Take a closer look


I do not enjoy disputes. Sometimes, however, something needs to be said. There are a couple of things that trouble me about Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) policy that was recently passed by our Students’ Union.

First, the motion was presented with an extreme bias. I am not complaining about this – biases are simply a fact of life – but in a democracy it is crucial to thoroughly examine all sides of every issue. I have heard from many students present at the meeting that determined this policy. I was disappointed to hear that there was very little dialogue over the positive and negative points of the motion or its less obvious implications. Many who were there were ready to leave after a long meeting and did not feel clear on said implications.

“Support Palestinian Rights.” Any world-conscious university student instantly feels an obligation to those words. Of course I am in favour of human rights! I firmly believe in respect and tolerance of other human beings, even where beliefs are not shared. However, using loaded words such as “human rights”  in such a serious motion tends to gloss over the fact that there is another side to the argument that should not be overlooked and fully elaborated upon.

This boycott and the celebration and support of Israel Apartheid Week are not just about something happening far away. It is not just about a far-removed situation through which we can demonstrate our political and social ideals without fear of hitting closer to home. The truth is that there are people right here who are affected by it. The stance that our university has adopted is neither welcoming nor accepting toward Israeli and Jewish students and the people representing these groups in our city.

It is easy to look at what is happening in other parts of the world and believe that a policy like this as a step toward the globalization of equal rights that visionaries and activists desire. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that even under the pretext of “human rights,” we all have culturally and individually preconceived notions of who and what should have certain rights. To me, it seems that we should be very careful about “playing judge” in our policies. Even if we believe we are supporting a motion to potentially aid other human beings, we need to examine all the angles very carefully for the sake of our own integrity and for the sake of those affected by our decisions.

I could offer links to news articles about terrorist acts against the Israeli people and statistics about which side has done what in the war, but I am not here to change anyone’s mind. I simply want to encourage both the student body and our elected leaders to consider the full picture before making decisions that have such far- and near-reaching consequences. We are a democracy, and it is our responsibility to examine our decisions carefully and from all perspectives before we act. We need to put our own biases aside and consider all of the angles in order to make fully-educated decisions, both individually and on the larger scale.

Unfortunately, there has not been full representation of some aspects of the BDS policy and support of IAW. Because of this, UR Friends of Israel is petitioning for the motion to be re-considered with both sides fully examined and equally represented. I sincerely hope that our students’ union is willing to reconsider and hear another side. Whether or not the motion would pass a second time, I believe that as a democratic student body, we have a responsibility to at least do that much.

Melissa Enns



  1. Nik 20 March, 2012 at 11:33

    Great article Melissa.  I absolutely agree with you.  When we focus on only one side of the issue without raising the concerns and real-life impact to others that are adversely affected, we do ourselves a great disservice.  Case in point on this issue particularly, the documentary "Hating Jews on Campus", which can be found at the link: http://www.stepupforisrael.com/hating-jews-on-campus/
    Great job and keep up the good work!!

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