Paul Bronfman’s principled decision to pull funding from York University must serve as a wake-up call: the university has a real and pervasive problem with anti-Semitism that it is failing to acknowledge. York administrators are far more willing to moralize in hazy abstractions of “free speech” and “inclusivity” than to actually address the specific concerns articulated time and again by Jewish students – namely that “free speech” is not a cover for the incitement of violence and that inclusivity, by its very definition, cannot mean that one group is consistently excluded, demonized, and marginalized.
Even if the mural were removed tomorrow, anti-Semitism would still be rampant at York. Consider three recent examples that have gained scarce, if any, media attention:
1. This February, the student union elections were characterized by a campaign of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Supporters of the fervently anti-Israel “Student Action” slate warned voters that the opposing slate was composed of “f—–g Jews” and “Zionist pigs.”
2. In November, a Jewish student submitted a motion to implement online voting in future student government elections. His religion alone was used as justification to smear him as a “racist” and a “murderous extremist.”
3. Last year, when I made the administration aware that the York student group Students Against Israeli Apartheid regularly incites violence online, including the glorification of terrorist groups banned by the Canadian government, I was treated as if I was deliberately seeking offence and was instructed, by means of an official recourse, not to look at the offensive material. Furthermore, administrators made clear that what is classified as terrorism by the federal government constitutes an “alternative point of view” at York.
I believe that free speech must be given a wide berth. I believe that alternative points of view add to the richness of Canadian diversity. But there are certain things that are unequivocally wrong – the promotion of violence and the demonization of Jewish students being a prime example.
In the same way that the university wouldn’t hang a mural of a KKK member holding a noose in his hands alongside a Confederate flag, it should not hang a mural of a Palestinian man poised to throw rocks alongside a map that eliminates Israel. This is especially true at a campus like York, where murals that portray violent stone throwing are not mere art pieces devoid of tangible repercussions. York officials are being dishonest by not acknowledging that the mural is one piece of a much larger problem.
Originally published in Canadian Jewish News.
Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at York University, Danielle Shachar.