Human Rights Group Accuses York U Faculty Union of Hiding Anti-Israel Agenda; Warns Students Not to Enroll There if Divestment Endorsed
An international Jewish human rights organization has rejected a claim by the faculty union at Toronto’s York University that its endorsement of a student divestment group does not constitute support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
Avi Benlolo, president of the Canadian Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (CFSWC), told The Algemeiner that the York University Faculty Association (YUFA), “like [the student group] YU Divest, speaks in generic divestment terms, as if they are merely against arms in general. But in fact this is just an attempt to hide the anti-Israel agenda.”
While YU Divest does present a generic public face, said Benlolo — for example on its Facebook page — targeting Israel is a major motivation for the group. Among its main sponsors is the campus group Students Against Israeli Apartheid. Many people following the group on social media explicitly reference Israel in their comments. And shouts of “Free, free Palestine!” punctuated a public rally sponsored by the group on Feb. 4.
“Imagine how uncomfortable Jewish students would feel,” Benlolo told The Algemeiner, “were the faculty union, representing the entire faculty, to approve this divestment resolution. York University used to be a peaceful place, harmonious, respectful of many cultures, in the Canadian way. It has now become a hotbed of antisemitism, protected by the administration and now by the faculty.”
Natalie Sharon, the president of Hillel at York, echoed Benlolo’s sentiments in a Facebook post Wednesday:
YUDIVEST originates from the Boycott Divest and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. This movement has been spearheaded and implemented by the Anti-Israel community at York University …The BDS motion is Antisemitic in nature as it fundamentally denies the right of the self determination of the Jewish People … We oppose the YUDIVEST campaign because it has fostered a hostile environment for the students at York University…
YUFA’s executive committee voted on Feb. 12 to endorse the YU Divest campaign. The vote will next go to its Stewards’ Council, where 51 members of the council will vote on behalf of the entire 1,500-member union. This spurred CFSWC to release an “Action Alert” on Feb. 17, cautioning students against attending York in the event that the Stewards’ Council approves endorsing YU Divest.
This dispute over the significance of YU Divest comes on the heels of several controversial events at York. Most recently, Canadian-Jewish media mogul Paul Bronfman pulled funds from the University over its hosting of a controversial mural which he and offended students deemed both anti-Israel and antisemitic.