Campus Roundup: A review of this month’s Israel/Palestine activities on campuses across Canada



McGill University is one of many Canadian university campuses where debate took place last month over the Israel/Palestine conflict. Organizations defending Palestinian human rights are more active than ever across the country. So, also are various pro-Israeli organizations. The debate is intense. Read more.


With this article, we introduce “Campus Roundup” which we hope will become a monthly feature. This month’s roundup was prepared by Zainab Ramahi. 

March 2016

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) 2016 events took place on more than 11 Canadian campuses over the last month.  Israeli Apartheid Week was first launched in Toronto in 2005 with the aim of educating people “about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system” and to build the global campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. University campuses continue to be a focal point of BDS activity, and IAW events involve lectures, film screenings, and creative actions.

IAW Canada kicked off on February 22nd at Dalhousie University, with events across Canada through March 24th at the University of British Columbia, the University of Western Ontario, McMaster University, the University of Toronto – Scarborough, Laurentian University, the University of Toronto, the University of Ottawa, Queen’s University, University of Windsor, and in Edmonton.

This year’s theme “Our Struggles Unite” brought together spoken word poet and filmmaker Amanda Lickers with poet and organizer Remi Kanazi in Toronto to discuss movement intersections across Palestinian, Indigenous, and Black Struggles. In Sudbury and Edmonton, film screenings included Pressure Points: Israel, Berkeley, and the Divestment Resolution, Checkpoint, and The Wanted 18. At Queens University, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights organized a simulation of an Israeli checkpoint. A pro Israel group called Israel on Campus distributed a leaflet justifying the use of checkpoints and the construction of the separation wall.

2016 IAW events took place in the context of Canadian parliamentary condemnation of BDS activity, in a motion passed on February 22. On the very same day, a Students’ Society of McGill University motion in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel passed 512-387. However, the online ratification process that followed failed to ratify the vote, much to the satisfaction of the pro-Israel lobby, including B’nai Brith Canada and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs described the outcome as “the victory of reason over hate.”

mcgill bds

McGill University Principal Suzanne Fortier weighed in with an official response on behalf of the university administration, decrying the vote, saying, “The BDS movement… flies in the face of the tolerance and respect we cherish as fundamental values to a university.”

Professors at McGill University later issued a strong response to Fortier’s statement,

“For Principal Fortier to denounce a movement defending the rights of Palestinians against those who are oppressing them is in fact what ‘flies in the face of tolerance and respect’ […] As McGill professors, we also declare now and will continue to state that if this is the McGill Administration’s response to the BDS movement, it also does not act in our name.”

Signatories reflect engagement from various university departments including History, Classical Studies, Anthropology, Urban Planning, Counselling Psychology, Epidemiology, and Linguistics.

The McGill vote came on the heels of a similar vote at the University of Waterloo. Having gathered the signatures of over 10% of the undergraduate student population necessary to trigger a vote calling on the University to break ties with Israeli institutions, on January 28, students narrowly voted 1,803-2,329 to reject the motion.

Support for Palestinian human rights seems to be moving from student bodies into the ranks of the academic staff. Faculty bodies at other universities have articulated their support for divestment efforts on campus, including a recent announcement from over 125 faculty members at the University of Toronto as well as the York University Faculty Association stewards’ council, which voted 23 to 10 to join the YUDivest Campaign.

Zainab Ramahi, March 28, 2016

Tell us what you think. Did we miss some things? (Of course we did.) Did we get some things wrong? (Duh). Did you find this useful? Please send in your comments and suggestions for next month.



  1. Peter, or whoever gets to read this:

    Ethics is about what should happen. Politics hopefully includes ethics, but is about what is feasible. Unfortunately, injustice to Palestinians is largely below the radar. People know very little real history, they don’t know how the Middle East was carved up after WW2 by “winner take the prize” policies of Winston Churchill and his French counterpart. They don’t know the history of 1940s to 1960s. They don’t even know about the second intifada, let alone what caused it. When they hear about violations of Palestinian human rights they also get an earful about anti-semitism, Arab terrorists, etc.

    Your blogs focus on the narrow view, portraying Palestinians as victims, which they are. Perhaps you feel that widening the debate to all of the frightening issues in the Middle East would make things worse. Well, it could, but there is also an opportunity for Palestinians to tell the world that they view the rise of ISIS with as much fear and/or disgust as we do. That is, if they do. Are they divided on this, or just too busy trying to survive? If divided, are the thoughtful ones even more afraid of consequences from their own militant wing? Whatever the answers, I don’t see Palestinians getting wide support here while remaining ambiguous on ISIS. It shouldn’t be like that, but it is.


    1. Great news. Please feel free to share activities etc. from faculty across the country. I apologise for not being aware of it, but happy to publicise what there is.

    2. Hey Stan,
      yes – I do focus on Israel-Palestine and consciously avoid talkiing about what is happening in the rest of the region. Only because even keeping on top of IP is as much as I can handle.
      I agree with you that it would be helpful if someone – perhaps someone who reads arabic – could find a statement from Hamas about ISIS.

      When I was in Gaza in the fall, I got the strong impression that Hamas really hates ISIS and is worried that, while ISIS does not seem to have any following in Gaza today, it might gain recruits if the situation does not improve.

      However, anecdotal conversations do not replace official statements. Any Arabic speaker out there who can find (and translate) any Hamas statements about ISIS?? I would be interested to know their position.

  2. I’m not sure what you mean by moving from students to faculty. Faculty have been anti-Israel for a long time. The BDS movement mostly originated with faculty and faculty have been their strongest supporters. They created the student movement.

    As for the faculty I wish I could say to them of course the administration doesn’t act in your name. You are employees. They act in the name of the trusties and / or the public.

  3. Thank you Stan for your contniuous support for Palestinians human rights and justice. Palestinian children,women and men are grateful for you.

    On the relation between Hamas and ISIS, Sara Helm says: “Hamas members are seen as infidels by ISIS since they place the nationalist battle for a Palestinian state before the campaign for a caliphate. – See more at:


    The endless human rights violations against Palestinians didn’t succeed yet in changing Palestinians’ correct comprehension for Islam. Also, with the biased media, same media that keeps injustice under the radar and possibly promoting Netanyahu lies, I am not sure how much of Palestinians’ statements denouncing ISIS will make it to the TV, radio or newspapers. The lack of support ISIS is enjoying in Palestine is by itself a statement.

    A previous leader once said that he will make an alliance with the devil to protect his kingdom and wealth. Is Netanyahu expecting Palestinians to make such an alliance ?

  4. Greetings: firstly, establishing monthly Campus Roundup summarizing activities on Israel-Palestine is a wise decision.
    Secondly, I appreciate Stan Rosenbaum comments on Peter’s blog’s but don’t agree that it have a narrow focus; Peter seems focused on Israel-Palestine rather Middle-East; he invites us to comment on his articulations, and interview others that freely discuss their views.

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