York Federation of Students endorses Israel boycott

Jewish students say they’re victims of discrimination


The York Federation of Students has endorsed the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign at York University, causing an uproar from those who disagree with its aims.

This decision was made during a meeting called by the YFS’ executive members on March 21, when a motion was put forth to endorse the campaign, resulting in a vote of 18-2 in favour.

Approximately 200 undergraduate students attended the meeting.

Safiyah Husein, vice-president equity of the YFS, says the movement is a form of “international solidarity with the Palestinian call for justice, equality, and an end to the occupation,” that, “puts pressure on institutions to divest from companies currently funding weaponry for the Israeli military.”

More than 5,000 students signed a petition asking the YFS to discuss the BDS issue, says Husein.

Jessica Cherkasov, member of the Jewish student group Hillel at York, alleges that no one from Hillel at York or Hasbara @ York, another Jewish group, was officially informed of the meeting, the motion, or of the agenda. They only found out about the meeting the day before it was scheduled when a member of Hillel at York overheard from the YFS that it would be happening, she says.

While both Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) and Hillel at York members had a chance to speak at the meeting, Cherkasov says she would have liked to have been informed earlier.

“I would have preferred that the YFS, as a body that represents all undergraduate students, inform Hillel that they wanted to have a conversation on the issue, just so the board members could have an equal opportunity to hear from both sides,” says Cherkasov.

Vanessa Hunt, YFS president, says the YFS by-laws were followed in calling a board meeting.

“The BDS campaign has been passed at [other universities], so we thought we should bring this to York,” says Johanna May Black, member of SAIA. “We did research last year about what companies York was invested in and we thought this would be a good way of raising awareness.”

The BDS campaign specifically calls on the university to withdraw its investments from companies—like Hewlett Packard, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, and Lockheed Martin—which allegedly profit from Israeli human rights violations and war crimes.

As of November 18, 2012, York had 580 shares in Northrop Grumman and 290,600 shares in BAE Systems Group, but no holdings in the other companies named, according to Trudy Pound-Curtis, York’s assistant vice-president of finance and chief financial officer.

The campaign also demands the return to the pre-1967 border and the removal of the Israeli West Bank barrier, improved rights for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right for Palestinian refugees to return to homes they had prior to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

Members of SAIA have been calling on York’s student body to endorse the campaign since September 2012. They celebrated the YFS’s endorsement after the meeting at around 1:45 p.m. with a march around campus, waving Palestinian flags and chanting “victory.”

The Graduate Students Association at York endorsed the BDS campaign on November 16, 2012, as have other student organizations including the Concordia Graduate Students’ Association and the University of Toronto Graduate Student Union.

Hillel at York and Hasbara @ York condemned YFS’s endorsement of the BDS campaign on behalf of York’s undergraduate students and issued a statement through the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. In the statement, Chaim Lax, president of Hasbara @ York, says Hasbara is “extremely disappointed.” He alleges the YFS is “blacklisting and boycotting Israelis.” Lax also alleges the YFS’ resolution is “fundamentally racist, and a possible violation of [York’s] anti-discrimination codes.”

Cherkasov says as a union representing the interests of 55,000 undergraduates, the YFS should not take a political stance on an issue that does not affect all students on campus.

“I understand that we all have our personal opinions, but the fact that [the YFS] took a stance on a very touchy issue for Israeli and Palestinian students, I think that was inappropriate,” says Cherkasov. “Now, they have marginalized a group of students and created a hostile environment.”

Lax echoed Cherkasov’s opinion, saying the YFS should not take a political stance that could divide the campus. He says 4,000 students have signed a petition against the GSA’s endorsement of BDS, created in November 2012 by Hasbara @ York and Hillel at York.

“It showed a substantial amount of students, our constituents, didn’t want the YFS to endorse this motion and didn’t want them them taking a position on the Palestine-Israel conflict,” he says.

Husein says the YFS took a “principled stance” on this issue, which does not mean everyone should agree with their support for the BDS campaign. She says if any students have questions or concerns about this endorsement, she would be happy to meet with them to discuss it.

“Indeed, not everyone supports reduced tuition fees, equity campaigns, or sustainability work, but we know the majority of our members believe this work is vital and important,” says Husein.

Husein says remaining silent on issues of basic equality is often a tacit endorsement of injustice. “We engage in anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia, and anti-sexism campaigns not because they are popular, but because they are right, and they are important to our members,” she says.

Joanne Rider, director of York Media Relations says university administration has not been contacted by the YFS or any other student groups regarding this campaign.

This story originally appeared in The Excalibur student newspaper.


York Federation of Students endorses Israel boycott

  1. I’ve just asked to withdraw my donation to York U that I gave couple of weeks ago.
    I won’t donate money to people who promote hate and bigotry.

    • I will donate your portion. I donate to Universities that promote equality. Thanks York University

      • I’ll join WIZ and donate double of EMBA’s portion

      • Well I do hope you have $10K to spare. Since this is the amount that I was willing to donate and now won’t.

      • an anagram? really..? is that how you guys got 5000 votes for this? …the five of your signed 1000 times?..haha

        …on a serious note – I do not believe any of the people participating want anything remotely resembling peace in Israel or in the Canadian society for that matter… since this sort of action is clearly driving Canadians into opposite camps – whatever this is, it’s not a road to peace

    • York students don’t want your donation anyway.

  2. One has to look at this both in the larger as well as the smaller perspective. This “initiative” is basically an expression of warfare by radical Islamic and Palestinian terror elements, who rather than negotiate borders and other agreements with Israel, have organized an assymetrical war against the existence of Israel rather than work towards building their own civil polity. And one of their major campaigns in this war is through propaganda and the brainwashing of students. There is a network of this stuff that travels like taint through rotten meat in academia and labour unions and it’s going to take a series of major legal confrontations to root out this pro-terror, racist, antidemocratic mess. What just happened is that a relatively small group of activists leveraged enough control of student unions to foist this hostile agenda upon the majority of the others in the school. The authorities at York are trying to maintain fairness in allowing political expression, but are ill equipped to nip this radical campus-grab in the bud. Sooner or later these BDS types are going to do something radically racist and/or violent enough to prompt legal or police action, so everything they do and all who are involved must be watched very carefully from now on.

  3. Just confirming what we already knew, York is an absolute joke of a university.

  4. I wonder what other resolutions they have passed? Did they condemn North Korea, or civil right violations in Syria, Iraq, Egypt? Are the sanctions just against Jewish Israelis or 1,000,000 arabic citizens as well?

    Jewish people should just stop donating money to York and see what happens. WIZ are you going to match Schulich building as well?

  5. Kudos to the students at the YFS for such a courageous stance on the side of justice. As Canadian students are marching in the right direction against Israeli apartheid and racism, the Harper Government is still supporting the Israeli settlers’ government unconditionally. The future is for Palestine. Israel is a remnant of the colonial era, and will disappear – yet Palestinians and Israelis will live one day in one liberated Palestine, equal and free.

    • Yup, Kudos they completely forgot Sudan and Syria where tens of thousands are being murdered. But I guess its OK since the murders are carried out by Muslims.

      This is the equality and freedom you can expect under Muslim rule.

  6. As a YorkU student who is outside either of the Jewish or Pro-‘Pallistian’/Anti-Semetic community, it’s rather easy to see there is an pervasive prejudice in the student body on campus towards everything ‘Jewish’. It’s really hard to miss. I feel sorry for my Jewish peers.

    The YFS/CFS is a joke for many more reasons than this latest tirade they threw in Vari Hall. The absurd SAIA rally disturbed my lecture over in South Ross, and generally seemed like an unintelligible bunch of rabbling. I really wish CFS/YFS would just leave, and let use focus on education and research. York is overtly ‘PC’ enough as it is. They’re a pestilence, and I hope one day there won’t be a place for this garbage in higher-learning.

    A student campaign “demands the return to the pre-1967 borders” … This isn’t the UN, or anything remotely close in kind. It is also not the student unions place to tell the University how it should invest, or conduct business.

  7. It looks as if they also take an anti-semitic stance. This BDS campaign in our colleges and universities is amazing to me. How these students could call themselves educated I don’t know. They take a one sided view of the issues. It is obvious that in their educational pursuits that they don’t consult the Scriptures, but instead allow themselves to blindly follow whatever is popular. They are on dangerous ground. The truth is that the Jews are the apple of God’s eye and the land of Israel was given to them by God.

  8. Another symptom of growing Islamic influence in Canada. Thanks to the unscrupulous Canadian mindless liberal policies. The day is not far when Canada will be swarming with Islamics and Sharia will be introduced.

Sign in to comment.