York reinstates Herut, Students Against Israeli Apartheid

Lauren Isaacs, right, educating a fellow York University student about Zionism in the Vari Link hallway on campus on Oct. 7.

On Jan. 13, York University announced it was restoring full privileges to Herut Canada and Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), two student groups that were suspended following a violent protest last November.

The school rescinded certain privileges of the two groups, such as the ability to set up tables and host events on campus, on Dec. 6. The suspensions were in response to the events of Nov. 20, when SAIA protestors and pro-Israel counter-protesters clashed outside a Herut event.

York restored the privileges after the two groups committed to uphold the school’s “policies, procedures and principles to protect the safety and rights of students, faculty and staff,” the school said in a statement.

Those commitments came following separate discussions with the groups that were facilitated by independent third-party mediator Bob Bordone, whom the statement described as “a highly respected senior fellow at Harvard Law School who founded and directed the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program.”

Lauren Isaacs, the Toronto director of Herut Canada, said the facilitated meeting was “a step that we never should have had to take.” Now that the group’s privileges have been reinstated, she said it doesn’t plan on doing anything differently and has already applied to run more events.

Isaacs also discussed what she would like to see from SAIA going forward.

“Every group has the right to protest. But they do not have a right to disrupt, threaten, intimidate and scare and harm our participants. So if they would like to protest, I would like them to do it far away from us and be respectful in doing it and not disrupt our events and shut down free speech just because they have a difference of opinion,” she said.

SAIA did not respond to a request for comment, but it did post a statement on its website after its privileges were restored, saying that, “As a result of the facilitated discussion, both York University’s administration and SAIA York re-affirmed their commitment to abide by four principles set out by York University president Rhonda Lenton. Those principles relate to campus safety, respect for diversity and free speech and group and individual responsibility.

“SAIA York has always been committed to those principles and will continue to uphold them.”

York is conducting an internal review of the events of Nov. 20 and has hired former Supreme Court justice Thomas A. Cromwell to perform an external review. The university said it may take further action with Herut and SAIA based on the findings and recommendations of the two inquiries.