CFS votes down Israel boycott

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The Ryerson Student Union’s recent call for an investigation into a potential boycott of Israel was shut down at the last general meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students.

On Nov. 21, two-thirds of the voting plenary of CFS voted to “object to consideration” in regard to a motion put forth by the RSU.

“Our membership decided not to consider [the motion] at this time,” CFS’s deputy national chairperson, Brent Farrington, said.

The motion called for the creation of a task force to look into the potential boycott, which would involve an educational campaign about the situation of apartheid in Israel and eventually cutting student unions’ ties to the country.

“We’re very happy to see [CFS] felt [the motion] didn’t have a place on their agenda,” Alex Halpern, president of the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students, said.

He added the motion went against what campus climates should be about " discussion and dialogue, not the silencing of one particular side.

RSU’s VP-education, Heather Kere, put forth the motion and was aware of the criticism against it. However, she felt CFS was in turn silencing discussion by taking the motion off its agenda.

“This is evidence that CFS doesn’t care about the human rights of Palestinians,” Kere added.

Farrington said the CFS has no official stance on the issue.

In light of the debate surrounding the motion and a statement released by Ryerson President Sheldon Levy during the summer, which revealed his support for Israeli academics, a forum will be held tonight at Ryerson to discuss academic boycotts and academic freedom.

The RSU website describes the forum as a “historic debate” that will be moderated by award-winning CBC anchor, Suhana Meharchand.

“The forum really illustrates the discussion and openness that campuses should and do represent,” Halpern said.

Kere explained the forum’s purpose is to allow members of the Ryerson community to voice their opinions on the merits of academic boycott so the RSU can follow the desires of its constituency.

“We’re going to gauge discussions ... to determine our next step,” Kere said.

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