BDS Movement Question Altered to Exclude Israeli Human Rights Violations

The referendum question asking the Concordia Student Union to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel will appear differently on ballots than what students used to campaign with days leading up to the vote.

The CSU Judicial Board decided to use an alternate question written by CSU Chief Electoral Officer Andre-Marcel Baril, which states, ““Do you approve of the CSU endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel?”

The wording of “occupation of Palestine until Israel complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights” was removed. The Judicial Board chair Zach Braman said that the new question incorporates the “most reasonable, clear and least ambiguous” phrasing.

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights told The Link that it is “problematic in any scenario to change a referendum question the night before a vote” and that they hope students will read the preambles at the voting polls to “gain clarity on each group’s position.”

On Monday night, the CSU Judicial Board reviewed whether Baril was “manifestly unreasonable” in regards to his second edit of the previous referendum question’s iteration.

The previous iteration of the referendum question asked, “Do you approve of the CSU endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel’s occupation of Palestine until Israel complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights?”

Zach Ross, a member of the Concordians United Against BDS committee, said that the second edit, which produced the previous, unaltered version of the ballot question, violated CSU by-laws as they were not notified of a change to the referendum question at least seven days prior to the voting.

He said his group continued campaigning with the previous question for “four days” after its release. Based on this accusation, Ross originally called for the cancellation of the question completely.

Baril denied the accusation and said that he publicly posted the altered, previous iteration of the question on Nov. 16 at 8:15 p.m., which is more than seven days removed from the voting period. The CSU CEO provided evidence in the form of a timestamp of his post on his personal website. He added that he did not directly contact any member from the Concordians United Against BDS committee after the change.

Ross also said that the previous iteration mentioned a “vague” timeline for how long the boycott will last, that it was “prejudicial” in its wording, that the ruling of what constitutes Palestine’s borders was unstated, that the CSU stated no parameters for how they will conduct a boycott and no “universal principles of human rights” were explicitly available for reference anywhere.

Baril said that there is a “strong precedent” of the CSU releasing generalized referendum questions, adding that one question cannot satisfy all stipulations and criteria. He continued by saying it’s “pragmatic” to not have “paragraph”-long questions and that he doesn’t believe the question is prejudiced against Israel in its wording.

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