A $700 donation to an aid flotilla to Gaza by the Social Justice Centre (SJC) has been suspended by Alma Mater Society (AMS) executives after receiving complaints from students.
Last week, the SJC, an AMS resource group, approved the grant to the University of British Columbia (UBC) club Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) to help fund the Canadian humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza, which will sail in spring 2011. However, after student complaints made to the AMS executive, the money transfer from the SJC to SPHR was frozen, with intention of bringing the issue in front of AMS council for review on Dec. 1.
AMS President Bijan Ahmadian said that the initial complaint came from VP Finance Elin Tayyar, who felt uncomfortable signing off on the transaction without it being brought to council.
Executives also began receiving student inquiries and complaints about the SJC's funding, as well as petitions from UBC's Israeli Awareness Club (IAC). Ahmadian said that complaints were being made both in opposition to the resource group's support of Gaza and Palestine, as well as against AMS funds leaving student hands to be shipped overseas.
"A number of students said, ‘I don't like my student money being shipped out of the country like this.'"
However, SJC treasurer Arielle Friedman said that the $700 grant transfer to SPHR comes from $2,250 set for grants, from their overall budget of nearly $10,000.
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Noam Chomsky has also endorsed the SJC in this struggle.
I am happy to endorse the Social Justice Centre (SJC) and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). They are integral parts of the UBC and Vancouver communities, and important voices in the struggle for justice. I oppose any efforts to defame or destroy these groups, and would urge the AMS council to ensure their voices are prot...ected. I support the autonomy of the SJC, and defend the right of the SJC and other Resource Groups to fulfill their political mandates without interference.
Finally, what was extremely alarming is the presence of the Alma Mater Society (UBC’s student union) president Bijan Ahmadian.
It was insulting to the SJC as a club that appreciates its autonomy and was insulting to SPHR-UBC because this presence demonstrates bias against SPHR-UBC and his complicity in stifling free speech on UBC.
In fact, Mr. Ahmadian is notorious for his efforts to silence any sort of dissent on campus and prior to Israel Apartheid Week he attempted (and ultimately failed) to prevent SPHR-UBC from using the word Apartheid.
In fact, he also indicated that he wants to censor SPHR’s materials (which were nothing more than the Goldstone report and reports from Human Rights Watch).
It is worth noting the Mr. Ahmadian was endorsed by the Israel Awareness Club during his election campaign, and was labelled as a "friend of Israel." He actively participates in IAC events, and attended (shamelessly) the Dershowitz talk in Vancouver.
Following the AGM I invited the IAC to a public debate where their ‘concerns’ (as baseless as they may be) can be discussed in public.
If the IAC is truly concerned about George Galloway then they should not shy away from addressing these concern in pubic, and allow SPHR-UBC to respond to their false allegations instead of resorting to twisted and unethical methods to stifle free speech.