CUPE Ontario Calls for Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Written by Scott Gilbert

Sid Ryan, the president of CUPE Ontario (that represents half a million workers across the province) has called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions as a means of protest against the recent invasion of the Gaza strip.

This would involve a boycott against institutional activities, like fund raising, partnerships, investment and joint projects.

He wants to clarify that this boycott is not targeting Israeli academics themselves, but Israeli academic institutions particularly. In preparation for the anticipated response from pro-Israel lobby groups, he said: "Opposing and targeting the policies of the Israeli state is not opposing and targeting Jews. Neither is criticizing Israel synonymous with challenging Israel's existence."

But he also made sure to clarify his stance on Hamas rocket attacks saying "The firing of these rockets is a completely unacceptable violation of human rights."

The basis of the boycott call, according to Ryan, has to do with the not only the illegality of Israel's actions, but also the issue of proportionality. Ryan writes: "There is no denying Israelis, too, are dying. But the reality is this is not a fight between equals...Based on reported figures, 20 Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza since 2000...During the same period the United Nations reports that Israel, which has one of the best equipped militaries in the world, killed 2,677 Palestinians in Gaza."

Ryan argues that CUPE should be supported for taking such a strong stand, and that refusing to oppose Israel now is to be "morally bankrupt".

This call for a boycott is an extension of a May 2006 motion by CUPE Ontario where delegates voted to support "an international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel because of its refusal to comply with international law."

Ryan rightly points out that "Boycotts have traditionally been used as a non-violent way to protest what is unfair and to affect governments to change. In the campaign to end colonial rule in India, Gandhi called for a boycott of British universities and colleges as well as all British-made goods. The U.S. began a boycott of the Moscow 1980 summer Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan."

Responding to allegations of Ryan being anti-Semitic from pro-Israel lobby groups, he replies "this is exactly the tactic used by these lobby groups all the time to shut down debate and democracy … the big weapon in their arsenal is name calling. They call people racist, they call people anti-Semites, if you happen to be Jewish, they call you a self-hating Jew."

Do you support the position of Sid Ryan and CUPE Ontario? What about the general concept of a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a means of non-violent opposition to Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine? Please comment below, and vote in our online poll.

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  1. Posted by: on Jan 22, 2009 @ 1:07pm

    To put things into context what would the almighty united states of America do if Cuba started firing rockets into its backyard and started blowing up parts of the Miami coast. You think president Obama would sit by and idealy watch as his country gets attacked. Hell NO! and why would Isreal be any different. If I was Ehud Olmert I would drop bombs on every little piece of the Gaza and Westbank. An innocent palestian life does not amount to the life of an Isreali soldier. These people are radicals and are taught from the age of being literate to hate the Jews and to repent and lash out against them. Well to hell with them and to hell with the CUPE bunch, of money grubbing TA's that are about as useful as dishwashers at a restaurant. If your crying about more money Sid why dont tell your union employess to get a bloody phd. In adition Sid Ryan your crossing the lines between ethics and morality. As the president of such a "powerful" group of people you sure are imposing your will by initiating these boycotts.

  2. Posted by: Frank on Jan 22, 2009 @ 2:52pm


    Sid is not imposing "his" will - he is acting on a motion voted in by the democratic process. Hate democracy? Try living in a dictatorship and see what happens when you spew off like you just did. Maybe Cuba should attack the US for the 40 year embargo, but they don't. Kudos to Cuba for taking the high road, and shame on the US (and Obama too if he doesn't abolish it), for holding 40-year grudges. It is exactly your attitude that the state of Israel maintains, and it is acting on this type of thinking that is in violation of international law. So you hate democracy, hate international law, and hate TAs. Got anything nice to say Bambi?

  3. Posted by: agh on Jan 22, 2009 @ 3:02pm

    please, for the love of god, turn off the comments on this thread before the flaming starts

  4. Posted by: Kalie Bernardo on Jan 22, 2009 @ 4:58pm

    I think that boycotting academic institutions is an awful idea.

    Even though Sid said that it is not the academics that will be boycotted against, who do you think will suffer for the closing of academic institutions?!

    Our boycott will only serve to aggravate the very people that have the ability to make change - for, ultimately, change must be wanted in the country itself.

  5. Posted by: Ben on Jan 22, 2009 @ 5:32pm

    Let’s be frank here FRANK. If I wanted to live in a state that was governed under a dictatorship than maybe I would think twice before spewing off. But until that day comes, I can say as I please and you can’t to a damn thing about it. Furthermore I pity all these non palestinian supporters who are blinded by the propaganda they are subjected too on a daily basis. When did you EVER here Israel cry out about these so called innocent palestinians who put themselves in busy commercial areas and on buses and decided to blow themselves up and take countless innocent Israeli lives in the process. Never. Israel is a state that can handle its own.

  6. Posted by: Ben on Jan 22, 2009 @ 5:33pm

    Looking back in time on the 6 day war in 67’ when Syria, Jordan and Egypt decided to try and bang with Israel. They got they’re shit pushed in and ended up losing land in the process. If you want to mess around with Israel (which might I add has the 2nd strongest army in the world) be prepared to play for keeps. These people have not seen a peaceful day in they’re 60 year existence and your trying to tell me that they have no right to retaliate. Rubbish. In light of my beliefs I will add that it is tragic what is happening however I fail to muster up any remorse for the state of Palestine and its governing body, who fully acknowledges and permits Hamas to occupy and operate within the city confines and in busy residential areas.

  7. Posted by: Melissa on Jan 22, 2009 @ 6:56pm

    I would just like to point out that Israeli cities are bombed every day. There is a town called Sderot where missiles land in playgrounds and grocery stores and anyone who thinks a country should not defend its people has lost its way. I also feel that a union like the CUPE has no place in international politics but I suppose that's another story. I think the real thing to consider is that Gaza elected Hamas, Hamas has done nothing constructive for the people of Gaza and if Sid Ryan thinks that a Hamas member wouldn't blow him to peices or shoot him in the knees (like they've done to Fatah members) because he called a boycott on Israeli academic institutions, well he's got another thing coming.

  8. Posted by: Chris on Jan 22, 2009 @ 11:47pm

    Right, because Israel just came in unprovoked and the poor Palestinians just didn't deserve it. Not like Hamas broke the ceasefire by firing rockets in Israel.

    Considering that CUPE has a great history of holding education hostage by striking (they're more bloody greedy then the CAW), why not go on step further into censorship. It makes sense.

    Three more months in ivory tower land...three more months in ivory tower land....

  9. Posted by: Wow. on Jan 23, 2009 @ 9:55am


    After you leave "Ivory Tower Land" do you return to "White Bigotry Land?" Just asking. I'm sure they miss you.

  10. Posted by: Nathan on Jan 23, 2009 @ 10:55am


    Why don't you take 15 minutes to write your own article and let others express how they feel about your views? Or can you not compile more than 3 lines at a time?

  11. Posted by: Sam on Jan 23, 2009 @ 4:00pm

    What do you think would happen if Israel decided to spend a little less on its proportionally huge military and invested more in human development in Gaza and the West Bank?

    Maybe promoting a little developement, giving these people some freedom and a better quality of life would bring more peace to the region than invading what is already a very oppressed area and population.

    As far as the boycot goes I think that it is better than standing by and doing nothing (even if this is not really the role that the union was intended to fill).

  12. Posted by: George on Jan 23, 2009 @ 4:22pm

    America's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan weren't fights between equals... Should we boycott them too?

    Israel's actions were justified. The Palestinians elected a terrorist organization into power which then attempted to kill Israel's citizens. Israel has every right to ensure the protection of their citizens. Hamas thought they could get away with their actions because they expected this kind of reaction from the international community would prevent Israel from harming its population.

  13. Posted by: Ben on Jan 24, 2009 @ 5:19pm

    Israel cannot afford to forgo some of the millions they spend on their extensive military sector because they are a state unlike many that have to be prepared for anything and anyone. At any time the entire Arab population could turn on them and in light of its military strength, Israel’s enemies posses such large geographic and demographic size that it would still put Israel a certain underdog in that card. In addition why on earth would Israel devote capital in the Bank and especially Gaza if those who are benefiting from the money are the enemy? Israel should continue to fortify its state/military, keep building walls around its holly land and continue to fight for what’s rightfully theirs.

  14. Posted by: Ahmad Yaqeen on Feb 28, 2009 @ 10:03am

    The anti Israel movement hides among lies and promotes lies.Al Jazeera,98% Muslim audience ,held a poll asking if Israel had a right to a siege".78% said yes.The ANTI ISRAEL MOVEMENT scrambled to try and get theno side higher...here is the poll look for your self!

    Is Israel justified in its continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip?
    Believe it or not, The Yes side is higer then the No side.
    Please send in your vote. There is a poll on http://www.aljazeera.com/vote/vote.php?voteid=357 Is
    Israel justified in its continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip? Please go there and Vote: "NO" Mona

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