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I Am CUPE, Hear Me Roar

20090223cupe1.jpg
CUPE members taking part in a protest against Israeli military attacks on Gaza; photo by Medmoiselle T.


In a startling and uncharacteristic move, CUPE Ontario has done something controversial. Even more unexpectedly, they’ve gone about it in controversial fashion.
The segment of the union which represents university workers passed a motion this weekend, calling for a halt to all campus activities which directly or indirectly support the Israeli military, and asking for widespread debate on implementing an academic boycott of “Israeli academic institutions” [PDF]. This motion, however, is a substantially revised version of the one CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan suggested a few weeks ago, one directed not so much at Israeli institutions as Israeli academics themselves.


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Photo by hc916 from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

We cannot confirm in full detail what the original resolution called for; in the wake of much hueing and crying, after condemnation from CUPE’s national president, and amidst charges of anti-Semitism, that proposal was retracted and CUPE pulled it from their website. The key element, however, was “a ban on Israeli academics doing speaking, teaching or research work at Ontario universities as a protest against the December 29 bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza.” Ryan did allow for exceptions, however, saying that “Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general.” In short, CUPE Ontario was considering an ideological litmus test for members of the university community, one which was to be applied selectively based on an academic’s nationality. This did not sit well with a rather large number of people, and Ryan did much backpedalling in consequence.
After the mea culpas were issued a new motion was put forth, this one specifically targeting “military research or the Israeli state military” for immediate action and calling for an “education campaign” around institutional academic boycotts. Ryan wrote a disingenuous and tone-deaf op-ed piece defending this revised motion, giving the previous controversy no more than a phrase’s worth of attention and suggesting that the sum total of the outrage directed at him was due to knee-jerk Israeli protectionism. And this, precisely, is the problem. Whatever merit the new resolution may possess is significantly obscured by the bombast with which Ryan is defending it, and by the perception that it was crafted as a sanitized version of the proposal he was really after. Every report on the current motion must mention the furor which surrounded the retracted one or risk looking laughably incomplete. Ryan and CUPE have so bungled their handling of the matter that it is now dangerously easy to replace criticism of their position with criticism of those holding it: advocates of the boycott can dismiss opposition to it on the grounds that it’s Ryan/CUPE-bashing run amok, and opponents of the boycott can undermine its merits with ad hominem attacks on its promoters.


There is a humanitarian catastrophe going on in Gaza and the West Bank. As if that weren’t enough, there is also a history of concerted attacks against Israeli civilians, a fractured Palestinian leadership, and perhaps a disastrously hard-line government about to take office in Israel. We are long on problems and short on solutions, and rarely has the conscientious, mindful use of language been so essential to preserving what little calm remains, much less to improving matters. It may be the case that an institutional academic boycott of Israel warrants a public discussion. Most Israelis oppose one, but some are in favour. Most Palestinians support one, but some prominent leaders have (at least in the past) rejected them. Regardless of whether such a boycott would help or hinder matters, the issue surely deserves much more nuanced and sensitive treatment than it has received at CUPE’s hands. The debate has now become as much about Ryan as it has about Israelis or Palestinians, as much about CUPE’s botched communications as about humanitarian imperatives or the role of academia in a democracy. To that extent, we have all been done a disservice.

Comments

  • http://null davedave

    Yes, with the current economic shit sandwich everybody is sharing, hitching your union wagon to a political situation halfway around the world is exactly what you should be doing.
    To suggest that either side in the Gaza train wreck is more evil/to blame/assholey than the other is to be incredibly ignorant, and it’s deliciously ironic that union workers behaving so stupidly are actually employed at a place of learning.

  • David Topping

    I propose an academic ban of CUPE.

  • http://null thewatchmaker

    When the death toll in the latest conflict comes in at 1380 for one side and 13 for the other, I really have no problem declaring one to be more ‘to blame’ or ‘assholey’.
    Great comment, DT. Nothing kills a dialogue quite like a non sequitur.

  • http://null CanadianSkeezix

    So sad. The issues involved are incredibly complex, yet CUPE has adopted a black and white, almost cartoonish in its simplicity, view of the situation. The whole episode, and in particular the motion adopted this weekend, undermine’s the union’s stature and its impact on public discourse in this province. They’ve effectively relegated themselves to the sidelines on a whole range of issues.

  • http://null james a

    On the bright side, now that CUPE has taken up the cause, I assume we’ll see a speedy resolution to the middle east conflict.

  • http://null McKingford

    The issues involved are incredibly complex
    You know what? The issues are not complex at all, and it’s simply a dodge to keep saying this. Israel certainly benefits from the perception that the issues are complex (and encourages the notion), so it is little wonder that this theme gets so much play.
    But it is a simple fact that Israel has taken land, in violation of the UN Charter, and contrary to UN resolutions, and signals every intention of keeping it – even if it means slowly strangling a people out of existence.

  • http://undefined PickleToes

    It’s a complicated situation because there are so many simple facts. One such simple fact is Hamas’ tendency to target Israeli civilians.

  • http://undefined CanadianSkeezix

    You know what? The issues are not complex at all
    It’s only simple if you only look at one side of the issue, as you have done.

  • http://null DanZephyr

    The human rights violations are manifold and conducted by extremists on each side and sadly these groups are growing in numbers, and therefore in power, daily. As we allow this ignorance to surpass logic and allow emotion to control a situation which each side has made almost untouchable we propagate this and allow these racists more power. This situation isn’t complex, as we’ve said, but any kind of reconciliation between the two sides would be. To protest for peace is all well and good, but when everyone is the wrong why would you jump on either train?

  • http://null endapartheid

    This is a very important step forward by CUPE in support of Palestinian academic freedom which is violated daily.
    This historic action is in-line with the recent wave of University protests in the UK (see several excellent articles in The Guardian on the subject) as well as recent actions by dockworkers in South Africa and Australia and important statements in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign from notable academics (including Etienne Balibar, Slavoj Zizek, John Berger, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and many others).
    The resolution was passed in support of the Right to Education Campaign that runs out of Birzeit University (http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/) and in support of the work done by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which is the advocacy arm of all the major Palestinian professional teaching and academic unions. To find out more about the PACBI campaign and its actual positions you can visit it at: http://www.pacbi.org/.
    Finally, it’s worth noting that Omar Barghouti – one of the founders of the PACBI campaign – will be speaking in Toronto this coming Monday (March 2) at Ryerson (details here: http://toronto.apartheidweek.org/).

  • http://undefined PickleToes

    We’re going to give the Palestinians academic freedom by taking it away from the Israelis. Makes perfect sense!
    /sarcasm

  • http://www.unionmembersforisrael.ca GeoGeoff

    If you are a union member (CUPE, CUPW, etc.) concerned about the disturbing direction that our unions have been taking with respect to Israel and the Middle East, please join us at Union Members for Israel.

  • http://undefined McKingford

    I haven’t looked at one side, although having looked at both my sympathies are clear. Botha’s South Africa had a side to tell, though it served little purpose to listen, and it didn’t make the resolution of apartheid “complex”…
    oh – btw, who was one of apartheid South Africa’s biggest allies? Israel! Quelle surprise…

  • http://undefined McKingford

    Explain how boycotting Israeli academic institutions takes academic freedom away from Israelis.

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    No one is taking academic freedom away from individual Israeli academics. The resolutions call for research into ties between Canadian and Israeli universities that support militarism and the repression of Palestinians. They also call for discussing this campaign publicly by holding forums, etc. These resolutions are non-binding on members and are symbolic in effect.
    Palestinian academics living in open air prisons like Gaza or the West Bank, on the other hand, are unable to leave their territories to engage in collaborative projects with their colleagues abroad. The academic institutional boycott seeks to provide a peaceful means of moral persuasion to ensure that everyone in the region gets basic rights. Unlike the symbolic resolutions of CUPE, Israeli military policies have a direct impact on the bodies and lives of Palestinian academics, teachers and students on a daily basis.
    In January alone, the Israeli military targeted over 60 Palestinian educational institutions in Gaza (over 30 of which were run by the UN). Not a single one of the voices condemning CUPE spoke out against any of these clear violations of academic freedom. Furthermore, many of the same organizations condemning CUPE are the ones calling for the banning of Israeli Apartheid Week organized by students on campuses across Canada. So it’s clear who’s being inconsistent about academic freedom. The proposed boycott infringes on no one’s rights, except for those institutions benefiting directly from contravening international law.
    The academic institutional boycott campaign needs to be understood in this context. It is the response of the Palestinian academic community to 40 years of occupation and 60 years of dispossession. Like I said this isn’t a group of random people, but represents the viewpoint of every major professional organization representing academics in Palestine who live under the hardest conditions. If academia were such a source of cooperation and freedom in the context of Israel/Palestine, Palestinian academics would be the first to support ongoing ties. Unfortunately, all they meet is hostility and racism from Israel’s apartheid regime and most of their Israeli institutional counter-parts.

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    Hi Dan: Curious to know what you see as a way forward? Am definitely interested in different perspectives.

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    why?

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    hmmm… like when one side lives in an open air prison and is starving, while the other boast the 4th largest military in the world with nuclear weapons to boot while engaging in an illegal 40 year military occupation?
    yup, we should definitely treat ‘both sides’ equally / sarcasm.

  • http://undefined PickleToes

    “Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general”
    It doesn’t. Unless of course they hold an opinion that CUPE doesn’t like.

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    Just curious to know a little more about “public discourse in this province”? From where many stand, CUPE is taking a stance in support of Palestinian human rights in the context of a Canadian government that openly supported illegal Israeli military assaults on Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008) and refused to condemn the resultant enormous civilian death tolls in both cases.
    Currently, Canada is the only country that refuses to attend the Durban Review Conference in Geneva that will review the progress made in fighting racism since the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Durban, in 2001. And before people start posting stories from right-wing sources about how that conference only focused on Israel, it is worth noting that the document that emerged from the conference mentions either Israel or Palestinians 5 times in a 26,000 word document that deals with a broad range of issues. I urge people to visit the Durban Review Conference official website: http://www.un.org/durbanreview2009/index.shtml and then right our government and ask why exactly Canada is boycotting this conference! If we’re going to be outraged about boycott’s let’s start with our own government’s unacceptable actions :)

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    Hi GeoGeoff: You can also add “if you’re an unapologetic champion of Israeli militarism please join us.” It is worth noting that the Histadrut supported the Israeli military assaults on both Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008/2009). I notice that your website also includes a “Countdown” for the annual nationalist and anti-Arab “Walk with Israel” (you should ask the brave Jewish women who protest this walk the charming comments they receive from passersby).
    I fail to see how unionists in Canada will stand behind such a racist and sexist organization as UMI. Especially when your organization keeps repeating the falsehood that this is a “boycott of Israeli academics.” You loose credibility when you misreport facts or imply motives that your opponents simply don’t have.

  • http://undefined davedave

    So you’ve picked a side. Woopdee doo for you.
    I have neither the time nor the energy to make you a fancy powerpoint presentation showing how both sides have been colossal assholes.

  • http://undefined CanadianSkeezix

    Rather than do what it can to promote peace, and urge all three levels of government in Canada to do what they can in the interests of peace, CUPE has decided to take a one-sided, anti-Israel approach. They come across as naive, and to be honest, somewhat anti-semitic. It’s hard to take them seriously on this issue, and it diminishes their voice on a whole range of other issues. That’s bad for the labour voice in Ontario, and it’s bad for the province at a time when some pretty crucial decisions are being made about this Ontario’s future.

  • http://undefined CanadianSkeezix

    Yes, yes, Israel = apartheid. That’s the kind of in-depth analysis and understanding of the Middle East that is winning CUPE so many friends and kudos.

  • http://undefined PickleToes

    Sid Ryan’s Intentions: “Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general.”
    In other words, limit positions only to those with a certain political ideology. Now I know that’s not what CUPE is actually trying to do now, but this kind of “academic fascism” is still on the minds of the people running the union.

  • http://www.unionmembersforisrael.ca GeoGeoff

    Our organization is not an “unapologetic champion of Israeli militarism”, nor are we racist or sexist. I greatly resent your suggesting as such. You lose credibility when you misreport facts or imply motives that your opponents simply don’t have.

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    Can you clarify the point about anti-Semitism. It appears that CUPE works closely with many progressive Jewish voices in Canada and Israel, see: http://www.cupe.on.ca/doc.php?subject_id=152&lang=en.
    As for the three levels of government, they’ve displayed a remarkable one sided approach already, i.e. anti-Palestinian human rights. Given that there’s very little support for fundamental principles of international law among government officials in Canada when it comes to Palestinian rights, is it not incumbent upon civil society to take small symbolic actions to speak out for the voiceless?

  • http://null canashian

    It would be fair to make a comparison between the international boycotts on various South African individuals and institutions against apartheid. However, if you look at when positive changes began to happen within South Africa, it came only after Mandela changed the ANC’s policies to encourage a peaceful reconciliation with white South Africa and integration with the existing framework of the state. However morally correct a boycott may be, it will do little to change things within Israel/Palestine until such time as Palestinians elect a government that encourages such actions themselves and rejects Hamas. This is not to place the blame on Palestine, despite the fact that it requires an abandonment of militancy on their part.
    Israel will not back down, because of the “survivalism” or the nation and identity being tied up in defending themselves (precisely like Afrikaaners in apartheid South Africa.) Boycotts don’t combat a mentality like this, they only entrench it further.

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    lol… GeoGeoff, very cute :) … If that’s the case why does the UMI promote the “Walk for Israel.” In past years participants had to go through “checkpoints” to get ‘rewards’ and members of the Israeli military have addressed crowds.
    Furthermore, Jewish women opposed to such nationalist/ chauvinist displays have been spat on and had sexist and racist comments directed at them. Surely, UMI will work to ensure that its members receive the appropriate anti-oppression training necessary for work within unions. This would include educating members to combat expressions of anti-Semitism (in its anti-Arab varieties) as well as Islamophobia.

  • http://undefined canashian

    Sorry, I meant:
    “survivalism mentality” of the nation…

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    maybe you’ll have time to read this when you get a chance: http://www.ochaopt.org/. might not be as fancy as a powerpoint presentation you’d come up with, but this UN site contains basic facts on the siege and starvation of the people of gaza.

  • http://null davedave

    I don’t need to read anything to know both sides are suffering. In fact, I’ll even say teh Israelis are slightly bigger assholes. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a centuries-old game of he said she said tit for tat bullshit that will never ever end.
    For a labour union to throw this on the table in the current economic climate is incredibly stupid. A bunch of shrieky armchair quarterbacks with their eye on the wrong ball.

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    Why is this simplistic exactly? If you examine the UN Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (CSPCA) from 1976 you will note that most Israeli military and even government policies fit the bill of behaviors described therein. Incidentally, Israel along with countries with a settler-colonial history (like Canada, USA and Australia) were among the few countries that refused to sign or ratify this convention. Very telling.
    It should be noted that Henrick Verwoed, one of the architects of South African apartheid was quoted as identifying a likeness between Israel and South Africa as apartheid states. This was part of the broader friendship between Israel and South Africa throughout the apartheid period in that country, a friendship that included military, diplomatic and economic ties. Israel even worked with South Africa to help it avoid the boycott of South African apartheid during the 1980s.
    Since this time many South Africans, including people like Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Ronnie Kasrils, John Dugard, Willie Madisha, etc. have drawn this comaprison. As have Israelis like Uri Davis and Illan Pappe (Uri Davis’ book ‘Apartheid Israel’ is an important primer on the subject). Readers of this blog are probably familiar with Jimmy Carters use of the term in a recent book. There is also an excellent recent 60 Minutes story that covers the controversy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYAgyv2MKyI.
    If you’re familiar with this history and literature already then I welcome you to show me how any of this is ‘simplistic.’ Tragic yes, simplistic no. If you’re not familiar with the work of these individuals I strongly recommend reading their works and then returning with your critiques afterwords.

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    I would strongly suggest reading the materials on the OCHA site. This isn’t a ‘centuries old game’ but a result of the modern history of colonialism, when in 1917 Lord Balfour promised an already inhabited land to another people. The Palestinian people were never consulted in 1917, 1948, or in 1967 as their lands were taken away and many of them were expelled.
    It was only in the early 1990s that Palestinians were able to sit at the negotiating table. That was a direct product of growing international solidarity after the first intifada. Giving the on-going disparity between the two parties the need for this type of solidarity continues. Leaving the ‘two sides’ to figure out themselves will only ensure the continuation of a highly unequal relationship in which Israel has the upper hand – with the help of a handful of other governments that refuse to condemn its numerous violations of international law (sadly, in recent years, Canada has joined the ranks of such countries – which include the USA and aid dependent pacific islands like Palau and the Marshall Islands).

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    canashian: thanks for this post. the suggestion is really interesting and it is part of the discussion that many palestinians are having. in fact, what a post-apartheid israel/palestine would look like is also an interesting question. the boycott campaign is the initiative of paletinian civil society organizations which see no other peaceful way forward. these are organizations that do not represent either hamas or fatah, but the broader palestinian grassroots. there are many palestinian leaders advocating a peaceful solution (including some members of hamas).

  • http://undefined DanL

    OK…if you support them having to reject their country’s defense against terrorism how about having every academic from every terrorist supporting country signing similar documents?
    E.G. How about getting academics from Gaza and the West Bank who want to teach/speak in/on Ontario campuses have to sign a document that says they recognize Israel’s right to exist (an idea which the party elected to lead their government, Hamas, refuse to acknowledge in their charter) and are against the targeting of innocent Israeli civilians in attacks by their fellow countrymen (something done every day)?

  • http://undefined endapartheid

    DanL, why are you misrepresenting the resolution. The boycott isn’t of individuals and their viewpoints, but institutions that support apartheid (i.e. racial separation) and an illegal military occupation of Palestinian land (as stipulated in countless UN resolutions).

  • http://null wmolls

    You would. Seems like CUPE is a bad word on this website.
    I call a boycott on editorializing Toronto bloggers. Comments, too. But now I’m boycotting myself. A metaphysical boycotting paradox.
    For the record, I may not agree with the action they’re taking, but I agree with the sentiment. Morally, I feel, they have the right intentions – controversial actions aside. It’s more than I can say for many of those who criticize CUPE for it.
    At the very least it’s bringing attention to the issue, and the seriousness of the actions by Israel. Neither side is justified for using violence, but the scale of force from Israel and the number of dead in Gaza is not to be ignored or written off as “eye for an eye”, which too often it is.
    However I’ve already said too much. Poking the Israel-Palestine fire anywhere on the internet is just asking for hundreds of angry responses.

  • http://undefined re_mastered

    this whole Gaza situation only continues because of ignorance; on both sides.
    from what i understand, yes, Israel has the upper hand when it comes to firepower, yet they also called for a cease-fire.
    And yes, the Palestinian side lost many more lives in the struggle, but from what i know of the situation, somebody broke the cease-fire from the palestinian side.
    as long as there’s somebody out there who won’t listen, this thing will never end.

  • http://null endapartheid

    Hey re_mastered: Just a quick corrective. The ‘cease-fire’ that ended the most recent fighting in Gaza was actually called ‘unilaterally’ by both the resistance factions in Gaza (i.e. not just Hamas’ military wing, the Izaddine Quassam Brigades, but also groups like the Popular Resistance Committees) and the Israeli military.
    In fact during the ‘ceasefire’ period that began in June, violations were committed on both sides. The most recent of which was Israel’s killing of 4 or 6 Palestinians in early November, which set off the most recent cycle of violence. However, even without any fighting in Gaza, Israel continued to violate the terms of the ceasefire by arresting, beating, torturing, assassinating and killing Palestinians in the West Bank and within Israel itself.
    An illegal military occupation is itself a consistent and daily violation of international law, ceasefire or no. It is this state of occupation – in which one side has the power of life or death over the other – that is the real source of conflicts. Israel’s occupation existed before Hamas was even on the political map in Palestine. So in no way can Hamas be the cause of anything. Do the actions of some Hamas factions help the cause of peace, no? But they are the symptom of a far-greater power imbalance.
    After killing 1300 Palestinians (or a 100:1 ratio), mostly civilians, you think Israel should be applauded for calling a ceasefire? Do you think Israel would have called the ceasefire if it wasn’t for the enormous wave of international solidarity with the Paletinian people in response to the massacre in Gaza? this is why actions like CUPE are effective. They make those with the power to do more damage than good think twice about their actions.

  • http://undefined Andrew

    Why? Well how about: because they’re trying to impose ideological purity tests on university campuses. Also because their recent actions were devastating to students at York, and at the same time, a colossal failure in achieving their absurd goals.

  • http://null DanZephyr

    Sadly, I couldn’t conceive a complete step forward, for without support and some kind of unilateral educational initiative there could be no concessions and therefore no steps in the right direction. I believe that there is a need for a joint Israeli/Palestinian organization with enough support and (sadly) governmental power to see some kind of initiative through. I don’t see a complete and utter end to the situation, tensions do not dissipate that easily. I do believe in education as a solution and see education as the only end to the ignorance and racism which pervades both the Israeli and Palestinian cultures. I really wish I had a viable solution to the problem, but as we can see by the many varied voices and perspectives, there is no unity and without some kind of unified approach there can be no solution.

  • http://undefined mister j

    I try to follow this issue as best I can, but I always feel I never really know enough about it to offer an informed opinion but I do have a couple thoughts.
    It seems the discourse around this often falls into the sovereignty-trap: sovereignty is the problem and sovereignty is the solution. I would find it interesting to see an opinion/analysis that doesn’t maintain a fidelity to the logic of sovereignty. This connects to another thought I have on this: It seems to me that when I read in newspapers something like “Gaza sends rockets into Israel” I always think it should really say “A couple guys in this particular place sent rockets into Israel.” What I mean is that I don’t think of these people as two distinct populations in which the actions by some people represent the will of all. I’ve been told I’m an “idiot” about this (that the people support the violent actions) so maybe I’m wrong. But I still refuse to see this as simple, black and white, or even that there are only ‘two sides.’
    Anyway, endapartheid, THANK YOU so much for all the time you’ve taken to comment here. It’s nice to read an informed opinion, gracefully presented. Keep it up!!

  • http://null DanZephyr

    I see Israel as daddy’s favourite child. With the (until recently) unwavering support of the United States Government, the state of Israel felt she had the power to overstep any international boundaries or laws which she saw fit (as her father had shown her). Call me an optimist, but I do see a learning curve on the horizon, with Obama in the white house and the ongoing enlightenment of the world to the horrid situation in Gaza, the West Bank, and of Palestinians within Israel, there is more pressure than ever on Israel to begin lessening her vice grip on the lives of the Palestinians. As I mentioned before, I do believe that for this to happen there must be a regime change, or a regime renaissance, calling back to ’92. I’m of Jewish blood, family in Israel and I’ve researched the situation and concluded that the gross oversteps and affronts that Israel performs, almost daily, are not legitimate. I think many people need to step beyond their comfort zone and figure out what this situation means to the people involved. Only when you can understand the frustration and futility felt by the people involved can you come to an educated decision, which may even change your current position, it can happen.

  • http://undefined montauk

    hahaha.

  • http://undefined montauk

    Honest to god I want to boycott CUPE just for being so bloody irritating. They could save all the children from a burning orphanage and still find a way to make everyone hate them. If they found an abandoned puppy they’d run over it by accident in the vet’s parking lot. They could end world poverty and still craft a press release that makes me want to scoop out my eyes with the melon baller in my bottom drawer that’s covered in little flecks of parmesan cheese. I can’t say what it is exactly. Maybe it’s their tireless commitment to activist practices that have all the maturity and nuance of a high school kid who listens to Anti-Flag and smokes pot behind the portables. Maybe it’s that their representation of CUPE members is as reflective and accurate as that movie about the fourteen-year-old girl who flies a plane shaped like a Canada goose to escort the missing goose back to its herd in an inspirational tale of coming-of-age and self-discovery. Maybe it’s that their president’s name is the kind of name you’d give to a mustache. I can’t place it exactly, but god, CUPE pisses me off. I want to egg their house. I want to steal their lunch money. I want my mother to call their mother and bitch her out. They really bring out the worst in me.

  • http://null endapartheid

    Hi mister_j: Your point about Gaza is very well put! One approach that tries to look beyond the sovereignty situation is the so-called ‘one state solution’ – a secular democratic state for all those living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Basically, the solution in this case, would be one person, one vote, like in post-Apartheid South Africa. An exponent of this position is Ali Abunimah, who’s book “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse” is a good read. A similar argument has been made by Jeff Halper, the founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), who claims that by virtue of its settlement policy and on-going military occupation Israel has already created one-state. Regardless of the political solution proposed (one state, two state, three state even) the key to lasting peace will be to create conditions for equality and mutual respect based on established norms of international law. If you’re interested there’s a conference this June at Osgoode Law which will explore some of these themes: http://www.yorku.ca/ipconf/.

  • http://null mister j

    I did a total spit-take when I read your reply this morning! I shouldn’t laugh, but thanks for the giggles :) The proposal of a ‘one state’ solution is still taking sovereignty as the solution.The logic of sovereignty is so ‘common sense’ and entrenched it’s hard to see past it. Very difficult to imagine a globe/world without sovereignty, isn’t it?

  • http://null stant

    endapartheid, you are sadly typical of the anti_israel lobby. You are widely read (but very selectively) and you use your knowledge to create half-truths and bash people over the head with your verbosity. For example, your comment about the Walk for Israel. Here, very simply, people were handed cards bearing a map of the walk. Along the way, there were pit stops where you could get your card stamped as proof that you were actually there. You, however, insist on referring to these as “checkpoints”, knowing full well how this word will be interpreted. And you complain about the crowd being addressed by military personnel. You also refer to this as an “Anti-Arab walk”. What utter BS. It is a WALK FOR ISRAEL, plain and simple. By turning this around, you engage again in typical, biased and frankly anti-Semitic rhetoric.

  • http://null stant

    antiapartheid is sadly typical of the anti-Israel brigade. He/she is widely read (but very selectively) and uses the knowledge gained from this reading to post incredibly verbose and highly intimidating comments. There is also the typical use of half truths to slander Israel and her supporters. For example, calling the Walk FOR Israel an “Anti-Arab” walk. What BS!!! It is nothing of the kind. It is a walk in support of the Jewish state, and because of that, it tends to attract people who also support the Jewish state, and who do not take kindly to the kind of misrepresentations used by the “brave” women who protest during the walk. Also, to call the pit-stops along the way “checkpoints” is highly disingenuous. Antiapartheid knows exactly how this word will be understood by the people here. And finally, what exactly is wrong with having heroes of the IDF address this crowd? Isn’t there supposed to be free speech in this country?

  • http://null stant

    Please, please, everyone here, go to http://sites.google.com/site/unionmembersforisrael/
    Scroll down to the bottom and download the pdf “concerns about CUPE boycott”.
    See what Israeli and Palestinian trade unions feel about boycotts and who they would really hurt.
    (this is exactly the kind of thing antiapartheid would make sure NOT to quote from)

  • http://null mister j

    ad hominem (Latin: “argument to the man”, “argument against the man”) A phrase applied to an argument or appeal founded on the preferences or principles of a particular person rather than on abstract truth or logical cogency.

  • http://null aimeec

    Let me preface my comments by saying that I am adamantly pro-peace for all, whether they be Palestinian or Israeli. What I find puzzling is that for all it’s good intentions, CUPE seems to mimic fascistic tendencies and institutions.
    Banning academics from speaking at our universities based on their nationality?
    I can’t believe that.
    It’s petty, juvenile and counter all the values of education, critical thinking and civil discourse.
    I think CUPE would be far more successful in taking constructive and unifying actions around it’s issues and causes rather than this combative (and dare I say fascist approach) to trying to make the world better. I assure you it won’t.

  • http://null stant

    Not quite sure why you felt the need to provide this definition. If you read my post, you will see that my criticisms are against specific writings of this person, not against the person him/herself or his/her “preferences or principles”.

  • http://null endapartheid

    hi stant: i welcome you to contact folks from Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation (JWCEO) and Not in Our Name (NION) as to their experience at these events. if you’re unable to discuss the issue with reference to factual information contained in academic (not polemical) studies of the issue or with reference to fundamental precepts of international law, but can only resort to name calling, then we’re obviously not going to step out of the sandbox on this one. i’m curious to know what you consider a ‘selective reading’ (i’ve read the works of most israeli scholars on the issue, including standard texts like Walter Lacqueur’s history of Zionism and even pro-Israeli texts like ‘Facts and Myths’ and ‘The Case for Israel’ – of course, not to read the works of Pappe, Davis, Shlaim, Morris and others as well would be a mistake).

  • http://null endapartheid

    lol… true true. the sovereignty paradigm is pretty strong. i think ali abunimah would be skeptical of any heavy handed state-intervention in people’s lives given his general political orientations. one interesting thing is that since the first intifada, much governance in Palestinian areas has been left to ‘popular committees’ that deal with different issues such as education, health provision, sanitation, agricultural issues, women’s rights, supporting those who’ve been disabled, offering assistance to prisoners (both current and former) and their families, etc.
    when israel attacked the structures of the PA state in 2001-2002 – bombing police stations and government offices – the assumption was that this would deal a crippling blow to palestinian society. the fact is, however, that the overwhelming majority of palestinians rely on the self-managing activities of the popular committees in their communities in order to survive that attacking the PA has little impact on the broader networks of mutual aid and support that Palestinians have developed to resist israeli apartheid. this is very similar to the ‘parallel institutions’ set up by kosovar albanians in the 1990s after serbia revoked the provinces autonomy.
    these are the forms of non-violent (and non-sovereigntist) resistance that are seldom discussed in the context of national liberation struggles, but that are a key to broader levels of popular participation. these are often the organizations that form the basis of opposition and critique for the new post-colonial governments that eventually emerge after decolonization is complete. for non-sovereignty related alternatives it is to such organizations that one can look to :)

  • http://null endapartheid

    aimeec: if you examine cupe’s actual position that was adopted at the conference there is no mention of boycotting specific individuals. the aim is to boycott academic institutions and departments that are engaged in military research or indirectly contribute to the ongoing repression of fundamental palestinian right (example, by having campuses on colonial settlements in the West Bank, from which Palestinians are excluded from living in)…

  • http://null endapartheid

    stant: thank you for bringing up the histadrut, which as the document you suggest folks read suggests supported the most recent assault on gaza and had nothing critical to say about the actions of the israeli military. it was only in the 1990s that the histadrut started representing migrant Palestinian workers in an agreement that many in the palestinian labour sector see as controversial.
    since the histadrut is both an ‘employer’ (it owns many properties in israel) and a ‘union’ it is atypical of most unions in the world. it’s historical role in the zionist movement’s colonization of palestine is well documented including its conception of the ‘conquest of labour’ by which arab workers were displaced by israeli labourers. for many years (until the 1990s), the histadrut excluded palesitinian workers. this is why most palestinian workers and unions prefer affiliation with israeli worker and labour parties that aren’t based on an ideology that supports israeli militarism (as the histadrut does).
    the fact that you seem to miss is that every major palestinian union, including the PGFTU support the calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). most have also called for a boycott of the histadrut for its consistent championing of israeli militarism. the exception to this is a small handful in the leadership of the PGFTU that are closely tied to Fatah and are seen as corrupt by most Palestinian workers. the reason they work with the histadrut is that the Israeli Supreme Court won’t hear cases by Palestinian unions, which have no legal status in Israel.
    so, a very small group, of politically connected and corrupt union leaders in palestine have seen an agreement with the Histadrut as the only way forward in ensuring a modicum of rights for palestinians. however, the overwhelming majority sees this as a humiliating compromise on fundemental rights – the histadrut gets to collect union dues from palestinians while supporting israeli policies of militarism (such as the attacks on lebanon and gaza).
    for a complete listing of palestinian unions that support the boycott, i.e. all Palestinian labour unions (including 95% of the PGFTU), see: http://www.stopthewall.org/boycott/bds/cupe.shtml. so again, i’m not quite sure, what exactly i’m excluding here. as you’ll see i’m pretty ready to discuss everything in an honest, open-ended way. if we’re going to continue discussing union solidarity, i’ll make my bias clear, my concern is for those workers most directly affected and disempowered by the situation. it is to their organizations that i turn, not the histadrut which has a very problematic and checkered history when it comes to this question.

  • http://undefined montrealshorts

    There’s nothing more insidious then people who pretend to be fighting the rightous fight when they truly wouldn’t shed a tear to see an innocent life from the other side taken.
    I wouldn’t trust anyone from either side. Not a single Palestinian supporter, not a single Jewish supporter.. They’ve poisened themselves with all this bullshit, but they’ll tell you at length why the other side is the worst.
    I wouldn’t trust either side not to say anything and everything they could to get foreign sympathy and foregin money on their side.
    No one involved in that conflict can be trusted to be in any way honest. It’s endless bullshit from the word go, as aptly demonstrated by this thread.
    And for the record, Syd Ryan is a bigot. You can’t ban someone from talking at a unviersity because of their nationality without being a bigot. He’s a bigot. How he got himself entagled with that conflict is beyond me, but that his motivations only became absolutely clear because he fucked up and said what he really thought is absolutely typical of people involved with this conflict.
    All liars, all more than willing to drag Canada into the never ending slaughter of a century old war.
    Canada is being prudant by not infecting itself with this idiotic old world religious conflict. CUPE should stick to ontario’s public workers.

  • http://null stant

    endapartheid, you certainly have a prodigious knowledge of even the most arcane facts of Israeli life and history and I congratulate you on it. However, you claim that “i’m pretty ready to discuss everything in an honest, open-ended way” – and I would challenge you on this.
    Calling the Walk for Israel an “Anti Arab Walk” is not honest and reasonable. Calling the pit-stops along its way – a perfectly harmless way to provide a break and some entertainment – “checkpoints” is not honest and open-minded (okay, I know you didn’t claim to be open-minded, but still …). And finally, even your chosen screen name is not honest. I grew up in South Africa under apartheid and I knew it intimately and in its very worst aspects. Israel is not an apartheid society and to claim that it is, is the anti-Israel lobby’s absolute biggest lie.
    Now, here’s my challenge to you. In the process of acquiring your vast knowledge of Israel, you must have come across some good things Israel has done. I challenge you to demonstrate your honesty by naming three. Go on, name any three good things Israel has done, either for the world or its region. If you cannot do this, then you truly are not an honest debater and you have no right to claim to be one.

  • http://undefined atomeyes

    your posts make me laugh.
    i always like when people present half facts. they make their arguments all the more inane.

  • http://null Paul Kishimoto
  • http://undefined Rachel Lissner

    This is the best comment on the entire article.

  • http://null DanL

    OK let me ask you, have you ever been to Israel and Gaza and the West Bank?
    I have.
    I never was in South Africa to witness South African apartheid but comparing my experiences in the Middle East with what I have read about and been told about apartheid from South Africa (told by people who WERE there) I would have to say that the situation there is not accurately described by calling it apartheid.
    In fact, when I was staying in an area of Jerusalem called Ramot Bet our neighbor was a family living in a home worth more than a million dollars and it consisted of an Arab man married to a Jewish woman and their children…and that is just one specific instance I can recall. I saw many Arabs who owned shops and ran businesses in Israel in my time there and befriended a number of them. I would like you to find an instance or two of a wealthy black man living married to a white woman and they weren’t arrested during South African apartheid…you won’t by the way, there weren’t even mixed race neighborhoods, it was illegal.
    South African friends of mine laugh when they hear Israel called an apartheid state and dismiss the very idea of it being ridiculous because they know what apartheid was and those who compare the two, they say, clearly don’t know anything about apartheid.
    Further, Israel unlike South Africa has one legislature, (South Africa for a time had a Tricameral legislature one dealing with Indians one with Blacks and one with Whites) the Knesset, which last I checked has at this time 12 Arab members and a couple of Arab parties (and there are Arabs in other parties too). In fact, Majalli Wahabi a Druze Arab is currently Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and for a time served as Acting President of Israel, that doesn’t sound like South African apartheid as it has been described to me.
    Also, let’s remember that it seems the only reason Ryan and CUPE Ontario aren’t calling for a boycott of individual academics unless the pass a ‘litmus test’ is because of the public furor when they attempted to pass such a motion before.
    And, do you honestly think that Palestinian universities do not receive funding from their government which is run by Hamas, a group who advocate against the right of the existence of Israel and allow for rocket attacks on Israeli civilians on a daily basis?
    Ya, I agree it is TERRIBLE that there were and are civilian casualties in Gaza and the West Bank since the Israeli military moved in but remember the only reason they had to move in is because THEY WITHDREW IN 2005. How can you call it an occupation when they aren’t there occupying? Also, the fact remains that the IDF preaches and practices methods to keep civilian casualties to a minimum which is expressly difficult when you are fighting a group who do not wear uniforms and operate out of civilian locations, often with the acquiescence of the civilians. The IDF even goes so far as to drop leaflets and make phone calls to warn civilians of impending bombing or military actions about to take place in an area.

  • http://null DanL

    P.S. my above comment was meant as a response to endapartheid’s reply to my own comments from February 23, 2009 4:17 PM (#36)

  • http://null leonardbast

    “Let me preface my comments by saying that I am adamantly pro-peace for all.” Well, that’s a relief. Let me go out on a limb: Are you also pro-motherhood and pro-apple pie and pro-kittens?

  • http://null leonardbast

    Word.