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Canadian Jewish Student Group Files Discrimination Complaint
Emma Dillon Brandeis Blog
August 5, 2016

 

On August 3, Hasbara Fellowships Canada, a pro-Israel campus activism organization and the country’s largest grassroots campus advocacy organization, announced that a complaint had been filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against both the Student Association and the Faculty Association of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College. Hasbara filed the complaint after being denied an opportunity to participate in a campus Social Justice Week event, alleging this wan as a discriminatory decision. It is the first time a Jewish student group has filed such a complaint.

In early March, the Students Association of UOIT & Durham College hosted a “Social Justice Week.” Hasbara’s work includes countering “Israel Apartheid Week” and the anti-Israel BDS movement, and had asked to table its Israel Peace Week materials during the campus’s Social Justice Week.

According to a press release from Hasbara, when Robert Walker, National Director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, responded to an open invitation for community groups to participate, he was denied because Hasbara seems “closely tied to the state of Israel.” In an email sent to Walker on March 3, 2016, Denise Martins, executive assistant of UOIT’s Faculty Association, wrote that since the student association had passed an anti-Israel BDS motion at its previous annual meeting, it would be “against the motion to provide any type of resources” to the organization.

While Hasbara was banned from participating, several anti-Israel events headlined the Week, including a 5-hour “Oshawa Against Israeli Apartheid” event and an art show organized by the anti-Israel group Students for Justice for Palestine, which “illustrated what is being done to combat the illegal occupation of Palestine.”

Walker called the decision to ban the group from participating “outright, explicit, unapologetic discrimination” based on ethnic identity. In a statement to CIJnews, Walker elaborated on his decision to file the complaint, saying: “This is a Jewish issue, not an Israel issue or a political issue. This is about banning a Canadian Jewish organization because of its ties to Israel.” In its press release, Hasbara demanded that the Student and Faculty Association publicly apologize, disseminate their apology to campus, local & national media and their respective websites, invite the group to campus for a public presentation, and repeal any discriminatory policies in place.

This incident is just the most recent example of Jewish organizations being penalized due to discriminatory BDS measures. However, it is promising that Hasbara has decided to file a complaint against the Student Association and Faculty Association and call attention to their discriminatory policies. Like the two recent lawsuits against the ASA, including the Brandeis Center’s suit against the ASA for its unlawful boycott of Israel, this demonstrates the significant legal options aside from legislation that can be utilized to combat the discriminatory policies of BDS motions.
   


 
 
 
 
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Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
 
 
 
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Dawinder S. Sidhu
Dawinder "Dave" S. Sidhu is Assistant Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico and has held positions at Oxford University Faculty of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard University's Pluralism Project, the University of Baltimore School of Law, the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
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