Saturday, November 17, 2007

Israel boycott debate, at Canadian Federation of Students

"CFS to vote on Israel boycott:

"Ryerson student politician puts forward motion despite worldwide criticism of similar move this summer"

by Joey Coleman | Nov 15, 2007 |


On the Web at:

At least one Ryerson student politician was not paying attention this summer when a British professor's union called for universities to boycott Israeli universities and academics. The boycott was condemned worldwide, including by Ryerson's very own president Sheldon Levy, who said, “The very nature of university education is being undermined.”

Despite the hullabaloo caused by the British profs, Heather Kere, vice-president education of the Ryerson Students’ Union, is calling on the Canadian Federation of Students — Canada's largest student lobby group — to “research the feasibility of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign” against the “Apartheid State” of Israel. But whether the move is sincere or a thinly veiled attempt to stir up controversy involving the Canadian Federation of Students is unclear.

Various members of the Ryerson Students’ Union Council claim that Kere put forward to the motion herself rather than having it approved first by the council. While no one at the students' union would defend the motion, many condemned it, on the condition of anonymity. One student accused Kere of looking to damage the image of the Canadian Federation of Students. The motion will be debated at the upcoming CFS national meeting.

Although Nora Loreto, president of the RSU, would not comment on the motion, it became clear during an interview that she was uncomfortable with it.

The move comes while there is considerable internal tension at the Ryerson Students’ Union. Some students, including Kere, have made allegations against Loreto and have barred her from representing the organization at the upcoming CFS meeting. Kere along with vice-president student life and events Abe Snobar will be leading the delegation instead of Loreto.

One of the issues contributing to the internal conflict is membership within the Canadian Federation of Students. Loreto has repeatedly spoken in support of Ryerson University students remaining members of the national lobbying organization, while Kere and Snobar are pushing to become independent.

Despite repeated attempts to contact Kere (including camping outside her office), she has refused to speak with Maclean’s.

Alex Halpern, president of the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students, was disappointed to hear of the motion. “This is counter-productive,” he said. “This does not promote a dialogue or understanding. Only through dialogue can we move forward. This silences that dialogue.” He said the motion does not address the real issues in the Middle East and serves only to divide the larger student community.

Amanda Aziz, national chairperson of the CFS, declined to comment. “The motion was put on the agenda by a member and it would be inappropriate of the national executive of the CFS to comment on a matter that is for the membership to decide,” she said. She made clear that having the item on the agenda in no way shows support for the motion or a stance by the CFS.

This is not the first time that Kere has been in the centre of controversy. She was president of the Ryerson campus club that invited well-known black supremacist and anti-Semite Malik Shabazz to deliver a lecture this summer as part of a campaign. The invitation sparked criticism from the Jewish community and the Ontario provincial legislature revoked the permit for the event. Shabazz, who is the leader of the New Black Panther Party, was prevented from entering Canada on a minor misdemeanor.

When Maclean’s asked Kere to condemn the alleged views of Shabazz, she refused. “We support the campaign. The speaker was only one part of the entire event. We support the goals of the campaign.”