Council Meeting — May 19, 2021

Written by: Jaymee Salsi, News Writer 

Content warning: discussion of genocide, violence, and sexual violence. 

Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) response to the Israeli colonization of Palestine

Science undergraduate representative Zaid Lari brought forward a motion requesting the SFSS show solidarity with Palestinian SFU students. He proposed the SFSS release a statement condemning the occupation and colonization of Palestine and develop an issues policy outlining their stance on the subject.

Guest speaker Dalya Masri attended the Council meeting to discuss the 73-year Israeli occupation of Palestine and its continued colonization.

She outlined the Israeli military’s use of checkpoints and the construction of a wall to divide and control the movement of Palestinians. She also spoke about the violent attacks on Gaza being  used to prevent Palestinians from resisting colonization.

“Gaza has been bombarded with a lot of airstrikes in the past two weeks. Gaza and its civilians are damaged as a result,” she said.

As one option, Masri suggested the SFSS participate in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement to pressure Israel to end its oppression of Palestine. 

The movement is known as an “alternative to violent resistance,” as it involves the withdrawal of support from any organizations affiliated with Israeli violations of international law. 

“Many campuses have actually used BDS as a form of accountability measure to condemn and to pressure Israel [ . . . ] I suggest that you look into SFU’s endowment fund and see how many companies are operating on illegal Israeli settlements,” Masri said.

In response to the motion and the presentation, council members and guests discussed their ideas for the SFSS’ actions moving forward.

Emphasizing his belief in basic human rights, president of the Hillel Jewish student association Gabriel Pratico agreed that the SFSS should condemn the violence in Palestine and Israel. 

However, Pratico disagreed with the “characterization of Israel and its position within Jewish identity.” Due to the rise in antisemetic attacks across Canada, he said he is “concerned about the potential impacts to the safety of some Jewish students.”

Vice president university and academic affairs Serena Bains responded, “I think it’s important to recognize who has the power in the situation and that the Israeli government is backed by the United States and many other powerful global forces.”

Sustainable energy engineering representative Mohammad Al-Sheboul said the motion does not do the movement justice, “Not because it’s a bad motion and not because it’s not enough. But because it’s only the first step towards a long road that’s been paved for 73 years now [ . . . ] We need to look at more specifics and more direct ways of how we can help this.”

He suggested adjusting the motion’s wording to state Palestinians all around the world are being affected by Israel’s occupation.

The motion was amended to 

  • Acknowledge the sale of weapons and military supplies from the Canadian government to the Israeli government
  • Acknowledge the protests happening in all over the world and recognize the violence with which they’re met 
  • Form a working group to gather information on companies included in SFU’s investment portfolio and endowment fund
  • Continue discussion as the events in Palestine progress

To research and draft the statement and policy, a working group consisting of nine people was formed.

This motion was carried unanimously, as amended.

SFSS response to the genocide of the Uyghur Peoples

Lari also presented a motion for the SFSS to publicly condemn the Chinese Communist Party for its genocide of the Uyghur people. 

Officials from the United Nations have reported on China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs since 2018.

Lari requested the SFSS financially boycott companies that benefit from Xinjiang’s Uyghur internment camps and provide a platform for Uyghur activists to raise awareness on the subject. Boycotting companies would involve divesting funds that might be tied to the Chinese Communist Party.

A working group including councillors and students would be created to research the statement and policies.

Kabir Qurban gave a presentation outlining the events happening in East Turkestan/Xinjiang. 

Qurban said Uyghur people are being exploited for forced labour. “Men are being taken away so then they get sent to concentration camps and women are forced to find a living. So they go to these forced labour camps [ . . . ] where they produce goods for us.”

Torture, organ harvesting, and sexual violence occur at these concentration camps, he said.

According to Qurban, punishable crimes for Uyghur people include wearing a full beard, wearing veils, and not abiding by family planning policies.

Vice president internal and organizational development Corbett Gildersleve said he would contact the SFSS investment manager to see what kind of work might already be done on the subject and what other changes can be made.

Gender, sexuality, and women’s studies representative Devynn Butterworth expressed support for the motion, “It’s important to acknowledge that we are a newly elected Council and we need to be intentional with our choices, and that includes our finances, which is part of this motion.”

With nine volunteers for the working group, the motion was carried unanimously.

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