Wednesday, March 2, 2016

40 Columbia University professors sign BDS petition, while McGill University students reject BDS in an online petition

Apartheid was abolished in South Africa more than 20 years ago, so those who are always looking for something to protest have made Israel their favourite target in recent years, with such inspirational works as Israel Apartheid Week on university campuses and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 1, 2016 (link in original):

NEW YORK (JTA) — Forty Columbia University faculty members have signed a petition urging the New York school to divest from companies that “supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people.”

The petition was released Monday morning to mark the first day of Israel Apartheid Week, the Columbia Spectator reported.

According to the petition, the signatories “stand with Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine as well as with Jewish Voice for Peace in calling upon the University to take a moral stance against Israel’s violence in all its forms.”

They include Rashid Khalidi, a history and Middle Eastern studies professor who is a longtime critic of Israel and supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement; Joseph Massad, a professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history who sees Zionism as a racist and colonialist movement, and Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropology professor who received tenure in 2007 following a heated battle over the merits of her work, particularly a book that accuses Israel of manipulating archaeological findings to legitimize its existence.

The most heavily represented departments among the signers are Middle Eastern South Asian and Africa studies, or MESAAS, English and comparative literature, and anthropology.

Partha Chatterjee, an anthropology and MESAAS professor at the Ivy League school who signed, told the Spectator in an email that he wanted to protest Israel’s security regime, which “virtually amounts to apartheid.”

“I fully support every effort to put pressure on the Israeli government to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands,” he said.

Dirk Salomons, a signatory who is a senior lecturer at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, told the Spectator, “I’ve always had a feeling as a Jew that a Jewish state should rise slightly above the lack of morality of its neighbors. It pains me to see how a country which I love and which I have visited many times can be so blind to the needs of its neighbors.”
As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 28, 2016 (link in original):

MONTREAL (JTA) — Students at Montreal’s McGill University failed to ratify a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions motion against Israel.

In online voting last week by undergraduates, the motion was rejected 2,819-2,119 (57 percent to 43 percent), with 440 abstentions. It had passed in the university’s student society on Feb. 22 by a vote of 512-357, and was seen as a blow by pro-Israel students.

“The BDS movement, which among other things calls for universities to cut ties with Israeli universities, flies in the face of the tolerance and respect we cherish as values fundamental to a university,” McGill’s principal and vice chancellor, Suzanne Fortier, said in a statement. “It proposed actions that are contrary to the principles of academic freedom, equity, inclusiveness, and the exchange of views and ideas in responsible open discourse.”

Fortier said McGill, which has maintained silence on the issue, could not react to the BDS issue until the online vote deadline passed “out of respect for the student governance process.”

Pro-BDS forces at McGill have tried and failed three times over the past 18 months to pass a BDS motion.

After the student government passed the motion last week, some pro-Israel students said they encountered open hostility and even anti-Semitism on social media, while some previous donors to McGill vowed to stop giving.

On the same day the motion was passed by the student government, the Canadian Parliament passed a measure formally condemning BDS by a vote of 229-51. It calls on the Canadian government to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home, and abroad.”

Over the past few years, several Canadian universities have passed pro-BDS motions.

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