Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Ontario's largest university workers union is proposing a ban on Israeli academics teaching in the province's universities..."

"CUPE calls for ban on Israeli professors"

by Vanessa Kortekaas

National Post (Canada)

Published: Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ontario's largest university workers union is proposing a ban on Israeli academics teaching in the province's universities, in a move that echoes previous attempts to boycott goods and services from the Jewish state.

The resolution, proposed by CUPE's Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee, is in protest of a Dec. 29 bombing that damaged the Islamic University in Gaza.

"In response to an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, we are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general," said Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario.

The resolution is still being drafted but the union said it will seek to prohibit Israeli academics from speaking, teaching or researching at Ontario universities. The CUPE committee will distribute the resolution to its members at the end of the month.

It will be put to a vote at the committee's annual conference in February. Janice Folk-Dawson, chairwoman of the university workers committee, said: "Clearly international pressure on Israel must increase to stop the massacre that is going on daily. We are proud to add CUPE voices to others from around the world saying enough is enough."

Ms. Folk-Dawson said the committee felt it was crucial to do something.

"This is coming from the rank-and-file members, not just the leadership," she said.

Len Rudner, regional director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) in Ontario, called the resolution "unbalanced, unfair and unhelpful."

"Once again Sid Ryan is jumping before thinking," Mr. Rudner said. "I think it's ironic individuals who speak about freedom of speech jump to the opportunity to take that freedom away from other individuals."

While Ms. Folk-Dawson said the resolution will protect the quality of education by preventing Israeli academics from professing biased views, an Israeli professor at the University of Toronto opposed such a disruption to academia.

"I oppose any kind of ban to academic activity, whatever its colour or matter," said Emanuel Adler, chairman of Israeli Studies at the university.

"Students should receive the message that the situation is very tragic for both Israelis and Palestinians, but the conflict and the violence should not be brought inside the university."

He added that "if there is a place that some solution should come out of other than government it should be a place where creativity can lead to a peaceful resolution of conflict."

That sentiment was echoed by Daniel Silverman, program associate of Hillel at U of T, a Jewish student organization: "The university is a place for discussing all sorts of issues but it must be productive. [This resolution] doesn't serve any purpose; it doesn't promote dialogue; it creates divisions."

However, Mr. Ryan said the resolution was a reasonable response to Israel's attack on the Islamic University, which he likened to the torching of books by Nazis during the Second World War.