A fairly provocative request

06Jan09

From here:

Ontario’s largest university workers union is proposing a ban on Israeli academics teaching in the province’s universities, in a move that echoes previous attempts to boycott goods and services from the Jewish state.


That Post‘s lede is slightly misleading. It was a committee of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario) that proposed the ban, and — as the story later points out — it hasn’t yet come to a vote. If it does pass the committee next month, it will go to a vote at a CUPE Ontario general meeting in May.

The Globe and Mail also covered the story. The lede on that story took a different tack:

A proposed resolution by a major Ontario union to ban Israeli academics at the province’s universities has sparked a bitter debate between leaders on both sides over an Israeli attack on a Gaza university.

The long-time president of CUPE Ontario, Sid Ryan, supported the proposal and qualified it with this statement:

“In response to an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, we are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general,” said Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario.

The Globe quoted Ryan as saying the ban “wouldn’t apply to Israeli-born Canadian academics, but only visiting scholars.”

Critics of the move alleged that this is a freedom-of-speech issue:

Len Rudner, regional director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) in Ontario, called the resolution “unbalanced, unfair and unhelpful.”

“Once again Sid Ryan is jumping before thinking,” Mr. Rudner said. “I think it’s ironic individuals who speak about freedom of speech jump to the opportunity to take that freedom away from other individuals.”

The Post drew a connection to last year’s action in Britain:

The proposal comes after an international academic dispute broke out in 2007 following the British University and College Union’s decision to sever professional ties with eight Israeli universities.

Both the Post and the Globe reported that this proposal follows logically in the footsteps of a 2006 resolution passed by CUPE Ontario to boycott Israel, but the Globe used an interesting adjective (emphasis mine):

CUPE Ontario, which has about 20,000 members in Ontario’s universities, in 2006 passed a notorious resolution supporting boycotts of Israeli goods, sparking a firestorm of debate.

Interesting use of the word.

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