Defend academic conference on Israel/Palestine

CALL FOR ACTION: Defend academic conference on Israel/Palestine: SSHRC funding threatened!

Dear colleagues,

You may have heard by now that both B’nai Brith and CIJA have launched a very public campaign denouncing the upcoming “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace” to be held on Glendon campus from June 22-24, 2009.

Most recently, B’Nai Brith has asked Minister Gary Goodyear to review the SSHRC funding of the conference (see below). The minister has responded by asking SSHRC to consider conducting a second peer review of the conference funding application!

For other examples of how this attack on the conference is being waged, see the CIJA site (Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy) and an article in the National Post.

CALL FOR ACTION: Support academic freedom! Challenge these attacks on academic conference!

1) Write to York University President Shoukri. Congratulate him on his strong stand in support of the conference and academic freedom (though he also denounces the academic boycott of Israeli universities more generally). Tell him that you do not agree with CIJA.

E-mail: PRESIDNT@YORKU.CA (NOTE: There is no second “e” in this e-mail address; it is not a typo)

2) Write a letter to Minister Goodyear. Tell him that you object to a second peer review, and ask him to account for his actions. You may also wish to say that you support CAUT’s call for his resignation.
He can be reached at GOODYG@PARL.GC.CA

3) Attend the conference.

4) Write a letter to the Globe and Mail, responding to a recent article (200 words or less).

5) Sign Faculty4Palestine Open Letter to defend academic freedom and freedom of speech on Palestine in Canadian universities and colleges. Go to (click on red icon to view petition). To sign, send an email to

NOTE: For all letters, please add BCC: to (to make conference organizers aware of your support)


This is the B’Nai Brith call for censorship and against academic freedom, for your information.


B’nai Brith Canada has brought to urgent attention of the Government the sponsorship by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of an upcoming June 22nd-23rd conference at York University titled, “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace”. As many of you know, this conference being held under the guise of academia is in fact a blatant exercise in anti-Zionist propaganda. Its entire thrust calls into question the Jewish State’s very right to exist, and promises to be a veritable ‘who’s who’ of anti-Israel propagandists.

We were disturbed to learn that the SSHRC, a federal agency that is answerable to Parliament and which reports directly to the Minster of Industry, was listed as a lead sponsor on the conference’s website, contributing both moral and financial support.

Subsequent to our appeal to the Government on this matter, the Hon. Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, released a statement on the conference that is reproduced below. While the statement stops short of announcing a funding withdrawal, it does bring into question the SSHRC’s continued support for the conference.

Statement from the Hon. Gary Goodyear:

OTTAWA, June 5, 2009 – The following is a statement from the Hon. Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, on the conference at York University entitled, “Israel/Palestine: mapping models of statehood and prospects for peace”.

“Our government is committed to the principle academic independence and the independent, arms-length, peer review process for assessing applications for research grants.

“It has come to my attention that following a recommendation of a peer review board earlier this year, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council provided $19,750 under its Aid to Research Workshops and Conferences Program to a conference at York University entitled “Israel/Palestine: mapping models of statehood and prospects for peace”.

“Approval of this funding was based on an initial proposal that did not include detailed information on the speakers at the conference. Since funding was provided, the organizers of the conference have added a number of speakers to their agenda.

“Several individuals and organizations have expressed their grave concerns that some of the speakers have, in the past, made comments that have been seen to be anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic. Some have also expressed concerns that the event is no longer an academic research-focussed event.

“Therefore, I have spoken to the president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to bring these concerns to his immediate attention and asked that Council give them full consideration. In particular, I asked that the Council, once they have seen this information, to consider conducting a second peer review of the application to determine whether or not the conference still meets SSHRC’s criteria for funding of an academic conference.”


Convey your thanks and appreciation to the Minster for his request to the SSHRC that it reconsider its support for this conference in light of the serious concerns that have been brought to light.

Urge the Minister to direct the SSHRC to immediately withdraw its funding from this sham of a conference that seeks to delegitimize the Jewish State and its supporters here at home.

Please send a blind carbon copy of your letter to B’nai Brith Canada at

Office of the Hon. Gary Goodyear
117 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
T: (613) 996.1307
F: (613) 996.8340

B’nai Brith Canada has been active in Canada since 1875 as the foremost Jewish human rights organization. To learn more about its advocacy work and diverse community and social programs, please visit


SAMPLE LETTERS in FAVOUR of NOT rescinding funding for the conference (not to be confused with B’nai Brith’s request ABOVE to have funding cut off!):

SAMPLE LETTERS (to Minister Goodyear, York President Shoukri, SSHRC President Chad Gadfield):
NOTE: For all letters, please add BCC: to (to make conference organizers aware of your support)

Two sample letters TO MINISTER GOODYEAR

Dear Minister Goodyear,

I am writing to express my dismay at your recent blatant political interference in a major academic conference to be held at York University on Israel/Palestine. It is unprecedented for a minister, especially one from a department that funds granting councils to intervene personally to review funding for a conference that went through a full and partial review. The conference in question has a superb roster of speakers, with decades of internationally recognized scholarship reflected in the program. It is absolutely legitimate and critical that universities in democratic societies allow full and open debate on controversial issues such as involving the protracted conflicts in Israel/Palestine. I support CAUT’s call for your resignation based on your entirely illegitimate and appalling personal interference in the funding of this academic conference.

(your name/address)

Dear Minister Goodyear,

As an academic, a democratic theorist, and a citizen, I am appalled to learn that your Ministry has intervened to put pressure on the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to revisit a peer review process which led to a decision to fund a conference on paths to peace in Palestine/Israel.

It is, quite simply, not your place. A politician has no business using political criteria (support for Zionism, in this case) as a litmus test for allowing scholars to receive funding for their research or conferences. If you wish to pass a law dictating that only pro-Zionist research can be conducted in Canadian universities, please do so, so that at least you will have to debate this proposal in the House of Commons, in the context of responsible government, and so that your proposed repressive law will be subject to judicial review in accordance with the standards set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Using your Ministerial power to try to intimidate SSHRC, and to taint the peer review process with political interference and pressure, is outrageously inappropriate. It is an assault on free expression generally academic freedom in particular.

(your name/address)

* * * * * * * *


Dear President Shoukri,

I am writing to congratulate you on your strong support for holding the upcoming academic conference at Glendon on “Israel/Palestine.” The program is superb as is the quality of the speakers. I am disturbed that there is question about the academic integrity of this conference being raised and with the political interference that might jeopardize the promised funding by SSHRCC. This conference offers scholars of varying opinions to debate models of statehood in a troubled part of the world, and I applaud you and your administration for supporting this highly important event.

(your name/address)

Dear President Shoukri,
I am writing to commend you for stating your clear support for the upcoming conference, “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace”. I agree that it is entirely appropriate to include this in York’s 50th anniversary events calendar – indeed, it would be an outrage to exclude it. York is fortunate that the conference organizers decided on this university as the site for this excellent program and the high quality experts and speakers.

I understand that you have been under pressure for some time now to disavow this conference. Most notably, a May 12th statement by the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA) called for a letter-writing campaign to pressure you to remove support for the conference. Following your refusal, a new campaign to delegitimate and dismantle the conference is now underway. This week the B’nai Brith issued a statement urging federal Minister Gary Goodyear “to direct the SSHRC to immediately withdraw its funding” from the conference.

These pressure campaigns are mobilized around the false assumption that any criticism of the Israeli state is anti-semitic. They are in intended to silence legitimate and well-founded criticism of the Israeli state for its ongoing violations of international law (including the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, the apartheid wall, construction of settlements on occupied land, and refusing Palestinian refugees right of return).

You are correct in your decision to reject these intimidation tactics, and I hope your decision stands as an example for all university Presidents when confronted with similar repressive tactics in the future.

(your name, address)

* * * * * * * * * *


Dear President Gaffield,

I have recently learned that Minister Gary Goodyear has requested that you revisit a SSHRC peer-review process which resulted in a decision to grant funds to a conference that is being held at York University this month (“Israel/Palestine: Mapping \Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace”). I am writing to make you aware that academics across the country are outraged at the Minister’s blatant political interference in the funding of this major academic conference, and that his actions are being held under close scrutiny and condemnation. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has called for the Minister’s resignation. I urge you not to succumb to the Minister’s unprecedented and unwarranted pressure, and to fully reject his request for a re-review of the conference application.

(your name, address)

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