Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University (SAIA York) received notice of a 30-day suspension, a $1000 fine and an individual fine of $250 for the student signatory for the group. In explaining these measures, York University administration cites a demonstration organized in solidarity with students in Gaza, stating that “your club actively participated in a rally in Vari Hall on February 12, using various sound amplification devices and other noise making instruments.”
The University alleges that ‘sound amplification’ disrupted classes but fails to note that SAIA York quickly moved the rally away from Vari Hall in order to deliver a letter to the University administration. It should also be noted that the maximum monetary penalty has been imposed by the administration without following the verification process outlined in the university”s “Student Code of Conduct”. In doing so, the administration has violated its own procedures. Furthermore, the university has repeatedly failed to respond numerous complaints filed by SAIA members and their community allies over racist and sexist commentary directed at them by members of pro-Israel advocacy organizations present on that day
These discriminatory and punitive measures come a week prior to the scheduled launch of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) at York University on March 3-8 (www.apartheidweek.org). Pro-Israel organizations have applied immense, coordinated and nation-wide pressure to shut down IAW, including placing full-page advertisements in national newspapers calling on universities to prevent IAW from occurring. The repressive activities of the York administration must be clearly seen in this light.
It is shocking to see university administrations respond to these racist calls to stifle free speech and student organizing around Israeli Apartheid. At Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, university administrations have banned the IAW poster. At the University of Toronto, University President David Naylor has recently been exposed through a Freedom of Information Request to have personally been involved in shutting down a Palestine solidarity event on campus. [see the articles listed below for further detail on this repression].
The attempt by the pro Israel organizations to prevent IAW from occurring is full confirmation that the debate against Israeli Apartheid has been won. In the wake of Israel”s massacres in Gaza, student and public opinion is clearly on the side of justice. Israel is now understood as an apartheid state and the only response of pro-Israel organizations is to harass and repress student organizing. They will fail.
** Please email and phone the following individuals in protest against these repressive measures.
Robert J. Tiffin (Vice President Students)
rjtiffin [at] yorku.ca
+1 416 736 5955
Mamdouh Shoukri (University President)
mshoukri [at] yorku.ca
+1 416 736 5200
** Further Links:
1) Carleton Students Against Israeli Apartheid
2) Exposed: University of Toronto suppresses pro-Palestinian activism
By Liisa Schofield, February 18, 2009
3) Academic Freedom Threatened in Ontario Universities
By Margaret Aziza Pappano
4) Israeli Apartheid Week Schedule
Sample letter to send to York University administration (mshoukri [at] yorku.ca, rjtiffin [at] yorku.ca):
President Mamdouh Shoukri,
Vice President Robert Tiffin,
I was shocked and appalled to learn that the student group, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) was penalized for holding a demonstration on campus in solidarity with the students in Gaza. One would expect that an academic institution like York University would condemn the destruction of Palestinian academic institutions by the Israeli army. Instead, York University is banning protest, and penalizing students for demonstrating against such crimes.
It is a shame that an institution which is built on the principle of freedom of expression, and that the senior administration which is entrusted with upholding freedom of speech, are restricting speech and penalizing students engaged in legitimate protest. This reflects badly on York University”s reputation.
It seems that York University is bowing under the pressure by external pro-Israel advocacy groups who are working hard to silence any voice that supports the Palestinian cause. It is sad to see that the administration is not providing protection to the students expressing their views and feelings against Israel”s crimes.
I strongly urge you to reconsider your problematic position and cancel the fines. I also strongly urge you to uphold the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom, and to allow students to express themselves freely without the influence of external pro-Israel lobbying groups. This is your duty even if you do not agree with views expressed.