TORONTO – More than 130 University of Toronto faculty members and librarians signed a statement in support of a Graduate Students’ Union’s (GSU) petition that calls on the university to divest from three companies that do business with Israel.
“These three companies have been singled out because they manufacture and sell weaponry and other technologies that are being used to destroy Palestinian lives and welfare on a daily basis,” said the statement, titled, “Declaration of Faculty and Librarians in Support of the GSU Campaign for Divestment from the Israeli Occupation.”
U of T Divest, a GSU committee formed to promote the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, drafted a petition that calls on the University of Toronto Asset Management (UTAM) to divest from three companies – Northrop Grumman, Hewlett Packard, and Lockheed Martin – because they’re “directly profiting from the ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territories.”
“Given the long-term failure of diplomacy alone to address the rapidly deteriorating situation of Palestinians, it is imperative to take further action. We must identify the injustices, speak out against them, and support the Palestinian appeal for solidarity,” the statement said, urging the university to form a governing council committee to “refrain from investing in all companies involved in such violations of international law.”
The petition comes on the heels of a similar initiative at York University called YUDivest, which was endorsed earlier this month by the York University Faculty Association.
B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said that for an institution ranked as highly as U of T, the position taken by members of its faculty is alarming.
“The Canadian government has condemned the BDS movement, a movement steeped in anti-Semitism,” Mostyn said. “That so many members of the faculty are willing to endorse divestment from Israel demonstrates how ignorant they are to the facts… I worry about what our children are being taught.”
Hillel Ontario CEO Marc Newburgh said the fact U of T faculty and librarians single out Israel for condemnation and hold it to a higher standard of fairness than other democracies is “deplorable.”
He said an article in U of T’s campus newspaper the Varsity originally reported faculty supported the BDS movement, but Hillel intervened, and the article was edited to remove the BDS reference. “After Hillel asked for the original press release, that article was edited to report that a group of 125 random faculty have put together a petition calling for a divestment from only three companies, and removing the reference to a blanket support of BDS.”
Despite that distinction, Omar Sirri, a member of the GSU’s BDS committee, told the Varsity that faculty support is “wonderful news for the BDS movement on campus. This level of faculty support is further indication [that] support for the BDS movement is steadily growing.”
Newburgh said Hillel, its partners and U of T students have worked to “defeat BDS three times this year” and “will continue to support students in fighting BDS province-wide.”
Requests for comment from UTAM and U of T Divest went unanswered.