Photo: Keith Capstick

Former SJP vp addresses audio recording of his support of voting down Holocaust education motion

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By Premila D’Sa and Kosalan Kathiramalanathan

Following the release of an audio recording of former vice-president of events of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) strategizing to vote down a motion for a Holocaust education week, Omar Falasteen made a Facebook post clarifying he was not speaking on behalf of SJP.

The motion for a Holocaust education week was up for discussion at the Ryerson Students’ Union semi-annual general meeting on Nov. 29, but it was postponed until the RSU’s next board meeting when quorum was lost.

Members of Hillel at Ryerson accused SJP and the Ryerson Muslim Students’ Association (RMSA) of planning a walkout that led to a loss of quorum. Both groups said the allegations were false.

On Falasteen’s personal Facebook account there is a photo of himself with an RMSA sign. When asked if he has any affiliation with RMSA, Falasteen declined to comment.

In his post, he confirmed that he was the one speaking in the recording and that he resigned from the SJP on Nov. 9.

Therefore, I am not part of SJP’s executive team, who were unaware of the incident until after it had happened. All actions I took at the SAGM were my own, and in no way affiliated to or in accordance with SJP’s values, who have expressed support for a call to institute a Holocaust education week,” the post read.

The recording was released on Facebook by Ryerson’s Students Supporting Israel (SSI) on Dec.3. SSI’s Facebook post stated that Falasteen from SJP was the one speaking in the recording.

“The people who are passing this motion are saying that this pro-zionist foundation needs help with all of this—that the RSU should pair up with this organization to help fund this week,” said Falasteen in the recording. “So we’re going to try and vote that motion down.”

In the post, Falasteen also wrote that he directed a “rude comment” to Samantha Cooper at the SAGM. Cooper is a member of Hillel Ryerson, who put forward the motion for a Holocaust education week.

According to Falasteen’s post, Cooper asked if her motion was to be discussed now or later, to which Falasteen responded, “If you were paying attention you would know.”

“This was by all means my fault and I did apologize right then and there, and do still,” wrote Falasteen in his post.

Falasteen also wrote that he spoke at the SAGM in support of an amendment to the motion to include other genocides in the education week and not just focus on the Holocaust.

“I spoke for this amendment and I stated the reasoning that, since Ryerson University is a very diverse school where students come from different backgrounds and cultures, making the motion in question more inclusive would make more sense to make it relate to more students,” his post read.

Also in his statement, he wrote that he wasn’t involved with an alleged walkout of the Holocaust education week motion and claims he saw about 80 students leave after a motion to impeach RSU vice-president education, Victoria Morton, failed. This motion was immediately before Cooper’s motion.

Tamar Lyons, a member of Hillel Ryerson, said she met with Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi on Dec. 2 to discuss the events of the RSU meeting.

Lachemi released a statement on Dec. 2 stating that he met with groups from Black, Indigenous and Jewish communities “regarding concerns of anti-Black racism, anti-Native/Indigenous racism, and anti-Semitism on campus.”

The statement also read that the university condemns anti-Semitism, anti-Black racism, anti-Native racism and all forms of harassment and discrimination.

“We do not and will not tolerate hate speech on our campus,” the statement read.

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