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Maria Gluskin and Josh Morry

Ezra Levant


by Rhonda Spivak, L.L.B, Editor, April 14, 2013

The University of Manitoba Students Union (UMSU) has become the first in North America to vote to ban Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) on campus and strip the group Students Against Israel Apartheid (SAIA) of official student group status.

The motion bars SAIA from receiving student union funding or using activity space in student-union controlled buildings and is a stunning setback for proponents of Israel Apartheid Week. The motion passed by secret ballot 19 to 15.

The motion is the brain child of Josh Morry, a student with savvy debating skills who is graduating this year form the Asper School of Business. The motion  relies on UMSU Policy 2009 which states that “UMSU does not condone behaviour that is likely to undermine the dignity [or] self-esteem … of any of its members.” It further states that “UMSU is committed to an inclusive and respectful work and learning environment free from discrimination or harassment as prohibited in the Manitoba Human Rights Code (the “Code).”

Morry argued that by referring to Israel as an apartheid and racist state, SAIA essentially labels Jews, (the vast majority of whom identify with the state as Zionists), as well as students who are Israeli on campus as “racists,” which is likely to undermine their dignity.

“It’s like saying that Jews and Zionists are “Nazis,” Morry said in an interview, such that it is likely to make the average student on campus want to hate Jews, and make them objects of contempt. He says IAW discriminates against Zionists by brandishing them as automatically being “racists,” which is a form of discrimination and harassment.

“According to the UMSU policy, I didn’t have to prove that IAW has actually incited hatred, but that it is likely to undermine the dignity or self- esteem of students on campus who are Zionists.” He noted that even though not every Jew is a Zionist,

Jews as a group overwhelmingly are Zionists, and thus SAIA targets Jews as being racist, which automatically lowers them in the estimation of other students on campus, thereby infringing on their dignity and self-respect.

“When a group is perceived as “racist” then it becomes socially acceptable to fight against them” or dehumanize them since they are racist,” Morry added.

Since the IAW website defines Zionism as a “racist” doctrine, then supporters of Zionism are “being labelled racist”, which is likely to hold them up to contempt among their peers. [The complete wording of the motion will appear at the end of this article].

Maria Gluskin, a 24 Israeli who moved to Winnipeg a number of years ago after living in Israel for 16 years, who supported Morry’s motion is also studying at the Asper School of Business. She told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that when she first encountered IAW on campus, “I felt hated since I was an Israeli and a Zionist,” and therefore “I was being labelled as a racist.”

Aside from Morry and Gluskin, there was only one other student on the student council who was Jewish, such that the motion was carried since Morry and Gluskin succeeded in convincing most of the non-Jews on the student council of the justice of their case. This occurred notwithstanding that the President of UMSU, Bilan Arte, and other executive members have been supporters of IAW and that they claimed to have a legal opinion that indicated that UMSU could be opening itself up to legal action if it were to ban SAIA (Note: In a follow-up story, this publication will be asking Arte to share the legal opinion, and once it is made available will comment further. Suffice it to say, that this case will lead end up in court in the event that SAIA decides to commence litigation to require their status to be re-instated).

Canada's National Post has reported that  according to Ms. Arte, the student union legal opinion indicated that that “the actions of SAIA were well within the grounds of legally protected and acceptable political discourse” and the motion could put the students union “at a significant risk of committing a breach of [their] legal obligations.”

Morry, whose father is prominent lawyer Howard Morry, who leads the Arab-Jewish Dialogue group in Winnipeg, has offered to lead an Arab-Jewish dialogue on campus, where the narratives of both sides can be heard, in a respectful manner, without promoting hatred.

Outspoken Canadian journalist, lawyer, and free speech advocate Ezra Levant disagrees with the decision to ban IAW and wrote in an email that he thinks in the end this ban could boomerang against the Jewish community:

"Although I find Israel Apartheid Week to be offensive, and untruthful, and abusive, and anti-Semitic, I don't believe that the government should ban things that are offensive, etc. Because every one of the definitions used to ban Israel Apartheid Week here -- e.g. it makes people feel "unwelcome", etc. -- can and will be used against Jews and non-Jewish Zionists in the future.

"The only question is whether or not the university and the students union are a government institution. I say that because private establishments ought to be able to discriminate against people, including on their political views. But given the amount of government money flowing through the university and students union, I think it's more accurate to say it's a state agency rather than a private institution.

"So, I've got to disagree with this decision.

"This is so similar to the idea of banning "hate speech" through human rights commissions -- the idea that the Jewish community loved so much in the 1970s and 1980s when Jews were the ones doing the prosecuting, and anti-Semites were the ones being prosecuted.

"But the rule of law means what comes around goes around -- "precedent", as lawyers would say. So then the Canadian Islamic Congress used those same censorship laws against Mark Steyn. And the Islamic Supreme Council used them against me and my magazine.

"Do you really think that this precedent won't be used to ban Jewish or pro-Israel clubs in the future? Not only has the legal precedent of giving a veto to "hurt feelings", but the precedent of taking a show of hands to ban your opponents. Don't you know that Muslims now outnumber Jews in Canada by three to one? If we can now put political censorship to a vote on campuses, expect Hillel, Chabad, etc., to be shut down at Concordia, York, McGill, University of Alberta, etc., etc.

"So mazel tov on temporarily shutting up your opponents -- and making them look like victims, by the way.

"Enjoy the temporary glee of censoring someone you had trouble out-debating.

"And get ready for the wave of return fire, as Muslim extremists across the country copy this tactic."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.