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September 30, 2016 5:36 pm

University of Waterloo Students Vote to Defund Anti-Israel ‘Public Interest’ Group

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avatar by Lea Speyer

University of Waterloo campus. Photo: University of Waterloo.

University of Waterloo campus. Photo: University of Waterloo.

Students at Canada’s University of Waterloo voted on Thursday to defund an anti-Israel group responsible for promoting last year’s failed motion that called for the school to cut ties with Israeli academic institutions.

In a special referendum held by Waterloo’s Federation of Students (FEDS), 7,156 students voted for defunding the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG), while 1,579 students voted against.

Waterloo undergraduate students will no longer pay WPIRG an automatic $9.50 fee, which totaled some $290,000 annually — a sum which the group relied on to cover a majority of its operating budget. WPIRG has used such funding to promote anti-Israel campaigns on college campuses across Canada — including at McGill University and Carleton University.

“Students at the University of Waterloo should be congratulated for rejecting a discriminatory anti-Israel initiative, and then punishing those who proposed it,” Michael Mostyn, the chief executive officer of the Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada, said in a statement.

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In November 2015, the Palestine Solidarity Action Group, a branch of WPIRG, submitted a motion to Waterloo’s FEDS to sever ties with “[Israeli] institutions due to their complicity in violations of human rights.” Israeli universities named in the motion included the University of Haifa, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

A majority of students voted against the motion, which took place against the backdrop of a broader push by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

During the campaign period, Waterloo and a nearby school experienced a rash of antisemitic incidents — a Nazi flag was spotted hanging from a window of an off-campus apartment building largely populated by Waterloo students and graffiti stating “Kill the Jews” was found scrawled inside a Wilfred Laurier University bathroom.

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