Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights University of Ottawa (SPHR) is a student run, non-profit organization that advocates on a strong social justice platform to uphold the rights of the Palestinian people in the face of human rights violations and all forms of racism, discrimination, misinformation and misrepresentation.

February 19, 2008

Protest Censorship! Who Speaks for McMaster? A Public Forum

Carpool leaving St. Catharines 10:30 am Feb. 28. 905-984-6515 Susan

Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2008


A Public Forum

Rights & Responsibilities in Political Discussion on Campus:
Who Speaks for McMaster?

Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 12:00pm
Details to be determined

United for Student Rights (U4SR) is holding a Public Forum to discuss the recent shocking decision by McMaster Student Union (MSU) and administration to unequivocally ban on campus the usage of the phrase "Israeli Apartheid". This decision was first passed by the McMaster Provost office, which is second in authority only to that of the President's office.

It has been accepted by McMaster Human Rights & Equity Services (HRES) and, in turn, the MSU. This information was communicated to Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) and McMaster Muslims for Peace & Justice (MMPJ) early in February 2008 by the MSU and HRES. Due to this decision, these MSU approved clubs have not been able to get approval for various initiatives related to Israeli Apartheid. It is the MSU that is directly enforcing this decision, as it is the only campus body with jurisdiction over student clubs.

MSU President, Ryan Moran, explained that though the MSU is not bound by this decision, it has chosen to implement it none the less. U4SR is calling on the MSU to rescind this decision immediately as part of opening up the discussion for all to decide.

Statement of Human Rights & Equity Services: "The university has taken the position that literature which refers to "Israeli apartheid" and activities promoted under the banner, "Israeli Apartheid Week" are unacceptable. The university takes the position that this phrase is in violation of the university's efforts to ensure that all people will be treated with dignity and tolerance."

According to the statement of HRES, banning Israeli Apartheid organizing is a matter of dignity and tolerance. In the view of those who use the term, opposing Israeli Apartheid is a matter of dignity and tolerance for the peoples of the Middle East and world over who are fighting for justice and for human rights. Clearly, there is a contradiction of a political nature between these two views.

U4SR considers this decision unacceptable especially given that the recent decision of the Provost is in keeping with consistent efforts by the McMaster administration, MSU and even Hamilton Police to repress Palestinian solidarity work over the last six years. At every point, Palestinian solidarity views have been presented as anti-Semitic and a matter of hate crimes. The most recent decision by the Provost is a ramping up of longstanding attempts to criminalize the views of students who oppose Zionist violations of the human and national rights of Palestinians. Such efforts overlook the importance of political engagement and discussion on university campuses, while making political issues a matter of policy and decisions taken behind closed doors by various offices of the university. This history provides an important context for understanding that the banning of terms diverts from the violation of the political and human rights of students attempting to defend a just
peace for Palestine.
These are not simple matters to be decided arbitrarily and in private. They are related to profound questions of rights and responsibilities on campus and in society at large. It is unjust to require that the students most affected should submit to this decision or simply engage in an unequal private dialogue with the administration.

A Matter for All to Decide

It is important to note that the administration has an obligation to society to respect the basic legal and moral rights of the university community. Despite all its efforts to claim that the university can act like a private corporation, McMaster is a public institution that plays a central role in the development of youth and intellectual thought. In turn, Human Rights & Equity Services is mandated to defend and elaborate issues of human rights on campus, and this function has ramifications for all of society. Similarly, the MSU plays an important role in supporting and intervening in society, as the organized front of students. In sum, the functioning of all these parts of the McMaster University and their recent decision are a matter that concerns all students, faculty, and the general Hamilton and Canadian society.

For this reason, U4SR is holding a public forum so that everyone's views can be heard. We are inviting the administration and MSU to be part of this discussion and no longer use their positions of power to impose their views on the conscience of students. We are also calling on all students, faculty, staff and members of the Hamilton community to join the discussion. Organisers will ensure that everyone's participation and comments are respected.

We, as Canadian students, are taking up our responsibility to society. We are working to end the marginalization of the McMaster community and Canadian polity at large from the decision-making processes that affect their lives and the political orientation of our society. This struggle at one university campus is a converging point for all those who believe that Canadian society should decide political matters in a public and transparent way. Join us!
United for Student Rights is an ad-hoc committee of McMaster University and Hamilton community members that was formed to facilitate public involvement in this issue.
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