When to choose a side


Dear editor,


I am not disappointed that you have taken sides in last week’s editorial (“Choosing sides in the Middle East isn’t easy”, March 11). Taking sides isn’t easy, like you said, but we should welcome all forms of discourse based on facts. However, I want to clarify a few inaccurate statements made in last week’s editorial.

The first fallacy is based on the role of the student union. The student union is a political advocacy organization. Its role is to best serve the interest of its members by fulfilling its purpose, which is outlined in the governance documents we have collectively approved. For example, according to the UTMSU constitution, two of the purposes are “to work towards building an environment free of systemic societal oppression” and “to articulate the desire of students to fulfill the duties and be accorded the rights of citizens in Ontario, in Canada, and in the international community”.

Hundreds of students at UTM have called on their student representatives to take a position on the systemic societal oppression of the Palestinian people. They have called for substantive action and their representatives have responded by endorsing a motion to engage in research and discussion on the non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign. Research into the campaign will explain how it simply calls for Israel to abide by international law.

This position was endorsed by the UTMSU board of directors because it calls for neutrality in terms of ensuring our tuition is not involved in any illegal activity or human rights concerns anywhere in the world. Currently, our tuition is unethically invested. This endorsement also primarily focuses on research into the university investments and emphasizes the importance of education, awareness, and discussion on where our tuition fees go. I am proud that UTMSU has committed to safeguard our members’ rights to organize social justice and human rights campaigns. I am also proud that UTM students have taken up causes that ensure our campus is safe, equitable, and a beacon for justice.

The second fallacy is our own Canadian government’s position on the conflict, which you categorize as “relatively diplomatic”. Canada’s position is not neutral; it is in support of Israel, as clearly stated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and rejects the rights of Palestinians, who have been under military occupation since 1967. Nowhere is this stance more evident than in the UN, where Canada has most recently been one of a handful of countries opposing the Palestinian bid for observer status in the UN. We lost our bid to join the UN Security Council and have been isolated on the world stage to the extent that we are not perceived by most of the world as honest peacemakers.

Sadly, our country supported the racist apartheid regime in South Africa that propagated the fallacy that people of colour are less human than Caucasians. I would also like to add that U of T was among the last universities in North America to divest all affiliation with South African apartheid. That system of racial segregation was rejected by the world in the 1990s, and today well-known scholars and diplomats, including Noam Chomsky, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Naomi Klein, and Howard Zinn have identified many similarities between apartheid-era South Africa and Israeli apartheid, including segregated roads, discriminatory land ownership regulations, and, most recently, segregated transit systems.

In conclusion, I encourage all students to research this issue not only because we are educated and privileged students but because this issue affects us all. UTM students and the community at large will be ill-served by misrepresentation of the facts, the quality of discourse will deteriorate, and the voice of the true victims in this senseless conflict will be drowned away.


In solidarity,

Yasmine Youssef

VP equity, UTM Students’ Union

  • Students Against Israeli Apart

    SAIA UTM approves this message

  • Shaheryar Gilani

    Wow. Very well written. Have to agree with you Yasmine.

  • Hala Ayyad

    This is very well written Yasmine. I know the article last week upset many people including me.

    • MarkinTO

      God forbid anyone actually have support for Israel at UTM.

      • Hala Ayyad

        This isn’t about YOU supporting Israel. If you want to do so with your OWN money, by all means, go ahead and send as much “support” as you would like.

        I, as a student at UTM along with many other students –not necessarily Muslim by the way–don’t want OUR tuition money going towards any human rights violations. Whether you like to admit that what Israel does in Gaza and the West Bank are human rights violations or not, that it your opinion and you don’t need to provide proof of its legitimacy. That just reflects YOUR personal beliefs and in the end, it’s about YOUR conscience. What BDS is after are facts, not opinions. Under international law, Israel is in violation in many ways starting with illegal settlements in the West Bank, to war crimes committed on various occasions. Those have actually been classified as war crimes, so again I would like to emphasize that it’s not my “opinion”. Do some research, and look into the illegal weapons used, and statistics that show the number of kids that die in Israeli attacks that are supposedly for “security”. I am not going to go into details because I have better things to do that to try to educate someone like you about humanity. That is something you can do for yourself on your own time.

        Students that signed the petition are not against Jews. I, for one am not and furthermore, whether you like to believe it or not, am not religious at all so my stand on this is purely due to the legal aspect and my stand with people that are clearly being oppressed in a system of apartheid by Israel. I would also like to point out that people that support the Palestinian cause are not only Muslim. So please, enough with BS about how it’s a Jews vs. Muslims issue. Just as a reminder, we have an indigenous population of Christians in Palestine that are oppressed too. Standing with Palestinians as people does not mean standing with Muslims and people that signed the petition are NOT all Muslim.

        Anyways, I have wasted enough time on you. Educate yourself before you utter complete nonsense.

        • Luke

          When it’s a question of the student union representing its students, yes, it is a matter of counting individual opinions that make up the whole. If we find something we strongly disagree with, we should contradict but not suppress.

          And while I strongly agree that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians needs to change, I find the multiple calls to look at the facts—while ignoring the only semblance of research here so far, which seems to contradict the unilaterally positive things said about the campaign—mildly hypocritical.

          • MarkinTO

            That’s because their whole campaign and rhetoric is emotionally driven, not factually driven. The Nakba is a situation they grow up constantly hearing about and it causes them to want to defeat Jews wherever and whenever they can. Since they were so horribly embarrassed in every conflict with them in the entire 20th century. That’s why they’ll overlook 100k dead in Syria, because the Jews aren’t involved, they don’t care about human rights and war crimes, they just care about getting back at Israel for the Nakba.

        • MarkinTO

          Sounds like you haven’t done too much research since you just re-hashed everything in the article without responding to ANYTHING I said. UofT has no money invested in Israel but has plenty in weapons manufacturers like Boeing and General Dynamics, you don’t care. The conflict in Syria has claimed over 100k lives and millions displaced, you don’t care. Palestinian refugee camps in Arab countries are 100 times worse than the conditions in Gaza and The West Bank, you don’t care.

          Did you say a word when Nahr Al-Bared was reduced to a parking lot? If you’ve never heard of Nahr Al-Bared then please, don’t tell me to get informed, it’s you that’s uninformed. Living in an echo chamber does not make you informed, it makes you ignorant.

          • Hala Ayyad

            Thanks, I really don’t need you to educate me about my people and the suffering they have gone through. Your logic really make me laugh though, I congratulate you. Palestinians were made refugees in the first place because of Israel, so don’t try to make this an issue of the Arab treatment of Palestinians. Yes Palestinians suffer in refugee camps and especially in Lebanon, they are denied basic rights, but again I would like to emphasize the fact that the only reason behind Palestinians being displaced in the first place is Israel. Having named the root cause of all these problems, it makes complete sense to me to try to deal with the root of the problem and the main issue here being Israel before any other.

            Funny how you use other Arab nations in your argument yet as soon as someone mensions the right of return to get those Palestinians to their HOME, you suddenly say utter smart things like: “Do you think all German’s who can trace their lineage to East Prussia
            whether or not they actually lived there should have a guaranteed right
            of return?”. So Please tell me, what are you arguing here? that those Arab countries that host refugee camps should just have Palestinians “merge” and become citizens? Yeah I agree, Arabs governments and even some Arab citizens are not fond of that idea and it’s a shame. But more importantly, Palestinians are not willing to give up their right of return either and I think that’s fair. Having terrorist gangs like Hagana MURDER families in their homes at night (like in the Deir Yassine Massacre to name just one) in my opinion doesn’t make Palestinians at fault for escaping to save their lives and therefore, they entitled to return if they want to.

            For the record, conditions in those refugee camps are NOT worse than conditions in Gaza.

            AND PLEASE don’t pretend to care about the Syrians now. I stand in solidarity with any civilians that have been murdered in Syria and I am ashamed of the silence of the international community and I want it to stop more than anything. Syrians are all my people as well. BUT motions like the last one passed with regards to divestment from weapon manufacturing companies that kill children and civilians in general should not be put on hold until the Syrian conflict is resolved. Solving one problem does not require others to be solved first. If we try to help bit by bit, it’s better than doing nothing at all.

  • Stefanie Marotta

    Yasmine, thank you again for sharing your letter with The Medium.

  • Shefa Obaid

    Universities are our place to educate ourselves on matters like this in order to choose a side based on facts and personal research. To encourage students to street away from politics defeats from the very essence of our purpose.

    • Misaka Mikoto

      Which also means that we have to respect everyone’s opinion regadless if you like them or not, even if they are Israeli or Muslim extremists

      • MarkinTO

        Exactly, which means that the University taking sides in a conflict that has been a quagmire for 6 decades is highly disingenuous. The University should remain apolitical as choosing a side will alienate one group or the other. It’s the job for the students to decide where they stand on the issue, it is NOT the role of the school to take sides.

  • Maria Al-Janabi

    Great response, I’m happy you took the initiative to clarify some of the points in last weeks article.

  • Luke

    As for me, I found the editorial pretty reasonable.

    Just about the terminology:

    Yes, many famous people have drawn comparisons to apartheid, and they probably have good reason to. But the term “Israeli apartheid” is not universally accepted. To use it without acknowledging that there is some controversy would have been disingenuous in an opinion piece and outright misleading in a news article.

    As for the actual argument:

    The two clauses quoted are relevant to U of T students (one of them even uses the word “students”). If they meant that UTMSU’s mission was to build a global environment free of systemic oppression, the union would soon end up with a scope far beyond their mandate, not to mention their resources. Without question, it’s a noble goal. But this is a students’ union. I think the pragmatic step you suggest—encouraging the university to dissociate from criminal activity—is the more realistic goal.

    But the mission of the students’ union being to represent students, it should take such actions only if they represent a large number of its constituents and do not alienate a large number. I’m not convinced that this criterion is fulfilled in this case. Hundreds of signatures do represent student engagement, but judging by my experience on this campus, there are two problems with petitions: people are eager to sign them, especially if they come with an excited pitch, and students who disagree are invisible on the list of names ultimately submitted. If Stefanie is right, there are at least some divided responses. Couldn’t the student union have instead seen this as the signal to properly gauge its constituency?

    What I strongly agree with in your letter is that the facts should be respected. I’ve briefly been to Palestine, and I agree that the situation is unacceptable. I don’t think anyone could fairly dispute that. Instead, I’d like to isolate the controversial part: the solution. You write that “research into the campaign will explain how it simply calls for Israel to abide by international law”. I wonder how you arrived at this conclusion before the research has been conducted, and it leads me to worry that the research will take for granted that it will reach a certain end. My own preliminary research into the BDS campaign, as encouraged by the other commenters, suggests that it’s surrounded by international controversy in at least three respects: its mission, whether it adheres to its mission, and whether its means are effective. According to the Wikipedia article, the Palestinian government itself does not support the campaign. Is this what the student union is so eager to take a side on?

    Personally, I agree about the problem, and I firmly believe that students should dedicate themselves to research, reflection, and action about important issues like this. But the circumstances of the student union’s decision—who should be taking it, by what means, with how much impetus, for what reasons, with what practical ends in mind, and so on—I find suspect.

    • MarkinTO

      The reason the West Bank Palestinian government (see, there’s not even a unified Palestinian state to start with) doesn’t support this bullshit, is because it hurts Palestinians too! Israeli companies employ Palestinians in the West Bank and by boycotting products from the state they hurt the workers being employed.

  • Alpha Beta

    However, the Canadian constitution does respect the freedom of speech among all citizens. This topic should not be about who is right and wrong it should be looked at both sides. any major war that has occured throughout history had faults on both sides.

    Personally, I am a huge supporter of individual choice, nobody has to force you to like Isereal’s policy, but you have to understand there are people that support it. We as Canadian citizens have to respect the difference of our choices. I already see it today. We have respected diverse people, religions, and even political thought. Hence, this idea of picking sides is no different.

    So Youssef, what you are doing is protecting your own interest and yours only. I am sick and tired of seeing people bashing on other people’s opinions just because they do not like it. As for me, I do not care if they are Isreali extremist, as long as they do not cause any violence or harm to students on this campus.

    What I saw personally was provocation from muslim students who did not like the Isreali podium. When I was there, the Isreali podium did not bother me, so why should I bother them. This is the fact that we must repsect for each other and not provoke each other.

    Lastly, the UTMSU should be more transparent with their policies, which prevent corruption in this institution. If you are telling me that you represent the voice of UTM, then I believe that you owe me the money that pays you to win elections through cliques. Therefore, your union is corrupted, I never voted for cliques. To make your union a democracy, there should be an opposition party to control the governing party. This is how democracy functions. As far as I am concern, what I am experiencing is a CCP government, AKA a one party system. I am sorry Youssef, your party is not a representation of democracy, it is a dictatorship. Moreover, getting 5% of the vote from students to get an expansion of buildings, you call this a representational vote of the student? Did know in order to win a majority in the house commons you require half +1 of the seats in the house commons, which means 50%+ 1. Now this is a fair representation of the voice of the people Canada. So if you believe that you speak for the Students I suggest that you implement a Canadian democracy.

    Also, during elections I find that potential candidates and their supporters provacative by presurring random students to vote for them. I did not see this kind of provocation from the Isreali group, all they did was sit behind a table to make themselves available to people who are interested, and not the other way around. Maybe it is time that democracy should be established once and for all, and I guarantee you that people will start to care about UTMSU. Moreover, curroption and favouritism would be diminished.

    Thank you very much and I wish you good night

    • Shefa Obaid

      “So Youssef, what you are doing is protecting your own interest and yours only” . Hey buddy, the Students’ Union voted overwhelmingly in favor with the support of approx. a thousand students and they are not a clique like you suggest. For you to practice your essentialism and dehumanize these students down to one clique based on religion is disgusting and totally racist. We live in a free country and no one can pressure anyone else to sign anything. Those who signed it knew what they were signing. There is no side to pick here, criticizing the Israeli government and holding them accountable for human rights violations is a way to true democracy and reform in order to implement equality for all citizens.

      • Daniel L. “Alpha Beta”

        I am not basing my argument on religion, don’t try to play the racist card with me. All I am arguing is about freedom of speech and thank you for pointing out that 1000 students voted against it but again that is not a majority of votes, we have over 10,000 students on this campus. Therefore, to get a majority approval requires 5,000+1 students to agree to this, maybe you should realize that 1,000 students is not big compare to what we have. Moreover, how is pressuring voters to vote by shoving voting campaigns in student’s faces not FORCEFULL, Obaid you should back up your arguments before you make a political statement.

        The fact I talked about Youssef was Youssef alone, the fact that you generalized my statement to racism makes you a racist.

        • Frank

          Accuses other people of using the racist card … uses the racist card *troll face*

      • Misaka Mikoto

        Yo Obaid, read his post more carefully, Mr. Alpha Beta is criticizing the Muslim student who had problems with the Israeli podium, which he has no right to because the Israeli dudes have the right to express whatever they want provided that they don:t harm anyone, which I agree with. You said that people live in a free country, so why aren:t the Israeli students not allowed to create their own club and set up a podium for their people to come to them? You know what, at least I never see those guys shoving random flyers in our faces nor go around screaming at 70 decibals *YO VOTE FOR ME!! VOTE FOR ME!!!* Categorizing the passive Israeli students who argued that they are advocating for peaceful expression as Israeli extremists itself is a racist comment by itself on your behalf.

        Furthermore, I don:t see how Alpha Beta said that he thinks that the clique is mentioned is a religious group, it is YOU who twisted Alpha Beta:s words that he is having a problem with people’s religion. From his post, is it clear that Alpha Beta is having promlems with the student union itself, and NOT their religion, or at least he made no mention of the religious practices of the student union. Also, he is right, how does 1000 students represent a majority, or show a clear representation of all students at UTM in general? 1000 people may be a good number, but that it NOTHING compared to the number of students in this school, so you know what? Alpha Beta is right, and the student union IS is dictatorship, we do indeed need a opposition to watch over and control the behaviours and actions of the student union to ensure that they are being fair to everyone, which does NOT mean that they are running the council by the terms of favoritism towards certain cliques or categories of individuals.

      • MarkinTO

        Religion is not a race. The Students Union is a clique, it’s an echo chamber.

  • MarkinTO

    This is so farcical it’s not even funny. I don’t think UofT even HAS money invested in Israeli companies, but it certainly owns stock in military contractors like Boeing. Muslims students need to start having some goddamn tolerance for the rest of the student body that doesn’t enjoy their identity politics bullshit.

    Again, your silence on the genocide in Syria is palpable. You don’t care about human rights, otherwise you would be far more concerned with the Syrian civil war that has claimed at least 100,000 lives and created millions of refugees. It’s like a modern day Naqba and you don’t give a shit about it because the Jews aren’t responsible.

    • Anon

      The level of racism and Islamophobia here is unbelievable.

      • Luke

        Both sides accuse the other of phobias, and regardless of whether either is right, why not bother to address the points made?

        • MarkinTO

          Because she can’t. Tears can’t be typed into a keyboard for a purely emotional response. e.g. ‘Please think of the children!’

      • MarkinTO

        Truth hurts huh? I’d encourage you to debate me, but I know you can’t.

    • Nour

      Man I am a Syrian and I agree with you on a couple of things and want to question other things. First, does UofT have or not have money invested in Israeli companies? Second, you are right, I think the Syria issue should be spotlighted. Third, you are right, the Arabs are not unified. It is a world of states and nation-states. Dictators like Assad and Saddam have used the Palestinian cause as a wedge issue and given the Palestinian authorities huge “donations” to legitimize their lengthy stay. And your right, identity politics is bullshit and Muslim students need to stay away from that and really understand the politics so they can articulate it properly. So no I don’t think your comment is Islamaphobic or “racist” or anything, your right more-or-less. But I hope you understand that Israel is a state that is not only violating the Palestinians but practicing what we call in IR ‘compellence’ in the region and not ‘deterrence’. Israel’s boundaries, as prescribed by International law are pre-67 war, and until they start acknowledging UN resolutions (at the very least) they will remain apartheid.

      • Luke

        Interesting perspective! I think the most valuable thing to come out of this particular back-and-forth is the inexplicable focus on some major world issues and not others.

        • Daniel L.”alpha beta”

          I couldn’t agree more with Luke and Nour on this one

      • MarkinTO

        I can agree with everything you said. But as the Israeli side of the debate was horribly underrepresented, I had to talk to that first. Israeli’s and especially the IDF are not saints, no one in that region is. But the arguments of IAW needed to be dismantled first and foremost.

        I hope your family and friends in Syria are enduring the hell on earth situation that’s going on over there. The fact that I know how dire the situation is only makes me more angry at campaigns like IAW that don’t care about the Syrian tragedy because they can’t use it to malign Israel.

        • Nour

          Israel took land from Syria because Israel won the 1967 war (thanks to the US). Syrians are in the same boat as Palestinians, do not use this current crisis to act like Israel supporters actually care about the Syrian people. At the Israel podium there was a lot of propaganda and claims that Arab countries (including Syria) kicked out Arab-Jews and that is how they ended up in Israel; which is completely false. Israel is an illegal state, if the Arabs can win over the US Israel will not be able to practice ‘compellence’ in the region.

          • Nour

            The reason why this issue confuses people is because of identity politics and people taking sides based on identity, and that is seemingly unavoidable because Israel is officially a “Jewish” state. I’m guessing Syria wants its Golan Heights back if Israel wants diplomacy with Syria. Otherwise, proxy agents will continue to get arms from Syria and be allowed to strike Israel at will with continued popular support.

          • Nour

            A significant proportion of Jews in 1948 left due to political insecurity and the rise of Arab nationalism,
            and later also due to policies of some Arab governments, who sought to
            present the expulsion of Jews as a crowd-driven retaliatory act for the
            exodus of Arab refugees from Mandatory Palestine. The establishment of Israel in the British Mandate of Palestine (colony) is the first cause, and the exodus of the Palestinians from their home is why Jews either left or were kicked out from neighboring Arab countries. Hence the burden of proof is on Israel and those who support it because it committed the first violation in its creation as a “Jewish” (religion or ethnicity?) state amongst Arab states.

      • MarkinTO

        As far as I know, UofT does NOT have any money invested in Israeli companies. But it DOES have money invested in several military contractors like Boeing, but also in companies that make guidance systems for missiles and bombs and things like that. This campaign does nothing to alleviate that.

  • Nour

    Very well written. The Conservatives vehement pro-Israel stance is deplorable and inexcusable.

    • Luke

      It may be so, but remember that there are two ways of judging it: what they themselves say (e.g. on government websites) and how the international community reacts to it. It raises the interesting question of whether being diplomatic and neutral is relative to others’ positions.

  • utmstudent

    grreat work Yasmine!

  • utmstudent999

    Excellent work Yasmine! And thanks to the medium for publishing this work!

  • Omar

    People must understand that sides have already been taken on this issue. First off I’d like to highlight what the motion itself deals with: “The motion demands that Israel ends its occupation of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967, dismantle the illegal separation wall in the West Bank, allow Palestinian refugees their internationally guaranteed right of return as stipulated in UN resolution 194, and recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality”.

    Can anyone please explain what exactly in the above statement is demeaning to supporters of Israel or Israelis themselves!? They are basic rights that are recognized by the UN and are purely neutral, I would never even consider these demands as biased towards the Palestinians. These demands highlight the fact that there currently exists an inequality practiced by Israel, which organizations and countries all around the world, like the UN, have asked it to correct.

    This same inequality exists in our university which has chosen to invest endowment and pension funds in companies that are complicit in human rights violations and thereby involve us directly in these crimes. Money that directly comes from us, or to us, was invested in weapons manufacturers, like Lockheed Martin who manufactured planes and Missiles used by the Israeli Military, most recently, against a largely Civilian population in Gaza. The result according to the UN was: 103 Palestinian Civilian Causalities, 30 of which were children, and left more than 1000 people injured. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20466027). This is real! We were directly implicated in the death of those 30 children! We have a responsiblity then to ensure that money from our insititution is not going towards the killing of innocent civilians, it is our duty to go after our university and make sure of this! And just to counter any quick baseless arguments: No! Our University is NOT currently putting money into companies that support “Palestinian fighters” that also killed around 4 innocent Israelis and injured 219 innocent civilians. This is becuase our government currently has sanctions against “Palestinain fighters” and their organizations and it is currently illegal under Canadian Law to support directly and indirectly any “Palestinian fighters”. What the UTMSU has basically done by endorsing the BDS motion is to ask that the same laws, ensure that while our money is not involved in the killing of innocent Israelis, that it then also not be used in the way of killing Innocent Palestinians: this is true Neutrality! The UTMSU has then done the right thing in passing this motion, to ensure that none of our university’s money is going towards weapons companies like: BAE systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. All these companies and other weapons manufacturerers are directly targeted by BDS, for this purpose. The initiative that the UTMSU has taken on is therefore a protective measure to ensure that our university is not complicit in war crimes, and is perfectly inline with international law. Thank you UTMSU for upholding the rights of the voiceless!

    Secondly, a discussion below has ensued on why the UTMSU is tackling this issue specifically. First off, I think it is highly problematic to excuse the lack of action on this issue by stating that: “human rights issues are too many and too broad to tackle and instead we should do nothing to support anything rather than take on any single issue”. Let’s imagine that there were blue people at UTM, and that there was an issue with racism against these blue people. Would it make sense then for UTMSU not to act to prevent this, under the justification that “there are many discrimination cases against multitudes of different peoples and races, so we should do nothing to tackle this specific issue”. Wouldn’t that be considered totally ludicrous? The same goes for human rights issues, let’s not forget that the BDS motion, that the UTMSU acted on, came about from students responses, who proved it was a relevant issue for a large number of us and so acted on it. I suggest that any student(s) that feel passionate about any other human rights issues should bring them up to the UTMSU.

    • MarkinTO

      Do you think that Poland should give back East Prussia to Germany? Do you think all German’s who can trace their lineage to East Prussia whether or not they actually lived there should have a guaranteed right of return?

      Wars have consequences and territory won rarely goes back to the losing side, regardless of how much one group whines about how unfair it is. It was really fucking unfair for the millions of German’s after WW2 as well but I bet you’ve never heard of that because they accepted their fate BECAUSE they started the war.

      • Omar

        Before I respond to your comments I would like to ask that if you are going to engage in intellectual debate that you maintain a certain level of respect, that entails no cursing, as well as respecting others struggle. The use of words like “whining” and simplifying a groups displacement ethnic cleansing, and struggle is in the very least insensitive and offensive.

        With regards to your claim Israel has both a moral and legal obligation to properly compensate, return, and/or negotiate with Palestinian refugees. The moral obligation is self explanatory, refugees that are forced to leave due to war should be allowed to return to their original homes or areas where they resided before the war. The legal obligation stems from the United Nations 1951 Geneva Convention Related to the Status of Refugees, there are several articles that clearly state that a refugee is entitled to the right of return and proper compensation.in addition the United Nations passed a resolution that directly dealt with the right of return for Palestinian Refugees, it is this resolution that Israel has chosen to ignore that forms the basis of the rights of Palestinian refugees under international law. Here is the direct quote from the resolution’s article 11:

        “Article 11 of the resolution reads:

        [The General Assembly] Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

        • MarkinTO

          Wars have consequences, if they hadn’t have fled they would still have their property. Hence all the Israeli-Arabs that live in Israel. Again you hold Israel to a standard you don’t hold any other nation. If you initiate an aggressive war, you have to deal with the territory and financial losses you incur. Can you imagine North Korea demanding compensation for the Korean War and their refugees?

          • Omar

            You’re opinion is cute and all but it goes against the United Nations 1951 Geneva Convention Related to the Status of Refugees and UN resolution 194 which I quoted earlier. With all due respect, I think most people would rather agree with the UN and the wider international community, than your opinion. As far as your second point is concerned, I personally, hold all nations to the standard of international law and UN resolutions. If you find a country, whether it be the example you stated or any other, where the country is in repeated gross violation of international law and many UN resolutions, and find out that UFT is investing monies in companies that support this entity’s military or other enterprises. If you provide that evidence I will gladly be the first to sign your petition and advocate for your cause.

        • Luke

          I do think it’s important that we all maintain decorum. A good comment section often degenerates into a shouting match in the blink of an eye. Even when emotion is called for, it almost never serves discussion.

      • Hala Ayyad

        There is no comparison between the two. Germans that were annexed by Poland were given Polish citizenship. When Israel annexed the West Bank, the no Palestinians in it were given Israeli citizenship. I am going to just go along with what you are arguing here and say that if Palestinians were willing to agree to a one state solution with Israel, would Israel be willing to have the one state solution? No. Would they be given citizenship and equal rights as citizens? the answer again, is NO.

        Before you come up with bogus arguments like this, and try to educate me about past wars, think about what you’re arguing and know what kind of comparison you’re making. Israel did not annex the West Bank to have Palestinians as part of Israel. If you know anything about the Zionist plan, it’s to kick ALL Palestinians OUT of historical Palestine. This is the Zionist dream.

    • MarkinTO

      Further to the point, when you say “1967 borders”, do you mean Gaza goes back to Egypt and the West Bank goes back to Jordan? Cause that’s how it looked it 1967. It’s an inconvenient truth but Palestine has never existed as an independent nation. Back to 1967, the Palestinians living in those territories were denied citizenship and were forbidden from leaving the territory to immigrate to other areas of the nation by their fellow Arabs. As it stands now at least the Palestinians have some degree of autonomy, with the 1967 borders they lose that.

      • Omar

        The 1967 borders are defined by the UN resolution 242, with subsequent international agreements such as Camp David, highlighting that the West bank and Gaza are territories that should be subject to Palestinian autonomy. Israel has “conveniently” ignored these resolutions and others, even the ones it HAS SIGNED! Not too sure what the the rest of your argument was about, I suggest you fully read resolution 242, and the Oslo/camp David agreements to properly understand where the issue stands at the present time. Anyway this all takes away from the argument I made in my original post, that Israel has ignored international law and it is for this reason that it should rightfully be subject to movements like BDS, and all of this is all good reason for UTMSU to act on this!

        • MarkinTO

          Answer my question. In 1967 the West Bank and Gaza belonged to Jordan and Egypt. How can we go back to 1967 borders if they never existed? 1967 borders = Gaza goes back to Egypt and West Bank goes back to Jordan. Is that what you want? Your quoting of a UN resolution means you can’t answer this question can you? You’re all just a broken record with no real knowledge of what you’re talking about.

          • Omar

            Borders of ’67 with Palestinian autonomy = UN resolution 242. Read it! Then come back and argue. And if you’re just looking for an answer to your question its: no! Gaza was never part of Egypt and neither was the West Bank part of Jordan, not according to any of the partition plans or any signed international agreements. If you want to argue this fact, then please cite any agreements that list Gaza as being part of Egypt, or West Bank being part of Jordan.

          • MarkinTO

            This is going to be my last reply to you because judging by your complete lack of historical knowledge regarding Gaza and the West Bank, I think you need to take some remedial history before you continue arguing Israel-Palestine issues.

            First off, UN Resolution 242 was drafted in 1967….1967….it hasn’t been seriously pursued since 1973, what a joke.

            Secondly, let me re-state I find your ignorance on the history of the middle east to be shocking. Most shocking is your confident assertion to something completely wrong. Jordan annexed the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1950 after occupying the area since 1948. Virtually any google search will yield enormous amounts of data on this period, the same is true for Egypt and Gaza. Here’s one.


            Despite possessing East Jerusalem, Jordan did little with it. “in 19 years of Jordanian rule. The
            capital remained in Amman.
            There was no outcry of claims of Palestinian identity being submerged by Jordan”

            As for Egypt, wikipedia should suffice as this IS common knowledge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupation_of_the_Gaza_Strip_by_Egypt

            Here’s some newsreel footage, Gaza mentioned but nothing about Palestinians…just Egyptians.


            For your sake, maybe crack open a few books before ignorantly quoting irrelevant UN resolutions that have no impact on the actual reality on the ground. has not changed the reality on the ground and will not change the reality on the ground. May god have mercy on your soul.

          • Nour

            Regardless, International law cites the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to
            work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every
            State in the area can live in security”, whether its Egypt, Jordan, or Israel annexing Palestinian land. Pre-67 war, not 1967 specifically. East Jerusalem belongs to Palestine, according to International Law. Can anybody even imagine Israel giving that back? Because I can’t.

    • Luke

      I think the rightness here is not as relevant as the scope. The example you mention on the UTM campus is within what I consider the UTM student union’s mandate. We must govern what we have been given. This organization simply can’t handle all serious human rights issues (and if it is going to fully back on, it should be done democratically).

      • Omar

        Perfect, it is within their mandate to call on the University to stop any investments they have in companies that are in violation of international law, such as investments the university has in Lockheed Martin (Manufacturer of Hell Fire missiles and F-16’s) which were both used by the Israeli Military in their 2012 war on Gaza that killed 103 Palestinian Civilians, 30 of which were children, and left more than 1000 people injured. Some of those killed are members of UTM students families in Gaza, I personally know a student in UTM that had family members affected. Our University is implicated in this war and in the killing of these innocent civilians by having money invested in this company and other similar companies. It is these companies that the BDS motion targets. The fact that UTM students are directly affected by the actions of companies that UFT is investing in, makes it perfectly within the mandate of UTMSU to target the University’s investment policy and implement a BDS motion.

        As far as the democratic issue you mentioned, there was a petition made by students that received a percentage high enough of the UTM student body that brought this issue to a meeting of the elected student representatives of the body. This meeting had executives elected from the student body, who within their mandate represent the entire student body of UTM through democratic means (i.e. the general election) and who within their mandate make decisions on behalf of the student body. This has been an entirely democratic decision, the only argument that remains is given their decisions will current executives/like minded executives win the next election, which will be a test to see if the majority of the student body is supportive of their decisions, and this will be the final test of the support for this motion by the student body. Not to mention that there are other means for the student body to express their dissent to this motion, and that would be through a petition or several complaint apparatuses available to the student body. If a majority of the students are dissatisfied with the decision they have all the right, like the students that brought this issue up to begin with, to take issue with the motion. If there is a significant amount of them then the decision will be overturned.

        The grievance that you might bring up is the fact that this decision does not represent the entire view of the student body. And you are right in that, however it is unrealistic of the student body to satisfy all the students that it represents. I’m sure if I go around UTM I can find at least one student who doesn’t agree with the entire idea of a student union, unfortunately this is the downfall of a majority-ruled democratic institution like the UTMSU. So the bottom-line rests on two questions: Is there significant opposition for this motion? And if there is, where are they? Please focus on the words significant in the above (:

        • Luke

          I concede that if I believed more in the democracy of the union’s modus operandi I might have more faith in their decisions. In fact, I do not consider election as it proceeds on our campus decisive evidence of general support. But I think we should not attempt to breach that topic here.

          As for opposition, I only reiterate my concern about the strength of a petition (particularly here), and the activity in this comment section suggests that there is at least some quite heated division that in my opinion warrants a better sounding of the student population.

          As I said in my original post, if the practical step the union means to take by choosing a side is to advocate for the university to dissociate from criminal activity, I think that is probably within its scope.

          • Omar

            I agree that campus politics and the student union is a broad topic, that needs a different approach.

            About the better sounding of the student population, what would this look like, for you?

            And I agree that this motion serves to dissociate the university from violators of international law, and that this is definitely within its scope.

          • Luke

            I agree it’s very difficult to sound the student population, and even to get a good sample of it. But at least the mechanism of sounding could be less unilateral. I wanted to point out that a group collects a petition in order to show that there’s support for something they want done. And indeed, the signatures on a petition (often) represent that support. But everybody who said “no” for whatever reason will not appear on a petition, and so the final result gives no indication of opposition. By contrast, a good survey with multiple options allows you to tally how many people agree with each side rather than just with the one. This may not be the best means, but however one goes about it, I think the responsible response to a petition is first to find out whether there is also opposition to it.

  • Optimist

    Why do issues like these ALWAYS have to involve religion?
    Jews, Muslims, Christians etc …who cares?!

    There are Christians living in Palestine and Jews there as well being killed and displaced, not just Muslims. So why don’t we leave religion out of this and just stick to 2 sides: Israeli and Palestinian.

    At the end of the day, we can all agree that what Israel is doing isn’t right. No one should be killed over land! We are living in the 21st century, why can’t we be civilized! We’re dealing with ones existence! We take that for granted and once its taken away from us do we then see its worth.

    And with Syria, honestly it’s going to pass eventually! We all know history and what happened with Germany. But, look at Germany today: 60 years later and its functioning pretty well. I’m not saying that we should ignore the problem-ofcourse not! People there are being denied the most simplest of human rights! But don’t worry, with time, things will be all right.

    Be in God’s care.

    • MarkinTO

      Thank you for summing up the absolute intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the IAW movement. e.g. Yeah Syria is fucked up, genocide and shit, but who cares, that will pass, who cares that it’s destabilizing the entire region and producing a body count larger than all of the Israeli-Arab wars to date…Let me say that again, it has killed more people than ALL of the Arab-Israeli conflicts to date.

      Is there any reason you don’t give a shit about that (which is going on as we speak) but are instead pressing for the resolution of an issue that’s been unsolvable and stagnant for six decades?

      • Optimist

        Oh no don’t get me wrong! I’m all for Syria! What’s happening in Syra is horrible! And I’d love to see more pressure from external organizations but who gives a shit? The U.S? I think they’re enjoying this to be honest. They see the unstability happening in the middle east and they use it to their advantage. More power to them. Why aren’t they going into Syria and taking out a tyrant like they did with Saddam? Because Syria isn’t of interest…they have no oil or gold. Or look at Canada, the so-called “peace maker”! They seem to be avoiding Syria entirely.

        With Syria, this mass genocide of people has gotten WAY out of hand. 3 years ago, no one even heard a word from Syria and now, it’s a chaos. By saying that it’ll pass, I’m saying that Assad will soon realize that his time is up and will finally step down. But, who’s to say what Syria gets next (in terms of how Syria was prior to 2 years ago) will be better?

        • MarkinTO

          There is EXTREME interest in Syria bro, due to it’s proximity to Iran but putting boots on the ground will trigger regional conflict. Assad will not step down.

          • Optimist

            America will never get to Iran no matter how hard they try. Iran is a strong country and America has no business whatsoever to intervene with them. All the U.S wants is power but I highly doubt Iran will allow that to happen.

          • MarkinTO

            I remember the same things being said about Iraq and Afghanistan. They went and they will go to Iran, just a matter of time. Ongoing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. That’s why the Saudi’s and the gulf states are bankrolling the Syrian rebels, it’s in their national interest to undermine Assad which undermines Tehran.

    • Luke

      Yes, I suspect religion has little to do with the origins of this conflict.

  • Luke

    By the by, here is a paragraph from Wikipedia concerning the opinions of the same Noam Chomsky you cite in support of the terminology, but on the BDS campaign:

    Noam Chomsky, the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize recipient and a prominent activist for Palestinian human rights, has stated that he supports the “boycott and divestment of firms that are carrying out operations in the occupied territories” [61] but that anything that targets Israel alone can be attacked as antisemitism and “unfortunately this is with justice”.[62] According to Chomsky, the current BDS movement’s “hypocrisy rises to heaven”. He stated that the BDS campaign harms the “whole movement. It harms the Palestinians and it is a gift to the Israeli hardliners and their American supporters”, because the BDS’s “hypocrisy is so transparent… why not boycott the United States?.. Israeli crimes [are] a fragment of US crimes, which are much worse”. He also argued that the Palestinian people don’t support boycotting Israel and that the BDS movement is run by “one man NGOs” who falsely claim to represent the Palestinian people.[62][63] In the same interview, he also criticized BDS founder Omar Barghouti for advocating a full boycott of Israel, despite having studied at Tel Aviv University. Chomsky officially supports a more focused boycott of firms who are directly participating in the occupation of the West Bank, rather than a wholesale boycott of everything Israeli.

    (To be thorough in your research, I recommend going to the fascinating page for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and tracking down the sources, since of course Wikipedia should never be the be-all and end-all on research.)