Screenshots of messages by Ryerson Student Union (RSU) president Obaid Ullah prove that a motion to host Education Holocaust Week on campus was deliberately derailed by Obaid Ullah, reported Ryerson’s The Eyeopener.
In the message sent to the student newspaper by RSU vice-president equity Tamara Jones and others, Obaid Ullah instructed the students to “lose quorum” minutes before the motion was put to the vote.
Obaid Ullah admitted that he asked students to lose quorum. In a Facebook statement he wrote:
“I asked a small number of people to lose quorum to end the meeting and table the remaining motions to the board meeting. The intent of me messaging people was to keep the room united and not cause heat (tension) by the amendment. Now you may ask, Obaid is that really the right thing to do? No it isn’t. I should not have asked anyone to leave a RSU SAGM.”
On November 29, 2016, members of Hillel Ryerson, a Jewish campus group at Ryerson University in Toronto, presented a motion urging the RSU to sponsor Holocaust Education Week on campus which would have been organized by Jewish groups on campus to combat growing anti-Semitism and raise awareness on “possibly the greatest tragedy in the history of mankind.”
According to eyewitnesses, when the motion was presented, Jewish students were snickered at and told to sit down. When the time came to vote on the motion, a large group of students started messaging each other and coordinated a walkout to rid the assembly of quorum.
In a statement posted on their Facebook page on December 1, 2016, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Palestinian campus group, denied the allegations that they coordinated the walkout and added that “SJP does not in any shape, way, or form, support any kind of hate, including anti-Semitic hate speech, nor will we ever engage in it or support it. Guided by principles rooted in anti-oppression, SJP supports the call to institute a Holocaust awareness week.” SJP also claimed that they did not attend the meeting to vote on a specific motion.
An audio recording posted by Students Supporting Israel at Ryerson University (SSI), painted a different picture. It alleges that SJP executive Omar Falasteen is heard saying “Ok so what’s happening… there’s a motion that’s being passed saying that they [Jews] want a week to raise awareness of the Holocaust. I’m fine with that. We should raise awareness. The issue is that the people who are passing this motion [Jews] are saying that this pro-Zionist foundation [UJA Federation] needs to help with all of this. That the RSU should pair up with this organization to help fund this week. So we’re going to try and vote that motion down.” CIJnew was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the audio file.
Following the walkout, Amanda Hohman, National Director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human rights wrote in a statement: “This outrageous incident is emblematic of the kind of antisemitism and anti-Jewish sentiment that is rampant on Ontario campuses. Jewish students need action, not just words, from the Government of Ontario, as much of this bigotry is funded by taxpayer dollars.
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]