The resolution, proposed by CUPE’s Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee, is in protest against a Dec. 29 bombing that damaged the Islamic University in Gaza.
“In response to an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, we are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general,” said Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario.
The resolution is still being drafted but the union said it will seek to prohibit Israeli academics from speaking, teaching or researching at Ontario universities. The CUPE committee will distribute the resolution to its members at the end of the month.
It will be put to a vote at the committee’s annual conference in February.
Janice Folk-Dawson, chairwoman of the university workers committte, said: “Clearly international pressure on Israel must increase to stop the massacre that is going on daily. We are proud to add CUPE voices to others from around the world saying enough is enough.”
Ms. Folk-Dawson said the committee felt it was crucial to do something.
“This is coming from the rank-and-file members, not just the leadership,” she said.
Len Rudner, regional director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) in Ontario, called the resolution “unbalanced, unfair and unhelpful.”
“Once again Sid Ryan is jumping before thinking,” Mr. Rudner said. “I think it’s ironic individuals who speak about freedom of speech jump to the opportunity to take that freedom away from other individuals.”
While Ms. Folk-Dawson said the resolution will protect the quality of education by preventing Israeli academics from professing biased views, an Israeli professor at the University of Toronto opposed such a disruption to academia.
“I oppose any kind of ban to academic activity, whatever its colour or matter,” said Emanuel Adler, chairman of Israeli Studies at the university.
“Students should receive the message that the situation is very tragic for both Israelis and Palestinians, but the conflict and the violence should not be brought inside the university.”
He added that “if there is a place that some solution should come out of other than government it should be a place where creativity can lead to a peaceful resolution of conflict.”
That sentiment was echoed by Daniel Silverman, program associate of Hillel at U of T, a Jewish student organization: “The university is a place for discussing all sorts of issues but it must be productive. [This resolution] doesn’t serve any purpose, it doesn’t promote dialogue; it creates divisions.”
However, Mr. Ryan said the resolution was a reasonable response to Israel’s attack on the Islamic University, which he likened to the torching of books by Nazis during the Second World War.
Israel has said the Islamic University is a legitimate target because it is closely tied to Hamas.
Mr. Ryan described the proposed resolution as the “logical next step” of a policy adopted by CUPE Ontario at a May, 2006, conference.
Resolution 50 supports “boycotts, divestment and sanctions aimed at bringing about the Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and a just peace in the region.”
The passing of resolution 50 saw the union face significant public scrutiny and Ms. Folk-Dawson said this time they are prepared for a backlash, adding, “We believe we are doing the right thing.”
Approximately 100 committee members will vote on the resolution at the conference on Feb. 19 in Windsor. If the resolution receives majority support, it will be on the agenda at CUPE Ontario’s conference in May, when more than 1,000 would be expected to vote. Should it pass that point, the union would then ask the province’s schools to respect the prohibition.
The proposal comes after an international academic dispute broke out in 2007 following the British University and College Union’s decision to sever professional ties with eight Israeli universities.
Sheldon Levy, president of Ryerson University in Toronto, was among administrators around the world who condemned that decision. He could not be reached for comment Monday.