On February 17th, members of Carleton Labour and Student Solidarity (CLASS) demonstrated our support for the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) to endorse Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) – Carleton’s divestment campaign.
Members of CLASS were present alongside many other activists and demonstrators affiliated with a diverse group of student and community organizations and labour unions. As a campus-based organization that originated from labour struggles and solidarity at Carleton, CLASS supports Carleton’s divestment from labour exploitation, war profiteering, environmental degradation and financing the illegal occupation of Palestine.
SAIA forwarded a motion for CUSA to endorse a divestment from Israeli apartheid. This motion would call for Carleton University to withdraw investment in Northrup Grumman, BAE Systems, Motorola and Tesco Supermarkets from Carleton’s pension fund. All four companies are directly involved with violating the human rights of Palestinian people.
This motion followed the orchestrated derailment by CUSA executive members who proposed a “Socially Responsible Investment” policy. CUSA’s executive director, President, Vice Presidents (Finance and Student Issues) and Council Chair had developed a strategy to appease pro-apartheid organizers with strong connections to media sources while silencing Palestinian students and their allies. The SRI policy was approved. Subsequently, the CUSA Council Chair dismissed the SAIA motion citing CUSA’s newly formed SRI would override direct references to occupied Palestine and naming the four companies involved with apartheid.
Demonstrators amalgamated in the halls of the 20th floor of Dunton Tower outside of the council meeting. The Carleton University Director of Student Affairs had been present with deputized security forces to prevent a majority of SAIA supporters from entering the meeting. The demonstration remained peaceful as they chanted and shouted support for the SAIA members who were permitted to enter the meeting space. News from within the meeting space was released by SAIA members to the supporters outside of the room, which would change the tones, chants, and actions of the demonstrators.
CLASS had followed a strong line of respecting the direction SAIA wanted its members and supporters to follow. This direction included making demands from CUSA representatives, criticizing representatives’ poor decisions, and calling our vocal support for the survivors of Israeli’s apartheid policies. Following the meeting’s adjournment, SAIA supporters celebrated our victories and debriefed in the Unicentre Atrium.
Within this direction, SAIA and supporters were not acting to intimidate councillors, nor had we conducted any violence at the February 17th meeting. The only commentators of safety and violence had been CUSA executives and executive director who had attempted to shape the tone of the meeting with falsified threats of violence. On that day, no CUSA member can make a factual claim that they faced a similar fear or violence to what occurs systemically through Israeli state terrorism inflicted upon the people living in the Occupied Territories. If violence and intimidation were part of CLASS’ direction or agenda, our numbers would have ensured such things to happen.
CLASS and SAIA supporters demonstrated our support for the SAIA member’s democratic participation within the CUSA council meeting, and displayed our discontent when it had been silenced. We had also held democratic participation with chants of “let them vote” throughout the halls outside of the meeting. We vocalized our demands for councillors to vote on SAIA’s motion and obstructed CUSA’s actions that prevented the dialogue to continue on divesting from Israeli apartheid.
Again, anti-apartheid activists on our campus had been silenced, along with the people of Palestine and their family members and allies within the Carleton community.
CLASS is content with what we have learned from the February 17th CUSA council meeting. First, we know who our allies are and who we will continue to be united in solidarity with. These are the members of our campus that are active in struggles against the intersections of apartheid, oppression and labour exploitation. We will continue to march with them onto the Carleton University Board of Governors when it is called upon.
Secondly, we know we can no longer hold faith in a students’ association that prioritizes their privileges and complacency with apartheid, oppression and labour exploitation over campaigning alongside fellow students and workers on their campus. This is a constant practice by CUSA and can no longer be tolerated after a long series of incidents and statements that have not been publicly criticized. These problems are structural in a student organization that depoliticizes itself when radical actions and politics are called upon, and that executes an election campaign based on popularity as soon as its members get into office.
CLASS can and will no longer work within this defeated institution. Instead we will need to begin seeking other avenues in which to use student power to fight against an administration and city that oppresses us. Finally, we understand that in order to create a movement to replace the defunct students’ association with grassroots student unionism, we must continue to build our capacity and work to defeat the challenges ahead of us. CLASS is dedicated on growing in numbers and developing leadership amongst the thousands of students on Carleton campus.
CLASS has signed on to SAIA’s call for a Socially Responsible Investment Policy that specifically addresses the divestment from Israeli Apartheid and the companies involved in these practices. We highlight the labour exploitation and militarization that these companies participate in that directly affects workers of Palestine. We understand that as we fight labour exploitation and unfair and unsafe work practices within our own community at Carleton, we unite in solidarity with workers of the world who call on use for international support. CLASS will fight against the colonialist and capitalist systems of apartheid Israel and will work on deconstructing the state that produces these injustices.
We reiterate our disgust with the current members of CUSA who had silenced the voices of the Palestinian people and their allies as we demanded their support in the struggle against Israeli Apartheid. We unite in solidarity with SAIA and their supporters as we confront those who profit and defend the exploitation of Palestinian workers.
We will continue with fellow students to build a campus that is based on the goals to abolish injustice, exploitation and apartheid. As leadership is not defined by elections, we abandon all support or recognition that the current state of CUSA is not a tool for meeting these goals.
A Student and Worker