“We are here to protest our university’s proud support of the Jewish National Fund’s annual gala and to challenge President Runte’s position as honorary co-chair of this event,” Dax D’Orazio, spokesperson for Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) said.
Media Coop A flyer circulated before the event accused the JNF of being an “openly racist organization…complicit in ethnic cleansing, colonization and dispossession in Palestine since 1901.” The historic mandate of the JNF was to remove all Palestinians from their land.
“Our goals are very clear,” said D’Orazio. “We want Runte to step down as honorary co-chair. We want the institution to distance itself from the JNF, and more broadly we want the university and the administration to explain how and why this decision was made to throw their weight behind the JNF.”
Protestors left three dead trees outside President Runte’s office to symbolize the depopulation of three Palestinian villages – Dayr Ayyub, Yalu, and Imwas – which were cleared so that the JNF could build Canada Park.
A few minutes before the rally commenced, an email was sent from the President’s office to the Carleton community. The email stated that, “Carleton is a part of the Ottawa community and the JNF’s Negev dinner is an event that honours community builders and leaders and I am pleased that we have been invited to participate.”
In the weeks leading up to the fundraiser, SAIA helped collect and deliver upwards of 800 letters to the university administration and organized students, faculty, and alumni to flood the President’s office with hundreds of phone calls.
The university has faced intense pressure from an organized and momentous Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign demanding that Carleton divest from companies complicit in Israeli apartheid. After a disruptive rally this past spring, which effectively shut down a Board of Governors meeting at Carleton, the university administration threatened students with non-academic penalties if they participated in similar actions in the future.
Threats from the administration have not deterred Carleton students and faculty from launching effective campaigns and holding large demonstrations on campus. According to D’Orazio, these threats have “had the effect of bolstering more support on campus and even emboldening student activists.”