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Posted February 21, 2013

Student Statement

"UofT Graduate Students Demand that University of Toronto Divest From Israeli Companies that Violate Human Rights"

TORONTO - At the December 10, 2012 Annual General Meeting of The University of Toronto Graduate Students' Union, the members of the Union voted to support the boycott, divestment and sanction of Israeli companies that violate human rights. The motion passed by members, calls on "the University of Toronto to refrain from investing in all companies complicit in violations of international law. This includes any company that profits from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, directly benefits from the construction of the Wall and Israel settlements, and profits from the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinian people".

"It is our belief and the belief of our members that the University of Toronto has a duty, as it did when students once pushed for divestment from South Africa, to uphold our basic principles as academics and thus abhor the consistent abuses of the human rights of the people of Palestine," says, Erin Oldynski, External Commissioner for the Union. "Our work is meant to create and generate knowledge for the betterment of all, not to enforce and sustain horrid warfare and oppression. Moreover, our mission at the University - according to the University of Toronto's institutional statement of purpose - is to stand for the 'vigilant protection for individual human rights, and a resolute commitment to the principles of equal opportunity, equity and justice'.

As students, it is our duty to remind the University of these obligations, whether at home or abroad. Universities are, ultimately, bodies with the power, wealth and influence to reach across borders and affect nations. As students of this University, we are responsible to engage and challenge to ensure these standards are met, for our University and, in this case, in solidarity with the people of Palestine".

The Union's Executive, having received this directive from the membership in one of the Union's most well-attended Annual General Meetings to date, intends to move forward on this call, placing pressure on the University to not invest in any such conflict zones - especially in the state of Israel - and support through sheer complacency the continued abuse of the Palestinian people. The call put forward by members, however, does not condemn the people of Israel, nor is it the view of the Union that such a stance would be productive or just.

"While the Union clearly stands behind the Palestinian people in their bid for respect and basic humans rights, we also do not wish to vilify the populace of Israel. We believe in those who stand for peace, which included an Israeli peace activist who spoke at our meeting, and against a corrupt government and ever-profiting corporations," Oldynski stated, "We do not believe - as some will surely claim we do - that progress should come with the annihilation of another people or state, nor do we believe that the provision of basic human rights and the following of international law comes with such a cost."

In this new year, the Union's Social Justice Committee will be working towards positive and engaging means to carry out this mandate, including further outreach to members and the community on the subject, while the Union's Executive shall bring forward this clear message to the University administration. To this end, the committee invites students and community members to a free Cinema Politica film screening of "Five Broken Cameras," a documentary that chronicles one Palestinian farmer's nonviolent resistance to the Israeli army. This screening begins at 8pm on Thursday, February 28 at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) in room 5150. OISE is located at 252 Bloor Street West in Toronto and is wheelchair accessible.

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