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Jewish human rights group condemns U of Manitoba Student Union attack on freedom of speech

April 15, 2013

"Banning a Palestinian solidarity organization and suppressing their annual event constitutes a serious attack on freedom of speech in Canada," declared Independent Jewish Voices spokesperson Sid Shniad. He was referring to a resolution passed by the University of Manitoba Students Union Thursday, which stripped the campus-based group Students Against Israel Apartheid (SAIA) of its status and banned Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) activities from UMSU property.

"IAW activities have taken place on the UM campus for years," Shniad stated, "In that time, supporters of Israel have regularly attempted to suppress criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights on the UM campus."

Shniad explained that Jewish supporters of Israel "often claim, as did the drafters of student union resolution did in this instance, that UM students 'fear for their safety' because of IAW. This is dishonest. A significant number of the students participating in SAIA and IAW events and other Palestinian solidarity work are Jewish. This is not about protecting Jewish students, as the framers of the resolution contend. This is about suppressing criticism of Israel," he emphasized.

"Our organization has co-sponsored IAW and related events across Canada, including those on the UM campus. Jewish Canadians have had a range of views on the issue of Israel since before the country was founded in 1948," says Shniad. "This is a case when one part of the community - those who provide unquestioning support for Israel -- has succeeded in suppressing the views of those with whom it disagrees."

"Instead of being honest about what was at stake here, the people who crafted the resolution framed it as the defence of a 'national minority' whose dignity and self-esteem was affronted by SAIA and its IAW-related activities" explained Shniad. "According to the framers of the resolution, Zionist students are members of this so-called new 'national minority' by virtue of the fact that they support the state of Israel!"

"Independent Jewish Voices will be working with students at the UM and others who share our concerns to undo the damage caused by this decision. We urge civil libertarians, activists and academics of all stripes to respond strongly to this outrageous attack on freedom of speech to ensure that it is reversed," Shniad continued. "Such political censorship cannot be allowed to stand."

For more information contact:
Sid Shniad
Independent Jewish Voices
Phone: 604-314-5589

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