Following Defeat of BDS Motion at U of Toronto, Israel Advocates Say Anti-Jewish-State Activists ‘Significantly Miscalculated’ Opponents’ Mobilization Power
In the wake of a major defeat of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign at the University of Toronto this week, advocates of the Jewish state told The Algemeiner that the campus activists working tirelessly to delegitimize Israel had “significantly miscalculated” both their own popularity and the mobilization power of their opponents.
“Increasing numbers on campus are willing to stand up and challenge the boycott movement whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head,” said Ari Blaff — a student at the school and member of the advocacy group Hasbara Fellowships Canada — explaining why the U of T Graduate Students Union (GSU) rejected a motion to make its “BDS Ad Hoc Committee” into a permanent entity within its ranks.
The main hurdle to defeating the motion, according to Hasbara Fellow Chaim Katz, was the fact that “very few students on campus even knew about the existence of the ad-hoc committee, let alone what it stood for and that there was a permanent motion in place.” Nor had they realized, he said, that their student union dues would be contributing to BDS.
The most significant challenge in mobilizing students to oppose the BDS effort, Katz told The Algemeiner, was informing them that a vote on it was about to take place and persuading them that their voice counts.
However, he said, “Once they found out, they took action, especially in view of rising antisemitism on campus and the fact that the union is supposed to represent all students.”
Rob Nagus, director of Hillel U of T, told The Algemeiner that many graduate students who could not attend asked their student government representatives to vote against the motion. “A large number sent statements to be read on their behalf and many others were present at the meeting to speak out publicly,” he said, adding that Hillel had sent out an email urging grad students to mobilize against the BDS initiative.
Such efforts by students and campus organizations played a major role in creating a groundswell of opposition to the BDS measure, said Adir Krafman, spokesman for Canadian advocacy group the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “I have no doubt that they had an impact on the outcome of the vote,” he told The Algemeiner.
National Director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada Robert Walker welcomed the outcome, telling The Algemeiner, “There’s no question in my mind that pro-BDS students will continue to push their agenda, and our biggest mission now is to proactively engage as many non-Jewish students and student leaders as possible, so we can build a stronger and stronger bulwark, not just against BDS votes, but in favor of a positive image of Israel on campus.”
Echoing Walker’s remarks, Aidan Fishman, campus advocacy coordinator for B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights — which provided logistical support to students opposing the motion — told The Algemeiner that its defeat amounts to a major blow to anti-Israel activity on campus.
“The GSU is currently the primary funding source for BDS activities on campus, so this vote means a decrease in BDS capabilities, and likely a corresponding decrease in discrimination against Israeli and Jewish students and professors,” he said.
The GSU BDS motion was defeated in a 34-17 vote, with 11 abstentions. The GSU first endorsed BDS in 2012 and is one of many Canadian student governments to support boycotts against the Jewish state.