so much for academic freedom…

[Below is a statement on repression of pro-Palestinian solidarity
activists as McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontoria, entitled
“Defend the rights of student organisers! Our movement will not be
silenced!”, by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) on
February 19.]

Calls on all supporters of Palestinian rights to defend the right to
organise at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. Last week, the
McMaster Provost office, second in authority
to that of the president’s office, announced that student clubs were
banned from using the term “Israeli apartheid”.

This is an unprecedented attack on the right to free speech, academic
freedom, and the right to organise.

This shocking decision came as students were attempting to organise
events as part of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) and was accepted by
McMaster Human Rights & Equity Services and, in turn, the McMaster
Student Union. This information was communicated to Solidarity for
Palestinian Human Rights and McMaster Muslims for Peace & Justice by
the MSU and HRES.

Due to this decision, these MSU approved clubs have not been able to
get approval for various initiatives related to campaigns against
Israeli apartheid.

Across the globe, the movement against Israeli apartheid and in
support of a comprehensive campaign of boycott, divestment and
sanctions has been endorsed by hundreds of universities, unions,
religious groups and social justice organisations.

This campaign is proudly anti-racist, and founded on the principles of
opposition to all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. It
draws its inspiration from the global campaign to isolate the South
African Apartheid regime and is led by many of the same individuals
who were at the forefront of that earlier struggle.

According to the UN definition, the crime of “apartheid” is defined as
the”institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination
by one racial group over any other racial group or groups” and
includes crimes such as “murder, extermination, deportation or
forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe
deprivation of physical liberty, torture, enforced disappearance of
persons, persecution against any identifiable group or collectively
on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural or other grounds”.

Prominent South African individuals and organisations including the
Congress of South African Trade Unions, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and
John Duggard (the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the
Occupied Territories), have
described Israeli practices as a form of apartheid. Former US
President Jimmy Carter, certainly no friend of the Palestinians or
people of the Global South, has called Israel an apartheid state.

Even Israelis, such as Haaretz journalist Danny Rubinstein, have used
this term. Would McMaster University prevent these
people and organisations from speaking on campus?

The movement against Israeli apartheid is rapidly growing on campuses
across the world. Two days ago, the student union at the London School
of Economics voted in favour of divestment from Israel. This year, IAW
occurred globally in 25 locations and was launched by exiled
Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, Azmi Bishara, in Soweto,
South Africa (see ).

Over 2000 students and community members attended IAW events in
Toronto, which included a conference launching a new group, High
Schools Against Israeli Apartheid.

It is in response to this success that the Zionist movement and their
supporters are launching a campaign of intimidation, repression and
bureaucratic maneuverings. During IAW, pro-Israeli apartheid
organisations attacked the week in paid full-page advertisements in
national newspapers. The Israeli ambassador organised a public forum
in Ottawa to speak against IAW.

Zionist groups attempted to organise counter-events on campuses but
these were poorly attended and by their own admission failed
miserably. A pro-apartheid demonstration organized by the far-right
Jewish Defense League on the first
night of Israeli Apartheid week at Ryerson University attracted a
meager 25 individuals, while, at the same time, over 350 people
attended the IAW lecture that night.

CAIA firmly believes that this attempt to repress student organising
will ultimately fail. The McMaster University administration should
understand this message very clearly: We refuse to be silenced and we
will fight back.

We call on student organisations, social justice groups and concerned
individuals from around the world to support students at McMaster and
the broader rights of Palestine organisers.

To support Palestinian solidarity activists at McMastuer and the right
to freedom of speech, please:

• Immediately email the McMaster University President, Dr Peter
George, at preswww@mcmaster.ca, asking why he has permitted this
infringement of basic democratic principles and requesting that he
immediately restore the Charter rights of McMaster students.

• Send a message of support to the McMaster students organising
against this decision at unitedforstudentrights@gmail.com

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