The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a virulently anti-Israel movement plaguing both college campuses and to a lesser extent, greater society. BDS is a horrifically anti-Semitic movement targeting Israeli businesses; it seeks to damage both Israel’s economy in the short-term and reputation in the long-term. It has become popular among left-wing areas of North America such as Canada and California.
With that in mind, defeats against BDS are that much more meaningful.
Hasbara Fellowships Canada, Canada’s biggest pro-Israel campus advocacy organization, was banned from University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s (UOIT) Social Justice week in March 2016 because their student union endorsed BDS and Hasbara Fellowships Canada was pro-Israel. The President of the student union said that banning them was similar to banning the KKK from a Black Lives Matter event.
In July, 2016, Hasbara Fellowships Canada filed a Human Rights complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, seeking, among other details, $50,000 in damages, an invitation back to campus, and a formal apology, stating that discrimination had occurred.
The legal case was settled last week. It was the first time in recent times that a Jewish organization in Canada took legal action in response to issues on a university campus. The details of the settlement are confidential but Hasbara Fellowships Canada is very satisfied. The UOIT student association then issued a press release on the matter apologizing to Hasbara Fellowships Canada and specifically the director, Robert Walker. They said that they rejected discrimination of any kind including Israeli students and community members, and that Mr. Walker and Hasbara Fellowships Canada were welcome on campus.
“What an incredible difference a year makes,” Walker said in a statement. “One year ago, we were banned from Social Justice Week for being 'connected to the State of Israel,' and today the Student Association has apologized, is welcoming us back to campus, and have affirmed that they reject ‘discrimination of any kind, including against Israeli students or community members.’”
UOIT student and Jewish activist Maya Levinshtein said, “It is a major accomplishment, as a year ago the SA banned Hasbara Fellowships from campus. Now, the SA has issued a formal apology, stated that they oppose discrimination against Israelis and is welcoming Hasbara to campus. I’m thankful to Hasbara Fellowships for standing up for Jewish students on campus. As a proud Jewish student myself, I feel stronger and more confident as a result, knowing that Hasbara is there for me”
The administration of UOIT became the first university in Ontario to publicly state that they "do not support a boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel.”
Other universities in North America would do well to follow their example and should see the banning of Jewish/pro-Israel groups on campus as a logical extension of BDS.