The ongoing, global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel got a boost recently when one of the largest student associations in Canada passed a resolution endorsing the delegitimization campaign against the Middle East’s only liberal democracy.
York University is Canada’s third largest. The York Federation of Students (YFS), which represents over 52,000 undergraduates, has now joined two others in Canada – the University of Toronto and Concordia University graduate student associations – in endorsements of the BDS movement on campus, which calls for universities to divest from companies that do business with Israel and to cut ties with Israeli academics. The campaign also demands a return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders, the removal of the West Bank barrier, improved rights for Arab citizens of Israel, and the “right of return” for “Palestinian refugees.”
Jessica Cherkasov says that no one from her Jewish student group, Hillel at York, or Hasbara at York, another Jewish group, was officially informed of the meeting, the motion, or of the agenda. They found out indirectly about the meeting only the day before it was scheduled. Hillel at York members had a chance to speak at the meeting, but had virtually no time to prepare an argument against the resolution. The vote by the YFS council was 18-2 in favor and was advocated for by the Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York, who have been calling on York students to endorse the BDS campaign since September of last year. SAIA members and supporters celebrated the vote afterward with a march around campus as they waved “Palestinian” flags and chanted “victory.”
“It is unacceptable that YFS failed to provide any public notice or agenda for this meeting,” said Chaim Lax, president of Hasbara at York. “This is sadly typical of activists who employ undemocratic tactics to advance their efforts – including snap meetings, surprise resolutions, and inadequate or non-existent notice.” Hillel at York and Hasbara at York issued a joint statement expressing their disappointment with the “fundamentally racist” motion:
This represents nothing less than a blacklist against residents of a single country – the world’s only Jewish state and the sole liberal democracy in the Middle East…
In taking this reckless decision, YFS has betrayed its very mandate and the sensibilities of the overwhelming majority of York students. YFS exists as a forum to unite students to advance the quality of student life – it is not a debating society that recommends punitive measures in response to divisive foreign policy issues. It is alarming that YFS, to which all York students are required to pay dues, would be asked to take a stand on behalf of all students on an overseas issue that has nothing to do with student issues.
Cherkasov says as a union representing the interests of more than 50,000 undergraduates, the YFS should not take a political stance on an issue that doesn’t affect all students on campus. “[T]he fact that [YFS] took a stance on a very touchy issue for Israeli and Palestinian students, I think that was inappropriate,” she said. “Now they have marginalized a group of students and created a hostile environment.”
Lax agreed, saying the YFS shouldn’t have taken a divisive political position. He claims that 4,000 students have signed a petition against the endorsement: “It showed a substantial amount of students, our constituents, didn’t want the YFS to endorse this motion and didn’t want them taking a position on the Palestine-Israel conflict,” he says.
Safiyah Husein, a vice president of the York Federation of Students, acknowledged that not everyone agrees with the outcome of the vote, “but we know the majority of our members believe this work is vital and important.” In her view, the YFS took a “principled stance” on the issue, as it does on other issues of a politically correct nature: “We engage in anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia, and anti-sexism campaigns not because they are popular, but because they are right, and they are important to our members,” she says, equating Israelis with racists and other intolerants while ignoring the genocidal anti-Semitism spelled out in the very charter of the homophobic, sexist, transphobic Palestinian leadership.
The YFS resolution will have no actual bearing on the university’s investment portfolio, however. “York University uses best practices in developing its policy on investments, and this is built on advice from major investment consulting firms,” said a York spokeswoman. Nevertheless, by signing on to the BDS movement to punish Israel, the university has voted to throw its support behind Hamas against Israel, even if only symbolically. That would be the same Hamas that is set to legally enforce the de facto school segregation of boys and girls over the age of nine, and that indoctrinates Arab children to martyr themselves killing Jews. Oh yes – it’s also a terrorist organization.
The BDS movement is alive and well on American campuses as well. The York vote came just before Boston University begins hosting a Students for Justice in Palestine-run “Right of Return Conference,” which, as Richard Cravatts writes in FrontPage Mag, “is propaganda parading as scholarship” in an attempt to “prolong the myth of Palestinian victimization and grant them, as part of that mythology, exclusive international recognition and supposed legal rights.”
On a more positive note, UC Riverside’s student government actually reversed itself and revoked a resolution approved just one month ago that urged the UC system to divest from companies that have contracts with Israel’s military. The student leaders decided to drop the controversial divestment policy because they realized it made Jewish students feel “marginalized,” and the student government wanted to remain “neutral” regarding the issue.
If only that common-sense reversal were more common. Unfortunately that would also require reversing the groupthink mindset endemic throughout western universities, where the pursuit of “social justice” takes precedence over higher learning.
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