Canadian Jewish groups divided over BDS


Canadian Jewish groups are fighting back pro-Israel advocacy groups after a campaign was launched encouraging students to opt out of student union fees. 

“[Independent Jewish Voices Canada] will continue to stand up against attempts by pro-Israel advocacy groups—Jewish or otherwise—to undermine student organizing and human rights activism on campuses,” Corey Balsam, 

IJV national coordinator, said. The Canadian Jewish News (CJN) had previously received a letter from the leaders of four Jewish groups—B’nai Brith Canada, Hasbara Fellowships, StandWithUs, and the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation—urging students to opt out of Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) union fees because CFS supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which amounts to ‘antisemitism’. 

“Today, in Ontario, there is finally some good news: every Jewish student (and ally) can strike a simple and cost-saving blow against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on campus,” read the letter signed by the leaders of the four groups sent to CJN. 

The BDS movement is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality.

IJV said in their press release that although CFS has voted in favour of the BDS movement in their November 2018 General Assembly, their members had also passed the notion to revitalize their No-Anti Semitism campaign, adding that these efforts are not contradictory in any way. 

“We applaud the Canadian Federation of Students for its commitment to Palestinian human rights as well as to fighting antisemitism,” Balsam said. 

Geneviève Charest, a representative of CFS said that they are currently developing and renewing the No-Anti Semitism campaign and should have draft materials ready for CFS members to review at the upcoming November 2019 General Meeting. 

CFS said in their statement on the motion to support BDS that the movement is a call from Palestinian Civil Society which asks for freedom, justice and equality by applying pressure on Israel to comply with international law and end its military occupation in Palestinian territories, while also granting equal rights to Palestinians.

The press release issued by IJV states that the new definition of antisemitism is being used to silence any criticism against Israel and is being weaponized against the BDS movement.

Balsam said that the BDS movement is strong and resilient and so blatant efforts by right-wing pro-Israel groups like B’nai Brith and Stand WithUs to shut down student organizing are more than likely to just encourage more support for BDS in the long run.

Jewish people, including Jewish Canadians, are among one of the most vocal critics of Israeli actions vis-à-vis Palestinians, he said.

“A recent poll of Canadian Jews conducted by EKOS found that almost equal proportions oppose [45 percent] and support [42 percent] the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” Balsam said.


  1. This really isn’t the state of affairs. IJV is a fringe group amongst Jews with little support. To portray their support for BDS tantamount to a serious fracture in Jewish community on Israel is disingenuous.

    At any rate, one wonders how a unilateral economic and cultural (!) boycott of a nation is a prudent way to achieve peace, when both sides are culpable for our impasse. One wonders additionally how providing students with choice over where their money goes is an attempt to “undermine student organizing and human rights activism on campuses.”


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