On May 19, 2017, members of the Teaching Support Staff Union at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia defeated an anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) referendum, which would have included a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, reported StandWithUs Canada.
In a lead-up to the voting period of May 15 – May 19, approximately 100 SFU faculty members also signed a letter strongly opposing the move.
The letter stated that academic boycotts are antithetical to the principles of academic and scientific freedom and to the principles of freedom of expression and inquiry, and constitute discrimination based on national origin. In addition, the targeting of Israeli academics aims to silence one of the most progressive elements in Israeli society and serve as an obstacle in the road to peace, limiting opportunities for cooperation among Israeli, and Palestinian and other individuals, institutions, and organizations.
“We urge TSSU members to VOTE NO in this referendum, and we appeal to SFU students, faculty, staff and university administrators to defeat and denounce calls and campaigns for academic boycotts against Israel. Rather than adopting counter-productive and discriminatory boycott measures, we urge the TSSU to consider ways it can promote Israeli-Palestinian academic cooperation as a building block of peace and coexistence”, the letter said.
In a statement, Meryle Kates, Executive Director of StandWithUs Canada, said: “The global boycott movement behind this referendum has already been condemned by the Canadian government for ‘demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel’. Campaigns like this only serve to harm Canadian universities, while fueling further injustice and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I’m proud that SFU graduate students and faculty members came together to ensure that their university stands on the right side of history.”
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]