One of the largest student unions in Canada has passed a resolution to endorse the Global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Last week, York University’s undergraduate students’ union, the York Federation of Students, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution, according to a statement by the group "Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) York."
The statement said that with 18 votes in favor and 2 opposed, the board of the York Federation of Students passed the resolution to endorse the BDS campaign, as well as demand that York University abide by the BDS call.
The union has specifically urged the University to withdraw its investments from Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Amphenol and other companies that are selling weapons and military equipment to Israel, said SAIA’s statement.
“The oppression of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli state is not some far off issue that we can choose to ignore. We are already deeply implicated in the human rights violations of the Israeli State through our investments in the above-mentioned companies. We do not have the privilege to remain ‘neutral’ on this issue,” said SAIA York member Huda Al-Sarraj.
Last November, noted SAIA York, a BDS motion was passed by the York University Graduate Students’ Association (GSA).
“SAIA York now hopes to bring its demand for divestment to the York University Administration by lobbying for the implementation of a socially responsible investment policy. With the support of the GSA and the YFS, as well as the TA’s, GA’s and contract faculty union, CUPE 3903, which passed a BDS motion in 2006, SAIA York will now demand an end to the investment of university funds into companies that profit from violations of international law and human rights,” said the group.
The move was blasted by Jewish organizations in Canada, including the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
A UJA statement said that it was “appalling that YFS would pass such a radical resolution that clearly discriminates against the people of Israel based on their nation of origin. The manner in which this motion was passed is equally disturbing. The meeting at which the BDS motion was brought forth was arranged under dubious and secretive circumstances with little forewarning given to any of the Jewish student organizations or the student body at large.
“This is, unfortunately, typical of some student unions which employ undemocratic tactics to advance their agenda – including backdoor meetings, surprise resolutions, and inadequate or non-existent notice,” said the statement. “It is alarming that YFS, to which York students are required to pay dues, has taken an extreme stand on an issue that has nothing to do with what matters to the vast majority of students. YFS has chosen to align itself with the proponents of BDS many of whom publicly call for the destruction of Israel.”
The move was also condemned by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC).
“The continued targeting of a minority population by the YFS on the heels of a similar recent vote by graduate students, and the lack of oversight by the university administration, has culminated in this inexcusable action lead by a group of racist activists who have just ramped up the intimidation level on the York campus today,” said FSWC President and CEO Avi Benlolo.
“The fact that this vote will have no material effect is immaterial; it demonstrates a profound bias against a people who, despite being repeatedly dispossessed throughout history, have managed to create the only democratic nation in the Middle East with equal rights for all its citizens on the land which is their historical birthright,” he added.
FSWC called on York University’s president “to shake off his blinders and address the ongoing threat felt by Jewish students on his campus.”
Earlier this month, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students' Union (UTMSU) Board of Directors voted overwhelmingly in favor of endorsing a 2005 call for a BDS campaign against Israel.
UTMSU represents over 12,500 undergraduate students at the University of Toronto Mississauga, the second-major division of Canada’s largest University.
In December, the Graduate Student Union (GSU) at the University of Toronto also decided to endorse the BDS campaign against Israel.
The GSU overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution to endorse the global campaign for BDS at their annual general meeting, with approximately 97 percent of students voting in favor of the motion.
Similar motions have been passed by student groups at other Canadian universities over the past year, including the University of Regina and Carleton University.
The Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) recently rejected a motion calling for sanctions against Israel.
The OUSU motion calling for the Oxford student union to boycott Israeli institutions, goods and produce lost by a vote of 69-10, with 15 abstentions.