York University’s Veiled Antisemitism
By Lauren Isaacs, York University, Hasbara Fellow
Imagine an institution wherein classic antisemitic language masquerades as anti-zionism and is tolerated and encouraged every single day. Imagine this institution was supposedly an academic place, home to 52,000 people who want to learn, but are bombarded on a daily basis by anti-Jewish prejudice, both overt and clandestine. Imagine if the administration and leadership in this institution obnoxiously congratulated themselves for allowing “free speech” to take place, when in reality pro-Israel speech is supressed; the only “free speech” allowed being that which demonizes Israel. Now stop imagining… because this place actually exists. This is York University. It is extremely difficult, to say the least, being a student at York – having to walk past Palestinian tables, rallies, banners and murals, all the while being told there can only be one Israel club on campus (while several Palestinian ones exist), and this one Israel club has to tread lightly because the handful of Jewish kids could easily offend or intimidate Palestinian students.
I’ve been in lectures where my professors have outright called Jews “Christ killers”. I’ve had to walk past the enormous antisemitic mural that incites violence towards Israelis every day in order to get to the Hillel lounge. I have had to listen to numerous professors calling Israel “Palestine” instead of “Israel” (and this happens in classes that have absolutely nothing to do with geopolitics or the Middle East… classes such as Gender Theory, World Religions, and Satire in Literature). York is a dangerous breeding ground for lies, slander, and antisemitism. I would prefer if professors entitled their classes “Pseudo-Politics and Revisionist History” At least then their Israel-hating agenda would be upfront.
I walked into Vari Hall – the main hall on campus – on February 7th, 2019 to be greeted by raucous chanting, signs waving, and bullhorns blaring. The divestiture protest that was taking place on campus was the same protest that has happened before, only wearing a mask this time. This protest was masquerading as something else, something unrelated to bashing Israel, but the thin veil was transparent. When I say it’s happened before, I mean this semester, I mean every year on this campus, and I mean for 3,000 years. The same antisemitism that has plagued the world for centuries manifests itself in universities and campus clubs, demonstrating age-old, unadulterated antisemitism.
With a cursory glance this protest looked to be about divesting from weapons companies and “arms manufacturers”. This is the propagandist message that YU Divest disseminated. However, with a touch of education, a pinch of understanding, and two fully functioning ears on the sides of my head, I immediately and irrevocably knew that this protest had nothing to do with random weapons manufacturers and everything to do with demonizing Israel.
YU Divest is made up of three other student organizations, one of which is SAIA (Students Against Israeli Apartheid), the most virulently anti-Israel club at the university. The sound of Israel committing “genocide” against the Palestinians and “stealing land from the indigenous Palestinian population” blared through the microphone and reverberated off the walls of Vari Hall. Microphones and bullhorns are shockingly loud, especially when dangerous ideologues with an antisemitic agenda have the floor.
There is an ideological war being waged against Israel on university campuses. York University is at the forefront of this war, and Jewish and pro-Israel students are being intimidated. Lies, slander, and age-old antisemitic blood libels are given a public platform at this university and it is unacceptable. Free speech is a wonderful concept. I am completely in favour of free speech and, in fact, I believe that universities are the perfect place for intellectual debate and free exchange of ideas. Universities should be platforms wherein people can voice their opinions and engage with others who either agree or disagree with those opinions.
That being said, hostility, intimidation, and libelous slurs directed at Jewish and Zionistic students is not ok. It is decidedly antisemitic to legitimize Jew-hatred and the vile canards voiced by the so-called “social justice warriors”. These people are using the university’s Israel hatred as a podium for misinformation and defamation.
At what point should the university intercede and put a stop to this abhorrent practice of Palestinian students and their sympathizers manipulating and frightening Jewish students? Enough is enough. It is incumbent on the university to protect every single one of its students, whether the institution agrees with said student’s politics or not.
How many more Jewish students have to feel intimidated? How many more Jewish students have to hide their Magen David necklaces in their shirts, or remove their Kippahs before walking onto campus? It’s a terrible feeling knowing people want my country destroyed and my people dead. We cannot wait passively to react. We must stand up for every Jew and Zionist and act now.