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July 1, 2021 12:27 pm

How Faculty and Teachers Spread Israel-Hatred and Antisemitism

avatar by Daniel Koren


The Arts Building at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Photo: Edward Bilodeau.

Zionist students “should be boycotted and sanctioned.”

“Cries of antisemitism are overblown.”

“F**k this Zionist pig.”

These are just samples of the rhetoric emanating from distinguished university professors at reputable academic institutions in Canada.

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Human rights organizations have been sounding the alarm regarding the recent uptick in antisemitism, particularly online. But for Jewish students on campus, the campaign against Zionism — the idea that Jews deserve the right to self-determination in their homeland — has long led to their harassment.

But it isn’t only other students who are contributing.

As the director of an organization that works with students to combat antisemitism and advocate for co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians, I can share many incidents of faculty members harboring antisemitic attitudes.

These are stories of professors who undermined the efforts of Jewish student leaders, neglected to include Jewish voices when discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict, and legitimized the attack on Jewish identity taking place on campus.

At the University of Victoria, a professor recently said that Zionist students “should not feel welcome” in progressive spaces.

At the University of Western Ontario (UWO), a university with a large Jewish student population, a professor is under fire after calling to boycott Zionist students on campus.

At Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, a professor recently dedicated an entire column to belittling Jewish “cries of antisemitism.”

Teachers are meant to serve as the gatekeepers of academic exploration and integrity. So when they call for the eradication of Zionism, it emboldens students to demonize those on campus who support it: Jews. It places a target squarely on their backs.

That’s why, in the past two months, Jewish students at Canadian campuses have been forced to incessantly confront erroneous infographics, slander, and propaganda that not only neglects their experiences, but erases millennia of Jewish history.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre CEO Michael Levitt said it well recently in The Toronto Star: “For the first time since the Holocaust, we’re seeing the mainstreaming of antisemitism in Canada.”

Professors are a pragmatic bunch, and are typically impressed by data. So I’d encourage them to read this recent landmark survey of Canadian Jews conducted by faculty at York and the University of Toronto. It finds Zionism to be the normative form of identification amongst members of Canada’s Jewish community, students included.

We all know that history is bound to repeat itself. In 1926, McGill University adopted an informal ban on “Hebrew” students from outside Quebec, and increased the grade average requirement by 10 percent for Jewish students.

Nearly a century later, such discriminatory tactics continue to be leveled against Jewish students.

Recent near-identical petitions at McGill, the University of Ottawa, and Western call for an outright ban of Zionism. If they had been adopted, the Torah, the Tanakh, or any Jewish religious text, all of which heavily feature “Zionist narratives,” could hypothetically be banned. The language is so baffling, and clearly an attempt to silence Jews on campus, that McGill’s Provost and Vice-Principal issued a statement calling it “antithetical” to the university’s commitments to equity and inclusion.

Full disclosure: I urged University of Ottawa President Jacques Frémont and Western President Alan Shepard to follow in McGill’s footsteps. Neither have responded.

And the campaign to discredit and demonize Zionism isn’t limited to universities.

Javier Davila, a teacher with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), is being investigated after sharing an unvetted and unapproved dossier about Israel and Palestine. Davila has since been hailed as a hero, with a petition in his honor amassing over 1,200 signatures and an article in The Washington Post lamenting that he was silenced for “standing up for Palestinians.”

Another article about the incident in support of Davila was recently published in The Toronto Star.

Both articles fail to mention, however, that his dossier included links to the official website of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) — a listed terrorist entity in both Canada and the United States — as well as articles that celebrate PFLP terrorists such as Ghassan Kanafani and Leila Khaled. Similar to Iran-funded terrorist proxies such as Hamas or Hezbollah, the PFLP is quite vocal about its aim to rid the world of its entire Jewish population.

When faculty promote an outward bias, they no longer uphold the responsibilities appointed to them as educators. When they lead the charge against Zionism on campus, they effectively ostracize Jewish students, contributing to their feelings of fear and unsafety.

Indeed, the Palestinian narrative must be heard. But it does not need to — and must not — come at the expense of Canadian Jewish students on campus.

Daniel Koren is the Executive Director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada.

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