“When all else fails, try loud noises.”
While that isn’t the official motto of the anti-Israel crowd, it could be, and last Thursday night’s display of chaos at CUSA is an excellent example thereof.
CUSA, for the unaware, is the Carleton University Students’ Association, which last Thursday heard a motion calling on CUSA to request that the university pension fund divest from four companies (making up .35% of the fund) because of their tertiary ties with Israel.
Confused? You should be.
This motion was part of the global “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” campaign — or as it is affectionately referred to in some circles, the “Blacklist, Demonize and Slander” campaign — which has been around since 2001 or 2005, depending on who you ask. The campaign uses the language of human rights as a way to portray Israel as uniquely and inherently evil, with the BDS tactics as the call to action surrounding the campaign. Uninterested in peace, the movement calls for Israel to commit national suicide or face the wrath of the aforementioned tactics.
Returning to Thursday night’s events, rather than give in to the boycotters’ demands, or simply ignore the issue, CUSA made a remarkable decision to adopt a separate motion, endorsing a policy of Socially Responsible Investment, while rejecting the demonization of Israel. The maturity of this decision is commendable. It has been fashionable amongst the left to take a one-sided view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, so kudos to the students of CUSA who recognized that despite their personal views, the bulk of students would be ill served by a one-sided, biased and inflammatory resolution.
If CUSA’s actions were commendable, the reaction of the Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) were anything but. Even before the vote, SAIA members were yelling, screaming, and chanting, as though the louder they were, the more right they would become. For some reason, a homophobic slur was even levelled at a supporter of Israel wearing an IDF t-shirt, notable only because of SAIA’s supposed “anti-oppressive” framework.
At first, SAIA members’ general demeanor could be described as rambunctious. Certainly, the students assembled had quite a deal of emotion invested in the proceedings and expressed this. Although it made many students uncomfortable, if overly excited chanting is what SAIA believes constitutes effective advocacy for their cause, such is their right. However, once their motion was rejected, SAIA’s behaviour went from unbecoming to outright disgraceful. Cries of “shame!” filled the hall as SAIA members banged on the door and walls, demanding that CUSA’s democratic procedure be overturned in favour of mob rule. Their anger was almost tangible, and campus security, already on the scene, felt it necessary to send additional guards in order to ensure the safety of those in the council meeting.
Perhaps such behaviour could be considered appropriate in a larger political forum, although that is certainly up for debate. What cannot be debated is that CUSA members, or members of any student union, do not deserve the level of harassment they received that night, or any level of harassment, for refusing to play judge, jury and executioner in the Middle East or on any other issue not related to their mandate.
Councillors with the responsibility of representing the interests of all students certainly should, and did, call on their university to make positive changes. It is beyond the pale for them to make blanket judgements about foreign conflicts on which the student body is clearly divided. CUSA recognized this. SAIA did not and had a temper tantrum.