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January 14, 2019 5:03 pm

University of Manitoba Student Leaders Condemn ‘Unnecessary, Ill-Considered’ BDS Resolution Adopted by Canadian Federation of Students

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The administration building at the University of Manitoba. Photo: Sancho McCann.

Student leaders at the University of Manitoba have condemned the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) for recently affirming its support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The CFS — Canada’s largest student association — passed a motion at its National General Meeting in November, which committed the body to granting BDS-supporting organizations with in-kind support and financial donations of up to $500 each, and encouraging member locals to promote BDS on their campuses.

In a statement released following the resolution’s adoption, the CFS said it “continues to oppose anti-Semitism” and pledged to “prioritize the voice of Jewish student groups like Independent Jewish Voices,” which supports the BDS campaign. This stance notably diverges from that of most mainstream Jewish communal bodies in Canada and worldwide, which have repeatedly denounced the BDS campaign for rejecting the rights of Jewish people and fostering hostility against Jews and Zionists.

The motion was strongly rejected by 17 Canadian chapters of the Jewish student group Hillel, which called BDS “antisemitic” and the latest move to support it “anti-academic, fuelled by hatred, and … counterproductive to peace.”

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“In its obsessive campaign against exclusively one country and one community, the CFS has further marginalized the thousands of Jewish students whom it is tasked with representing,” the Hillels said.

In a resolution passed last month against the CFS motion, the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) likewise warned that “the proliferation of the BDS campaign has the potential for harmful effects on the safety and dignity of many Jewish students on campus,” and expressed a desire to maintain “its impartial and unconditional support” for all constituents, regardless of their position on the controversial movement.

While cautioning that its stance was not based in a recognition that BDS was antisemitic, UMSU nonetheless called the CFS motion “an unnecessary and ill-considered intervention into International politics for a student federation, and that it could have harmful and divisive ramifications for students on campus.”

UMSU President Jakob Sanderson — whose delegation voted against the BDS motion during the CFS National General Meeting — told The Manitoban student newspaper on Friday that although his administration was “certainly in no way trying to oppose BDS as a movement,” they sought to restate their “independence to be able to represent our members as we see fit, and in as united a way as possible.”

“UMSU stands to rebuke the idea that student federations that our members pay into are pursuing what is, in our board’s view, divisive practices that are not beneficial to the student movement at large and are not representative of the united views of our students,” Sanderson added.

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