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Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid

The Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement is fast becoming the bane of Israel, with even that nation’s Prime Murderer, Benjamin Netanyahu, singling it out as one of Israel’s countless ‘existential’ threats. Several wealthy Zionists in the United States have pledged millions of dollars to counter the movement, and even the U.S. government is beginning to propose and pass laws attempting to limit its effectiveness. In Canada, the NDP purged all officials sympathetic to the human rights struggles of the Palestinian people in preparation for this month’s elections, hoping, apparently, to shore up support from the Zionist bloc (if such a thing even exists in Canada).

Unfortunately for Israel and its adoring minions in U.S. and Canadian governance, a people’s movement against blatant injustice can’t be legislated away. Canadian institutions of higher learning have embraced Palestinian rights, and many of them have active chapters supporting the human rights struggles of the Palestinian people against the barbaric cruelty of Israel. Stark evidence of this is seen in the recent actions of the University of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Ontario. The UW has five ‘sister’ universities in Israel, and UW students are none too pleased about their ugly and disreputable relatives. On Thursday, October 8, they presented a petition to Maaz Yasin and Carly McCready, two executives of the Federation of Students, the undergraduate student union, signed by over 4,000 undergraduate students, demanding that the Federation of Students hold a referendum about severing its ties with Israeli schools.

The catalyst for this may have been a statement made in March of 2014, by Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo while visiting Israel to participate in ceremonies marking the newly-formed association between the UW and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. There, he made this amazing statement: “I am personally, and on behalf of my institution, proud to come to Israel because the Technion is a natural partner – it represents all the values, vision, ambitions and commitment towards excellence that we share”. Enough students were appalled by his remarks, especially pertaining to shared ‘values’, that they signed the petition in numbers larger than have ever been gathered on any petition at the UW previously.

The petition, in part, reads as follows. Each point shows how over 4,000 UW students believe that their school and the Israeli schools differ in ‘values’. Some explanatory comments have been added.

“Whereas Palestinians’ right to education is systematically obstructed, and thousands of Palestinian students and teachers are prevented from reaching their schools due to military checkpoints and roadblocks, the illegal apartheid wall, and the frequent closure of cities;”.

Military checkpoints in the West Bank, opened and closed at the whim of the terrorist Israeli soldiers who operate them, divide towns and neighborhoods. It isn’t just students and teachers who are prevented from attending classes; farmers cannot walk from their homes to their fields, and shop keepers can’t reach their own places of business.

“Whereas Palestinians in Israel suffer restrictions imposed by the State of Israel and Israeli universities on education, scholarships, and participation in campus activities;”.

Palestinians seeking admission to Israeli universities are under restrictions that don’t impact potential Israeli students. Regarding scholarships and extra-curricular activities at these schools, Palestinians need not apply.

“Whereas in 2005, the Palestinian civil society called upon people of conscience around the world to initiate campaigns of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) aiming to end the ongoing violations of human rights in Israel & the Occupied Palestinian Territories, similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era;”.

The violations of human rights include, but are not limited to, the official Israeli policy of not starving the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but using the internationally-condemned blockade to ‘keep them hungry,’ by carefully allowing in only sufficient food to prevent starvation; the arbitrary arrest, incarceration and fatal shootings of Palestinians in the West Bank; the periodic bombing of schools, mosques, residential neighborhoods and press buildings and vehicles, not to mention United Nations refugee centers, all in violation of international law.

It appears that Mr. Hamdullahpur didn’t speak for all the students of his university when he spoke in such lofty terms of Israel’s values. This seems to parallel the disconnect between what many government leaders say about Israel, and what their citizens believe. Despite polling indicating eroding support for Israel, the governments of the U.S. and Canada continue to provide unqualified support for that apartheid nation. And nowhere is the contrast between the pompous pronouncements of school officials and the feelings and beliefs of the student population more evident than in Canada. Such major universities as the University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson University, McMaster University and many others have endorsed the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement. Sometimes, as in the case of the University of Waterloo, the disconnect between school administrators and students is blatant. For another example, we can look to Concordia University. In December of 2014, after undergraduate students there voted to endorse the BDS movement, Concordia University president Alan Shepard made the rather puzzling statement that the vote was independent of the university. How a vote by students at a university could be independent of that university he did not trouble himself to explain.

Like a snowball rolling down a hill, growing in size, speed and strength as it progresses, the worldwide movement for justice for the Palestinians continues to expand, despite the efforts of those who profit from it, whether in the halls of governance or at institutions of higher learning. While those profiteers may delay the inevitable, as they long-delayed justice for the majority population in South Africa a generation ago, they cannot prevent it. The grass-roots movement for justice for the Palestinians is turning into a prairie fire, and there isn’t sufficient money in the world to extinguish it.

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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