The York Federation of Students, which represents over 52,000 undergraduates at York University, has passed a motion supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel after hosting a short-noticed hearing featuring Students against Israeli Apartheid York. The vote passed 18 to 2 after a petition containing 5,000 signatures in favor of BDS was submitted without the signatures being authenticated. The BDS motion urges York University to divest from Israeli companies and to not cooperate with Israeli academics.

York University is Canada’s third largest university and is a known center for anti-Israel radicalism. In the past, around 100 anti-Israel activists at York University rioted on campus and blockaded Jewish students inside the Hillel office. The Jewish students needed to be evacuated by the police to safety. York University has also in the past placed impediments on Jewish students seeking to host pro-Israel events, yet has not done the same for anti-Israel groups holding Israel Apartheid Week. The first ever Israel Apartheid Week was hosted within the very same city where York University is located, Toronto. The York Federation of Students Boycott Motion follows the Graduate Student Unions at the University of Toronto and Concordia University applying similar motions.

Jewish students at York University were outraged. Geoffrey Aharon, referring to the BDS motion vote as a kangaroo court due to the short notice given to pro-Israel students to respond, asserted, “To know that our union does not care about us, [that] they are more than happy to directly target Jewish, Israeli students and any student that is a supporter of Israel, and create a hostile environment at our university, is one of the most disappointing and upsetting things I’ve ever experienced at York. I am absolutely ashamed and disgusted to be a student at York University because…I am forced to be a member of the YFS.

“We are extremely disappointed that YFS would pass a resolution boycotting Israelis. This represents nothing less than a blacklist against residents of a single country – the world’s only Jewish state and the sole liberal democracy in the Middle East. It is fundamentally racist, and a possible violation of the university’s anti-discrimination codes, to discriminate against the people of Israel on the basis of national origin,” said Chaim Lax, President of Hasbara @ York.

According to Sam Eskanasi, a communications officer for Bnei Brith, “The whole thing [at York] was just fairly mechanical. I don’t think it’s reflective of the entire campus,” he said. “Whatever the minimum amount of notice is, these groups will try to do it as quickly as possible… It’s just that same group of people who have been there for years. This is their shtick.” Karen Mock, a human rights activist, asserted, “It so fundamentally violates academic freedom issues, for example, to boycott professors.” She furthermore asserted that student supporters of the BDS movement have resorted to “insidious, nefarious strategies to garner support,” such as quick votes and limited debate. “It’s a strategy to disenfranchise people so that votes will go through, so it shows they didn’t have the confidence this would represent the majority,” she said.

Dylan Hanley, associate director, university relations at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, believes that the utilization of short-notice voting and quick debates by the BDS movement is a sign that they are a failed movement, since Canadian universities are moving closer to Israel and they have as of yet to succeed to get the administration of a single North American university to boycott Israel. He proclaimed, “They don’t have a mass movement. They have tactics where they can sneak things through in the middle of the night. They don’t even represent the opinions of Palestinians.”

Write the President of York University:


Dear President Mamdou Shoukri,

As a concerned citizen, I am outraged to learn that the York Federation of Students has passed a motion to boycott Israeli academics and to divest from Israeli companies, despite the fact that Israel is ranked by Freedom House as the only free state within the Middle East region and Arabs living in Israel are treated much better than Arabs living under any of the Middle East’s many totalitarian dictatorships. Given this, such a motion amounts to racial discrimination against Jewish intellectuals, who are being persecuted against based on their ethnic origins. BDS is not based on any perceived assertion in favor of human rights, for BDS proponents could care less about the Palestinians and other Arabs who are persecuted against by Middle Eastern totalitarian dictatorships, while choosing to only go after the only regime in the Middle East that provides Arabs with any sort of basic human rights. Boycotts, divestment and sanctions are thus the anti-thesis of academic freedom, the hallmark of what universities are supposed to stand for. Given this, I urge you to take a public stance opposed to the York Federation of Students BDS Motion.

All the best,

Your Name

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