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Racism is behind push to ban Israeli scholars

Susan Martinuk, Racism is behind push to ban Israeli scholars, The Calgary Herald, January 09, 2009

Source: The Calgary Herald

During the past week, Sid Ryan has been called a bigot, ignorant, an idiot, frightening, a disgrace and, well, the list goes on. So let me say one good thing about the president of Ontario's arm of the Canadian Union of Public Employees: he doesn't give up.

Ryan has announced that CUPE will seek to ban Israeli academics from speaking, teaching or research work at Ontario universities if they do not explicitly condemn Israel's action in Gaza. With this measure, Ryan makes it clear that he refuses to give up on his quest to make his increasingly impotent union relevant (not relevant to workers, just relevant to something in the news) and he intends to continue to use his union position as a platform to target Israel. In 2006, he infamously led CUPE to boycott Israeli goods and denounce its "apartheid wall."

The proposed blacklist of Israeli (a. k. a. Jewish) scholars, mimics the disgraceful tactics of Britain's University and College Union. This union tried to ban Israeli professors in 2006 only to have a legal opinion inform them it would be illegal and a breach of the British Race Relations Act. Like Ryan, the union persisted. In May 2008, they voted to ban Israeli professors from eight campuses, but they used loophole language that skirts the legal issues by strongly encouraging academics to consider the moral implications of working with Israeli universities and academics.

Even the politically-correct language can't hide that this is a ban against Jewish academics.

In what is surely a Ripley's-Believe-It-or-Not moment, the ban was denounced by the Palestinian Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. Academics there released a statement saying their desire is to "build bridges, not walls" and reach out to Israeli academics. Perhaps it's not that surprising that some Palestinian academics are more tolerant of Jews than the unions.

If the proposed resolution passes, CUPE will effectively be forcing its members into bigotry by discriminating against other academics on the basis of nationality and ethnicity. It will also impose a totalitarian ban on academic freedom and greatly diminish free speech on campuses. Accomplishing all that with one small vote shows just how dangerous any restrictions on free speech can be.

Unfortunately, it won't be the first time Canadian universities have been turned into hotbeds of anti-Semitism. In September 2002, a speech at Concordia University by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was cancelled after pro-Palestinian activists accused him of being a terrorist and turned violent.

That conflict seems to have been a tipping point that opened the doors to protests on Canadian campuses. In 2004, a guest speaker at Simon Fraser University refused to take a question from a Jewish student, saying he would communicate with Jews only through bullets. At Langara College in Vancouver, Jewish students were told that letting an Israeli speak on campus would be like inviting Hitler's propagandist Josef Goebbels to lecture.

Even more disturbing is the emergence of Israel Apartheid Week, an annual weeklong hatefest hosted by such enlightened centres as the University of Ottawa, York University and the University of Toronto (where the sponsorship of two CUPE organizations is gratefully acknowledged). It features one-sided "academic" discussions that blame Israel for most of the world's problems. At York, the student-run radio station celebrated IAW with a full day of anti-Israeli programming. Unsurprisingly, IAW is organized by various international Arab and Palestinian groups.

The situation surrounding IAW was so grim last year 125 professors at the University of Toronto took the unprecedented step of taking out a full-page ad in the National Post to condemn the university for hosting the event.

In contrast, speakers like columnist and Jewish scholar Daniel Pipes draw official university statements disavowing any connection to him and accusing him of having a "racist agenda." Other Jewish speakers have been prevented from expressing their opinions by organized riots, disruptions and threats.

Given the intimidating environment, it's not surprising that the number of anti-Semitic incidents on Canada's campuses jumped from 36 in 2006 to 78 in 2007. Who knows what the numbers for 2008 might be.

These developments at Canadian universities are frightening, and will only be further fed and legitimized if CUPE's ban on Israeli academics goes forward. The freedom of all Canadians will diminish if CUPE, already know for clinging to its own assertions as sacrosanct and seeking to eliminate opposing views, is now allowed to purge from campus those who hold opposing views. We must not give CUPE this power.

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