Update on Hillel lawsuit against the CSU

05.08.03

The Link is reporting that the lawsuit that Hillel launched against the CSU has been dismissed:

In a judgement delivered last week, Quebec’s Superior Court handed down a decision suspending Hillel’s lawsuit against the Concordia Student Union until it exhausts its options within the University to resolve its conflict.

Judge François Bélanger’s judgement cited the interventions of the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Jewish Alliance Against the Occupation as evidence that this issue is more a political one than one of racism or anti-Semitism. The judge also noted that the majority of CSU executives are themselves of Jewish origin.

It’s worth noting that the article text says that the suit has been “suspended”, while the headline reads “dismissed”. (Update: The headline has now been changed to read “Court Suspends Hillel Suit”. Think someone’s reading my blog?) As best as I can ascertain, the door is open for re-filing if Hillel satisfies the court that it has exhausted its options within the university. However, this doesn’t make much sense, since the university administration has no legal standing to intervene between Hillel and the CSU even if it wanted to. So I’m not sure what “options” the judge was talking about. The judge seemed to direct Hillel to approach the Board of Governers of the university, but even he acknowledged that the BoG has no power over the CSU:

The judge ruled that Hillel could approach Concordia’s Board of Governors, who according to him have “superintending and reforming power over all decisions affecting activities held at Concordia University or connected with the University,” adding that the Board would appear to have the power to issue sanctions, if not against the Union, at least against those students who run it.

But, the ruling added, because of political conflicts at the heart of the Union, the court would not force Hillel members to submit themselves to the CSU’s Judicial Board for a ruling.

Well, that last bit shows at least some minuscule amount of understanding about the workings of Concordia politics.

In a press release, the CSU’s VP Communications and favourite “we’re not antisemitic cause we have Jews in our admin” poster boy, Aaron Maté, claimed victory for the CSU on this matter:

“I welcome the Judge’s ruling,” said Aaron Maté, a CSU Vice President and 5th year Jewish student. “It’s an important victory for all of those who have been scared and intimidated to remain silent on the Israel-Palestine issue out of fear of being labeled with the serious charge of anti-Semitism or “self-hating Jew”. I hope that all members of the Jewish community, particularly Hillel and the leadership of the Canadian Jewish Congress, will recognize the serious damage that they are doing to our people by exploiting and undermining the meaning of anti-Semitism to intimidate and silence those who have the courage to defend Palestinian human rights.”

Oh yeah, cause Mate seems real scared and oppressed to me. Right.

It looks like the CSU and their buddies turned what was a straightforward case of an unjustified attack on Hillel into a political issue about the Palestinians, as they always do. And this time it seems they got away with it.

With the new CSU due to take office in a few weeks, some might argue that the whole lawsuit was moot in the first place. But that would be ignoring the principle of the thing. Hillel deserves nothing less than full reinstatement of funding, a sincere apology, and punitive damages for years of harassment and abuse. Obviously, this ruling is a serious setback to justice.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jaz 05.09.03 at 4:57 AM

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the first thing they did was pass laws to kick Jews out of German universities. These laws were very popular among both German students and professors. This is where it starts.

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2 segacs 05.09.03 at 3:22 PM

To be fair, nobody’s kicking Jews out of Concordia. And I don’t think it does anyone any good to automatically sensationalize and draw comparisons with Nazi Germany. 2003 is NOT 1933.

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3 sam 05.09.03 at 7:11 PM

What difference does it make if the CSU was mostly motivated by politics or by racism? They banned Hillel illegally, even according to their own rules! If they can kick Jewish groups out of the university because they are pro-Israel, I guess they can kick gays out because they are pro-gay-marriage or black groups out if they are pro-affirmative-action. Whatever word you call it, politics or racism, it still amounts to the same thing, its still discrimination.

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4 adam 05.13.03 at 9:04 AM

Careful Segacs, criticising a specific ruling can be grounds for contemppt of court in Canada.

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5 8opus 05.14.03 at 3:36 AM

Yes, Adam is right. It’s well known that, in Canada, blogging about court decisions is a one-way pass to jail.

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6 Moshe Rudin 07.03.03 at 8:19 PM

Well, unfortunately, this only reinforces my personal experience of Canada’s muted but very real quasi-European racist undertones, especially on the part of Francophones.

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7 segacs 07.04.03 at 3:14 PM

Francophones? What does French have to do with this debate? Most of the students who are involved on both sides of this issue are English-speaking and Concordia is an English university. Let’s not mix issues.

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