FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 8TH, 2011
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Room Cancellation at York University
Public Statement About Israeli Apartheid Week
On Thursday the 3rd of March 2011, less than one week before the beginning of the Seventh Annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), the administration of York University informed the IAW organizers of a change to a room booking which had been made over one month in advance. The message from the administration was clear- the room will be cancelled unless the group pays “security fees” to hire police to be present during the event. This decision was based on a “security assessment” by York University. Despite repeated requests from the IAW organizers, the York administration refused to explain what the security considerations involved, and did not share any information as to what or who is the source of the security threat.
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA-York), the organizer of the event, refused to pay the “security fees” for the following reasons:
i) Accessibility: These fees will put a significant strain on the very limited budget of the student group.
ii) Unreasonable demand: SAIA-York does not see any need for police presence. IAW activities took place on York campus for the past 3 years without incident, and there is no basis to believe that this year will be different. This is especially the case given that the three speakers at the event are, two professors, one of whom teaches at York, and the third is a York student. Furthermore, it is unjust for SAIA-York to be asked to pay to protect itself from harassment done to its members and supporters by outside aggressors.
This last minute condition imposed by the York administration is consistent with the recent pattern where the Israel Lobby groups pressure educational institutions to raise the costs for holding Palestine advocacy events. Last month, Mohawk College presented a similar ultimatum for allowing a lecture by Dr. Norman Finklestein to proceed as planned on its campus. Unfortunately, by imposing the security fees and putting a price tag on freedom of speech and inquiry, York University has become the most recent institution to use this silencing tactic. This of course comes as no surprise. As demonstrated by a number of incidents in the past, documented by publications and reports, York University’s commitment to freedom of speech is almost always limited when it comes to Palestine.
SAIA-York calls on supporters of Israeli Apartheid Week and everyone who supports freedom of speech and inquiry to contact York President Mamdouh Shoukri. Help explain to York University Administration the importance of freedom of speech, and that freedom of speech should not be treated as a commodity granted or denied based on the ability to pay.