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Local Jews slam union ban idea

Tamas Virag, Local Jews slam union ban idea, The Edmonton Sun, January 7, 2008

Source: The Edmonton Sun

Members of the local Israeli and Jewish communities are outraged by a proposed resolution by a major Ontario union to ban Israeli academics from that province's universities.

"I think it's sad and it's frustrating that this is what (the Canadian Union of Public Employees) is coming out with," said Israel-born U of A professor Yonatan Reshef, in reaction to CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan's announcement that his organization is proposing "a ban on Israeli academics doing speaking, teaching or research work at Ontario universities," who do not explicitly condemn Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The announcement came in reaction to a Dec. 29 attack on an Islamic university in Gaza, which Israel claimed was affiliated with the ruling Hamas party.

"Israel is fighting, as sad as it is ... for its right to live a normal life," Reshef said. "I never heard anything from CUPE in the past eight years when Israelis have been under continuous missile attacks from the Gaza Strip. I never heard anything from them when Israelis were killed."

Reshef said it is "very possible" that CUPE's proposal pushes the boundaries of basic human rights.

Steve Shafir, spokesman for the Edmonton Jewish Federation, agrees.

"What they're trying to do is a breach of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens and all peoples of Canada in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," he said.

"We're talking about institutions of higher learning where people should be entitled to express what they want. They should be entitled to freedom of thought, freedom of expression."

Both men are upset that, under the proposed resolution, Israeli academics would have to make their views public before a possible ban from universities.

"I don't think it's fair at all. Have they asked, for instance, academics of Saudi descent to explicitly denounce the Sept. 11 (2001) attacks?" Shafir asked.

"There might be some cases, if the professor spread hatred, for example, (or) if he believes in racism, then I think there might be a basis for such an action, but this is a political issue," Reshef said. "This is a case where, I think, a country is doing what it should have done perhaps years ago and I can't see any justification for such action by CUPE."

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