When the York University student union organized its anti-oppression programming this past October, one group was noticeably omitted from the list of oppressed groups.
Events were held to raise awareness about Islamophobia, anti-black racism, consent, queerness, and disability, but not even one workshop or panel was organized to educate students about anti-Semitism.
This omission is deliberate and very telling.
Anti-Semitism is increasing on university campuses all over the country. In 2011, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism concluded that “Jewish students are ridiculed and intimidated for any deemed support for the ‘Nazi’ and ‘apartheid’ State of Israel, which is claimed to have no right to exist.” More recently, a 2015 Brandeis University Report found that Canadian campuses are especially hostile to Jewish students.
York University in particular is a hotbed of anti-Semitic activity. Just in the past three years, the following events happened:
- A mural depicting a Palestinian man who is poised to throw rocks and is wearing a scarf with a map that erases Israel was prominently hung in the student center. Palestinian rock throwing is a deadly form of terrorism frequently resulting in injury or death. Despite complaints from numerous frightened Jewish students, the administration has not taken action to condemn or remove the mural.
- Students Against Israeli Apartheid made online posts on social media praising terrorist Rasmea Odeh, murderer of two Israeli university students as “beloved”. Although the Canadian government classifies Odeh’s group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as a terrorist entity, the Center for Human Rights at York University ruled that SAIA was merely offering an alternate opinion.
- The Israeli flag was vandalized with red paint during multicultural week.
- The Vice-President of Operations posted that “Resistance is justified when people are occupied. #FreePalestine”. The term ‘resistance’ is often used as a euphemism for terrorist acts.
- The President of the York Federation of Students posted imagery on social media that incorporates the Jewish star of David and the instructions to “smash Zionism”.
- The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions motion against Israel was endorsed by the York Federation of Students.
If there is any school that would benefit from educational seminars about anti-Semitism, it would be York University.
However, omitting anti-Semitism from the agenda spares the union from the awkwardness of educating about a form of oppression that it is complicit in.