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March 15, 2016 3:15 pm

Toronto U Faculty Join Academics at Other Colleges in Endorsing BDS

avatar by Andrew Pessin

The University of Toronto. Photo: Wikipedia.

The University of Toronto. Photo: Wikipedia.

More than 130 faculty members and librarians at the University of Toronto (UT) have signed a petition calling on the university to divest from several companies that do business with Israel, The Algemeiner has learned. These individuals join faculty members at other major universities who, in recent weeks, have signed similar statements at their own institutions.

The UT petition, “Declaration of Faculty and Librarians in Support of the Graduate Student Union Campaign for Divestment from the Israeli Occupation,” calls for divestment from Northrop Grumman, Hewlett Packard and Lockheed Martin, as companies that “manufacture and sell weaponry and other technologies that are being used to destroy Palestinian lives and welfare on a daily basis,” and therefore “directly profit from the ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territories.”

With signatories from all three UT campuses and from over 38 academic departments, according to the group Modern Language Association Members for Justice in Palestine, the petition follows last week’s “Israeli Apartheid Week” in Toronto.

Michael Mostyn, CEO of the Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada, told the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) that it was alarming the faculty members at an institution as highly ranked as UT would take such a position. “The Canadian government has condemned the BDS movement, a movement steeped in antisemitism,” Mostyn said. “That so many members of the faculty are willing to endorse divestment from Israel demonstrates how ignorant they are to the facts… I worry about what our children are being taught.”

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Mostyn was referring to the Canadian Parliament’s passing of a bill last month condemning BDS, as reported by The Algemeiner.

This move on the part of UT faculty members came on the heels of similar steps by academics at other major universities, who have recently endorsed boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel.

Earlier this month, the Stewards’ Council of Canada’s York University Faculty Association (YUFA) voted to endorse the YUDivest campaign, which similarly calls for university divestment from arms manufacturers that do business with Israel.

The March 4 vote followed an earlier vote by YUFA’s Executive Council to bring the matter to the Stewards’ Council — a vote that produced a strong response from Jewish human rights organization Canadian Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. As reported by The Algemeiner, Avi Benlolo, its president, went as far as to warn Jewish students against attending York, citing the divestment vote as just the latest in a string of incidents suggesting the campus was becoming hostile to Jews.

Carl Ehrlich, director of York’s Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, resigned from the YUFA Executive in light of the endorsement vote, according to CJN. “I’m very disappointed in my colleagues,” he told CJN. “The YUFA Executive, in its motion, tried to disassociate YUDivest from the BDS movement [by claiming it didn’t target specifically Israel]. People in opposition to the motion think that is being either dishonest or naïve.”

StandWithUs Canada concurred with Ehrlich, according to a statement obtained by CJN: “While YUDivest does not target Israel explicitly, anti-Israel activists are deeply involved in the campaign and are using it to advance their bigoted agenda.”

At New York’s Columbia University earlier this month, faculty members posted a statement supporting the “Columbia University Apartheid Divest” movement recently launched by Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. The statement appeared with 40 signatures at the start of Columbia’s “Israeli Apartheid Week,” climbing to 67 over the past two weeks.

The statement objects to Columbia’s

financial involvements in institutions associated with the State of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands, continued violations of Palestinian human rights, systematic destruction of life and property, inhumane segregation and systemic forms of discrimination …

We now stand with Columbia University Apartheid Divest … in calling upon the University to take a moral stance against Israel’s violence in all its forms. We demand that the University divest from corporations that supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people for over 68 years.

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