Spartacist Canada No. 160

Spring 2009


Zionism and Anti-Union Frenzy at York

(Young Spartacus pages)

In the wake of the savage Israeli invasion of Gaza, campus activists and trade unions are under attack for their defense of the besieged Palestinians. On February 22, 120 Zionist thugs led by the fascistic Jewish Defence League besieged a Windsor conference of a committee of the Ontario division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). They brandished banners ominously threatening to “Terminate Sid Ryan,” CUPE Ontario’s president, for the union’s pro-Palestinian stance. Days later, Tory immigration minister Jason Kenney escalated the Zionist witchhunt, calling on the union to get rid of Ryan and raving about “a very dangerous opinion environment for many Jewish students.”

Toronto’s York University is at the epicenter of the Zionist offensive on the campuses, which has seen both open repression and McCarthyite thought control of student and teacher activists. On February 11, the Zionist-led campus group “Drop YFS” held a press conference to promote their goal of deposing the York Federation of Students (YFS) on the grounds that it supported a recent strike by CUPE Local 3903, which represents teaching and graduate assistants and contract faculty. Rather than face criticism from leftist activists who sought to attend the press conference, the leaders of Drop YFS barred them at the door. Cancelling their own event, Drop YFS scurried straight into the office of the Hillel Zionists, scurrilously claiming they were intimidated by “anti-Semitic” leftists. A day later, when Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) held a pro-Palestinian demonstration on the campus, they were met by a mob of Zionists sporting Israeli Defense Force paraphernalia in a sea of Israeli flags.

The Zionist witchhunt is completely intertwined with strikebreaking at York. CUPE 3903, whose leaders include well-known pro-Palestinian activists, has just come off the longest university strike in English Canadian history. Right-wing students organized anti-strike rallies on behalf of the campus administration and President Mamdouh Shoukri, as he hardlined against the union’s modest demand to raise wages to a level closer to the poverty line. These reactionary students provided the provincial Liberal government ammunition to force an end to the strike.

On January 27, the teachers and their supporters protested against the Liberals’ strikebreaking legislation. Toronto cops attacked their rally and arrested four people on bogus charges of assaulting police. Behind the pompous and regal ceremony of bourgeois democracy lies the armed violence of the cops against the working class. Hands off CUPE 3903! Drop the charges!

No Illusions in Canadian Imperialism!

CUPE Ontario’s call for active labour support to Palestinian national rights marks a break with the pro-Zionist consensus that has historically dominated in the Canadian labour bureaucracy and especially the NDP. In standing with the oppressed Palestinians, the union has also slammed into the Harper government’s uncompromising support for Israel as well as the ramped-up “war on terror” that targets the Muslim population for state repression. As we wrote when CUPE Ontario came under Zionist fire more than two years ago: “This is a frontal attack on the right of the labour movement to champion causes on behalf of the oppressed and an open invitation to union-busting by the capitalist state” (“Defend CUPE Ontario! Defend the Palestinians!” SC No. 150, Fall 2006).

Those leftists and trade unionists who rise to the defense of CUPE Ontario would be mistaken, however, to support its endorsement of the international “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine” (BDS) campaign against Israel. BDS activists here call on the same Canadian corporations that exploit workers at home and abroad and the same Canadian imperialist state that wages bloody war on the peoples of Afghanistan to come to the aid of the oppressed Palestinians by severing ties with Israel. In doing so, BDS fosters the worst illusions in capitalist Canada as a “peacekeeper” and a potential ally of downtrodden people.

In particular, the demand to boycott Israeli universities appeals to the supposed morality of Canadian academic institutions and funding bodies to break their links with the murderous Israeli regime. It speaks volumes about the liberal-reformist outlook of SAIA that during the teachers strike they begged York president Mamdouh Shoukri to uphold “values that York University cherishes most” (!) and “publicly condemn” Israel’s attacks on a Gaza university.

Universities in Canada are no less attached to the Canadian state than Israeli universities are to the Zionist state. The governing bodies of York and the University of Toronto are rogues’ galleries of the Canadian ruling class. No different from their Israeli counterparts, Canadian universities are run to benefit the capitalists, in the first place by training the administrative, technical and cultural personnel the capitalist system needs. This can range from the benign (high school math teachers, say) to the deeply malignant (military researchers, CSIS operatives or “industrial relations” strikebreakers).

The multiple attempts to muzzle defenders of the Palestinians underscores this fact. Since the start of this year alone, Ottawa’s Carleton University has taken the Orwellian measure of banning a poster that depicts a Palestinian child under a descending Israeli missile. University of Toronto president David Naylor personally intervened to block room bookings for a conference about Israeli Apartheid after a Zionist reactionary tipped him off. Now U of T’s administration plans to send its thought police into pro-Palestinian meetings.

Unlike the liberal BDS campaign, the Spartacus Youth Club is for class struggle against the Canadian capitalist class and its agencies like the university administrations. For worker-student-teacher control of the universities! Abolish the administration! Students must look to the social power of the working class, the only social force capable of sweeping away capitalism worldwide and ending once and for all the genocidal terror against the Palestinians and all other oppressed nations.