Citizen Action Monitor

Company president resorts to intimidation to pressure U of Windsor to “obliterate” BDS referendum

The demand is tantamount to a call for an “obliteration” of free speech

No 1007 Posted by fw, March 13, 2014

A page one story running in today’s Windsor Star, titled Firm threatens to cut ties to U of W over referendum by Don Lajoie reports that Richard Spencer, president of a local consulting engineering company, is threatening to cut ties to the University of Windsor if it does not “obliterate” a recent student BDS referendum.

In a letter to University president Alan Wildeman, Spencer reportedly reminded Wildeman that his firm has provided “extensive training and work experience to dozens of engineering students,” representing over $500,000 in financial support over a 20 year period. He made it clear that, if the university administration did nothing to stop the referendum results from being confirmed, his support will end.

“If not, my company will cease support of the University of Windsor and will not hire co-operative students from the (university’s) civil engineering department….until I see action taken, my position still stands. This referendum has to be removed.”

Spencer’s letter to Wildeman, and also posted on social media sites, referred to the referendum as “an expression of anti- Semitism” initiated by the Palestinian Solidarity Group which represents “a mere 5.7 per cent of the student body.”

In response to the 5.7% remark, one reader submitted this push-back in the comments section of the Star’s digital edition –

“…a mere 5.7 percent of the student body” you say Mr. Spencer? Your firm’s contribution to the university’s total hiring output and financial input probably ranks below.00057 percent and yet your single ‘vote’ to “obliterate” the referendum results should cancel 5.7 percent of the student body?! Without weighing into the age-old Arab/Jew animosities or the merits of the referendum, all I’m saying, folks is that our city and university must come to terms with the ‘changing face’ of our local society.

Spencer reportedly said he knows his position has support. He knows “many students are uncomfortable” with the situation on campus. “I’m just saying no…I can’t support a university, my university, that’s promoting anti-Semitism and hatred in the way that this is doing. The way to stand up to it is not to support (the university).”

When the Star reporter pointed out that it will hurt the students he hires, rather than the ones with whom he is angry, Spencer replied:

“It hurts students, I agree. I’ve got one I might not be able to rehire because of the stand I’ve taken … This is my form of boycott, isn’t it. I get they’re upset. But the effects of my stand are minimal. What the (Palestinian Solidarity Group) is doing affects the whole student body.”

To its credit, the Star also reported the reaction of Mohammad Almoayad, president of the Palestinian Solidarity Group, which sponsored the referendum vote.

He called Spencer’s letter “xenophobic and offensive.” The letter attacks all Muslims as anti-Semitic and rehashes “old misrepresentations” about the BDS effort. He noted that groups like Independent Jewish Voices — Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the United Church have lent support to the movement’s goals.

“It’s for human rights and against war crimes,” he said.

He added Spencer’s letter going public has only made a tense situation on campus worse. “It would not be an issue and no one would care if it wasn’t posted on Facebook,” he said. “This has absolutely escalated to a point we never expected. People are outraged.”

He also blamed university administration interference and media coverage for the ongoing controversy. “The referendum was six months in the works and it was not even covered,” he said. “Then the vandalism occurred and everyone started to talk. Now it’s mostly negative. It’s troubling to see how much media has come down on it, on a scale we never expected. But we’re also happy for the international support we’ve gotten.”

Were it not for the following (unedited and uncorrected) comment to the story from a Star reader, the issue of free speech would have been completely obliterated

universities used to be islands of free speech. If the university caves in to Spencer Associates, it will be a sad day for the university of Windsor. It is interesting to note that the student government used a democratic form  in order to sound out the judgement of the student body. The attack upon the office with spray paint was a provocation against the the referendum. The letter by Spencer called the referendum anti-semitic. Spencer may be unaware that many jews sephardic in particular are semetic. many jews support a peace process with the palestians.and oppose the continuing encroachment of jewish sttlers on the West Bank, the disappearing designated homeland of the homeland of the palestinians in the disfunctional peace process. In fact among the strongest supporters of destroying the Al Aqswah mosque are fundamentalist christians who believe God’s prophesy requires the rebuilding of the temple before god converts Jews to christianity.Religous obscuratism is one of the huge obstacles to peace. The western media byand large ignores this reality and leads to people like Spencer and the president of the university making unfortunate statements.How about a debate on the Israel-Palestinion trgedy and the solution thereof. Let the referendum kickstart an understanding that goes beyond comic book level

As difficult as it may be to “kickstart an understanding that goes beyond the comic book level” Richard Spencer and others appear to have overlooked the pivotal moral aspect of this referendum –

Against Israel’s military might — backed by billions in US funding, spying intelligence, and military equipment — the non-violent BDS campaign is about the only tool Palestinians have to raise worldwide public awareness of their desperate plight and, hopefully, to eventually win some semblance of justice. But if Richard Spencer has his way, Palestinian supporters at the University of Windsor may be denied even this tool. 

SEE ALSO

  • The campaign against BDS is a deliberate choice to maintain the status quo by David Schwartzman and Mai Abdul Rahman, Mondoweiss, February 18, 2014 – “On February 12th, Jodi Rudoren argued in a New York Times article against the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, imploring readers to consider Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position that BDS is “immoral”. If we take their claims at face value, than it behooves us to ask why so many Americans consider BDS a moral tool to protest Israeli policies? Why has the international BDS campaign become worrisome for Prime Minister Netanyahu, American Zionists, Israel and its supporters, and why does Ms. Rudoren equate a non-violent movement whose main objective is to achieve equal rights for all citizens whether living in Israel or the occupied territories with prejudice and anti-Semitism? More importantly is it anti-Semitic to envision a political Israeli system where all citizens are equal under the law living within the fold of international covenants and standards?”
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