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Canada student organisation endorses BDS

Activists attend a pro BDS march [Stephen Melkisethian/Flickr]

A Canadian student body has announced that it will endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) made the announcement at its general meeting in the Canadian capital Ottawa on Monday, condemning Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine and its violations against Palestinians.

The CFS – which consists of more than 500,000 members and oversees 64 member unions across Canada – denounced Israel’s “atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza and reaffirmed the Federation’s commitment to BDS and anti-war organising,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

As part of this effort, the CFS will approve financial donations of up to $500 to any pro-Palestinian organisation.

National Coordinator of Independent Jewish Voices Canada – a non-profit which supports BDS and is highly critical of organisations such as the Jewish National Fund (JNF) – Corey Balsam applauded the CFS’ decision, saying: “This is a crystal clear sign that the BDS movement is gaining momentum both in Canada and around the world, especially among students.”

READ: UK Church boycotts companies profiting from Israel occupation of Palestine

This is not the first time a Canadian university body has vowed to support BDS. In March, students at the University of Ottawa voted in favour of adopting BDS but the motion was not passed because they did not achieve a two-thirds majority. Despite a considerable campaign by pro-Israel advocacy groups and NGOs to swing the vote, the final count was seen as a victory for BDS supporters and labelled as “only the beginning of our efforts” by Independent Jewish Voices.

Outside Canada, support for BDS on university campuses has also been growing. Earlier this month, the University of Leeds became the first UK university to divest from companies that support the Israeli army. The decision was made to divest from three companies – Airbus, United Technologies and Keyence Corporation – after it emerged that the university had invested £2.4 million ($3.1 million) in these companies this year alone. Students, staff and alumni signed an open letter to the university’s chancellor arguing that “our university should not enable military occupation. Our tuition fees should not fund killing. Our education should not be at the expense of a person’s life”.

In September, a professor at the American University of Maryland refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student who wished to study in Israel. Citing his faculty’s pledge to support the BDS movement, John Cheney-Lippold told the student via email that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine. This boycott includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there”.

READ: Denmark to suspend funding to BDS groups

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