Source: Sid Ryan must go, National Post, 16 January 2009
Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario section of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), has made a series of humiliating climb-downs following his anti-Israel gestures earlier this month. But they aren't enough. His comments and actions not only betray a streak of hatred, they demonstrate an inability to put his organization's interests over his own geopolitical fixations. His continued leadership of CUPE Ontario is a stain on that organization, and on the Canadian labour movement he purports to lead.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Ryan and his union resolved to ban all Israeli academics from Canadian campuses "unless they explicitly condemn [Israel's] assault on Gaza." He also compared the Jewish state to Nazi Germany, and put out a press release describing Israel's campaign in Gaza as a "massacre." Many Canadians who might otherwise be sympathetic to CUPE Ontario's pro-labour agenda have been sickened by the air of anti-Israel bigotry -- and even, fairly or not, anti-Semitism -- which now hangs over the group.
Amidst a storm of criticism, Mr. Ryan apologized for the Nazi remark. But that wasn't enough. On January 13, CUPE's national president, Paul Moist, denounced Ryan's boycott call as a violation of "the anti-discrimination standards set out in the CUPE constitution." The same day, CUPE Ontario stripped the original anti-Israel press release from its Web site, and replaced it with a slightly watered-down anti-Israel agenda, one that doesn't mention Mr. Ryan's name at all.
Reasonable people can argue about Israel's tactics in fighting back at the Hamas terrorists who began the current war by raining rockets on Israeli civilians. But even seen in their worst light, Israel's alleged crimes are negligible compared to the deliberate, wholesale slaughter meted out in recent years by terrorist groups and rogue regimes. Mr. Ryan's decision to single out Israel therefore cannot be justified by a professed commitment to humanitarianism. Darker forces are at play in the man's mind.
His original plan-- to demand that Israeli academics renounce their nation as part of some sort of creepy public shaming ritual -- also bespeaks a fundamentally illiberal, McCarthyist attitude toward political dissent; not to mention, as Moist points out, fundamental ignorance of his own union's constitution. Moreover, Mr. Ryan's Jan. 13 attempt to airbrush himself out of the issue also bespeaks a failure of leadership-- some might even use the word "cowardice." The CUPE Ontario leader was quite proud to vilify Israel -- until the blowback started. Then he flung responsibility for his own personal hate campaign on the group he's led for 17 years.
Thanks to Mr. Ryan, CUPE Ontario is now fracturing. Several CUPE locals -- including Local 1393, which represents university workers in Windsor, Ont., where next month's union conference will be held -- are in open revolt over the issue. And a number of CUPE members have begun circulating Internet manifestos demanding his ouster.
Mr. Ryan should heed their demand. If he wants to rage against Israel, let him do it as a private citizen, not as the head of a union. That way, the only person he would disgrace with his ignorant pronouncements would be himself.
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