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Encampment organized by Students for Justice in Palestine at U of M


Social media post by Canadian Association of Palestinians of MB urging non-students to attend the encampment and maerking out where they should park, notwithstanding this was to be a student protest only.The social media post says: We need EVERYONE OUT Tuesday May 7 at 5:30 p.m. to support our U of M students on their first day of their encampment for Palestine!!!! Meet at University Centre/Chancellor Squre. Bring your friends, family, keffiyeehs and posters.


Encampment. The sign on the right calls fro an arms embargo.

 
EDITORIAL: U OF M OUGHT TO REJECT UNREASONABLE DEMANDS OF PRO- PALESTINIAN ENCAMPMENT WHICH TARGETS EXCHANGE PROGRAMS WITH HEBREW U AND ISRAELI INSTITUTIONS

The demands severely infringe on academic freedom, institutional neutrality,and unreasonably call to cancel the class on Arab-Israel conflict given by Prof Tami Jacoby.

by Rhonda Spivak, B.A. (with Distinction), L.LB, May 8,2024

The University of Manitoba has allowed an encampment organized by Students for Justice in Palestine [SJP] scheduled May 7-9. 

The U of M in its May 3 statement about this encampment said “UM supports academic freedom, the right of our entire campus community to engage in freedom of expression and the right to assemble and protest, in accordance with university policies and the law.”

It should be noted, however, that an encampment is very different than a protest, as an encampment involves taking over space to the exclusion of others.

Social media posts showed that Canadian Association of Palestinians of Manitoba urged as many people as possible who are non-students to attend the encampment at 5:30 May 7 for an urgent rally. The Winnipeg Jewish Review asked U of M whether it would require people entering the encampment to show student cards, to insure this encampment was not infiltrated by large numbers of non-students. U of M Media Relations responded to the WJR on May 8 that "UM has private property with public spaces, accessible to everyone, as long as they are respectful and not violating the law."

How long will the encampment last? Organizers have told the Winnipeg Free Press it may be extended. Surely, the U of M has the right to shut down the encampment and will not allow SJP and other non-students to be there indefinitely.  Although the U of M has said it will meet with SJP to review its list of demands, these demands are unacceptable.

Although the U of M refers to the principle of academic freedom in support of this encampment, it should be emphasized that SJP and its supporters are trying to deny the academic freedom of others. The SJP encampment supporters are calling on the U of M to cease student exchange programs and academic collaborations with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a university founded in 1918, which opened officially in 1925, and has been ranked internationally among the 100 leading universities in the world. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/pro-palestinian-encampment-university-manitoba-campus-1.7192905

 

If SJP's demands were accepted, U of M students who wish to go on such exchange programs at Hebrew University of Jerusalem would not be able to exercise their academic freedom to do so, nor would U of M professors be able to exercise their academic freedom to collaborate with Israeli academics from this venerable institution, one of whose founders was Albert Einstein.

 

It should be noted that SJP is targeting the Mishpatim Canada program which  is a program to introduce Canadian law students to Israel and its legal system by attending the  Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  This successful program, whose participants have been primarily non-Jewish, was launched in the Spring of 2011 under the leadership of Dr. Bryan Schwartz, Asper Professor of International Law at U of M. The program has received extremely positive feedback. ( see Israel and International Law - Mishpatim ("The Law") Program - Bryan P. Schwartz (bryan-schwartz.com) 

The U of M ought to unequivocally stand up for academic freedom and its own authority and reject this outrageous demand to cancel this exchange program.

Also, the principle of institutional neutrality applies in preventing U of M  from diminishing ties with Israel. As the President of the University of Chicago, who recently ordered an encampment to be shut down has written in the Wall Street Journal, demands that a university diminish ties with Israel violate "the core principal of institutional neutrality." 

As he wrote, "In short, the protesters were determined that the university should take sides in the conflict in Israel and Gaza. Other demands [of the protesters] would have led to having political goals guide core aspects of the university’s institutional approaches, from how we invest our endowment to when and how I make statements. Faculty members and students are more than free to engage in advocacy on one side or the other. But if the university did so as an institution, it would no longer be much of a university." (https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-i-ended-the-university-of-chicago-protest-encampment-7bc59b46)?)

 

In seeking to cancel Dr. Schwartz's Mishpatim Program SJP claims Hebrew U's Mount Scopus campus is "located in a highly contested area," but this is the case for practical purposes only if one denies Israel's right to exist. The Mount Scopus campus is within the original borders of Israel, as recognized by the United Nations in the 1947 Partition Plan, and has been included in the State of Israel in all of the various peace plans (i.e. Oslo Accords,  the Clinton parameters backed by Ehud Barak, the plan proposed by Ehud Olmert) . When the Mufti of Jerusalem and surrounding Arab States rejected the UN partition plan and tried to destroy the nascent state of Israel, the Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus was practically inaccessible to Israel due to the violent hostility of the Jordanian government. Hebrew University is home not only to Jewish students but many Muslim students. The response of the Jewish and Zionist community to these unacceptable demands should be to not only to increase financial support for the Mishpatim program, but to expand exchange programs with Hebrew University of Jerusalem in other faculties. 

 

SJP and its supporters are calling for a boycott of "Israeli institutions complicit in violations of human rights." For all practical purposes, I would suggest one can count on any companies in Israel, doing business with Israel, or run by Jewish or non-Jewish supporters of Israel's right to exist being targeted. Could this become the modern-day equivalent of the Nuremberg laws? In Germany, after all, it all began with a boycott of Jewish businesses.

 

SJP and its supporters are calling on the U of M to discontinue the long standing course "Arab-Israeli Conflict," which the group says “perpetuates a biased narrative." This course is taught by Professor Tami Jacoby, a Jew. Students who want to exercise their academic freedom and enroll in this course should be allowed to do so. SJP is out to suppress the academic freedom of others, and of the professor teaching this course. Academic programming  ought not be determined by the dictates of SJP,  a group which seems to care little about the academic freedom of anyone who disagrees with its dogma (To the best of my knowledge is not even a registered student club with the University of Manitoba Students Union.)

According to the website of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, "Over the last twenty years, her [Jacoby's] areas of research have included violent extremism, whether in the form of protest, authoritarianism or terrorism in the Middle East. She has done extensive fieldwork and has written widely on gender issues in conflict zones, identity politics and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. https://www.tsas.ca/affiliate/tami-jacoby/

SJP wants the U of M to issue a public statement of support for Palestinian rights, according to the CBC report. What does this vague statement mean? Is the U of M supposed to agree with SJP about the illegitimacy of Israel? The principal of institutional neutrality ought to apply to prevent this demand.  But this begs a further question. When  is the U of M  finally going to include Jews as a subject of concern in its Diversity Equity Inclusion policies, and ensure that those policies are not in practice applied in a manner hostile to Jews?  Jews are the target of more hate crimes than any  other minority group  and antisemitism on campuses across the country has been skyrocketing.

 

SJP and its supporters are calling on U of M to "Implement permanent measures on campus to safeguard Palestinian students from harassment and racism, which could include regular reviews, reporting procedures, and mandatory cultural competency training for staff and students."  Everyone should be protected from harassment and racism,  in accordance with a principled and even-handed policy that protects everyone equally, rather than implementing measures biased against Jews/Zionists and their ancestral homeland. Why would the U of M implement "permanent" procedures for Palestinian students only and not all other students on campus? 

According to the CBC report, the SJP wants the university to end "sponsored birthright trips to Israel", which the group says are "controversial due to their political implications." But these birthright trips are not even sponsored by the U of M.

The Jewish community ought to be vigilant in ensuring that the U of M administration does not cave to any pressure to accept the demands of the encampment, and to not allow extensions of it and to shut it down.

p.s. There is a lawsuit that has been filed in the U.S. against the National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) alleging they together constitute an ongoing “material support enterprise” for Hamas, a designated foreign terror organization. The suit was filed recently against AJP Educational Foundation (AJP), the parent organization of both groups, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The lawsuit seeks damages for nine U.S. and Israeli victims of the Oct. 7 attacks. It alleges that AMP and NSJP, have conducted an aggressive propaganda and civil disobedience campaign in close coordination with Hamas and the wider Iran-backed Axis of Resistance. As such it alleges they have provided “intentional, systematic, and substantial assistance to Hamas’ acts of international terrorism,” in violation of the U.S. Antiterrorism Act and the Alien Tort Statute. 

 

 
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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.