Canadian university student union strips funding of anti-Israel group


VANCOUVER, Canada (JTA) — The University of Manitoba Students’ Union voted to strip funding and official club status from an anti-Israel group on campus.

The April 11 vote concerning Students Against Israeli Apartheid, or SAIA, went against legal advice and bucked the trend among other student councils at Canadian universities that in recent months have voted to divest from Israel.

Following the 19-15 vote, SAIA is prohibited from receiving funding from the student union or using student union facilities for club activities.

The resolution references the Manitoba Human Rights Code and accuses the club of "discrimination" and "harassment."

Prior to the vote, the student union’s attorney issued an opinion reading in part that "the actions of SAIA were well within the grounds of legally protected and acceptable political discourse." The legal opinion warned that barring the group could expose the student union to legal liability, according to the National Post.

SAIA has branches on several Canadian campuses and organizes the annual Israel Apartheid Week. Supporters of SAIA have said they will fight the decision by the student union at the Winnipeg university.

“We are shocked that UMSU would ban Students Against Israeli Apartheid without any evidence or basis for the accusations brought forward in the motion,” said spokeswoman Liz Carlyle in a statement released by the Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid.

B’nai B’rith Canada hailed the vote as "precedent setting" and called for other universities to follow suit.

Not all Canadian backers of Israel supported the move. Ezra Levant, a conservative television commentator and outspoken supporter of Israel, condemned SAIA, but warned that the vote set a dangerous precedent on campuses and made the anti-Israel group look like the victim.

Josh Morry, a student union member, was behind the resolution. He said SAIA’s events were making Jewish students feel uncomfortable.

"I didn’t have to prove that Israel Apartheid Week has actually incited hatred, but that it is likely to undermine the dignity or self-esteem of students on campus who are Zionists," Morry told the Jewish Review.

The University of Manitoba student union’s decision comes after the student council at York University endorsed the boycott movement against Israel several weeks ago. In the fall, the graduate student unions at York, the University of Toronto and Concordia University in Montreal also passed resolutions advocating for a boycott of Israel.

The University of Manitoba has approximately 28,000 students.

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