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After string of victories at York University, anti-apartheid group sees its student club status revoked

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Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University

The administration of  Canada’s third-largest university, Toronto’s York University (YU) has taken an extraordinary step by revoking the status of an official student club, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA).

The administration has also barred popular activist/alumnus Hammam Farah from York’s campus. Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University say these actions represent “an unprecedented attack on academic freedom and freedom of speech.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has entered the fray by releasing a public statement defending the right to peaceful protest.

On July 24th, members of Students Against Israeli Apartheid attended YU’s Board of Governors meeting to express their concern over what they characterized as an “undemocratic decision” as well as to challenge YU’s Pension and Endowment Fund for its investments in companies that profit from selling weapons and military technologies to the Israeli military. The Governors walked out on the action.

SAIA activists have been effective in chalking up success after success leading to the passage of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motions at YU. They lost official status at the university after using a loudspeaker at a demonstration, which the university said broke rules aimed at not disrupting classes.

The students have started a Petition to revoke ban of SAIA and Hammam Farah:

In response to increased pressure from Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University (SAIA), the York University administration has taken the extraordinary measures of banning a community member and alumnus from campus, to threaten student leaders with punishment, and furthermore, to revoke the official student club status of SAIA until January 2014. These actions represent an unprecedented attack on academic freedom and freedom of speech on the York University campus.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has released its public statement defending the right to peaceful protest – even if the protest is disruptive: “Events that are simply noisy, disruptive or cause some inconvenience are often still peaceful and, in many cases, such disruption is a core component of the nature of the protest or the message being conveyed.” Loud, yet peaceful, protests should not be silenced, especially when students are fighting for social justice and universal human rights.

This past year, SAIA has been especially successful in passing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motions at both the York University Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and the York Federation of Students (YFS), as well as gaining over 5,000 signatures of undergraduate students on a petition calling for BDS. CUPE 3903, the union for Teaching Assistants and Contract Faculty, passed a BDS motion in 2009. In response to the mass mobilization efforts of SAIA, including silent vigils, written statements, and public protests, all of these student and worker organizations have made a commitment to push the York University administration to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations as well as violations of International Law.

Currently, the York University Pension Fund and Endowment Fund are invested in companies that sell weapons and other military technologies to the Israeli military. These companies are complicit in the murder of innocent Palestinian families in Gaza as recently as November 2012.

The administration is no longer abiding by the University’s own mission statement of being a University that “cultivate(s) the critical intellect”, that “explore(s) global concerns”, and most importantly, that is a “community of faculty, students, staff, alumni, and volunteers committed to academic freedom, social justice, accessible education, and collegial self-governance”.

We, the undersigned, demand that the York University administration comply with York’s mission statement by:

1. Immediately reinstating Students Against Israeli Apartheid as a registered student club at York University;

2. Immediately recalling its trespass order against alumnus and activist Hammam Farah;

3. Making a firm commitment to upholding the universal values of freedom of speech and freedom of association, which includes, but is not limited to, amending or revoking University policies that place limits on said freedoms.

[Your name]

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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16 Responses

  1. HarryLaw
    July 29, 2013, 12:27 pm

    The Governors were contemptuous, unfeeling and arrogant, if I was a student there, I would feel such anger I would treble my commitment to see the union reinstated then go after those arrogant apologies for human beings and hit them with all the rules of the University and any other legal means at my disposal.

  2. Citizen
    July 29, 2013, 1:32 pm

    What’s wrong with Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, England? You’d think they didn’t die by the scores of thousands to defeat Hitler the way they suck up to Israel right or wrong. I thought Christians were no match with Jews in terms of guilt. They’re more than a match, despite stand-up Jewish comedy acts. Zionists, OTOH, have no guilt at all, and neither do the Jews in USA who don’t protest AIPAC power.

    • Daniel Rich
      Daniel Rich
      July 29, 2013, 10:29 pm

      @ Citizen,

      Q: What’s wrong with Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, England?

      R: It used to be common-wealth. Now a handful of individuals can proudly proclaim ‘my-wealth’. I think too much power/money concentrated in the hands of a few [on top of the corruptible nature of money to begin with] results in what we see today. We, the commoners, the grey masses, can hammer on our keyboards until they’re blood soaked, we can’t dislodge that cancerous entity without having to rely on whatever firepower we’re allowed to keep.

      • southernobserver
        July 30, 2013, 3:31 am

        as a current “ANZAC” at least in a manner of speaking, I feel I ought to be able to comment. D***** if I really understand it though. Some thoughts.
        1. public opinion is more sympathetic than the official government view. I think. Certainly there is a wider range of views.
        2. Even within that, harper is just a fascist, but the UK is actively supporting settlement labeling, more than many europeans. I think that they are trying to be all things to everybody.
        3. some of it is sucking up to the US. The US is an evil empire. NZ and Australia know this but we don’t want to be crushed. Sorry. We sent troops to Afghanistan. Dear god why? It can only be so that we are seen as ‘good allies’ and say on the side of might.
        4. We have our own well funded lobbies. I didn’t believe this until one of our cartoonists was hounded out of the NZ Herald for daring to criticise the Gaza abomination. The same but worse happened several months ago to members of the Green Party in Australia.

        All true. Still, I have been wondering if there is more to it. Everything outside the UK is colonial, and they were big time sponsors. It was a long time ago, but could it be guilt, buried by rejection? I am suggesting a form of cognitive dissociation: Invading and destroying the locals is obviously bad. However, we know that we are good. Therefore what we did must be good, therefore they must have deserved it. If our native people deserved it, then so must anybody who rejects our civilising influence! Down with Palestinians!

        iggg. Nah, I am sure that its just that we don’t want to be crushed by the US.

      • Citizen
        July 30, 2013, 10:43 am

        @ southernobnserver

        And, I guess, in the US, chalk it up to main media being nothing but a hasbara parrot, and the same, our high government reps and leaders, who don’t want their lucrative careers crushed by the AIPAC network, which brings us back to Daniel Rich’s comment. So, unless some very wealthy Jewish Americans take up the battle against AIPAC, the battle against what the Israel Firsters think is “best for the Jews,” the battle against conflating US and world interests with Zionist Israel, nothing will change, and the Zionist regime will keep on putting down “facts on the ground” as it has for going on a half century. Too bad Phil Weiss is not rich like, e.g., Sheldon Adelson, Soros, Saban, Crown, Pritzker, etc. I see nothing short of a regional, then world war, stemming from the US/Israeli determination to stop Iran’s attempt to be competitive with Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East, to change the status quo. This, partnering with the continued securitization of the failed US economy, divorced of production jobs, divorced of real product, via banking and Wall St, might one day bring Dick and Jane out into the street, maybe even to the ramparts.

  3. Justpassingby
    July 29, 2013, 3:35 pm

    Imagine if they barred a jewish activist. That would never have happend of course.
    Did I miss any paragraph or where is the reason for cracking down on this anti-apartheid group?

    Still this is the same Canada bombastically declared Iran to be the biggest enemy to the world. The pro-israel harper regime have been running nuts lately.

  4. BrianEsker
    July 29, 2013, 7:40 pm

    They made a complete nuisance of themselves and then tried to bully the University administration to boot.

    It didn’t go over too well.

    What we call a BDS fail.

    • just
      July 29, 2013, 9:36 pm

      Who’s “we”, Brian?

      The mere fact that they were banned is in itself a triumph– a WIN.

      The guardians of the status quo are genuinely frightened. BDS will win, and I salute these students and have no respect for the cowardly “Governors”.

  5. Shingo
    July 29, 2013, 9:34 pm

    They made a complete nuisance of themselves and then tried to bully the University administration to boot.

    So sad. They challenged a bunch of authoritarian, corrupt self serving cowards. How dare they.

    It didn’t go over too well.

    Nor did the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

    What we call a BDS fail.

    What we call fascism.

    • Obsidian
      July 30, 2013, 4:51 am

      The students broke protocol by failing to follow ‘Roberts rules’.

      • Shingo
        July 31, 2013, 11:54 pm

        No, the students weer simply too effective at what they were doing so had to be removed.

  6. Jim Martin
    Jim Martin
    July 29, 2013, 10:07 pm

    That’s for those of you that thought Canada wasn’t Zionist occupied territory

  7. Citizen
    July 30, 2013, 11:06 am

    Maybe Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, USA, should take a hint from the nordic/Scandinavian countries? Methinks the Israel Lobby is not very powerful in those states. Here’s a zionist blog about Norway and Iceland that will give you a clue:

    Here’s an old article from 2008 on the subject:

  8. Citizen
    July 30, 2013, 11:27 am

    Is there any nonwestern country that praises and implements multiculturalism as a boon to the nation? Anybody? If not, what does this mean?

  9. piotr
    July 30, 2013, 11:37 am

    As fascism is concerned, suspension for one semester is a rather mild form. Still, one can document if the university administration is impartial or not.

    For example, at my university they made a “free expression zone” which indeed is well away from windows of the classroom buildings and on the main walking route of students, so kind of reasonable. And one crazy preacher is regularly violating it by shouting in front of a heavily used classroom building, and he is tolerated as an annoying campus fixture. But he is not using voice amplification.

    Occasionally, the administration goes bonkers and “throws the book” at protesting students, I recall two issues: Apartheid in South Africa and CIA recruitment. Here no students were expelled (or shot). However, campuses routinely invoke the fact that they are “private property” in some cases and “public institution” in other to weasel out of obligations of either (paying taxes like a private institution or providing free access like a public institution).

    • Daniel Rich
      Daniel Rich
      July 30, 2013, 5:56 pm

      @ piotr,

      Q: …they made a “free expression zone”

      R: How very ‘eastern Europe…’

      I guess the guy with the AK47 won the debate? Zones, fences, walls and drones… It’s a bit like that signature head-shot, isn’t it?

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