This story was updated on March 6, 2016 at 12:31 p.m., and then again on 6:22 p.m.
The York University Faculty Association (YUFA) is now one of more than 70 signatories to the YUDivest campaign, which some Jewish community groups and York faculty believe is part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
On March 4, the YUFA stewards’ council voted 23 to 10 in favour of the motion brought forth by the YUDivest Coalition, made up of groups including Amnesty International at York and Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), to urge York to divest from arms manufacturers, such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, FLIR Systems, and Textron.
Carl Ehrlich, director of York’s Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, resigned from the YUFA execu-tive in light of the endorsement vote, but still serves as a YUFA departmental steward. He said that when he learned the YUDivest campaign was being considered by YUFA for endorsement, he worked on trying to inform his colleagues of the implications of supporting a motion that was effectively an offshoot of the BDS movement against Israel.
Despite Ehrlich’s efforts, YUFA’s executive voted 11 to 1 in favour of the motion in February, and when it was brought to the steward’s council on March 4, it was officially endorsed.
“I’m very disappointed in my colleagues, I have to admit… the YUFA executive, in its motion, tried to disassociate YUDivest from the BDS movement. People in opposition to the motion think that is being either dishonest or naïve,” Ehrlich said.
StandWithUs Canada also criticized the motion.
“While YUDivest does not target Israel explicitly, anti-Israel activists are deeply involved in the campaign and are using it to advance their bigoted agenda,” the pro-Israel campus group said in a statement.
Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, said that “the seemingly benign proposal to divest York from arms manufacturers is in fact a smokescreen to double down on the profound anti-Jewish hate so prevalent on the York campus.”
But YUFA president Richard Wellen said that members of the stewards’ council decided the motion “stands on its own merits as a general weapons divestment issue. There was agreement that it is not the role of YUFA to support BDS or take sides in any way on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”
He added: “Most participants strongly rejected the suggestion that YUFA would be supporting BDS by supporting YUDivest, as if there was a plan to enlist YUFA in an unacknowledged campaign that was really primarily about supporting anti-Israel or anti-Semitic objectives.”