Ethical Collaboration UW, a student-run campaign, submitted a petition of 4,000 signatures to Feds Oct. 8 calling for Feds to hold a referendum asking students if they support severing ties with Israeli institutions they believe are complicit in the violation of Palestinians’ human rights.</p>
The petition, which was handed over to executive members of Feds, is over the threshold of 10 per cent of students needed to trigger a referendum according to the Feds bylaws. The vote would be non-binding on UW, but could be binding on Feds as an advocacy issue if the referendum reaches a minimum of seven per cent turnout for the winning side.
“We really want to start the conversation,” said Zainab Ramahi, a spokesperson for Ethical Collaboration. “We’re looking forward to engaging with the administration on this and working in a collaborative and co-operative manner so that everybody’s concerns are taken into account.”
UW is aware of the petition and has decided to “support Feds as they proceed in accordance with their bylaws,” said Nick Manning, UW director of media relations and issues management.
Ethical Collaboration UW believes that the 4,000 signatures are already an accomplishment that shows the students’ voice and a commitment to dignity for all. The campaign for ethical collaboration is taking place in campuses across North America.
The campaign has often received questions regarding why it has focused particularly on Israeli institutions and what actions are actually being taken by the group under the umbrella of ethical collaboration.
“Our response has always been: as Canadians, we are responding to an articulated call from the Palestinian people whose suffering is very well documented by a myriad of human rights organization and international governing bodies,” said Ramahi. “We need to do our part and put pressure on this rogue state to conform with international norms of human rights. We have to start somewhere.”
The group’s petition centres on its concerns with the obstruction to access to education for Palestinians in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. These include obstructions created by checkpoints and roadblocks as well as restrictions on scholarships and participation in on-campus activities.
The institutions named by the petition are the University of Haifa, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
“Waterloo proactively engages with international research-intensive universities that share our values of academic freedom, freedom of expression, and equity. Our academic partnerships seek to advance knowledge creation that will positively impact the world in which we live and are developed through processes that are open and transparent,” said Manning.
The petition is also endorsed by several other on-campus student groups that include the Aboriginal Students Association, Conrad Grebel Peace Society, the Muslim Students Association, Students for Palestinian Rights, and the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group.
“UW students are often characterized as being apathetic, but this is really demonstrating quite the opposite — is that we’re active, that we’re engaged — we’re involved in our local community and our global community,” said Ramahi.
Maaz Yasin, the VP internal at Feds, said that they have received the petition and are in the process of verifying signatures. If all the signatures are found to be from registered students, the next step for Feds would be to call a referendum. While Feds is involved in the process, Yasin adds that Feds will hold a “very neutral” position in the matter.
“We don’t think it’s our place to advocate as Feds on an issue like this. However, if we do have a referendum and students express a strong opinion one way or another, it is definitely our place to let the university know that this is what students said,” said Yasin.