that BDS is tainted by antisemitism. Just as we are grateful that the legislature has taken this stand, we are proud that – in just a few short days – thousands of Ontarians took unified action to urge MPPs to support this motion.”
Adam Minsky, president and chief executive officer of United Jewish Appeal, said: “From students to seniors, from rabbis to grassroots activists, from left to right, our community came together to take tangible action to support Israelis and defeat BDS. The result speaks for itself – and testifies to the power of Israel advocacy to unite and strengthen our community.”
The text of Motion 36 reads: “That, in the opinion of this House, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario should:
“Stand firmly against any position or movement that promotes or encourages any form of hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance in any way;
“Recognize the longstanding, vibrant and mutually beneficial political, economic and cultural ties between Ontario and Israel, built on a foundation of shared liberal democratic values;
“Endorse the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism;
“And reject the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”
The motion was a retry, of sorts, of May 19’s Bill 202, “The Standing Up Against Antisemitism in Ontario Act,” defeated by a vote of 39-18.
That particular bill recognized the BDS movement as “one of the main vehicles for spreading antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel globally and [one that] is increasingly promoted on university campuses in Ontario.”
At the time, Martow said that a bill like 202 “has teeth,” and could have financial consequences, versus a motion or a resolution. The failed bill would have compelled the province and its post-secondary institutions to withdraw business interactions with companies supporting BDS. As well, a bill would require passing three readings and unanimous consent, Martow told the Independent – something she wasn’t sure would be possible, so a motion was chosen this time around instead.
For the May bill, the Progressive Conservatives voted in favor, in addition to a single Liberal, Mike Colle, while the NDP as a whole rejected the bill, as they did the recent motion.
Dave Gordon is a Toronto-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in more than a hundred publications around the world.