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By: Biran Falk-Dotan

I’ve been a student at McMaster for three years, and every year the same controversy comes up. One side claims that Israel is a tolerant and peaceful nation; the other side blames Israel for the oppression and deaths of Palestinians. Each year, The Silhouette publishes multiple Opinions articles on this issue. During my time at Mac, this issue and Boycott Divestment Sanctions dominated two MSU General Assemblies, taking precedence over matters that were immediately relevant to McMaster students. My claim is going to be unpopular with both sides: as students, we should focus on other things.

The Israel/Palestine problem is complicated. On one hand, many Palestinians live in poverty and suffer legitimate oppression, but on the other hand many of Israel’s actions are in response to a real security threat. Everyone agrees that there is a problem, but nobody can agree on the solution. Should it be a one-state or two-state solution? Should other states actively accept Palestinian refugees? The MSU has endorsed a boycott, but boycotts must have specific policy goals in order to be meaningful. We should acknowledge that there is no widely accepted solution.


Even if the solution were clear, the Israel/Palestine issue has no implications for the personal, social, or academic activities of McMaster students. Case in point: BDS passed last year, and what difference does that make to McMaster students? The only people affected are those who are now unable to buy certain products, and those whose relatives live in Israel/Palestine. Meanwhile, we have plenty of important issues on campus that are not getting enough attention. Tuition fees, mental health support, and campus accessibility are all relevant and important topics that are compromised by us shifting our limited attention to Israel/Palestine. As McMaster students, we should focus first and foremost on the issues that affect us and our communities.

“We can’t just do what is good for us,” you might object, “we need to address humanitarian issues around the world.” My response might surprise you: I agree. On average, a few hundred people die annually due to Israeli/Palestinian violence, and that is a reprehensible loss that I take very seriously. However, I think there are more pressing conflicts in the world.

For each Palestinian who dies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about 100 Syrians die in the Syrian civil war. China executes thousands of people every year, often for non-violent offenses. Over 3000 civilians have died in the Yemeni civil war in only a year. There are dozens of grievous human rights abuses around the world in states like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran, Ethiopia, Burundi, and others.


Each of these results in greater loss of life than in Israel/Palestine, yet these abuses receive little attention on campus. If we really want to improve the plight of oppressed peoples globally, then each of these problems should receive at least as much attention as Israel/Palestine.

In fact, if our aim is simply to save lives, military conflicts are not even among the chief concerns. In 2015, over 200 million people had malaria, and nearly half a million died of it, even though it is easily treatable. According to the World Health Organization, five million deaths (including 1.4 million child deaths) occur every year because of polluted drinking water. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world, and it is also treatable and preventable. In fact, even in Israel/Palestine, more people die of car accidents each year than of military violence and terrorism combined. If our aim is to save lives, I think we need to start looking at the options most readily available to us. By investing in medicine for the poor, we can save more people with greater certainty, and without divisive debates.

If our aim is to save lives, I think we need to start looking at the options most readily available to us. 

Every life is important and each life is equally valuable. For that reason, I think our humanitarian efforts should focus on situations in which we can save the most lives, and in that respect the Israel/Palestine argument is only distracting us from the worst problems and the problems we can effectively address. The McMaster community, including the MSU, should focus on issues that are relevant to McMaster students, not the issues where a few small groups of people have made lots of noise.

Photo Credit: Jon White/ Photo Editor

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This week has the McMaster student body gearing us up for the event of the year — the MSU’s General Assembly! Just joking, no one actually cares that much about the GA.

Typing that last sentence, I feel a pang of remorse for all those that have dedicated time to planning this year’s assembly (hell, I even feel bad for my own staff because we take the time to report on it each year). But the reason most students genuinely do not care that much about the GA is because most students have, unfortunately, grown accustomed to the fact that Mac doesn’t always care that much about our feedback.

Let me preface this by saying, I do not think that Mac never considers our feedback. But historically, in part thanks to logistics, policy framework, and general challenges that come from working with thousands of students, it can sometimes be challenging for our university to hear and interpret our feedback.

The GA functions as a public forum where students can voice their concerns related to the MSU and all trepidations can be motioned and eventually voted upon. Sounds pretty democratic, right? Well, not completely. The GA is often dominated by a few motions that overshadow “smaller” issues students want to bring up, making it hard for all voices to be heard. In addition, for a motion at the GA to be passed, the assembly itself needs at least three percent of the student body, so roughly 650 students, present at the event. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but historically this number has been hard to reach. What is supposed to be the most democratic form of discussion for students has its limits.

And the GA isn’t the only student-driven method that has its barriers. Every year we fill out course evaluations, create petitions and write countless articles asking for change, but don’t always see it, or even hear people acknowledging our feedback. Take for instance the yearly petition that students have created to request their majors be listed on their degrees (this year a Google Feedback Form entitled “Program on the McMaster Degree” if you wanted to sign it). For the last few years, students have gone to the university with the same request, and every year their appeal is denied, and as far as the signees can tell, isn’t even acknowledged.

With this as the current standard for accepting student requests and input, it’s not surprising that events like the GA tend to pass by unnoticed by the majority of the student population. Why should students make the extra effort to push forward a change if they feel their voices will not be heard?

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By: Lina Assi & Yara Shoufani

Each year, Israeli Apartheid Week takes place across more than 150 universities and cities. IAW aims to raise awareness about Israel’s ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies over the Palestinian people.

IAW’s goal is to tell the world of the Palestinian struggle, one which is so often erased in mainstream media. Apartheid is a system of racial segregation. In Israel, this includes military control over the West Bank, two distinct identification systems, separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians and military checkpoints which only Palestinians are subjected to. These restrictions on movement have impeded access to health and education. Palestinian houses are demolished for “Israeli only” settlements, and an apartheid wall — eight times the size of the Berlin Wall — separates Palestinians not only from Israelis, from the world and from one another. Israel’s system of settler-colonialism and apartheid has dismantled Palestine into fragmented pieces of land, destroying the Palestinian economy and social structures.

Israeli Apartheid Week brings the occupation onto campus, so to speak. It aims to show students that there is no Israeli-Palestinian “conflict” because the word implies that the two sides are equal. There is instead an occupied and an occupier; an illegal, inhumane, brutal, military occupation.

There is no Israeli-Palestinian “conflict” because the word implies that the two sides are equal. 

On March 15 at 6:30 p.m. we are hosting Eran Efrati and Maya Wind for a free lecture. Eran is an ex-Israeli soldier, and Maya is an Israeli peace activist whose refusal to join the military led to her imprisonment in Israel. We hope the stories of Eran and Maya will show McMaster students that Israel’s occupation is not only being resisted against by Palestinians, but by small groups within Israeli society as well.

We will also be recreating apartheid on the BSB lawn through displays of the apartheid wall, settlements, roads, prisons and even the blockaded Gaza Strip. We hope this display will show students that there is no such thing as neutrality in the face of injustice.

Both Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice will be tabling in MUSC to talk to students about Israel and Palestinian resistance movements, such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. This educational week is one that is endorsed by many Hamilton movements and student clubs, including Independent Jewish Voices, McMaster Muslim Students Association, McMaster Womanists, McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance, United in Colour, Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, CUPE 3906, Young Communist League and McMaster Middle Eastern Student Society.

The diversity of these clubs reminds us that Israeli Apartheid Week is about more than the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s part of a movement of students who stand for peace and justice, and against colonization, occupation, racism and violence.

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After a long and controversial campaign, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign’s demands became an official part of the MSU’s purchasing policy following last year’s General Assembly. However, one full term following the vote, the MSU and BDS McMaster have yet to produce a final list of companies to divest from.

The BDS movement identifies itself as a non-violent campaign that seeks to divest from all companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. The campaign was met with opposition from Israeli student groups, and garnered comments from the former Harper government condemning the movement and its policies as instances of hate crime. However, the BDS campaign at McMaster has been slightly revised, only boycotting companies involved in specific illegal settlements, and not all Israeli companies.

In mid-September, members of the BDS McMaster, a group of about 15 students along with about 200 volunteers, were tasked with forming a comprehensive purchasing list for the MSU. The current MSU vendors list is made up of almost 3,000 companies and individuals that the MSU both purchases and receives money from. Individual BDS members and volunteers researched about 200 different companies each, primarily using online search engines, and occasionally contacting companies to further inquire about their involvement in occupied territories. The estimated number of companies to be affected by the policy has not been finalized.

BDS McMaster group member Lina Kuffiyeh explained, “This list basically has everything and we have to spend so much time figuring out which companies we should boycott because the list is so huge.” Kuffiyeh expressed the desire for a smaller list from the university that excludes students that have given money to the MSU.

While there are no clear plans for future initiatives for the group, Kuffiyeh hopes that the enthusiasm for the campaign will continue after it has been fully implemented. “A lot of students take the BDS movement personally,” stated Kuffiyeh. “I know it’s personal to me because I still have family back home in Palestine who are directly targeted by the occupation so I hope it continues to resonate with students on campus. I also hope students realize that BDS isn’t just about Israeli occupation, it actually relates to a broader umbrella of ethical purchasing.”

The small group of BDS students are currently verifying the companies that are slated to be boycotted, while also juggling academic responsibilities. Members of the group are aiming to have the list completed by the end of the school term, or January at the latest.

Photo Credit: Alex Young

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By: Lina Assi

Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions was introduced to our campus last March at the General Assembly, and has been a contentious topic on campus. This debate has led to several misconceptions amongst the McMaster student body. One of the main criticisms has been that BDS targets our fellow Jewish students, and it has been mislabeled as anti-Semitic. This begs the question, if a movement that promotes ethical purchasing is unjust, aggressive and bigoted, how was it adopted in a vote that included more than 600 McMaster students at last year’s General Assembly?

In short, the BDS movement is not a discriminatory policy. It does not target McMaster students of Jewish faith, nor does the BDS movement seek to dismantle the state of Israel. The main objective of the BDS movement is to hold Israel accountable for its infringement of international law that seeks to provide indigenous Palestinian communities with their basic human rights. The lack of knowledge regarding the BDS movement has led to the derailment of tackling the main issue of  illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories.

BDS was supported by many student groups and non-government organizations, including the Hamilton Chapter of Jewish Voices for Peace. Last year, students in support of Palestinian human rights organized initiatives on campus that involved Jewish and Israeli speakers that addressed the infringement of human rights by Israel.

One of the main catchphrases of the student groups promoting Palestinian rights on campus is “we don’t want your anti-Semitism!” An organization of students on campus that seek to bring justice to one ethnic group and injustice to another would be counterintuitive and quite frankly, hypocritical. Students that support BDS legislation on our campus did so to speak out against injustice to the indigenous Palestinian population and, I assure you, would do so again for any injustice we witness today. The BDS legislation on our campus strictly addresses corporations that are profiting from the illegal settlements in the Palestinian Territories, settlements that have displaced thousands of people and caused harm to the Palestinian communities on several levels.

As a McMaster student, I invite you to take it upon yourself to pass judgment on this movement only once you have done your research about what BDS legislation on our campus means. It is an initiative that seeks to promote justice in accordance with our values at McMaster. To pass a snap judgement does not do justice to any party involved in this complex issue.

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The pictures, names, and detailed resumes of students involved in the contentious Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions campaign in North America are now easily compiled for your convenience in a website called Canary Mission.

The purpose of Canary Mission is to identity individuals who engage in activities that are “anti-Freedom, anti-American, and anti-Semitic,” so that these “radicals” don’t become the “employees of tomorrow.” In a response to the backlash it has received, Canary Mission says that its real end goal is to act as a deterrent for students who spend their undergrads campaigning in favour of boycotting the state of Israel.

It’s not the public nature of the website that’s predominantly worrying. All of the people featured on the website have likely already made their opinion public through Facebook posts, tweets, videos, and rallies. Any employer can easily do a background check and uncover the same information. Public shaming is a tactic that takes place everywhere along the entire political spectrum. The social justice left has ended careers of those who have recklessly tweeted out offensive statements, and similar things have happened on our campus as well.

So while the public shaming aspect of it is concerning, it’s not what I find most frightening about the website. If the information they have compiled about each activist is false, they will most likely face legal action, and if it is not false, then all they have done is compile already available information.

However, the website is part of a disturbing pattern of deterring public speech in the West, that lies beyond the BDS movement and its critics.

It warns anyone who criticizes Israeli policies and occupations to think twice or find themselves featured on a website that will forever associate them with anti-semitism. In doing so, it silences those who question these ideas, by threatening to destroy their public image.

"The website is part of a disturbing pattern of deterring public speech in the West, that lies beyond the BDS movement and its critics."

Another instance of this sort of public speech being deterred through scare tactics happened recently in Canada. When the email exchange between a CBC reporter and a public relations staff for the Minister of Public Safety that suggested campaigning for BDS could be seen as a hate crime under Canadian law became public, the MSU quickly released a statement dismissing the claims as “egregious.”

Radical acts are vilified as being anti-Canadian and anti-American. A valued cultural identity is used to make the radical act appear as a foreign act that someone who is Western, in support of freedom, in support of these two countries, would never do. Whether this fits into the American or Canadian identity is decided by a select few people with a lot of power and a large audience to legitimize their words.

McMaster is no stranger to the complexity of the Israel-Palestine and BDS debate. People from both sides have complained about the animosity they have felt on campus throughout the discussion. These feelings are even more impactful in a university the size of McMaster, where you’ve probably met someone who strongly stands with either side. However, while we should be cautious that only non-violent, peaceful, and non-hateful activism takes place on our campus, knee-jerk reactions to activism as being hateful only further reinforces its initial goal to change the way we talk about an issue in the first place.

Deterring activism through a negative platform such as Canary Mission is a way of maintaining a specific political stance as the only correct stance, and erasing the other sides of the discourse from the public sphere. It cuts activism at its root by threatening the livelihood of potential activists.

The activism that BDS campaigners partake in is not criminal. This logic of deterring an act by threatening someone’s livelihood applies to crimes, not non-violent activism. That’s why it is left in the hands of the judicial system, not to the whims of the public and individuals that can possibly benefit from silencing certain viewpoints.

Given the lack of consensus among experts and world leaders on the Israel-Palestine conflict—I’m not suggesting that they are the epitome of moral and ethical guidance but rather a good sample of the complex nature of the conflict—it is illogical to deter activism and debate as if the right answer has already been found, and it is illogical to claim that anyone who disagrees needs to be punished publicly.   

The website, along with the recent Canadian story, is an incredibly concerning method of control and silencing. As long as an activist group isn’t encouraging hatred and violence towards a group of people, why is their activism harmful, and who’s to say it is?

The ability of groups to silence with subtle threats of losing one’s place in the world, of having fewer career options and a bleak future ahead, is detrimental to the open nature of our academic environment. If we can’t have these discussions in the Western world, where we pride ourselves of being champions of freedom and human rights, then when can they happen?

The discussion isn’t about choosing one side over the other. I hope that even after the vote in favour of BDS at this year’s General Assembly, respectful discussion can continue at McMaster about international issues that, in one way or another, affect us all.

I went to an international school with 200 students from over 100 different countries. We were all on full scholarship, and came from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. My classmates came from different cultures and religions, each bringing rich experiences and diverse perspectives to the classroom.

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One of my friends, Ali was from Palestine. Another friend, Jacob, was from Israel. One night in the library, as I struggled to print out a last minute assignment, Ali and I spoke about his childhood. He told me about how his father had been imprisoned for the majority of Ali’s childhood because of his political views. He described the nuances and challenges of being Palestinian and of growing up in the West Bank. He told me that when we first started school, he avoided the Israeli students. He couldn’t talk to them. He couldn’t interact with them.

Later in the year I saw Ali warmly put his arm around Jacob’s neck. They were talking and laughing. Jacob had plans to visit Ali over the summer. There was dialogue, friendship and respect. Jacob now serves in the Israeli Army, fulfilling his responsibilities of conscription. Ali is in his final year of his undergraduate degree in the United States. I haven’t spoke to either of them since we graduated high school four years ago.

Sitting in the backbenches of the Burridge Gym during the GA, I wondered how Ali and Jacob could talk about and acknowledge their differences. In the crowd I recognized people who were directly involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict. I also saw people who like me were not directly implicated in the issue, but who identified with a particular message and wanted to learn more.

Both of my friends had lived through and experienced the conflict firsthand, with visceral memories of loss, fear and anger. Ali and Jacob could have a respectful conversation. They listened to each other. Yet at the GA we did the exact opposite. There was no dialogue and no desire to acknowledge and validate another person’s lived experience.

Instead, one speaker named Salah was continually interrupted due to “Points of Information” and “Points of Order” raised by No-to-BDS campaigners. Salah was telling his story of how he and his family had fled Palestine as refugees. The deliberate interruptions, the “I feel uncomfortable”s and the complaints of “emotionally charged language” stung me. Clearly there was no place for Salah’s story. There was no desire, respect or humility for someone else’s experience. Instead, every attempt was made to stifle him from speaking and prevent an understanding of his perspective.

I understand that leaving the GA to break quorum was a politically strategic move. I understand the continuous proposals were meant to shift around agenda items so that there would be no time to talk about BDS. However, I can rationalize that these moves undermined the legitimacy of the General Assembly.

I struggle to understand the unwavering approach to prevent someone from sharing their own personal narrative. If anything, what I learned from the GA was that no genuine dialogue was going to happen on campus. Stories were going to continually be marginalized because they were unpopular, or raised questions that people shouldn’t be asking.

Last week the front cover of the Silhouette covered the story of Providence, a Rwandan student at McMaster. Her experiences were acknowledged and the adversity that she and her family had faced was brought to the attention of the larger community. Yet, there is little space and desire to hear Salah’s story.

I think back to Ali and Jacob and the maturity and compassion that they showed each other. I look to my friends at McMaster who have received manipulative messages on Facebook, who have alienated people with opposing views, who have deliberately shut their ears, minds and hearts to any message that challenges their world view. And I am profoundly disappointed, because if Ali and Jacob can do it, then why can’t we?

I write this article not with the intention to vilify a particular stance or de-legitimize a perspective, but to instead show that respectful, informative and powerful dialogue on this issue can take place in an educational setting.

Accessibility is clearly not a priority when it comes to issues that exist on campus. At least, that’s the impression I left with after the General Assembly had adjourned.

The majority of the General Assembly was spent arguing over which motions deserved to be debated first. Specifically, both the BDS motion supporters, as well as the Anti-BDS motion supporters in room were adamant on having their motions debated first, as they opposed each other.

Personally, I submitted four motions to the General Assembly that called for: better accessibility at the Athletic and Recreation Centre, prioritizing ramp clearing during the winter, having a new ramp installed in front of the Burke Science Building, and having a survey administered to Student Accessibility Services users, focused on accessibility issues that are not directly related to academics (i.e. Welcome Week, and barriers of entry into campus buildings).

Wanting to get through to all of the items on the agenda, I suggested that the motions be discussed in the order they were received by the speaker, so that we could get to each motion fairly without further discussion about logistics. This would place the BDS motion first on the agenda, the accessibility motions second, the motion about Kosher and Halal food at Bridges third, and the Anti BDS motion last.

The majority of the room agreed with this amendment, and this is where things started to take a turn for the worst. Those who were against having the BDS motion discussed first, made another amendment, this time using my accessibility motions in order to politically manipulate the situation. A massive amount of people started to argue that my accessibility motions were more important than the other student issues on the agenda, using these statements to solely aid the argument that the BDS motions should be discussed after the Anti BDS motion, as long as the accessibility motions were discussed first.

Though I agreed that accessibility should be made a priority, I felt used. I was disappointed and disagreed with the concept of using accessibility issues at McMaster University as a way to get one political issue spoken about before the other at the Assembly. On top of that, those using my motions in their argument undermined and ignored the fact that I already voiced, twice, that I wanted the motions to be discussed in the order they were received by the speaker.

When this amendment failed, a significant amount of people on the Anti BDS side refuted this, making yet another amendment. This time, the majority of people who originally claimed they wanted accessibility to be priority, scratched this argument. They demanded that both the political motions be completely taken off the agenda. When this amendment also failed to pass, they left the room. This back-and-forth wasted so much time that no other issues on the agenda was discussed. I felt like my accessibility motions weren’t taken seriously by the people feigning so much support for them. The walk out killed time, disrupted quorum, and showed little respect for the other motions on the agenda.

I was not expecting the lack of accessibility on campus to be used at the General Assembly solely to cause advantages or disadvantages to other motions. I was not expecting to be denied speaking time because of agenda ordering. As an incoming Social Science SRA representative, I do plan to bring these accessibility issues up at future Student Representative Assembly meetings, but the fact that a lot of students at the General Assembly either placed these issues on the back burner, or used them to achieve their own political goals, has caused me to question whether accessibility on campus really is important to students at McMaster University.

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I’d like to, as a Jewish student, address some of the narratives that have emerged on this campus in the past few weeks. I hope that the following can serve to provide a healthier context for future discussion.

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I’ve been a student at McMaster University for nearly six years. In that time, I have been the beneficiary of a genuinely loving and compassionate campus culture. I feel safe here.

And not just because of this tone that’s marked so many of my interactions and the movements I’ve witnessed, but because there is a growing culture here of responsibility owed one to the other. I know, for instance, that I have space to speak here.

But I also know that I will be held to account for my actions and opinions. I know that critical engagement with my own beliefs and the beliefs of others will be demanded of me, in the pursuit of more just and healthy relationships and policy.

But in these past few weeks, something has changed. I don’t feel safe right now. I don’t feel safe because I see that the infrastructure supporting this culture and its rules can be flaunted so very easily. It was deeply unsettling: sitting in the General Assembly and witnessing the speed with which ideas, allegedly sacrosanct, can be discarded as soon as it becomes clear that they aren’t going to get you what you want.

I saw a group of students go, in the span of five minutes, from praising democracy as the highest of ideals to walking out and, in so doing, directly disenfranchising over 500 of their fellow students. I saw a man, an absolute mensch – explaining with beautifully-reasoned appeals to history, to social justice, to international jurisprudence, and to the deeply personal hurt he endures as he’s forced into everyday complicity with his own family’s oppression – callously interrupted, over and over and over. Frankly, any of us can go out and buy Israeli goods if we choose to do so.

But McMaster’s purchasing policy is not giving anyone a choice. It is forcing students to accept complicity in an economic structure with which they may take legitimate moral issue. Now, if we truly want this campus to be accessible to all people, then that is a truth with which we must engage.

My experience of Jewishness is an increasingly frustrating one. It is a profoundly lonely feeling: the idea that it is some singular, coherent identity that must be preserved in opposition to a hostile world, when I see so much love and humanity trying desperately to touch us. It is as though, sometimes, the joy and the pain of my family’s history are barred to me because I disagree with that premise.

We can’t do that to each other. We can’t hold each other’s histories hostage. We cannot turn issues of human rights into theological or racial ones, or conflate criticism of governmental policy with anti-Semitism – as though all Jews are of one voice in this matter. Because we ought to know what it’s like to lose a history.

Because the answer to that trauma has to be to act as faithful stewards of history – not to make myths and monsters of our brothers and sisters. And I will not accept an exchange of my own culture’s embrace for hateful or racist words put into my mouth.

And they are. I’ve heard them.

I was raised to believe ours was a religion of freedom. That it is not enough to be content in our own freedom, but that we must remember our own degradation and must toil until all people are free from bondage. That begins with listening to the oppressed, and holding ourselves to account.

This year’s MSU General Assembly proved the venue can be both effective and inefficient in providing a democratic forum for the student membership to “show up and speak out.”

Attendance at the Assembly peaked at 630, three members from quorum. Compared to last year’s peak attendance of 60 students and to a string of non-quorate assemblies from 1996 to 2011, this year’s turnout was impressive.

But even though seven motions were on the original agenda, none were voted on until the two-hour Assembly was slotted to end due to time restrictions for Burridge Gym. The gym is the only room on campus that can accommodate more than 600 students.

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None of the motions were debated in a substantive way despite an engaged-and politically divided-student audience. Amendments to the agenda were discussed for more than an hour, with numerous motions to call the Assembly to question (where members vote on whether to vote).

At the beginning of the meeting, Salah Abdelrahman, who submitted the McMaster BDS motion, moved to have his placed ahead of the broader motion on the ‘MSU stance on international crises’. The former was approved before the latter, prompting some to feel the agenda should be re-ordered.

“Many of us are here to discuss the McMaster BDS motion. Let’s discuss this motion and proceed,” Abdelrahman said.

“I think the motions on the agenda should be ordered in the order they were submitted,” said Sarah Jama, who had submitted four motions on improved accessibility. “I put a lot of work into my motions and they were moved down, so I agree with him.”

A motion was then brought forward, though not by Jama, to have the motions regarding accessibility moved up.

“The two top motions are not student issues. We should focus on things that directly affect students,” one student argued.

After more discussion, Sarah Silverberg, who submitted the motion that the MSU not take a stance on international crises, moved to strike both hers and the McMaster BDS motion off the agenda.

“There are other forums and maybe the GA is not the assembly to be discussing such motions. I think it’s important for us to take a lot of time to think about these motions and having an on-the-spot vote at the GA is not the appropriate forum to be able to do that,” Silverberg said, adding that committees could be set up to discuss BDS and Israeli-Palestinian conflict over a longer period of time.

At around 6:30 p.m., just before the Assembly voted to adopt the agenda and attendance was announced to be 621, many students against BDS got up to leave the gym, ensuring that quorum would not be reached.

“The problem is that many students feel uncomfortable and should have the right to leave and not be counted in the vote,” said an anti-BDS student after a call to question was announced and the chair ordered the doors to be sealed for voting. The tension in the room was most palpable at that point.

By 6:40 p.m., the number of voting members in the gym was reduced to 520. About 20 minutes were spent on condensed reports from MSU president David Campbell and Engineering Without Borders President Kathryn Chan.

The motion for the MSU to endorse BDS against Israel and commit to ethical purchasing policies was up for discussion 10 minutes before adjournment was scheduled. It was passed by a simple majority (360 in favour, 23 opposed and 135 abstentions) and is not binding on the MSU because quorum was not reached.

However, the Student Representative Assembly will consider the McMaster BDS motion and any motions brought to the SRA that were not discussed at the General Assembly.

A policy has also recently been passed by the SRA to strike a committee to discuss how the General Assembly should be run and promoted. The policy will be enacted in 2014-15.

The full video of the General Assembly is available here.

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