What’s at Stake
What exactly is the "Vote Yes" side proposing?
The goal of “Vote Yes” side in the “Sever Ties” campaign is the cancellation of exchange programs and joint research programs with five Israeli academic institutions: the University of Haifa, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science. They are also seeking to prohibit University of Waterloo academics from lecturing or attending conferences at those institutions.
Their campaign is part of the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement against Israel, whose ultimate goal is the elimination of Israel and the violation of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their home. Voting no doesn’t mean you oppose Palestinian human rights, it simply means that you believe Palestinians can have justice and human rights without turning the Jewish people back into a stateless minority in the Middle East.
All Canada’s major political parties have unequivocally rejected this tactic – a clear demonstration of the fact that BDS is at odds with the Canadian consensus and outside the genuine peace movement that emphasizes fairness and mutual responsibilities.
Is the "Vote Yes" campaign really seeking to violate academic freedom?
Yes! The definition of academic freedom is: “the belief that the freedom of inquiry by faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy as well as the principles of academia, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment.”
The “Vote Yes” campaign is directly seeking the cancellation of exchange programs and joint research programs with five academic institutions, as well as to prohibit University of Waterloo academics from lecturing or attending conferences there. This is the definition of violating academic freedom.
Boycotts of Israeli academia have been widely condemned by academic associations, university presidents, and Nobel Laureates because such boycotts violate academic freedom and often constitute discrimination based on national origin. Severing ties with Israeli institutions would jeopardize the most basic principles of our university – equal rights, academic freedom, and the free exchange of ideas.
What about the "Vote Yes" claim that Palestinian students are routinely prevented from reaching their schools?
This is simply not true. Israel does not as a matter of routine policy restrict the movement of faculty, staff and visitors in the West Bank. There are no restrictions on foreign academics teaching in the West Bank where they are free to enter, unless there are exceptional security concerns. Israel also does not routinely refuse to allow students from Gaza to travel to pursue education abroad and at West Bank universities.
Finally, Israel’s checkpoints and security barrier are not arbitrary restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement. They exist to prevent innocent Israelis of all backgrounds from being murdered in the streets by racist terrorist groups like Hamas.
The "Vote Yes" campaign claims Israeli universities have discriminatory policies. Is that true?
Absolutely not. Israel is the only advanced, liberal democracy in the Middle East – and Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy greater rights and freedoms than in any other country in the region today. Every single Israeli, including 1 in 4 Israeli citizens who are an Arab, enjoys equal rights and legal protections similar to those enjoyed here in Canada (including freedom of expression and religion, and non-discrimination in housing, employment, etc.) Israeli-Arabs vote, study, work, live, and serve in Parliament, the courts, the military, and government alongside Jewish Israelis. Israel has two official languages: Hebrew and Arabic.
In fact, the percentage of Arab students in Israeli universities is actually higher than the percentage of Arabs represented in Israel’s population. As recently reported by Haaretz, the “percentage of Arab university students in Israel has risen significantly in recent years… This year, 14.4 percent of bachelor’s degree students will be Arabs, compared with 9.8 percent in 1999/2000.”
Finally, according to Pakistani physician, author, and women’s rights activist Qanta Ahmed, “Those calling for an academic boycott of Israel not only show the depth to which anti-Israel bias is now entrenched in our ivory towers; they show their ignorance about the boycott’s major victims: Israel’s minorities, its Arab Muslims and Christians.”