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Western rejects CUPE call for boycott

Kate Dubinski, Western rejects CUPE call for boycott, The London Free Press, January 8, 2009

Source: The London Free Press

The University of Western Ontario will not participate in a boycott of Israeli academics called for by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the school's president says.

"I'm very dismayed at the suggestion by CUPE that universities should boycott faculty from Israel," said Western president Paul Davenport.

"We believe in academic freedom . . . it is simply very unwise to try to eliminate interactions between academics."

The Ontario wing of the union sparked outrage this week after calling for a ban on Israeli academics who speak, teach or do research at Ontario universities.

The ban is to protest the Dec. 29 bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza.

"We are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general," said Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario.

But Western's view is that universities should be places of discussion and debate that lead to "academic and world benefit," Davenport said.

Meanwhile, members of London's Jewish community joined national organizations such as B'nai Brith Canada in condemning the call for a ban.

"This blatant and openly discriminatory resolution by CUPE-Ontario against Israeli nationals is in contravention of Canadian Human Rights Law," said Frank Dimant, the national organization's vice- president.

"Public unions should not be used as breeding grounds for negatively singling out one group of people and denying them their basic rights and freedoms."

People on several social networking groups echoed that sentiment, as did Londoner Alan Perlmutter, one of several people organizing a gathering tonight in support of Israel.

"Why does Sid Ryan pick on Israel?" Perlmutter asked.

"Israel is a democracy, and the professors of Israel span all sorts of views and opinions. Some agree with the government and some do not."

Michael Brandt, a London doctor, said yesterday the proposal is "ridiculous" and that Ryan should resign.

"Proposing a ban against a particular group based on their country of origin is discriminatory," Brandt said in an e-mail to The Free Press. "Sid Ryan and CUPE have not made any comments on other areas of conflict, including the genocide in Darfour . . ."



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