SPME Petition 29

Canadian Professors Uphold Academic Freedom And Say No To Bds!

This spring, when a small minority of McGill students tried for the third time in 18 months to pass a resolution calling to boycott Israel and succeeded temporarily, too many people were quick to say that "McGill" was boycotting Israel. The measure soon failed the students' own online ratification process and prompted a powerful letter from Principal Suzanne Fortier denouncing such boycotts.

An informal network of McGill professors recently circulated the letter below. Despite a rather unsystematic, improvised approach which probably failed to contact many more supporters, more than 150 scholars very quickly signed up to endorse Principal Fortier's clear, principled, stand. None of us can recall so many McGill colleagues coming together in support of any issue in the decades we all have taught at this institution – and we can think of few instances in North America recently whereby dozens of professors signed such a letter. This enthusiastic response made us realize that although the voices of extremism are the loudest, we must counter them with ours - those committed to Canadian values of tolerance and democratic freedoms, and those who object to bullying and bigotry. We need to be heard.

At a time when campuses are perceived as increasingly anti-Semitic, shortly after the University of Toronto hosted the Holocaust denier Ken O’Keefe, who railed against “Jewish supremacists” and their alleged control of Hollywood and “the financial system,” it is important to recognize the silent professorial majority that is fair, reasonable, and against bigotry of all kinds. We are circulating this letter widely to affirm the broad range of opinions at McGill University and to extend to every faculty in Canada the same opportunity to have reasonable voices heard -- because we know that those faculty members are certainly not in favor of a boycott, and that many are in fact, passionate defenders of academic freedom -- and the State of Israel.

As faculty members, past and present, who have devoted much of our professional lives to the pursuit of education, we are proud to quote the words of McGill's Principal Suzanne Fortier, and to take "a courageous stance against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, to promote those values of “academic freedom, equity, inclusiveness and the exchange of views and ideas in responsible, open discourse.”

As academics who represent a wide range of political views and methodologies we all know that open discourse, tolerance and respect are essential to the pursuit of truth. Boycotts and intellectual bullying have no place at any Canadian institution of higher learning.

Unfortunately, in its disproportionate focus on Israel, in its founding declaration, and in many statements by key members of the movement, the BDS movement tries to squelch speech and intimidate those who support Israel’s right to exist. The BDS movement repeatedly jumps from criticizing particular Israeli policies to delegitimizing the State of Israel. The July 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS quickly shifts from fighting “the occupation” to demonizing Israel to rejecting Israel’s existence. The leading BDS activist Omar Barghouti – whose calls for boycott overlook his own studies at Tel Aviv University – states a “Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinians.” Such statements do not leave much scope for debate. The tactics of members of this propaganda movement on campuses are often intimidating and the result is divisive, and counter-productive to dialogue that seeks peaceful solutions to complex issues.

While we as signatories have many different opinions about Israel and we affirm the need for a robust debate about any country’s policies, including Israel's, the tone and tactics of the BDS movement echo traditional anti-Semitic obsessions and tropes. As educators, we are distressed when we hear our students telling us how uncomfortable they have been made to feel by an increasingly aggressive pursuit of the anti-Israel boycott, reflected by the repeated attempts to vote it in, no matter how many times the supporters fail. We all need to affirm our commitment to fighting bigotry of all kinds, even when masked behind human rights rhetoric or even if allied with political positions we might support. We fail when our students don't feel genuinely safe in our university -- and the BDS movement has made students feel unsafe, unsupported, and unwelcome in their and our academic homes.

We appeal to all members of the Canadian academic community, especially our colleagues, our students, and our alumni, to continue supporting their university as a safe yet challenging space for respectful political discourse and true learning.

Our mission remains to educate, to promote civil discourse, and to ensure that all of our students are afforded the opportunity of free speech, and feel secure on their campus. In signing below, we emphasize our shared commitment to those goals and undertake to be vigilant in preserving the openness, tolerance, and civility that has made our years of service so rewarding, both professionally and personally.

Gil Troy
Professor of History, McGill University

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63 signatures

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Latest Signatures
63rachel higginsPhDAug 18, 2017
62Patricia BossertJul 23, 2017
61Nancy BurkeJul 11, 2017
60Elizabeth KassoffPsychoanalyst, PINCJul 11, 2017
59Yousef YounesiMay 24, 2017
58Robert Feinstein, MA, MLSJan 05, 2017
57Karen CookeNov 18, 2016
56Joyce PagurekRetired instructor Carleton University, Ottawa ON CanadaOct 01, 2016
55BernardBernard Pagurek PagurekProfessor Emeritus and Distinguished Research Professor (Retired)Oct 01, 2016
54Jacqueline JonesAug 03, 2016
53Jerome TeitelProfessor of MedicineJun 19, 2016
52Stephen TannyAssociate Professor, University of TorontoJun 07, 2016
51Murray A. TyberAlumnusJun 06, 2016
50Arthur SlutskyVice President (Research) St. Michael's Hospital; Professor of Medicine, Surgery and Biomedical Engineering, University of TorontoJun 05, 2016
49Phil GoldProfessor of Medicine, McGillJun 03, 2016
48Arnold Aberman Professor and Dean Emeritus, Faculty of MedicineJun 03, 2016
47Ann WechslerProfessor, McGill UniversityJun 03, 2016
46Mitchell HalperinEmeritus Professor of MedicineJun 03, 2016
45Charles CookeJun 02, 2016
44Brian SilvermanProfessor, University of TorontoJun 02, 2016
43Julie SilverProfessor Emeritus, University of TorontoJun 02, 2016
42Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, MES, PhDUniversity of TorontoJun 02, 2016
41evelyn brookJun 02, 2016
40Peter CollinsAssociate Professor, University of TorontoJun 02, 2016
39Kenneth MelvinAssociate Professor, Department of Medicine, Cardiology, University of TorontoJun 02, 2016
38frank GlazierAlumnus.......University of TorontoJun 02, 2016
37Aiala BarrPrincipalJun 02, 2016
36jeff zaltzmanPhysician, Professor of Medicine, University of TorontoJun 02, 2016
35Ari BitnunM5G 1X8Jun 02, 2016
34Gavril HerczAssociate Professor of MedicineJun 02, 2016
33Alan BrudnerProfessor Emeritus, University of TorontoJun 02, 2016
32Nelson WisemanDirector, Canadian Studies Program and Professor, Dept. of Political Science, University of TorontoJun 02, 2016
31Axel van den BergProfessor, SociologyJun 02, 2016
30Dorothy HasinoffSessional Lecturer, Faculty of Social WorkJun 01, 2016
29Eleanor FishProgessorJun 02, 2016
28Luis EufracioJun 02, 2016
27Sean BenthamJun 02, 2016
26Kim EdelsteinJun 02, 2016
25Sheila WeitzmanProfessor of Pediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children, University of TorontoJun 02, 2016
24Zeev RosbergerAssociate Professor, McGill UniversityJun 02, 2016
23Gerald DevinsSenior Scientist and ProfessorJun 02, 2016
22Arthur KrugerProfessor Emeritus University of TorontoJun 02, 2016
21Ben Zion ShapiroProfessor EmeritusJun 02, 2016
20Barry PosnerProfessor of MedicineJun 02, 2016
19Cheryl RosenProfessor, Dept. of Medicine, University of TorontoJun 01, 2016
18Patricia Patchet-GolubevAssociate Professor Teaching Stream, University of TorontoJun 01, 2016
17Ada SinacoreJun 01, 2016
16Eleazar BirnbaumJun 01, 2016
15Adam Rapoport Assistant Professor, University of TorontoJun 01, 2016
14Aurel BraunProfessor of Political Science University of TorontoJun 01, 2016
13Paul MilgramProfessor, University of TorontoJun 01, 2016
12Shimon AmirJun 01, 2016
11David MorrisAssociate Prof, MUHCJun 01, 2016
10Jay KeystoneProfessor of Medicine University of TorontoJun 01, 2016
9Beth Abramson associate professor of medicineJun 01, 2016
8Joel RayProfessor, Department of Medicine, University of TorontoJun 01, 2016
7Norrin RipsmanProfessor, Concordia UniversityJun 01, 2016
6Jeffrey Erlich U of TJun 01, 2016
5Michael GlogauerProfessor university of TorontoJun 01, 2016
4David GoltzmanProfessor, McGill UniversityJun 01, 2016
3Andrew GoldenbergProfessor Emeritus, Department of Mechanical & Industrial EngineeringJun 01, 2016
2Bernard KatzProfessor of Philosophy, University of TorontoJun 01, 2016
1Sidney AsterProfessor EmeritusJun 01, 2016

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