Faculty for Palestine denounces York University President’s suspension of Students Against Israeli Apartheid-York

Faculty for Palestine (F4P) denounces York University President Rhonda Lenton’s recent decision to temporarily suspend Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA)-York as a campus organization.

F4P joins many allies, nationally and internationally, who have already expressed support for the students and other Palestine solidarity activists who gathered at the SAIA-organized rally on November 20 at York University to protest the Herut Canada event with soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), a military well known for its extensive human rights violations. We stand in solidarity and broad agreement with statements written by Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA-York) and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) in the aftermath of November 20. We endorse the December 8th call by Amnesty International for an independent inquiry into November 20. We are also grateful for all those organizations that have supported SAIA with their public statements; the list of supporters continues to grow, and includes York University Graduate Students’ Association (YUGSA)/York Federation of Students (YFS) joint statement, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903, BDS South Africa, and BDS Australia. We encourage our colleagues, friends and allies to follow their lead by condemning the violence against students and other Palestine solidarity activists on York campus. F4P remains steadfast in our commitment to the advocacy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on (BDS) our campuses.

F4P understands the Herut Canada event as a clear provocation meant to silence BDS and broader Palestinian advocacy on campus, and to shield the Israeli state from criticism by suggesting that all such critique constitutes anti-Semitism. Groups such as B’nai Brith, which have been urging the York University administration to revoke SAIA’s student status, form part of a broader campaign by the Israeli state and its advocates to stop advocacy for Palestinian human rights and to silence Palestinian narratives. Given this context, and the vicious attacks by the Jewish Defense League on November 20, we are deeply dismayed that the York University administration is now advocating “dialogue” between the opposing sides. We are also deeply concerned about the militarization of campus life as well as the role of campus security in failing to protect the students from the violence and injury caused by the JDL, well known for its far-right, nationalist politics. Indeed, there have been previous calls to ban JDL from campus due to its violent actions. Even Hillel, a Zionist organization, declined to endorse the Herut Canada event.

We hold the York Administration accountable for failing to protect students and community activists and call for the following immediate actions:

i. President Lenton immediately revoke the suspension of SAIA-York, and ensure that the official review of the JDL and Herut’s violent actions that evening also includes statements from those who were victims of this violence.
ii. President Lenton clearly acknowledge and further investigate the perpetrators of the violence, specifically, a) the direct violence and injuries/harms to students/Palestine solidarity activists by the JDL and b) the violence it tacitly authorized by permitting the IDF, Herut Canada and the Jewish Defense League on campus.
iii. President Lenton ensure that students, faculty and their allies who attended the SAIA-York protest on November 20 are not punished in any way – either as individuals or organizations – for exercising their right to protest and express concerns about the inappropriate use of York campus.
iv. President Lenton and York Administration foster an environment where all campus members (and their non-campus allies) are free to advocate for the demilitarization of campus and for divestment.

This particular provocation is not a singular event. Attempting to silence Palestine solidarity is part of a long-standing and widespread pattern on our campuses. We call on the York University Administration to reappraise its response to date and to urgently address these calls for immediate action.

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Faculty for Palestine (Canada) was formed in 2008 and organizes in solidarity with, and endorses, the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (2005) and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

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