Town should reject BMA proposal, reader says

A proposed sister city fo Osoyoos — Beit Jann in northern Israel.

Dear Mayor and Council,

I’m writing to you about the proposal made by BGA Management America (BMA) to broker some kind of P3 partnership between the Town of Osoyoos and Israeli companies that develop smart infrastructure technology.

I like the metaphor employed by journalist Andrew Stuckey at Osoyoos Today, who thinks the company is like a suitor that’s come calling to woo your city into some long-lasting relationship. The arrangement would even come with inlaws: a sister city, Beit Jann, in Israel.

However, it’s not clear to this reader of Stuckey’s article that the city is looking for smart technology applications, a P3 partner, or permanent Israeli commercial or cultural links. It seems BMA got its foot in the door only because CAO Barry Romanko opened it when representatives knocked.

I also like how Mayor McKortoff asked the reps to provide the names of other Canadian communities with which the company does business, learning there were none. I myself dug into the company business, finding that only one project was described on its website with enough detail to enable research of the enterprise.

The project is a military prison that houses Palestinian security prisoners in Meggido, Israel.

The prisoners of Meggido Prison, including children, will normally be seen as either political prisoners or terrorists, depending on your understanding of occupation and current events. My own view is the one typically held by the political left, human rights organizations, and the United Nations. Israel, the occupying power, has violated international law in multiple ways for nearly 70 years, including the Geneva Conventions.

The Fourth Convention states that “protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein.” In other words, the prison that BMA helped to build should not be housing any Palestinian prisoners at all who come from the occupied territories.

As for child prisoners, UNICEF released a report in 2013 asserting that Israel is the only country that tries juveniles in military courts that “by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.” The report also concludes that abuse of children in the military detention system is “widespread, systematic and institutionalized.”

Interestingly, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel obtained a debriefing paper for soldiers in late 2014 that acknowledged the military’s treatment of minors in the West Bank “may inflict real harm on the legitimacy of Israel and its actions in the area.”

Again, it was the military’s own position that its actions could call into question the legitimacy of Israel. I presume it is the democratic nature of the state that the military refers to, for what else could it be. A UN report concluded just two months ago that far from being a democratic state, Israel is an “apartheid state” according to the standards of international law. Israel’s treatment of Palestinians includes ethnically-based torture and murder; arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment; curtailment of fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech, assembly or religion; denial of political, cultural and economic participation; inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment – all, according to the report, “committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”

This obviously speaks to a much larger issue, that of doing business with the state of Israel at all. In fact, we live in a time when the very opposite – consumer boycotts, institutional divestment and economic sanctions – is seen as legitimate political resistance to the systematic oppression the UN described. BMA has said that “because Israel is small, it needs a bigger market,” but the truth is, BMA is out pounding the pavement in search of business for Israel because times are hard for the apartheid state, and rightly so.

I call on you, Mayor and Council, to immediately discontinue discussions with BMA in the interests of democracy and Palestinian human rights. Stand on the side of Palestinians in their struggle for justice and peace and you will stand on the right side of history for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Please get in touch if you have any questions or wish to reply.

Yours sincerely,

Dianne Varga
Penticton, BC


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