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CUPE Ontario’s motion on the Middle East motion passed Feb. 22, 2009
Updated Feb. 24, 2009

What does the motion call for?

The motion calls for peaceful ways to resolve the conflict in the Middle East.  It calls for education and research into military research and calls for such research to be opposed.  Specifically, the motion:

• Affirms the right of Palestinians to education; and
• Encourages member locals to hold educational events on campuses; and
• Calls for research into links between in universities in Ontario and Israel that benefit the state of Israel’s military; and
• Where such links exist, calls for coalitions on campuses to oppose them.

What does CUPE Ontario mean by “Academic Boycott”?
It is important to understand that this is not a call to boycott individual Israeli academics. Rather, the boycott call is aimed at Ontario universities and any institutional connections pertaining to research that help the military of the state of Israel.  CUPE Ontario is taking this action in response to an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees.

Why boycott Israeli military research?
The recent assault on Gaza has seen the total destruction of the Palestinian educational system. The Israeli military has bombed numerous universities and schools. On January 7, 2009, Israeli forces killed over 40 Palestinian civilians who had taken shelter in a United Nations school.
The aim of the motion boycott is to put pressure on Israel to fully comply with international law, by cutting off research support and Ontario connections to those institutions involved in the oppression of the Palestinian people.
The call for a boycott of academic institutions is part of a broader campaign of Israeli boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) that CUPE Ontario had already approved in 2006.
What is the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)?
In 2005, over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, including the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), urged the world to adopt a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli institutions. This campaign was modeled on the BDS movement that helped end South African apartheid.
The aim of this campaign is to block the political, military and economic support that allows Israel to continue violating international law.  The most recent example is the bombing assault on Gaza and, in particular, the bombing of the Islamic University on December 29, 2008.

 Is CUPE Ontario the only one calling for this?  Who else supports these actions?
This campaign has wide support. Just a few weeks ago, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockman, stated:
“More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a nonviolent means of pressuring South Africa to end its violations. Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations.”
In the first week of January some 300 academics signed a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling on the Canadian Government to institute sanctions against Israel.

Why is CUPE Ontario involved in this as a union?
CUPE members have identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a priority. We need urgent, non-violent action like boycotts, divestment and sanctions to adequately address the assault that killed over 1400 Palestinians – including hundreds of children.  Now Gaza is in desperate need for crisis relief and immediate, concerted international action. 

This action is a concrete measure that will help to create conditions for peace by forcing Israel to comply with international law.  The national constitution of CUPE mandates us to do international solidarity work, and CUPE has a proud history of supporting workers around the globe. Our International Solidarity Committee campaigns on international struggles for justice and workers’ rights in places like Venezuela, Columbia, Egypt and Afghanistan. Here in Canada, CUPE members defend education, health and social, community and municipal services as well as human rights.

More background information is available on the CUPE Ontario web site.