Home Daily Brief University of Toronto Student Union Votes To Support BDS; Where’s The Media Outrage?

University of Toronto Student Union Votes To Support BDS; Where’s The Media Outrage?

by Robert Walker

On February 16, the University of Toronto’s official student body adopted the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) platform.

The University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU) voted to divest funds from “firms complicit in the occupation of Palestinian Territory,” according to the motion.

The specific wording of the motion was left vague enough that it could potentially be used to stifle any opinions that the student union may find objectionable, and Jewish students on the campus spoke out afterwards, sharing how the UTSU’s focus on alleged Israeli crimes distracted from advocating for the rights of students at the University of Toronto.

“I am disappointed that once again, the UTSU has decided to stoke the flames of antisemitism, rather than working to improve the student experience,” Hillel student Evan Kanter said in a press release.

And is so often the case, the truth has taken a back seat to misleading, though widely repeated and disseminated, misinformation.

In reality, the vast majority of Palestinians live under the civil and military control of either the Palestinian Authority (PA) or Hamas, and not Israel. Furthermore, neither Judea & Samaria (often called the West Bank) nor the Gaza Strip are independent, sovereign states, though Israel voluntarily fully withdrew from the latter in 2005.

As for Judea & Samaria, according to international law, the existing Israeli communities within that region are in no way illegal, because Israel holds sovereign title to that area, and no other country is claiming the land for itself.

Simply put, the BDS movement is little more than a campaign to delegitimize the very existence of Israel, the world’s only Jewish State. BDS all but rewrites history to fit its narrow and hateful agenda.

Furthermore, the promotion of BDS, whether at the hands of the UTSU or any other party, does absolutely nothing to benefit either Palestinians or Israelis. The BDS movement does not strive to increase mutual understanding, acceptance or peace. Conversely, it relies on a campaign of disinformation to apply double standards to Israel, to delegitimize the country, and to effectively demonize anyone connected to it.

While advocates for BDS maintain the cause is not antisemitic, their actions seem to suggest the line is more blurred than they may like to admit. It was unsurprising, therefore, when in November 2021, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) adopted BDS as well as attempting to allow only Kosher caterers who did not “normalize Israeli apartheid.”

Observers of the BDS movement should not be surprised. It has a long history of misinformation and propaganda against Israel.

For example, in an otherwise even-handed post-vote article in The Medium, the independent student newspaper for the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, the reporter repeated some of the problematic misinformation often peddled by the BDS movement.

In her report on the vote, the Medium’s reporter Anjalli Becharbhai writes that “Over the past decade, there have been a number of unjustified attacks against Palestine by Israeli forces.”

This is simply untrue. Israel, as a country governed by the rule of law, is also governed by strict rules of engagement in combat, and Israel has a well-established reputation for its stringent adherence to moral rules.

Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, has called Israel’s armed forces “the most moral army in the world.”

During the last conflict in May 2021 between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group, Israel was forced to defend its citizens in the face of a relentless barrage of 4,000 rockets fired by Hamas into Israeli population centres. Despite this onslaught, Israel repeatedly took great pains to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza. This included going so far as to warn neighbourhoods in advance of planned military activity.

Such a step undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Palestinian civilians who are regularly used as human shields by the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Unfortunately, in wartime, such nuance often goes unreported by news media outlets, giving oxygen to those voices who parrot unfounded claims about alleged Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

The University of Toronto boasts the largest student body of any post secondary institution in Canada, and it is also where Israel Apartheid Week was founded in 2005.

And in this highly sensitive environment, it is all the more distressing to see the student-funded University of Toronto Student Union actively spreading anti-Israel propaganda.

The BDS movement is built on division and misinformation, and it’s time for the University of Toronto and the media to forcefully speak out against it.

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