The following statement was endorsed by the CUPE 3903 membership at the GMM on May 31, 2021.
The members of CUPE 3903 stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their liberation struggle against settler colonialism, apartheid rule, and the ongoing expulsion and ethnic cleansing across the country, including in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank and besieged Gaza.
We condemn the York University President’s recent portrayal of these recent atrocities as a two-sided ‘conflict’ – the very same President who allowed and defended an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) recruitment event to take place on campus in 2019. Time and again, reports from various international human rights organizations, including the United Nations (UN), have concluded that Israel is an apartheid regime. In January 2021, B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, released a report that illustrates the various ways in which the State of Israel’s racist practices against Palestinians constitute apartheid. This analysis was further corroborated by Human Rights Watch.
Further, we unequivocally reject President Lenton’s insinuation that criticism of the government of Israel is synonymous with the demonization of Jewish people. In fact, we insist that such a claim is in and of itself antisemitic because it conflates Judaism with Zionism, erasing the diversity of views within the global Jewish community. This is also why we continue to fight against the efforts to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-semitism as a measure that not only stifles dissent and academic freedom of students and faculty, both Palestinians and their allies, but as one that is woefully inadequate in the fight against antisemitism and other forms of racism and oppression.
We urge President Lenton to take a firm stance against the harassment and intimidation of pro-Palestinian voices in order to protect their dignity, humanity, and freedom of expression at the university and beyond. To date, pro-Palestinian educators and researchers continue to be censured for exercising their academic freedom.
Most importantly, if President Lenton truly wishes to “demonstrate leadership” in alignment with the university’s stated academic and social commitments to inclusivity and diversity, social justice, and sustainability, then it must immediately cease investing in war and, instead, divest from arms companies whose operations enable the mass death, displacement, and destruction of communities across the globe, including those of the Palestinian people.
In addition to the YU Divest proposal, York University’s own Advisory Committee on Responsible Investment (YUACRI) 2018 report clearly concludes that “York University endowment fund’s holdings should not be invested in companies that manufacture and sell weapons to regimes that commit war crimes and violations of human rights.” These companies include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Textron Inc., and Amphenol, who supply the weapons deployed in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by the State of Israel and its army, as well as other atrocities in various countries in the Global South. The university has a fiduciary duty to its students and workers, who are the beneficiaries of these endowment and pension funds and who continually oppose these unethical and unsustainable investments.
CUPE 3903 was among the first to endorse and lead the way for other union locals to adopt the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) in 2005. We continue to demand an end to all the ways in which York University is complicit in the suffering of Palestinians, from its silencing of Palestinian perspectives, to its material economic backing of Israel’s military industrial complex.