Canada’s NDP votes to end arms trade with Israel

Two people speak side by side on a television screen

 NDP leader Jagmeet Singh dodges questions on arms trade with Israel. (Twitter)

Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) has voted 80 percent in favor of stopping arms deals with Israel.

A resolution, presented during the party’s convention last weekend, also called for an end to Israel’s military occupation and to suspend trade and economic cooperation with Israel’s illegal settlements.

It specified that the weapons trade between Canada and Israel must be suspended “until Palestinian rights are upheld.”

The vote “sends a message that progressive and human rights minded people in Canada do not support the status quo and see sanctions on Israel as not only appropriate but necessary,” Amy Kishek, a lead organizer behind the resolution, told The Electronic Intifada.

It follows in the steps of Canada’s Green Party, which passed a similar motion and endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign in 2016.

“It is an incredible victory for those in the party [NDP] who have been organizing for years to adopt a progressive policy on Palestine,” Michael Bueckert, vice president of Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, told The Electronic Intifada.

“It highlights the fact that Palestine is not a ‘divisive’ issue in the party, as many seem to suggest, but that there is overwhelming support for taking real, concrete measures to support Palestinian human rights,” he noted.

Jack Harris, a member of parliament with the NDP, stated that he was glad the resolution passed:

As did fellow MP Niki Ashton, who showed how she voted in support of the measure:
While the vote reflects the views of rank and file members, the NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is taking a different approach.

During a news show on the CBC network a day after the vote took place, Singh once again dodged the issue.

The interviewer asked Singh four times whether he supported the results of the vote – a basic yes or no question. But he deflected each time.

Instead, Singh reiterated his support for the “two-state solution” and said he agrees with the demands from human rights organizations to apply “pressure to get to a resolution.”

This signals that members of the NDP will need to continue to press the leadership of left-leaning parties “to make sure that these policies on Israel are actually being brought into the political discourse,” said Bueckert.

Broad support for sanctions

Sanctioning Israel over its human rights violations is favored by the majority of all Canadians.

In 2017, an independent research firm found that 78 percent of Canadians believed that the BDS campaign against Israel was reasonable.

Nearly 90 percent of respondents who identified with the Liberal Party supported BDS, according to that poll.

The view among Liberal voters was in stark contrast to that of the party’s leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau is a staunch ally of Israel.

In 2020, 84 percent of Canadians said they support war crimes investigations into Israel’s human rights abuses.

Human rights activists have said that Canadian leaders would find broad public support if the government were to impose sanctions on Israel.

“What has been absent from the political discourse has been a major electoral party reflecting these values in their platforms, rhetoric and policies,” the campaigner Amy Kishek told The Electronic Intifada.

“The NDP now has a very clear mandate to make these policies part of their election platform,” she added.

Continuing battle against IHRA

Another resolution, which was supported by prominent Canadian Palestinian and Jewish voices, opposed the adoption of the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by the party.

That misleading definition promoted by Israel and its lobby has been used to stifle criticism of Israel by falsely equating it with anti-Jewish bigotry.

It was scheduled for the convention’s debate floor, along with other measures, but did not make it due to time constraints.

Activists say that it was widely supported by rank and file members of the New Democratic Party.

“A lot of members are starting to understand that there is a really dangerous weaponization of anti-Semitism that is happening, and wanting to disentangle anti-Semitism from criticism of Israel,” Aaron Lakoff of Independent Jewish Voices-Canada told The Electronic Intifada.

He noted that Singh has voiced his support of the IHRA definition in the past, in another example of his failure to take cues from the grassroots of the party.

The Trudeau government has adopted the IHRA definition as part of its program to “combat racism and discrimination in its various forms.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to the NDP as the “National Democratic Party.” It has been corrected.




Thank you IJV and all the supporters for finally voicing what the majority of Canadians wanted. Now on to the first Federal NDP government in Canada .


The anti-IHRA resolution
"was widely supported by rank and file members of the National Democratic Party."

What is the National Democratic Party? A right-wing split from the NDP?
(Context: the NDP is not new or particularly democratic, but it is a party.)

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).