A motion endorsing the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at a Canadian university received a majority of the votes despite losing out to the anti-BDS camp on Tuesday.
The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) turned down a motion calling for the boycott of Israeli products, even though BDS supporters received 241 votes, which was ten more than the pro- Israeli groups. The students required a two-thirds majority for the SFUO to endorse the BDS movement.
Most of the students voted in favour of BDS despite a concerted lobbying campaign by a number of Jewish organisations. Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva reported that before the vote Jewish advocacy group B'nai Brith Canada warned the SFUO that any endorsement of BDS could trigger serious legal consequences.
Pro-Israel lobby groups such as Hillel Ottawa also mounted a campaign against the motion by "mobilising 30 to 40 Jewish students and non-Jewish allies" according to Canadian Jewish News "to show up in the room where they spoke against the motion very passionately and intelligently."
Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) UOttawa-Carleton refuted the claim that it was a victory for the pro-Israeli camp saying that they were "out-organised and out-voted".
Describing the vote as an "historic gain", Co-President of IJV, Geneviève Nevin, denounced the claim that the motion was anti-Semitic: "Students from Hillel Ottawa and the Israeli Awareness Committee claimed that this motion was an attack on Jews …
As a Jew, I will not let my Jewish identity be utilised to justify the human rights violations carried out by the Israeli state.
"These organisations do not speak for me, nor do they speak for many other Jews at the University of Ottawa".
IJV statement reported that the motion was brought forth by Students for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), IJV UOttawa-Carleton and the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM). It called upon the SFUO to endorse targeted and non-violent economic measures against companies with ties to the Israeli government, military and illegal settlements, until such a time that Israel complies with international law.
IJV said it was "extremely pleased to see such mobilisation in favour of Palestinian human rights," adding "this is only the beginning of our efforts and we are very proud of what we have accomplished."
The motion is expected to be referred to the Board of Administrators where it will be voted on at a later date.