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Ryan rebuked by national CUPE head

By Kenyon Wallace, Toranto Star, January 14, 2009

Source: The Star

Union leader softens stance on boycott of Israeli academics

CUPE's national president has rebuked the union's Ontario leader over his call for a boycott of Israeli academics.

On Jan. 2, Sid Ryan, head of the provincial office of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said in a news release "... we are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the (Islamic) university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general."

Jewish groups condemned the proposal and, yesterday, they were joined by Paul Moist, president of CUPE's national office.

"I believe such a resolution is wrong and would violate the anti-discrimination standards set out in the CUPE Constitution," Moist said in a release.

"I will be using my influence in any debates on such a resolution to oppose its adoption."

In an interview, he added: "We don't discriminate against people based on their nationality."

Yesterday, Ryan, whose union is autonomous from the national office, insisted he and Moist are "on the same page" and that he changed his proposal more than a week ago to focus on Israeli institutions, not individuals.

"In the process of examining academic boycott initiatives by other organizations around the world ... it has become clear that the position is not banning individuals," Ryan said in a CUPE statement yesterday.

"Rather, an academic boycott should focus on issues of investment, partnership, fundraising and joint projects."

Ryan told the Star such a boycott could include asking pension plans to stop investing in Israel's post-secondary education system, and ending partnerships between Canadian and Israeli universities.

"If we're saying that we're not going to be funding universities in Israel, that's not impinging on anybody's academic freedom," Ryan said.

Ryan had initially defended his original proposal, saying "Academic freedom goes both ways."

He did apologize last week for comparing the bombing of Islamic University in Gaza to the actions of the Nazis.

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