Feb. 15, 2019
By Ari Glik & Emily Kalo
WINNIPEG – When the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) voted last year in favour of endorsing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – one that has been discredited by a wide range of activists and politicians, from Pope Francis to Justin Trudeau – it sent a message to students from across the country: Jews do not have the right to self-determination on our ancestral lands.
That’s why when the University of Manitoba Student Union (UMSU) voted against the CFS and condemned its position, many students took it as a reminder that human rights are not only a privilege for some, but for all. An overwhelming majority of student unions in Canada have also voted against BDS in recent years.
As Jewish students on campus, we are privy to the fact that BDS directly leads to antisemitism on college and university campuses. There are dozens of examples (here’s one from this week), as well as studies and surveys that irrefutably confirm this. The notion that “Zionism” and “Judaism” are not intertwined has been debunked.
Yet there are students out there who are being misled by this campaign that falsely asserts itself as a “non-violent” movement in support of Palestinian human rights, as its proprietors are only vocal when the State of Israel can be blamed.
Continuing its neutral stance on foreign political affairs, UMSU recently cancelled its Frosh Fest event, one of the reasons being that a main act said it would engage in politics and support BDS on stage. UMSU’s decision was, again, a bid to support Jewish students on campus, recognizing that singling out their support for a Jewish homeland could lead to their being harassed and discriminated against on campus.
But rather than accept that decision, Jacob Singleton, Comment Editor of The Manitoban, decided the UMSU’s stand for human rights was simply a political ploy in support of Zionism.
In a recent article published in The Manitoban, Singleton accuses UMSU President Jakob Sanderson of “crocodile tears” and of being the “only person who is convinced UMSU is neutral” on the BDS movement.
Integrity and neutrality require examining the facts as they are without having to “convince” oneself. Singleton failed to examine the facts and presented a biased understanding of the situation on his own campus, let alone the situation in the Middle East. If he had, he would have seen that it is BDS activists who espouse “crocodile tears” about the Arab-Israeli conflict, not us.
Singleton posits that UMSU’s status quo on Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), a pro-BDS student club, was entirely due to Sanderson’s leadership, when, in fact, UMSU took a stance against SAIA in 2013 (way before Sanderson was elected in 2018, when UMSU was under the leadership of Al Turnbull).
Singleton conveys all sorts of false notions in his article as fact. His reference to Zionism as “the project to expand the ethno-state of Israel to encompass all of Palestine” is not only egregiously incorrect – it’s offensive, disregards thousands of years of history, and asserts himself as an individual who has never once studied Judaism. Had he, he’d be aware of its explicit connection to the Land of Israel.
He also fails to acknowledge what Hamas has itself admitted during the 2018 Gaza border protests. Hamas, the genocidal terrorist entity that controls Gaza, instigated the 2018 protests and refused medical supplies to enter the area. A top Hamas official confirmed that the “vast majority” of those killed were “supporters” of Hamas or directly “belonged to the Islamist group.”
In supporting BDS, Singleton states that “there is no conceivable justification” for rejecting an affirmation of it. He’s right. There are actually several.
For starters, BDS founder and leader Omar Barghouti has proposed a one-state (non-Jewish) solution, stating that “No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Second, BDS rejects the only Jewish state’s right to exist while ignoring countries with actual proven records of human-rights abuses like Venezuela or Iran. A German intelligence agency released a 2018 report that referred to BDS as a “new variation of antisemitism.”
Third, BDS claims to support Palestinian rights, but with the caveat that it will only do so when it can attack Israel. Activists were quick to condemn Lebanon for collaborating with Israel on a DJ music event, Tomorrowland, yet they don’t ever address the Lebanese government’s categorization of its Palestinian refugees as foreigners that are treated worse than other foreigners and are denied basic rights, including the ability to acquire, transfer or inherit property.
Not to mention the whole SodaStream debacle. If the true goal of BDS is to support Palestinian people it would not actively boycott companies and organizations that offer them employment. It is that simple.
As for anti-Israel activism on campus, colleges and universities with “rising BDS activity” have been linked to “increased harassment, intimidation and hostility” toward Jewish students, as reported in an extensive study across 50 campuses by a team of professors at Brandeis University.
University campuses across Canada have also exhibited a direct link between pro-BDS motions and antisemitic incidents. A history professor who supports BDS at the University of Toronto accused his Jewish pupil of being “an Israeli government agent.” Not long after a BDS resolution was endorsed at McGill University were Jewish students insulted with antisemitic slurs. Another BDS referendum at the University of Windsor was associated with an individual breaking into a student leader’s office and spray-painting antisemitic graffiti on the wall, leading students on campus to feel unsafe and police to investigate the incident as a serious hate crime.
Established policies at the University of Manitoba and even within the Canadian Federation of Students itself are drafted to prevent hateful movements like BDS. The University of Manitoba prohibits discrimination on grounds including “nationality or national origin” while the policies of the Canadian Federation of Students state that the CFS opposes “incitement of hatred” and “discrimination” on the basis of “ethnic origin” as well as “religion” and “other related grounds.”
While Singleton may have seen UMSU’s decision as wrong, Jewish and non-Jewish students at the University of Manitoba saw it as the university’s genuine care and value for its student body. Not just some of its students, but all.
As Jewish students, we applaud UMSU for standing up against the discriminatory BDS movement and upholding Canadian values. We can only hope that other student unions take notice.
Ari Glikman is Manitoba Campus Coordinator with B’nai Brith on Campus. Emily Kalo is President of Students Supporting Israel Manitoba.