Canadian university student union strips funding of anti-Israel group

VANCOUVER (JTA) — The University of Manitoba Students’ Union voted to strip funding and official club status from an anti-Israel group on campus.

The vote on April 11 went against legal advice and bucked the trend among other student councils at Canadian universities which in recent months have voted to divest from Israel.

The vote of 19 to 15 prohibits Students Against Israeli Apartheid, or SAIA, from receiving funding from the student union or using student union facilities for club activities.

The resolution references the Manitoba Human Rights Code and accuses the club of “discrimination” and “harassment.”

Prior to the vote, the student union’s attorney issued an opinion reading in part, “the actions of SAIA were well within the grounds of legally protected and acceptable political discourse.” The legal opinion warned that barring the group could expose the student union to legal liability, according to the National Post.

SAIA has branches on several Canadian campuses and organizes the annual Israel Apartheid Week.Supporters of SAIA have said they will fight the decision.

“We are shocked that UMSU would ban Students Against Israeli Apartheid without any evidence or basis for the accusations brought forward in the motion,” said spokeswoman Liz Carlyle in a statement released by the Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid.

B’nai B’rith Canada hailed the vote as “precedent setting” and called for other universities to follow suit.

Not all Canadian backers of Israel supported the move. Conservative television commentator and outspoken supporter of Israel, Ezra Levant, condemned SAIA, but warned that the vote set a dangerous precedent on campuses, and made the anti-Israel group look like the victim.

The resolution barring SAIA was the brainchild of student council member Josh Morry, who said that SAIA’s events were making Jewish students feel uncomfortable.

“I didn’t have to prove that Israel Apartheid Week has actually incited hatred, but that it is likely to undermine the dignity or self-esteem of students on campus who are Zionists,” Morry told the Jewish Review.

The University of Manitoba’s decision comes after York University’s student council endorsed the boycott movement against Israel several weeks ago. In the fall, the graduate student unions at York, the University of Toronto and Concordia University in Montreal also passed resolutions advocating for a boycott of Israel.

The University of Manitoba is located in Winnipeg and has approximately 28,000 students.

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