Elizabeth May’s split with the Greens

The leader and her party don’t see eye-to-eye on the BDS movement. Maybe it’s time for them to go their separate ways.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, speaks to volunteers, campaign staff and supporters, after being re-elected during election night at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, B.C., Monday, October 19, 2015. (CHAD HIPOLITO/CP)

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, speaks to volunteers, campaign staff and supporters, after being re-elected during election night at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, B.C., Monday, October 19, 2015. (CHAD HIPOLITO/CP)

Noted reluctant politician Elizabeth May recently expressed dismay with Canada’s Green party, the party she has led for the last 10 years. The majority of about 250 members gathered for the party’s convention had just voted in favour of a resolution supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a movement that aims to economically isolate the state of Israel. Doing so, the reasoning goes, pressures the country into ending the occupation of Palestine, dismantling the Israeli West Bank barrier and ceasing the building of settlements on Palestinian land.

“As leader, I am disappointed that the membership has adopted a policy in favour of a movement that I believe to be polarizing, ineffective and unhelpful in the quest for peace and security for the peoples of the Middle East,” May said, adding that she would “continue to express personal opposition to BDS.”

You can understand her frustration. In 2013, May denounced the BDS movement as an “agenda hostile to the state of Israel” that wasn’t “a constructive way forward.” Earlier this year, she voiced her opposition to BDS, though ultimately voted against a Conservative motion condemning the BDS movement. Clearly, the critiquing of her own party in the wake of its BDS vote wasn’t damage control.

MORE: Here’s what happened on the Green Party’s convention floor

Admirable as it is, May’s characteristic idealism has put her at odds with her own party. And in coming out so stridently against BDS, she also robs the Greens of a significant political space left vacant by the country’s three major political parties.

Let’s be clear: the BDS movement is, at best, a blunt instrument. Its ideological underpinning—that Israel is an apartheid state akin to South Africa circa 1982—is both unhelpful to the movement’s own legitimacy and an insult to actual sufferers of government-sanctioned racial segregation.

The very real problems of Israeli occupation, as well as the scourge of its ever-advancing settlements, are cheapened when the organization in question slathers its spiel with terms like “ethnic cleansing,” “colonialism” and “regime of oppression.” On that note, BDS makes it too easy for its detractors to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

What BDS isn’t, though, is a fringe movement. In Canada, dozens of groups have endorsed BDS, including unions, university professors as well as student government associations, at least two church conferences and several progressive organizations, Jewish and otherwise.

FOR THE RECORD: What Elizabeth May said at the Green Party convention

Not coincidentally, the Green Party of Canada draws its support from these very demographics, and it’s here where things get tricky for Elizabeth May. In regards to Israel, the governing Liberals and the Conservatives  are violently in agreement. Under Tom Mulcair, in a quest for Liberal votes, the NDP joined their ranks.

In doing so, the parties have abandoned a significant part of the electorate. One need look no further than the vote on the Conservative’s anti-BDS motion. Fifty-one of the country’s 338 MPs voted against it, the vast majority of them were from the NDP. Regardless of how you feel about the BDS movement, it has significant support amongst the Canadian electorate.

Such support deserves political representation. The U.S. Green Party knows as much; it, like the U.K. Green Party, officially champions the BDS cause. In endorsing BDS, Canada’s Green party hoi polloi has (accidentally or otherwise) demonstrated a rare bit of political savvy. Except, of course, its leader and only elected member has come out against it.

RELATED: Frank Graves offers three takeaways for the Green Party

The Green Party of Canada has done well under May. She is the party’s first elected member in its history. She has injected herself and her party into the national conversation, as well as into the good graces of the Trudeau government, in a way that far outstrips the Greens’ 3.4 per cent share of the vote in the last election.

May has expressed her frustration with the political process. “Politics is awful,” she told the Globe and Mail recently, after essentially saying she wouldn’t wish the Green party leadership on her worst enemy. Given the direction of her own party, perhaps now is a good time for a graceful exit. At the very least, she deserves it.


Elizabeth May’s split with the Greens

  1. Perhaps the best way forward for the Green party and countries such as Canada is to demonstrate as much support for an independent Palestine as it does, and has done, for an independent Israel. That should start with political recognition as an independent but occupied state-in-formation. Or at least the same status as we give Crimea.

    • All Canadian political parties should have an active BDS section. The UN resolutions against the invasive actions of Israel are pathetic.

  2. Israel is not occupying anything that didn’t already belong to them. it was the Palestinians who took the land from the Jews long ago. Jews just took it back.

    The BDS movement is just the politically correct way to express your adherence to anti-Semitism. You don’t have the white sheet and hood over your head, but if you are a supporter of the BDS movement, you don’t need the linen to show us what you are all about.

    The Green party has taken a page from the Liberals…….enact a Policy that will steal NDP voters for the next election.

    Why is it that “progressives” are so often found in the same league as Jew-haters?

    • “… long ago”. Yes. it has been Palestine for a long time.



      • Pretty clear that you are one of those folks I just mentioned. You folks try to hide your anti-Semitism under the guise of human rights, but strangely enough…..never seem to criticize the real human rights abusers around the world. Russia, China, pretty much every Muslim Nation, Burma..etc…etc….

        I don’t suppose the reason has anything to do with the fact those countries don’t really have a Hebrew population eh?

        As for Palestinians…..they have only been called that since around 1968 when it was used by Arafat. “Palestine” was the name of the region as labelled by the Romans, and if you want to be honest, the FIRST PALESTINIANS were all Jewish…and have been for thousands of years.

        In fact, there was no such thing as a Muslim when Jews had already been around for a couple of thousand years. That particular brand of religion didn’t exist until around 700 AD or so. In fact, up until this cult formed, the Arabic folks were the ones you would look to for science, astronomy, and math. Apparently, Islam doesn’t just make you a primitive creature prone to violence….it also makes you stop trying.

        Imagine that.

    • Are you saying that they are Jew-haters and therefore what they are doing is hating on Jews? Because that sounds circular. Why is there this haste to judgment when there is an equal valid view that BDS is an attempt towards peacemaking, to make a case for Jews and Palestinians to coexist in the same geopolitical state?

      Anti-semitism is not politically correct, and there is no politically correct way to express adherence to something that is not politically correct — true political correctness would be achieved to address concerns such as yours, by having ethnic Palestinians negotiate terms for living in Israel not as those having the right to live in the state of Israel but as a state unto themselves, though currently undergoing what would then be discussed as a massively historical land dispute.

      • You miss the point.

        Today’s Anti-semites for the most part, identify as “progressive”. And god for bid, and “progressive” would be seen as hateful. By jumping on the BDS movement, they can keep both their progressive identity and their anti-Semitic beliefs. Doublethink.

        As for a land dispute….the Palestinians have already told you their solution…..it is a FINAL one, and that is the least they will settle for.

        Sorry…the Jews in Israel won’t be playing along. But you just keep on hoping SWSC. I know what you are about.

        • Well, yeah, I don’t take well either to those “progressives” who adulterate a human necessity (read: ethnic identity) and transform it into a polity, inevitably creating division into polities arising from multiple identities, inevitably pitting one against another, and inevitably including anti-semitism into the mix. This confusion does not bode well for the rule of law, and hence, sanity or any kind of playing along. You are right. But as long as there are words, I do believe that there is also hope.

          • There is no hope for peace between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians; sorry to say. At least not until Palestinian parents stop teaching their kids that killing Jews is a good thing. No hope until the Palestinians stop broadcasting childrens programming aimed at 3 to 10 year olds depicting puppets with weapons killing Jews. It is sort of like Sesame street…only it teaches about killing, jihad, and slaughter. The Palestinian version of Sesame street of course also has a “COUNT”, but instead of counting numbers of cookies, or balls, it goes more like this.

            “one….one dead ape-Jew Pig”..ah..ahh…ahhhhh….
            Two…..two dead ape-Jew Pigs”..ah..ahh..ahhhh……

            You get the idea.

            A former Israeli PM said it best with just a couple of quotes.

            “We will have peace with the Palestinians, when they love their children more than they hate ours”


            “We can forgive the Palestinians for killing OUR children, but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill theirs”..

            Pretty much sums up the difference between the two cultures. One of Life for the Jewish people, and one of Death for the Palestinians.

            THe arabs don’t want peace. They want no Jews.
            We need to stop pretending otherwise.

  3. Odd how many people can’t tell the difference between a Jew and an Israeli

    • Israeli Jew – some secular, some religious….but none have a tendency or desire to slit the throat of innocent men, women or children.

      Israeli Arab – some like the Jews above, but far too many would love the chance to spill Jewish blood….and we have seen thousands of examples of just that. Islam is a death cult….and most Palestinians are bona-fide members.

      • Muslims are 16% of Israelis

        Plus there are Christians, Bahai and Druze.

        Get a grip doofus…..there is no ‘death cult’ outside your fevered imagination

        • EMily, I am well aware of the demographics of the only civilized country in the region. It is a JEWISH country, and unlike the arab and ottoman nations in the region, the arab population is treated much better in Israel, than any Jewish population (remaining) in countries other than Israel.

          Israel isn’t worried about the Christians, the Bahai, or the Druze….they are worried about the terrorist portion of the 16% you just mentioned.

          As for the Death Cult……it isn’t just in the Israel Muslim population……you just have to read the polls of any country with a major Muslim population. Far too many of them support terrorism, and jihad.

          • No Israel is not a theocracy, it’s a democracy

            There are 1.2 BILLION Muslims in the world….it is a major global religion.

            We have christian terrorists you know…….but we don’t blame all christians for the actions of a few…..so get a grip

          • EMily,

            Every time you make a post….I can’t believe that you manage to write something more idiotic each time.

            I never wrote Israel was a Theocracy…YOU DID. I also know there are more than a billion Muslims in the world….and when you consider that about 100 to 200 million of them believe in violent jihad according to their own poll results….you really should be concerned when folks start letting them pour through your borders. Look what is happening in Europe.

            As for Christian terrorists…ummm…nice try.

            Of the last 30,000 terrorist attacks in the past 20 years, how many were committed by people killing in the name of Christianity? Sure, some people who did mass murder were Christian, but most of them were NOT killing in the name of Christianity.

            Can’t say the same for Islamic terrorists. As the saying goes, “Not all muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslim”

            You still don’t see it do you?


          • You have no idea of the meaning of words James…..so you have no idea what you’re talking about….and you just get more confused.

            Poll results?? LOLOL

            James I don’t make a ‘nice try’…..knowledge of these things is readily available


  4. Sorry but the notion that BDS “has significant support amongst the Canadian electorate” is a tad – err – much.

    55 votes = about 6% of parliament. Just as many groups oppose it and not many mainstream Canadian voters really even knew what it was until recently.

    If the GPC wants to support BDS, fine, let them shoot themselves in the foot and attain fringe party status once and for all.

    Watching the convention videos of their debates (which is freely available on youtube), the number of mis-statements about facts concerning the present situation in the ME from those supporting BDS was astounding. One speaker declared BDS should be supported instead of counter resolution rebuking Netanyahu himself, because quote “Netanyahu received a majority of support in Israel and therefore is speaking for Israel as a whole” which was jaw dropping to listen to. (Netanyahu’s party only garnered 23% in the last election and barely was able to form a coalition government – the opposition party in Israel fully supports a 2 state solution, bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians and other rational pathways to peace.)

    I’m not here to “debate” BDS per say (but I fully expect a deluge of posts from BDS supporters replying with UN Resolutions taken out of context, a complete lack of understanding as to what was agreed on in the Oslo Accords and of course, no mention of Egypt, which has also been blockading the Gaza Strip since 2007 but nay a mention of that in any of the BDS campaign – and if it isn’t clear – I don’t support BDS as something that should be in the GPC Platform and have left the party over it and will no longer support Green Candidates in elections but I do support Canadian leadership and federal parties doing everything they can to entice both parties back to negotiations that finally resolve border issues, settlements and the creation of a 2 state solution – which is what Canada is revered for around the world) – I’m here to simply state that there are some glaring jumps of logic in this article.

    • Sorry – this was ment to be its own comment – not a reply – there is no way to update this comment it seems on Macleans.com – sorry for the confusion.

    • James, glad to see you left the Greens on a point of principle.


      Unfortunately, there will be no two state solution. the Palestinians only want ONE state….and Jews are not allowed.

      You will find that most BDS supporters do have their “facts” wrong, but most of them are already well aware that what they are saying is untrue. Accuracy isn’t what they are going for. These folks know that most people are too damn lazy to think for themselves (hi Emily), and instead rely on what they hear from TV.

      BDS is only about anti-Semitism, regardless of its supporters tell you.

      One just has to look at the folks who support it. In fact, you would note that most people who support BDS, were also big time haters of Conservatives; especially Stephen Harper. We all know Harper was an avowed and proud supporter of Israel. That is why you find people who are most vibrantly anti-Semitic, are also those who hated Harper more than could be considered healthy.

      Harper defended Israel and the Jewish people, and for that, he can never be forgiven in their eyes.

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