The leaders of four Jewish organizations are calling on Ontario university students to opt out of paying dues to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), because it supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Students at universities in Ontario are now able to opt out of paying non-essential fees, thanks to recent changes enacted by the provincial government.
“Today, at least in Ontario, there is finally some good news: every Jewish student (and ally) can strike a simple and cost-saving blow against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on campus,” reads a letter sent to The CJN that was signed by Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, Daniel Koren, executive director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, Meryle Kates, executive director of StandWithUs Canada and Andy Borans, CEO of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation.
In a press release, the four organizations gave instructions for how students can opt out of their CFS dues. They instruct students to log in to the website where they pay their dues, find a page called “Opt Out Selections” (or something similar) and opt out of all fees marked “CFS” or “CFS-ON.”
The Jewish groups contend that CFS “purports” to represent students from across Canada, but that, “in reality, CFS barely has any presence left in Quebec, B.C. or Alberta, and has frequently been embroiled in litigation with other student associations that want out.”
“This year, it’s time for Jewish students to fight back against those who would take their hard-earned money and then use it against them and their cousins in the Land of Israel. We urge all Ontario students of conscience to opt out of CFS fees when they pay their tuition for the 2019-2020 academic year,” the letter concludes.
The fees differ from school to school depending on the arrangement between each student union and the CFS, but Aidan Fishman of B’nai Brith said the amount is usually between $13 and $70 per semester. He also stressed the urgency of the issue, as at least one school, Guelph, has already closed its opt-out options, and others may close them shortly.
“So it is a matter of urgency that every student should opt out as soon as possible, and every parent or grandparent or friend of an Ontario Jewish student should let Ontario Jewish students know as soon as possible so that they can opt out,” he said.
Ilan Orzy, director of advocacy and issues management for Hillel Ontario, said that his organization also supports the initiative.
“Giving students the option to opt out of movements or initiatives that support their own discrimination is a great thing. We encourage as many students across Ontario to opt out of the CFS fees and any other fees that they feel don’t fit into what they want as part of their university experience,” he said.
The CFS website says that its decision to endorse BDS “comes after decades of Israeli violations of international human rights law and daily violence again [sic] the Palestinian people. Palestinian children are routinely denied access to a quality education as a result of this violence. Israel’s blatant violations of basic human rights have long been condemned by international human rights organizations … and yet the atrocities committed in Gaza and other parts of Palestine continue to worsen with no end in sight.”
Giving students the option to opt out of movements or initiatives that support their own discrimination is a great thing.
– Ilan Orzy
Orzy, however, believes the BDS movement is less about standing up for Palestinians and more about demonizing the Jewish state.
“It’s only standing against the rights of Israeli citizens, academics and others who wish to be involved in various international endeavours,” he said. “We are in favour of endeavours that are pro-peace and pro-two state solution, and support both the human rights of the Palestinians, but also the human rights and other rights of the Israelis. I think that anyone who looks at the BDS movement will see that the victories they claim are not really victories in favour of the Palestinian people, they’re simply victories against Israelis.”
The CFS website also states that it condemns anti-Semitism and will “prioritize the voice” of Jewish groups like Independent Jewish Voices. It did not respond to The CJN’s request for comment.