Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Union at Ontario Universities Proposes Boycott of Israel

The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 6, 2009 - The Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario, the largest labor union representing staff members at the province’s universities, plans to introduce a resolution at its conference next month to ban Israeli academics from teaching, speaking, or doing research at Ontario universities if they do not first condemn Israeli actions in Gaza.

The union, which represents teaching and research assistants and other members of the support staff at many universities, says the proposal is a response to the bombing on December 29 that damaged the Islamic University of Gaza. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the bombed buildings had been used as “a research and development center for Hamas weapons,” referring to the terrorist group that governs the Gaza Strip.

News of the proposed ban has “sparked a bitter debate,” according to The Globe and Mail, a Toronto newspaper. The union’s president, Sid Ryan, accused Israel of deliberately making the university a target, and he compared the attack to actions of the Nazis.

That statement prompted Bernie Farber, chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, to describe the remarks as “nasty and bigoted rhetoric.” Mr. Farber also asked whether arms were in fact stored on the Gaza campus.

The leading faculty union in Britain has made a series of efforts in recent years to impose a boycott of Israeli academics, but opponents of the proposal said last month that their legal threats had blocked the union from taking action against Israeli scholars.

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