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End Attempted Boycott of Shoes

Hon. David Kilgour
10 September 2011

The footwear known as ‘Naot’, the object of the current boycott at a retail store on Rue St. Denis, is, I’m told, made by about 200 Palestinian families as independent contractors for Naot, which then imports them from Israel to outlets across Canada.

On two recent Saturdays, several would-be boycotters from PAJU (“Palestinians and Jews (sic) United”), held up large banners, one of which urged shoppers not to buy products made in Israel. In this particular context, they were likely to harm 200 much-needed Palestinian livelihoods.

In my view, what was occurring was thinly-disguised anti-Semitism, with the aim of closing a legitimate taxpaying business and putting its employees out of work. Is this how Quebec, Montreal and Canada intend to implement on one of Montreal’s busiest streets the Canada-Israel free trade agreement now in effect?

If, as indicated, PAJU has been protesting for a long while outside the Chapters/Indigo bookstores on Rue St. Catherine, where obviously no Israeli products are sold but the CEO of the company is Heather Reisman - well known for general philanthropy here at home and strong advocacy for Israel - is not the argument that antisemitisn, based on the religion of an owner, the real motivation strengthened?

Can anyone today not know that in virtually every country Hitler invaded one of the first things the Schutzstaffel did was to seize all Jewish businesses and homes and send their owners to ghettos and then to death camps? Last summer, I underwent a life-changing experience by visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany near Krakow, Poland. I wish the boycotters would visit it too; if they did, their protests would hopefully cease.

The good news is that the struggle for public opinion on the issue across both Montreal and the province appears now settled in that both the city council and the Quebec National Assembly have taken strong positions in resolutions passed against the boycott. One or both of these bodies should go further and ensure that the weekly disruptions cease now. I’m told that the police feel they can do nothing; if so, let’s give them a bylaw or other legislative tool quickly to ensure freedom of commerce as well as assembly. This has dragged on far too long.

As the elected provincial representative of this district, the MNA Amir Khadir should “without fear or favour” encourage all legitimate businesses, and not, as here until recently, seek to destroy two of them. He has played politics with some of his constituents’ livelihoods and freedom of consumer choice long enough. Khadir and I know each other, having met as speakers at a conference last year; we have since exchanged e-mails on the issue without finding any measure of agreement.

Israel is of course imperfect, but it is a multi-party democracy, with, among other features, equal rights for women, free and fair elections, independent media and independent judges. Its national assembly (the Knesset) has elected Arab members. Its courts have Arab judges. Its diplomatic corp Arab representatives. So why are the boycotters going after only Israeli products? What about countries where governments systematically violate the basic dignity of their citizens, such as China? David Matas and I did an independent study on the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. We found 52 kinds of evidence that the party-state in Beijing has been killing Falun Gong since 2001 and selling their vital organs to “organ tourists,” including Canadians, and to wealthy residents of China. We also heard evidence that products, including clothing, chopsticks and Christmas decorations, are made in forced labour camps across China and then exported to China’s trade “partners.” When will the boycotters picket the myriad stores across Canada selling goods made in China?

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