Union slammed for backing anti-Israel event at U of T

Union slammed for backing anti-Israel event at U of T

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Israeli Apartheid Week at Carleton University in 2013.

Following an email from CUPE local 3902 to its membership promoting the upcoming Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) at the University of Toronto, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) issued a statement condemning the union for its involvement in “promoting hate propaganda.”

FSWC president and CEO Avi Benlolo told The CJN that CUPE local 3902, which represents U of T’s seasonal lecturers and teaching assistants, sent an email that encouraged its members to participate in IAW, the annual anti-Israel event that launched in Toronto in 2004 and is being held this year at U of T from March 9 to 17.

“It’s not to say that it hasn’t happened before, but it is to say that it is significant that the steam hasn’t run out of the engine. These people are still very much motivated to propagate this anti-Israel, anti-Jewish hatred,” Benlolo said.

READ: WHY ARE JEWS SO DIVIDED ON M-103 AND THE TERM ISLAMOPHOBIA?

“Our position has always been that unions should work toward the betterment of the workers and employees they represent and that taking an anti-Israel position is not within their mandate. Most people would agree with that.”

The email, which lists Students Against Israeli Apartheid; the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid; the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union BDS Committee; Faculty for Palestine and the CUPE Local 3902 BDS Committee as organizers of IAW at U of T, said this year’s event “will reflect on 100 years of resistance to settler colonialism across historic Palestine… [and] link the history of Palestinian resistance to the struggles of the Indigenous peoples on whose territories we live, work, and study, and who are resisting settler colonial violence and dispossession.”

Benlolo said IAW marginalizes Jewish students and creates a hostile atmosphere that is “antithetical to every lofty principle to which our institutions of higher learning should aspire – and yet it has been allowed to continue its bully tactics year after year, unimpeded.”

READ: JEWISH GROUPS CONDEMN THREATS TO MUSLIMS AT CONCORDIA

To that end, Benlolo wrote a letter to U of T president Meric Gertler urging him to follow the lead of some British university presidents who’ve banned IAW from their campuses. “For many Jewish students at the University of Toronto, the atmosphere of hate and hostility, particularly during Israeli Apartheid Week, has become near intolerable. We have heard from several young men and women who simply choose not to go to classes at all during IAW to avoid the veiled threats and subtle intimidation to which they are subject,” Benlolo wrote.

He said despite recent reports of racist graffiti on campuses and Jewish institutions, “the Jewish community is not afraid, and FSWC will continue to lead the fight against hatred and a resurgence of anti-Semitic discrimination.”

He said FSWC will provide resources to students and faculty who want to help counter anti-Israel activities on campus.

U of T spokesperson Althea Blackburn-Evans said although CUPE is an independent organization and does not reflect U of T’s views, the university has a commitment to free expression and open dialogue. “We know that controversial topics arise, and while the views can be disconcerting and offensive to people, but we always expect that the discussion and debate take place in a civil and respectful environment,” she said.

She said IAW organizers are expected to comply with university policies, as well as all laws against discrimination.

“We’ll always continue to confront anti-Semitism and racism and faith-based discrimination of any kind,” she said.

“It’s great to see the pledge by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center to offer resources to students and faculty to help counter what they are seeing. We welcome that commitment and their offer to do this.”

CUPE 3902 chair Ryan Culpepper said the local “proudly supports the international call to boycott, divest from and sanction (BDS) Israeli institutions that perpetuate and/or profit from the occupation of Palestine… We also strongly condemn any expressions of anti-Semitism, and we do not believe that advocating for the rights of Palestinians in any way contravenes a commitment to the rights of Jewish people at U of T and around the world.

  • TerrorIsEvil

    It must take a lot of psychotropic drugs to make up statements such as this one:

    “…this year’s event “will reflect on 100 years of resistance to settler colonialism across historic Palestine… [and] link the history of Palestinian resistance to the struggles of the Indigenous peoples on whose territories we live, work, and study, and who are resisting settler colonial violence and dispossession.”

    The idiotic remarks and putrid drivel of well-financed propaganda campaigns is horrendous. The lies are being manufactured non-stop by unions, academics, and left wingers, including the ever-present leftist crowd, including Israeli-Russian journalist Lia Tarachansky who is being paid this month to spew nonsense and lies in her travels to various churches and other venues in Canada with the CJPME Israel-hate circus.

    • thomas howard

      Why don’t you have the courage to put a name to your lies and half-truths?

  • TerrorIsEvil

    I recall the IAW events on the McMaster University campus where union thugs would be standing in the aisles looking angry, menacing and threatening. They looked like they’d rather be anywhere else than some lecture by some well-paid propagandist making money off his/her lies and hatred of Israel. These fellows could not point out Israel on a map but their bosses would spend plenty of these blokes’ union dues on the hate-filled IAW events along with the Islamic Student Union and always with the token presence of IJV.

    I also recall asking one of them after such a “talk” if he was from the union and he was so angered by being exposed by his obvious job in that hall that he wanted to start a fight – and had it not been for the small crowd present, it would have come to blows.

  • Harvey Bank

    Unions cannot be spending non-taxable union dues on politics and in this case, hate mongering.

  • Justice5775CE

    RAcist thugs

  • thomas howard

    Wow… is benlolo actually trying to sound like a victim? Maybe if he treated all with dignity and humanity, events like this would not be required. Sorry that a good number of Canadians, including university students, don’t share the same “ideals” as their federal government.

  • bldob

    End Muslim apartheid! Free Mecca & Medina!