The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has been decisively defeated at the University of Winnipeg (UW).
“We needed at least a two-thirds majority to win,” said Arielle Branitsky, Hillel director and outreach consultant for the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, of the student union vote that took place on Oct. 25.
Branitsky expressed appreciation for the help and support of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and the new Winnipeg chapter of Stand With Us – which is part of a worldwide network of supporters of Israel who are dedicated to fighting anti-Israel activity on university campuses and elsewhere – in the successful effort to defeat the motion.
The motion charged Israel with being “engaged in a process of settler-colonization of the Palestinian territories and domination and violence against the Palestinian People, which has earned condemnation around the globe from governments, human rights organizations and communities of all faiths and backgrounds, and which was recently described in a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia as an ‘apartheid regime.’ ”
Branitsky said that the motion was first presented to the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) by a relatively new and little-known openly communist group that calls itself the Revolutionary Student Movement.
The motion, she said, was tabled due to the lack of a quorum and carried over to the special general meeting, which was held on Oct. 25.
“Working with CIJA and Stand With Us, we recruited five student leaders who are comfortable in speaking out and are passionate about Israel,” she said. “They encouraged their peers to attend the meeting and gathered proxy votes from other students.”
Branitsky estimates that there were 45-50 students in the room, at least some of whom came to oppose the motion (including some Muslim students).
“Any registered University of Winnipeg student, with proper student ID, was eligible to vote,” she added.
With its decisive defeat, the motion, as it was worded, is dead, she said.
‘This would not have happened without the tireless work of students who refused to remain silent.’
“This would not have happened without the tireless work of students who refused to remain silent in the face of discrimination,” said Branitsky. “Their efforts ensured that this hateful motion failed. Initiatives like these only fuel bigotry and deepen divisions, while doing nothing to advance meaningful dialogue on the conflict.”
“We are pleased that UW students voted to reject BDS,” said Judy Zelikovitz, vice-president, university and local partner services at CIJA. “We commend our partners, Hillel Winnipeg and StandWithUs Canada, both of which worked with us in supporting students at UW. BDS initiatives are at odds with academic freedom and often violate human rights codes by calling for discrimination on the basis of national origin. They have no place on a campus that welcomes diversity and debate.”
“This campaign of hate against Israel has no place on campus,” said StandWithUs Canada campus director Zina Rakhamilova. “Motions such as these only fuel racism and deepen divisions, while doing nothing to advance meaningful dialogue on the conflict. With this vote, UW students stood up for justice and said no to hate at their university.”
Hasbara Fellowships Canada, the country’s largest pro-Israel campus advocacy organization, congratulated pro-Israel students on the most recent defeat of the BDS cause.
“Despite the pervasive anti-Semitism that occurs on many Canadian campuses, BDS is still on the ropes in Canada,” noted Robert Walker, Hasbara’s national director. “But he cautioned that “the more they lose votes at Canadian schools, the more they will seek other avenues for success, and so we must remain vigilant.”