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Canadian pro-Palestinian organizations silenced

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(From Ed Corrigan) There appears to be an organized campaign underway to attack pro-Palestinian organizations across Canada and organizations that are critical of Israeli policies. The focus is on the Universities, the University of Western Ontario, York University and at the CEGEP Bois-de-Bologne in Montreal where Jewish students are trying to ban a CALEB-Tadamon! conference. No doubt many more organizations are under attack. The dark cloud of fascism is  rearing its ugly head across Canada.

(From The Canadian Jewish News)

York students oppose anti-Israel spending, poll finds
By SHERI SHEFA, Staff Reporter   
Thursday, 24 April 2008
TORONTO – A survey at York University suggests that a “silent backlash” by a large majority of students is underway against the York Federation of Students (YFS) because of what the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) says is the council’s support for anti-Israel initiatives. The poll, commissioned by the FSWC, found that 85 per cent of York students oppose the YFS using student fees to support anti-Israel campaigns. The FSWC commissioned COMPAS Research, a public opinion polling firm, to gauge student sentiment about protests on campus against “Israeli Apartheid.” Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of FSWC, said the YFS spends money that it gets from compulsory student fees to fund anti-Israel activities, including the annual “Israeli Apartheid Week.” “Among this majority are students who also believe that describing Israel as ‘apartheid’ is so extremist that such portrayals should be banned from campus,” the FSWC said in a statement. “[The YFS is] being supportive and directing their energy towards [anti-Israel events] instead of lobbying for better health care, for example,” Benlolo said. “They are, in fact, providing the resources for it.” Attempts to reach YFS president Hamid Osman for comment were unsuccessful. The survey, for which COMPAS interviewed 500 students on campus last month, follows a similar study done last year at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto that showed a majority of students didn’t want their compulsory dues to fund anti-Israel organizations, and rejected calls for a boycott of Israeli academics. “It is important for us as an organization and for the community to understand what the student body thinks. For us to create policy and know how to act, we need to understand what people really think, rather than just reacting,” Benlolo said. “Now we know that only about 15 per cent of people in the student body actually support this behaviour and about 85 per cent of the student population don’t support that kind of behaviour. Students are basically saying, ‘It’s disgusting, it’s disturbing to be part of this scene. We don’t want anything to do with it, we don’t want our money to go to funding it.’” Benlolo added that he plans to run a full-page ad before the end of the school year in York’s campus paper, the Excalibur, to publicize the poll’s results to students. “If we don’t publicize this… then they may assume that more people believe that it is OK to promote the idea of ‘Israeli apartheid,’” he said. “The strategy is that the student body will question their student council and say that they don’t approve. The ultimate point of working on this is to end the campaign against Israel and to stop ‘Israeli Apartheid Week.’” Daniel Ferman, president-elect of Hillel at York, said he’s not surprised that a vast majority of students are against the politicized and polarizing events on campus, but he feels the FSWC is working on the false assumption that the YFS supports and funds anti-Israel events. “The results do not reflect our experience with this year’s YFS, which has been working closely with us, focusing on student concerns, increasing its support for Jewish students on campus, and removing itself from anti-Israel activities.” But earlier this year, the YFS partnered with a campus group called Students Against Israeli Apartheid to encourage students to attend a rally at McMaster University to protest the administration’s decision to ban the hanging of a sign that had the term “Israeli Apartheid” on it. The YFS sponsored a bus to transport York students to McMaster for the protest. Tilly Shames, Hillel of Greater Toronto’s associate director, said this was the only example of YFS involvement in an anti-Israel activity. “Although we strongly disagreed with the YFS decision to co-ordinate a bus to McMaster, this action is not reflective of YFS activities on campus or our positive relationship with YFS. This year’s York Federation of Students has made every effort to focus on student issues and remove themselves from anti-Israel activities on campus,” Shames said. She added that the survey should have focused its attention on the role of the York chapter of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), which routinely supports and promotes anti-Israel activities. The website of OPIRG, which is a student-funded, student-directed organization, links to several anti-Israel websites, including the Al-Awda Right of Return Committee and the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. Since 1992, each York student has been paying a levy to fund OPIRG, but students can choose to opt out of it. “OPIRG receives a portion of student fees, usually ranging from $1 to $5 per student depending on the campus and program, at York and U of T. OPIRG directly supports ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ and other anti-Israel activities on campus,” Shames said. “Hillel strongly urges students who disagree with OPIRG’s stance on Israel to opt out of the automatic levy all students must pay to OPIRG through their student fees.” Efforts to reach OPIRG by The CJN’s early holiday deadline were unsuccessful

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