If you are a student, you no doubt have been recently challenged by a vote by the student councils of both McGill and Concordia University promoting a pro-Palestinian vote on BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel which have both been shelved for the present.
The PIRG movement was originally proposed in the book Action for a Change by Ralph Nader and Donald Ross, and materialized in the early 1970’s on U.S. college campuses starting with University of Minnesota. By the 1980’s, the PIRG movement caught fire in North America. Today, there are more than 200 PIRGs in the US and 20 in Canada.
However, the Canadian PIRG model has diverged sharply from its U.S. counterpart.
While most US PIRGs are state-based lobby and community action groups, Canadian PIRGs are almost entirely run on university campuses. US PIRGs focus primarily on issues related to environmental protection, child health and obesity prevention, closing corporate tax loopholes, increasing energy efficiency, health care reform, consumer protection, and public transit reform. However in Canada, this public interest research idea has become a cover for the most virulent anti-Israel demonization campaign on campuses throughout Canada otherwise known as Israel/apartheid week, a week dedicated to promoting the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) demonization of Israel on campus.
Sixteen of Canada’s 21 PIRGs are involved in funding, planning and/or executing Israel Apartheid Week on their campuses. “Wherever there is an anti-Israel event on campus, it is likely run by a so-called ‘Public Interest Research Group,’ or ‘PIRG,’ financed by students who have no idea how anti-Israel they are,” said Dr. Roy Eappen, assistant professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal. In fact, every Israel Apartheid Week held in Canada, except for Winnipeg’s and New Brunswick’s, received funding from a PIRG last year.
All Canadian PIRGs provide discretionary funding to dozens of working groups and events that speak out against Israel. QPIRG McGill and Concordia’s most up-to-date list includes a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Conference which took place in October 2010 in Montreal, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights-Concordia, a “Remember Gaza” event, and many others. They will tell you that they also fund other worthy causes. I will get back to this later.
University of Regina’s PIRG, actively supports BDS, describing itself as a group of students “committed to showing support to the people of Palestine by answering the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society call for Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel”. The PIRG at the University of Lethbridge, in Western Canada, recently screened documentaries by Concordia film professor Mary Ellen Davis that denounced “the occupation” and hosted an event with the author of Building Apartheid, a book described by LPIRG as “a critical primer about Canada’s ties to Israel that suggests Canadian complicity in the 20th and 21st century colonialism, dispossession, and war crimes.”
Tadamon is another Pro-Palestinian Montreal group connected with Concordia and funded by QPIRG, Tadamon claims in its mission statement that they “recognize that the colonization of Palestine has, from its inception, been connected to Western European aspirations to dominate the entire ‘Middle East,’ and oppose the apartheid policies of Israel and endorse the July 2005 call by Palestinian civil society organizations for an international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. According to QPIRG’s (Quebec PIRG) annual report, Tadamon, receives the maximum allocation a PIRG is allowed to give to a working group ($2000.) This sum does not include the money QPIRG spent organizing Israel Apartheid Week at McGill last year. Those sums are listed under discretionary expenses and allocations to other supposedly worthy causes, such as LGBT, aboriginal issues, feminism. However if you analyze the platforms of these groups you will notice that they too are focused and committed to BDS/QPIRG/Tadamon issues.
Tadamon, for example which supports the removal of Hezbollah from the Canadian government’s list of terror organizations, also supports artists against apartheid campaign, as well as Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and of course Tadamon is a co-host of Montreal’s Israel Apartheid Week in conjunction with QPIRG McGill and QPIRG Concordia.
Tadamon’s letter of thanks to QPIRG reads:“Because of QPIRG McGill, we have been able to actively work with students and student groups at McGill, such as SPHR (Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights) and the Political Action Working Group of Queer McGill.”
This begins to explain why queer organizations in Montreal and Toronto consistently parade against Israel, caliming that Israel is an “apartheid state” even while Israel is the only country in the Middle East that protects gay rights.
Now here is the dope on student funding of PIRGs. Canadian university-based PIRGs are funded by a fee of $1-$5 per semester that is imposed on all students, meaning that some PIRGs get up to $300,000 per year. While at some universities, students can opt out of the fee, some PIRGs make it very difficult and guilt-inducing, requiring students to visit their headquarters where they are made to feel that if they opt out, that they don’t care about social and environmental justice,” said Jess Weiser, a 2011 McGill graduate who led the university’s QPIRG Opt-Out campaign. The McGill administration changed the system in 2007 to enable students to opt out of the fee anonymously and online.
McGill is not the only university that has acted to create an opt-out option.Opt-out committees, such as “StopNSPIRG.org” in Nova Scotia and “NOPIRG” in Ontario, encourage students to opt-out of these organizations because they fail to support the views of the majority, opting only to advocate for “marginalized” “leftist” causes like “anticolonialism”. OPIRG Queen’s in Kingston, Ontario, lost its fee of $4.36 per student after 62 per cent of voters in a February referendum voted for its removal. The organization is now defunct; its website has not been updated since the end of the Winter 2012 semester. (It is interesting to note that there was no Israel Apartheid Week 2012 held in Kingston, after having been held there in previous years). University of Western Ontario’s PIRG was shut down in 2008 due to its controversial positions on many issues. It had been the official sponsor of a number of pro-Palestinian speakers on campus. At McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, the use of the term “Israeli Apartheid” was banned, which caused an uproar from the OPIRG McMaster offices and the cessation of activities related to the delegitimization of Israel from that PIRG.
As noted above, These PIRG’s support advocacy for an anarchist, socialist political system, as is evident by the many events and organizations they sponsor: For example they compare the aboriginal issues in Canada with the Israel Palestine conflict, claiming that Canada too is an apartheid state that has “stolen aboriginal lands” in the same way that supposedly “Israel has stolen Palestinian land”. Although these ideas are totally bizarre and intellectually bankrupt, they manage to attract young students eager to be on the right side of traditional left wing liberal causes.
Fortunately students are getting wise to this scam. The McGill PIRG has been feeling the bite and has gone to the extent of writing the following article in the McGill Daily: The Anti-PIRG Campus Conservative Conspiracy.
The next struggle will be to educate the Concordia campus to institute an opt-out option.
Written by Abigail Hirsch, an educated observer of the campus scene
Researched by Alexandra Markus, a recent graduate of McGill University and second year medical student.
For anyone interested in pursuing these issues I am listing some relevant recent events connected to BDS.
British Architects Reverse Israel Boycott Motion, in Severe Blow to BDS Movement http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/12/05/british-architects-reverse-israel-boycott-motion-in-severe-blow-to-bds-movement/
Hating Jews at Berkeley http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/12/05/hating-jews-at-berkeley/
Crushing Labor Unions, and Other Harbingers of a Palestinian Dictatorshiphttp://www.algemeiner.com/2014/12/05/crushing-labor-unions-and-other-harbingers-of-a-palestinian-dictatorship/
This is an article from the Dean of a University: Martin Kramer
When the Middle East Studies Association Boycotts Israel:http://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/2014/12/when-the-middle-east-studies-association-boycotts-israel/
And for anyone who doubts that the left is ant-semitic, I suggest this article by Robert Wistrich, the foremost scholar in the field