Facing a campaign of disinformation, students at the University of British Columbia's Social Justice Centre (SJC) are nevertheless gaining support from far and wide after the Alma Mater Society's President arbitrarily blocked a $700 donation to the Canadian Boat to Gaza.
The student newspaper, The Ubyssey, wrote an editorial defending the SJC's autonomous right to make the donation. And letters of support poured in, among them this letter from none other than Noam Chomsky:
"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 protected. 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."
On the other side of the debate, David Frum (the former Bush speechwriter of 'Axis-of-Evil' fame) weighed in with a column in the National Post, making some outlandish accusations.
David Heap, the Legal-Financial committee coordinator for the Boat to Gaza, wrote the SJC the following letter, in order to rebut the disinformation being spread by the likes of Frum.
Letter to UBC Social Justice Centre
Turtle Island Humanitarian Aid
C.P. 92087, Portobello, Brossard, Québec J4W 3K8
Social Justice Centre
University of British Columbia
November 29, 2010
It has come to our attention that a number of false and misleading allegations have been made regarding your generous donation to the Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign. I would like to take this opportunity to clear up some potentially harmful misconceptions.
Funds for the Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign are being collected through a registered
non-governmental organization, Alternatives, which has been working in the area of
international development and solidarity for more than 15 years. Although Alternatives (full name: Alternatives, réseau d’action et de communication pour le développement international) is a registered Canadian charity, the purchase of a boat is not eligible for charitable tax receipts.
All the funds collected for the Canadian Boat to Gaza are subject to all the normal requirements of Canadian laws governing public organizations, and are subject to annual independent audits reporting to both the government and Alternatives’ members.
When sufficient funds have been gathered for the purchase of a vessel and related costs
(crew, berthing charges, registration, fuel, etc.), Alternatives will transfer the required amounts to Turtle Island Humanitarian Aid, a registered Canadian non-for-profit organization which will purchase the vessel and register it under Canadian law.
We will then arrange for a cargo of humanitarian aid as well as passengers for the trip to Gaza under a Canadian flag. Our cargo will be subject to independent verification at its port of departure.
Our campaign is a civil society initiative which deals with civil society partners in Gaza,
including the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network, which is partner with a number of international aid organizations. We do not seek nor will we accept sponsorship from any government.
I hope this information is enough to help counter the unprincipled and dishonest smear
campaign which has been directed at your organization. Please let me know if there is further information which I can provide about these matters. Thank you very much for standing on the side of justice, with the Palestinians of Gaza and against the inhuman and illegal siege.
It may not be an easy position to take at times, but history will show that it is the principled humanitarian course of action in the present circumstances.
In solidarity for peace with justice,
David Heap, Ph.D.
President, Turtle Island Humanitarian Aid
Coordinator, Legal-Financial Committee, Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign
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