Canadian Academic Boycott of Israel: Why We Need to Take Action

SOLIDARITY WITH GAZA[This post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone in any boycott movement, apart from those of the writer. This post should not be read as an indication of the content of any private discussions, nor is it intended to tell or instruct others on what they should be doing to boycott Israel. Posts directly related to the one below are: Campus Gaza: Academic Boycotts and Complicit Silence (12 Jan. 2009); Boycott Israel: Montreal Professors and Academic Employees (24 Jan. 2009); Boycott Israel! – More anthropologists on Gaza (II).]

There is also the issue of what a country becomes when it loses its ability to question power, views military values as the highest ideals, ignores international law, and becomes indifferent to the suffering of the most innocent and defenseless….we are witnessing a crime against humanity for which indifference and silence makes one deeply complicit with the killing and disappearance of young children. Gaza reminds us that the “dark times” that haunted Arendt’s generation can now be seen in the images of wounded and dead children and should serve as a desperate reminder of what it means when politics, social responsibility, and justice, as the lifeblood of democracy, become cold and indifferent in the face of death.

Henry A. Giroux, Global TV Network chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada (“Killing Children with Impunity,” CounterPunch, 14 January 2009)

There’s a clear chill in the air. And it’s not just coming from the deep freeze of winter that’s descended on us. It’s coming from the targeted silencing of many people world-wide concerned about human rights violations — myself included — who have dared to speak out against the Israeli state’s military offensive against the people of Gaza. Opposing and targeting the policies of the Israeli state is not opposing and targeting Jews. Neither is criticizing Israel synonymous with challenging Israel’s existence. Yet, criticize the State of Israel and face individually targeted and unprecedented criticism, threats and personal attacks — tantamount to a new form of McCarthyism.

Sid Ryan, President, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Ontario, op-ed in The Toronto Sun, 19 January 2009. (link)

More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a nonviolent means of pressuring South Africa to end its violations. Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations.

Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockman, President of the United Nations General Assembly (source)


Occupied Minds

A university, in a democracy. A dome of silence, an absence of criticism. I have to wonder how institutions that boast of enhancing and developing individuals’ capacities for citizenship, for appreciation of diversity, and sensitivity to humanity, can so quickly turn a cold face to genocide. Something is seriously wrong, and it’s not just Israel, it’s us.

That is, it has been us, all of us, until recent years. There has been a growing movement of academics across the U.K. and North America to begin to take the only action available, in an international system that is heavily skewed in favour of a handful of powers, where double standards, false promises, and empty charters prevail. We have to take action, because no one else will.

First, the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) voted to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan Universities in April, 2005, and repealed the boycott a month later (link), but the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) continued to seek an academic boycott up to a year later. Then, also in the U.K., on 16 January 2009, over 200 academics, musicians, writers and artists signed a petition that expressed outrage against Israel and called not just for a ceasefire, but for a boycott, divestment, and sanctions. There was no ambiguity nor ambivalence in the statement, it was direct and unequivocal:

The massacres in Gaza are the latest phase of a war that Israel has been waging against the people of Palestine for more than 60 years….The goal of this war has never changed: to use overwhelming military power to eradicate the Palestinians as a political force, one capable of resisting Israel’s ongoing appropriation of their land and resources. Israel’s war against the Palestinians has turned Gaza and the West Bank into a pair of gigantic political prisons. There is nothing symmetrical about this war in terms of principles, tactics or consequences. Israel is responsible for launching and intensifying it, and for ending the most recent lull in hostilities.

Among the names of scholars that I recognized are internationally prominent and respected ones such as Ernesto Laclau, Etienne Balibar, Eric Hobsbawm, Slavoj Zizek, Paul Gilroy, and John Hutnyk; anthropologists such as David Graeber, Alexander King, and Martha Mundy; and Caribbeanists such as Diana Paton and Paul Sutton. They were among those who expressly took sides in this conflict, specifically the side of the people of Gaza:

Israel must lose….If we believe in the principle of democratic self-determination, if we affirm the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation, then we are obliged to take sides… against Israel, and with the people of Gaza and the West Bank….We must do what we can to stop Israel from winning its war.

Student actions, protests, and petitions for boycotts against Israel are to be found even in the United States (source).

While we have spoken of universities being “occupied” in protest here on this blog, whether in Greece, New York, or across the U.K., I think that we are making a mistake in speaking in terms of occupation. Occupation, annexing territory, monopolizing space, is what oppressors do. When we “take” a university, we are liberating it, restoring it as a free zone, reasserting its autonomy.

We urgently need autonomy when it comes to a university system tied up with the goals of state (not the public, except only in name), serving international power on the side of Israel. It is urgent because it is abundantly clear that virtually every single point that the Israeli state has advanced as a justification for this war has been completely debunked. Even commonly held and widespread myths have fallen to pieces, whether they be the “human shields” tale, or that Hamas is seeking the destruction of Israel. Indeed, with respect to the latter, Hamas’ leader, Ismail Haniyeh told European parliamentarians: “Our conflict is not with the Jews; our problem is with the occupation.” There is nothing outlandish, repugnant, nor unreasonable about that position, but it happens to be the kind of statement that gets buried by the Western mass media, deliberately. Likewise, Hamas made repeated attempts to extend the truce, and accepted a two-state solution. And likewise, Israel has continued to reject such efforts, yet boasting that it alone wants “peace” (the peace of the dead, obviously.)

Liberated Minds

As academics, trained to ask questions, to think critically, to search for reasons and unearth evidence, some of us can no longer take the official justifications of the leading war states at face value, those states being the U.S. and Israel. Some will  notice that Israeli government and military spokespersons repeat a consistent doctrinaire line, regardless of masses of contrary evidence that they are made to confront, and assume that rights are only Israel’s. In addition to dogmatic recitations of the “facts” as the Israeli state wishes to cast them, there is a quick embrace of any technicality that can provide cover for justifying mass slaughter. This kind of inhumane pounding of a people, on the thinnest of pretexts, the mentality and practice of genocide, is absolutely unacceptable and repugnant when conducted in the name of “liberal democracy” and in the names of all us who are said to live in “liberal democracies.” For those who missed some of the supporting material on which these observations rest, please read: An Unfolding Pattern of Genocide: Notes from Gaza.

This then is our fight too.

Let us now turn our attention to some of the reasons various persons and institutions have given in order to challenge the call for an academic boycott of Israel.

(1) The Academic Freedom Debate

A boycott violates our academic freedom

James L. Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed on 7 January 2008 that “we don’t see that the way to express our opposition to what a government is doing is by penalizing academics in that country.”

Turk seems to be making two possible mistakes. One is to say “we” — I also belong to CAUT, as do most of the signatories to the petition that was circulated recently among Montreal universities and colleges. Clearly, “we” are divided. Clearly, Turk needs to stop talking for the rest of us, before consulting the rest of us. On the other hand, by “we” he may have meant the CAUT executive body, which does not necessarily solve the problem.

The second mistake comes in the form of an assumption, and that is that Israeli academics are disconnected from the state. It seems to be a mighty step backward, in terms of all that we have learned of knowledge and power, the political economy of academia, the benefits of domination shared by those who produce knowledge for domination, and of the many binding ties between academia and the state, to suddenly agree that we can neatly separate the two.

For her part, Costanza Musu, a professor at the University of Ottawa, echoes some of the same concerns in, “University of Ottawa professor Costanza Musu: Why boycotting Israeli professors is wrong,” National Post, 06 January 2009, which in the interest of full disclosure, is Canada’s leading right-wing newspaper. Musu states:

“Another immediate consequence of such a boycott is of course giving the students the false impression that Israel is a monolithic country, where dissent does not exist and debate does not include criticism of the government. As in any democratic country, professors in Israel have differing opinions of the government’s actions”.

The problem with Musu’s statement is this: we boycotted South Africa, which was even less monolithic, as it included vigorous internal opposition movements in all sectors of society.

Musu goes further, and ridicules the call for the boycott, by suggesting that the boycott call issued by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontatio) would require visiting Israeli astrophysicists to stand before a class and deliver a political denunciation of Israel before proceeding to lecture. While Musu lampoons one single tactic of the proposed boycott, she spares the rest of the proposed boycott actions from any criticism.

Musu emphasizes the issue of our pedagogical practices, the need to bring in speakers to her class that represent all sides, and again the issue of academic freedom. With all due respect, this strikes me as a selfish and narrow way of thinking. Our academic freedom, and our props for class, do not trump everything else on earth. Academic freedom is vital, but not so paramount that it rises above the interests of human beings subject to genocidal practices. I would rather live in a world with justice, and no concept of academic freedom, than the reverse.

Incidentally, a few days later, again in the National Post, a Jewish-Canadian professor supported the call for a boycott (source).

Musu referred to CUPE’s boycott call (more on that to follow). It must be noted that CUPE restated its position on 10 January 2009, saying the boycott would be aimed at institutions, and not individuals, as part of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign:

“In the process of examining academic boycott initiatives by other organizations around the world, and similar actions that helped end apartheid in South Africa, it has become clear that the position is not banning individuals. Rather an academic boycott should focus on issues of investment, partnership, fundraising and joint projects,” said Ryan. “That will also be our approach.” (source)

What about academic freedom for Palestinians?

There is another side to academic freedom that has not been considered so far: the Palestinian side. Dr. David Lloyd (U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) told Inside Higher Ed, “Israeli institutions are complicit in immense infringement on Palestinian academic freedom, so it’s really hard, it seems to me, for Israeli institutions to claim the rights of academic freedom that they are so systematically denying to their Palestinian counterparts.” In addition, he argued: “We feel that we should not collaborate with Israel as long as it is refusing academic freedom to Palestinians. It is really a profoundly moral issue.” Lloyd also observed, “Presidents of universities have spoken out against the boycott of Israeli academics in the past. They are not speaking out against the systematic and gradual destruction of Palestinian institutions by Israel.”

What does academic freedom have to do with divestment?

There is no argument, based on academic freedom, that can be used against a university’s divestment from companies that do business with Israel. To divest is to merely achieve a neutral position for the university. To invest is an active stance, and it demands direct challenge. The question will be: do our universities in Canada, and here in Quebec, have any investments and are those companies in which they invest doing business with Israel? Moreover, and along the same lines, it impinges on no one’s academic freedom to insist that the university finally begin to reject donations from private and corporate donors with an active pro-Israel agenda. Not to do so is to compromise the neutrality of the administration, which in the case of Concordia saw the last president, Claude Lajeunesse, intervening in rare political debate, against a boycott of Israel. He was silent on almost all other political issues, except this one.

We cannot have an administration beholden to one particular set of especially sanguine and virulent special interests. We also have had administrations that defended invitations to Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak to speak at Concordia — many of us view these two as accomplised war criminals, whose only right to speak should be before a human rights tribunal. It is in the defense of no one’s academic freedom to have such figures dirty our doorstep, but it is an offense against those of us who think of the university as our home, and who worry about how we may all be represented in the wider world if our university is used to provide cover for genocidal heads of state.

We should be serving humanity, be concerned for humanity, and Concordia ought to show more sensitivity and respect for humanity if it is to be taken seriously and to be protected as an institution worth preserving in very uncertain times. I am not even introducing here the contextual reality that American imperial and Israeli genocidal causes are vastly unpopular in Quebec, the political state in which Concordia must work, but which the senior executives in charge seem to ignore.

(2) “Boycott me, please!

If my state were to engage in an open slaughter of people living on First Nations reserves, I would deeply resent foreign states and consumers backing up and supporting the government in my country. I would want a total boycott, I would not want further propping up of an unjust situation — let me be clear: as an academic, and as a citizen of this state, I would demand that everyone overseas boycott me. I would not want your “solidarity.” I would not be giving my first and most important thoughts to selfish concerns about my career, my publishing, my research funds, my prestige, my ability to travel to conferences, etc. I would want to be banished, so I could also manifest how vastly unpopular our country had become in the eyes of the world and that we need to do something drastic to change our situation.

I therefore do not understand, nor do I accept, the notion that out of concern for academic freedom, all other freedoms must be drowned. Academic freedom is neither just individual, nor is it absolute and paramount. And as with all rights, responsibilities are attached. Instead of academic selfishness, common as it is, let us see greater academic social responsibility.

Having said that, it is very important to note that at least some Israeli academics have in fact called to be boycotted:

“We, as Israeli citizens, raise our voices to call on EU leaders: use sanctions against Israel’s brutal policies and join the active protests of Bolivia and Venezuela. We appeal to the citizens of Europe: please attend to the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation’s call, supported by more than 540 Israeli citizens ( boycott Israeli goods and Israeli institutions; follow resolutions such as those made by the cities of Athens, Birmingham and Cambridge (US). This is the only road left. Help us all, please!”

Along the same lines, and also contrary to the fallacy that a boycott of Israel is, somehow by its very nature “anti-semitic,” Naomi Klein who is herself from a Jewish family in Montreal, reported in a recent article,

“roughly 500 Israelis [540], dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel. It calls for ‘the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions’ and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. ‘The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves.… This international backing must stop’.”

(3) On the Nature of an Academic Boycott

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario, representing teaching and research assistants, originally called for barring Israeli academics from speaking, teaching or conducting research at the province’s universities unless they first condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza. The proposed boycott would not have necessarily applied to Israeli-born Canadian academics or to Israeli Arabs.

CUPE’s boycott plan included calling on Ontario universities and university workers to:

  • Refuse to participate in academic cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli universities, such as participating in conferences in Israel, refereeing or editing articles for Israeli journals, or evaluating research proposals for Israeli institutions.
  • Advocate a boycott of Israeli universities, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies.
  • Promote divestment from Israel by Ontario academic institutions.
  • Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies and actions in the occupied territories by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic and professional organizations and associations.

CUPE Ontario is taking this action in response to an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees.

Sid Ryan, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario),  speaking on 09 January 2009:

The U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, launched recently, enumerated the following goals:

  • Refraining from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine.
  • Promoting divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions.
  • supporting Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support (source).

The BDS project for an academic boycott, includes the following aims:

  • Institutionalizing a ban on cultural and academic exchanges, programmes, and visits with Israel.
  • Using Israeli performances, visits, and film screenings as an opportunity to highlight occupation and apartheid amongst the wider public.
  • Undermine the academic contribution to the Israeli economy that sustains the occupation and end all cooperation on projects used to create propaganda, know-how and weapons used to sustain the Israeli apartheid structure and to oppress and expel Palestinians.
  • Forging ties of cultural and academic support and solidarity with Palestinian universities and academics as well as with Palestine by artists and performers from across the world.

AAUP reactions to some proposed boycott measures

The American Association of University Professors in 2006 issued a statement opposing academic boycotts, “in view of the Association’s long-standing commitment to the free exchange of ideas.” The AAUP particularly opposes boycotts in which institutions would be boycotted unless they “vocally oppose” Israeli policies:

“We especially oppose selective academic boycotts that entail an ideological litmus test….We understand that such selective boycotts may be intended to preserve academic exchange with those more open to the views of boycott proponents, but we cannot endorse the use of political or religious views as a test of eligibility for participation in the academic community.”

Cary Nelson, president of the AAUP and a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, added:

“I think it’s inappropriate to expect institutions to take positions on a nation state’s policy…. How would an institution in the United States take a stand on national policy? Would the Faculty Senate vote, would the administration impose a policy, would the entire campus vote, would the students have an equal vote?”

My question is: when is there ever a boycott that does not contain an “ideological” test? In addition, universities always take positions on a nation state’s policy, as a matter of course, as a vital function of their very existence when they depend on state funds especially. So why is there a problem only when we take positions that are critical of a nation state’s policy? I especially object to Nelson’s absolutist view of the freedom of academic exchange.

And what about, again, South Africa?

The AAUP noted that, in fact, “Some individuals, publishers (University Microfilms), and organizations (the American Library Association, for example) did engage in an academic boycott, but the AAUP limited its protests against apartheid to resolutions of condemnation and to divestment, because it was considered wiser to keep open lines of communication among scholars in accordance with principles of academic freedom.”

Resolutions of condemnation and divestment. Those measures were fine with the AAUP when it came to South Africa’s apartheid regime, a regime strongly supported by Israel. These form part of most plans for an academic boycott of Israel.

In addition, the AAUP executive makes a very difficult argument that a boycott would close lines of academic communication. Unless the AAUP thinks that a proposed boycott is even considering the impossibility of shutting down the whole Internet, it would seem that this is a non-issue, entirely, and the concern can thus be dismissed out of hand.

The AAUP has not rejected the idea for some kind of protest action against Israel, we must note, as it stated:

Other kinds of sanctions and protests ought to be considered. Some of them are listed in the Palestinian call we cited at the beginning of this report, such as resolutions by higher education organizations condemning violations of academic freedom whether they occur directly by state or administrative suppression of opposing points of view or indirectly by creating material conditions, such as blockades, checkpoints, and insufficient funding of Palestinian universities, that make the realization of academic freedom impossible. These and similar actions may be more effective in obtaining better conditions for academic freedom. But if boycotts are to be used at all, economic boycotts seem a preferable choice, both tactically and as a matter of principle. Colleges and universities should be what they purport to be: institutions committed to the search for truth and its free expression. Members of the academic community should feel no obligation to support or contribute to institutions that are not free or that sail under false colors, that is, claim to be free but in fact suppress freedom. Such institutions should not be boycotted. Rather, they should be exposed for what they are, and, wherever possible, the continued exchange of ideas should be actively encouraged. The need is always for more academic freedom, not less.

Once more, there is an absolutist conception of academic freedom, premised on the assumption that it is a value that reigns above all others, and comes with no responsibilities. There cannot be academic freedom of any merit in a social and political context where there is no freedom. The essential thrust of the AAUP position is easy to discern: condemn, but do not act. It’s a selfish position, because if AAUP members were under physical assault, one can be sure that they would be quick to call for concrete action.

(4) Attacking Palestinian Education

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) outlined the attacks on educational facilities and students in Gaza (while proposing to take no action of its own):

On 27 December, Human Rights Watch reported that an Israeli air-to-ground missile struck a group of students leaving the Gaza Training College, adjacent to the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in downtown Gaza City, killing eight students and wounding 19 others. Two days later, on 29 December 2008, Israel bombed the Islamic University of Gaza, destroying the science laboratory block and destroying or damaging other blocks of buildings, including the library. Although Israel has claimed that the science laboratory facilities were used as “a research and development center for Hamas weapons,” this claim has been denied by officials of the Islamic University, and according to the New York Times of January 1, 2009, Israel has not produced any evidence for its claim. On January 3, the Israeli air force destroyed the American International School, and, on January 6, 30 people were killed and 55 injured when Israeli artillery shells landed outside a United Nations-run school in Gaza.

“These latest assaults on Palestinian students and educational institutions raise renewed questions about the ongoing violation of academic rights. Palestinian students have been frustrated in their right to study, not just in the West Bank and Gaza, but at universities abroad, as most recently demonstrated by the Israeli government’s refusal to allow Palestinian students awarded prestigious Fulbright fellowships to leave for the United States . University students living in Gaza have not been able to leave in order to attend universities throughout the world, let alone at Birzeit University in the West Bank. Students in the West Bank itself have to negotiate roadblocks and checkpoints to get to their classes – often never making it.” (link)

Indeed, CAUT is right to say that these are only the latest actions. Others precede them:

  • Israeli forces bulldozed the educational studies campus of al-Aqsa University in Gaza on 16 March 2004.
  • Over 300 schools have been damaged by Occupation military attacks.
  • Bir Zeit university was sealed by a military checkpoint for 2 1/2 years between 2001-2004.
  • In 2003 Hebron University and the Palestine Polytechnic University were closed for 6 and 3 months respectively.

BDS reports that many aspects of Israeli cultural life are directly linked to the occupation, expulsion and systemic discrimination of the Palestinian people. Israeli architects and designers are engaged in the construction of settlements, roads and facilities on illegally confiscated Palestinian land. Israeli writers and intellectuals continue to promote the myths of Zionism among a global public via their novels and essays.

In addition, BDS explains that while Palestinian culture is suppressed, Israeli academic institutions offer strategic analysis and advice to military-intelligence agencies. Israeli scientists have developed technologies for some of the weapons used by the IDF. Israeli academia provides material and intellectual support to the ongoing occupation and violence against Palestinian people. At an ideological level, BDS adds, academics such as Professor Arnon Sofer of Haifa University (who is infamous for his argument that Arab Israelis pose a ‘demographic threat’ to the State of Israel) produce the research, arguments, and new leaders for the Israeli state. Israeli universities are closely linked to the Israeli economy that supports and enables the ongoing occupation.

BDS makes an excellent point that is being forgotten or ignored by those who resist or question the call for an academic boycott of Israel:

“Israeli academics cannot exempt themselves from boycott on the grounds of ‘academic freedom’ while they fail to speak up for the academic freedoms of Palestinians.”

If academic freedom is what really mattered in this discussion, it would be made to matter for all, and not just held as the inviolable, paramount, and absolute right of a privileged few.

(5) The Need to Take Action Now

Sid Ryan of CUPE-Ontario thus seems justified in observing the double standards at work in challenging calls for a boycott of Israel. As he stated:

“Boycotts have traditionally been used as a non-violent way to protest what is unfair and to affect governments to change. In the campaign to end colonial rule in India, Gandhi called for a boycott of British universities and colleges as well as all British-made goods. The U.S. began a boycott of the Moscow 1980 summer Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There has been a furor in the media during last two weeks over CUPE Ontario’s human rights stand. It is as though Israel is beyond reproach despite the human rights violations being perpetrated in Gaza” (source).

Ryan also noted that, “Canada played a major role in an international boycott of South Africa. That highly successful effort included academic, political, economic, cultural and sports boycotts. The goal was to end apartheid” (source).

Who is doing anything?
What else is being done? By whom? Who will take action? Or shall we all stand and stare, jaws dropping ever lower? Why does the plight of innocent civilians in Gaza not move more institutions and governments into action?

There are many reasons of course, and one of the most important reasons is geopolitics, and the official pre-alignment with Israeli policy. We have thus been fed intolerable idiocies, such as the “human shields” fallacy, and the constant refrain that “Israel has the right to defend itself” (and apparently, it’s an exclusive right, a preserve of the Israeli state alone). Those who have been doing something, on the ground in Gaza, have told us, over and over, accounts that run completely contrary to the official propaganda as mentioned above. Listen to Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza:

In the meantime, the position of the Canadian government has been to ignore such atrocities, leaving it up to citizens to take matters into their own hands. As reported in “Reactions in the Americas to the Israel/Palestine Conflict“:

Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon, also issued a statement in which he pointed to Israel’s “clear right to defend itself” against continuing attacks by militants he accused of “deliberately” targeting civilians. “First and foremost, those rocket attacks must stop. At the same time, we urge both sides to use all efforts to avoid civilian casualties and to create the conditions to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need in Gaza”. Cannon also urged renewed efforts to reach a truce. Canada also blamed the Hamas for the UNRWA school incident, in which 40 civilians were killed when Israeli shells hit the school. Canada’s junior foreign minister Peter Kent added on Tuesday that there must be a strong, binding resolution to the conflict. “Canada believes there must be an immediate ceasefire, but only if it’s durable ceasefire, and if Hamas is prevented or is willing not to rearm and resume its terrorist rocketing at some point down the road. On January 12, 2009, Canada stood alone before a United Nations human rights council yesterday, the only one among 47 nations to oppose a motion condemning the Israeli military offensive in Gaza.

Thus far, over 300 Canadian academics have signed a petition to the government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling for the implementation of sanctions against Israel (source). I might add that number was nowhere close to the maximum, as the call for signatures was not widely circulated and some of us did not hear of it until after the fact. In addition, or own movement has started in Quebec, with a similar number of signatures. On y va!



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9 thoughts on “Canadian Academic Boycott of Israel: Why We Need to Take Action

  1. James

    Boycott Arab terror.
    Boycott Hamas and Hizbollah, who shoots rockets into Israeli towns.
    Group who blow up school buses and restaurantes,r using civilians as human shields.

    It is amazing to me, that there is so much confusion over who the terrorists are. Hamas is a terrorist organization that condones and facilitates suicide bombings and will kill every Jew on the planet if they have the chance.
    Israel is an energetic democracy with a vibrant press. Israel is a free country that abides by the rule of law. By contrast, if a writer were to go to Gaza or Iran, for instance, and start writing bad words, he might wind up on the news, dead

    1. Maximilian Forte

      “Boycott Hamas and Hizbollah” — that is already happening: in Canada, both are outlawed as terrorist organizations and no Canadian citizen is allowed to send them money. Hamas is not recognized as the legitimate, democratically elected government (this must appall you, given your love of democracy). Gaza is under a blockade, and Hamas is internationally sanctioned. So you already got your wish, I am surprised you did not know this.

      But why the focus on Hamas and Hizbollah? Who, among any of the signatories of any petition for a boycott, has said that a boycott is about supporting Hamas and Hizbollah?

      More generally, why are they engaged in any “terror” at all? To say they would kill every Jew on the planet is not the answer: it is a myth. What you are evading is what your own words should be telling you: Israel is wonderful…for Israelis (and not all Israelis either, because they practice discrimination against Arab Israelis, Mizrahim Jews, and Falashas). Recently the Knesset sought to ban all of the Arab Israeli political parties from taking part in elections — did you know that about this wonderful liberal democracy? Did you also not know that Israel, with its vibrant press, stopped journalists from entering Gaza? Did you know that Israeli troops have murdered journalists in Gaza, even when they were clearly marked as being PRESS? But I suppose that as long as you have your comforting myths, none of this even registers in your mind.

      Israel abides by the rule of law. Sure. Its laws. Otherwise it acts in violation of several key UN Security Council resolutions and simply dismisses judgments of the International Court of Justice. Anyone can abide by the law when you have the power to set the laws that favour you…that was also true of Hitler, he very much abided by his own laws. This kind of “lawfulness” is actually meaningless.

      There are only two points of fact on which I can agree. Hamas and Hizbollah have killed innocent civilians, and certainly children will meet anyone’s standard of “innocent.” Iran has in fact arrested, and even tortured (to death) some critical journalists. That is what we know.

      However, again, this boycott is not about supporting them. You misunderstood, but I also suspect you did not even try to read what I actually wrote.

  2. Kim Johnston

    I’ve been struggling with this since Klein’s call for a boycott on Jan 8th. Your piece makes the necessity for action concrete. Thank you.

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  5. Tali

    James, do you live in Israel? I do, and I watch the press lie and manipulate in order to make sure no one knows that Palestinians don’t want to kill Jews, they just want their freedom. Among them, 14% support Hamas ( you won’t see it on the news)

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