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Joshua Morry and Maria Gluskin. Gluskin voted in favur of the motion moved by morry and passed by UMSU


by Josh Morry, May 13, 2013

[Joshua Morry is a member of UMSU Council, and the representative of the Commerce Students' Association who moved the UMSU resolution that removed SAIA's student group status and banned them from using UMSU spaces. The motion passed 19 to 16, with Councillors who are organizers or members of SAIA being allowed to vote.]


A lot has been said and written about the University of Manitoba Students' Union (UMSU)'s historic decision to strip Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) of its student group status and ban it from using UMSU spaces.

The Ottawa Citizen, for example, wrote that UMSU showed "courage and moral integrity in opposing ignorance and intolerance". Bnai B'rith Canada called the decision a "precedent-setting move that should be emulated by students" on campuses across the country. 


Member of Parliament Randy Hoback rose in Parliament to "congratulate" UMSU.


Some members of the media, on the other hand, were concerned that UMSU's resolution may unduly limit SAIA's right to free speech.


Most of the blogs and comments shed a lot of heat, but very little light on what the decision really means, going so far as to accuse UMSU of being anti-Palestinian, anti-Muslim and even anti-Semitic.


The only question that hasn't been answered is why a majority of Council was proud to vote for a resolution removing SAIA's student group status and banning it from UMSU spaces.


To understand why, it's important first to understand what SAIA is and what it is not.


SAIA is not "for" something. Unlike the Muslim Students Association, which describes itself as a place where Muslim students on campus can go to "meet, learn and have fun", members of Students Against Israel Apartheid are "against" something, in this case the State of Israel.


By their own admission, they are not alone. SAIA is part of an international network that targets Israel and its supporters as racists. This network draws its inspiration from the worldwide movement to "delegitimize" Israel, which can trace its roots back to the founding of Israel on May 14, 1948.


Israel has fought a war over its right to exist from 1948 to the present day. The fight over Israel's legitimacy has centered on "Zionism", the movement to establish a majority Jewish state in what most Jewish people consider to be their ancestral homeland.


Zionism was inspired by the nineteenth century national movement that created nation-states like Italy and Germany.


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