Letter to Politicians Requesting Action on Antisemitism at University of Toronto Scarborough Campus
November 25, 2021
Dear Elected and Respected members of Canadian democratically elected governments,
The worst antisemitism is demonstrated at university campuses and it is now well documented that it is the more educated classes in our society that hold attitudes of the highest level of antisemitism. Less educated people care less and are less engaged so, thankfully, they don’t spur on hatred, though as we know from history, they too often follow orders. The orders come from leadership and our universities should be grooming future Canadian leaders. That the next crop of leaders are steeped in antisemitism is not a good sign.
READ THE DOCUMENT BELOW FROM DR. RENAN LEVINE, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT UTS WHO DESCRIBES THE ANTISEMITIC NATURE OF A RECENT STUDENT UNION MEETING.
There is cause for concern when a student government adopts a resolution that essentially bans or brands all Jews that support Israel as unworthy, unwanted. It is disgusting to read what happened this week at UofT Scarborough campus, it must be immediately rescinded, recanted and the leadership disciplined. It is affecting every Jewish student, and it should concern non-Jews. Jew hatred begins with banning kosher food suppliers, banning Jewish clubs, and it eventually leads to banning Jews!!!
This is a disgrace! Where is the university administration? Over 18 months ago the President of U of T appointed a working group on antisemitism that clearly has not addressed the problem, has not issued a report and that ignored a lengthy report presented to it at the outset by professors who had plenty of documentation of years of antisemitism. Now, it is worse!
It doesn’t matter if education isn’t your main mandate. Human rights, civility, equality and justice are in all of your mandates. This requires ALL levels of government to do more.
I thank James Pasternak and Gila Martow for taking initiative this past week to help organize a Working Group Against Jew Hatred. Now we need all of you to join it. Take a stand and do it NOW!
Perhaps you individually might place a call to President Meric Gertler, make a public statement to call out the students, demand that U of T adopt IHRA and implement. There must be apologies be issued to the students who are victims by this hatred and bigotry.
Awaiting your response,
Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation
PO Box 77598 Sheppard Plaza PO
Posted by Prof Renan Levine
Earlier this evening, the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Student Union (SCSU), held their annual general meeting. They passed a motion moved by the Vice President of Equity, Isaiah Murray, and President Sarah Abdillahi, to expand their support for the BDS movement.
The motion requires the student union to “refrain from engaging with organizations, services, or participating in events that further normalize Israeli apartheid in ways including, but not limited to speakers who are representing the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), or support the military occupation of Palestine, the displacement, incarceration and/or killings of Palestinian people.” The student union will post a list of blacklisted companies and organizations on their website, and will lobby the university to terminate investments and contracts with Israeli companies. The motion defines antisemitism for the Jewish students on campus, and explicitly differentiates between [bad] Jewish students “inherently in violation of the BDS policy” through their support of Israel, and good Jewish students who reject Israel’s oppression.
This goes far beyond most earlier BDS efforts that called for boycotts of companies that [allegedly] directly profit from the occupation or are seen as complicit with violations of human rights. Rather than targeting specific companies, this motion targets most Jewish community organizations, like Hillel, for “normalizing Israeli apartheid” through opposition to BDS or support for a military occupation absent a peace agreement.
The scope of the motion is revealed through what it identifies as exemptions: 1) former Israeli soldiers who no longer “support the institution” will not be held “accountable,” although any current reservist or former soldiers (including current faculty members) who still support the IDF would be blacklisted. 2) suppliers of kosher food, which clearly indicates that the targeted companies include local Canadian businesses who would need to gain exemptions to sell kosher food (and only if BDS-compliant kosher food providers cannot be identified).
In response to a draft version of the BDS motion, a Jewish member of the student government’s board of directors, Maxwell Fine, proposed a “reaffirmation of rights of Jewish students at UTSC.” However, the motion was amended in committee without the sponsor’s input or support before the AGM. While the language in the motion continues to remind the SCSU that Jewish students, and Israeli citizens, are protected from discrimination by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Human Rights Code, university rules and the SCSU’s own policies, the amendments stripped the resolution of language recognizing the rights of Jewish students, like all Jewish students, to organize and advertise events to express their political, cultural and/or religious views. Language banning a political screen for funding Jewish events was taken out, as was assurances that the views held by speakers invited by Jewish groups would not disqualify organizing groups from receiving SCSU support. The right of Jewish students to organize talks on current events was struck. Amendments removed assurances that Jewish students who affiliate with outside organizations like Hillel will continue to receive club recognition and funding, and language supportive of academic freedom to watch films about Israel/Palestine, or go on trips to Israel or sponsored by Zionist groups. This motion was approved, with the amendments opposed by the original proposer and the Jewish students, without debate.
These motions can make a difference: at least before the pandemic, almost all space available for student extra-curricular activities was controlled by the student government, including the campus pub. The SCSU also controls much of the most viewed means of publicity and communication, including social media channels. The result of this motion is very clear: while some Jewish students with the correct political views are welcome by their peers at UTSC, Jewish organizations and Jewish owned and operated businesses who support Israel, will find a themselves on a public blacklist and students who share those views will get a clear message from the student government: your views are not welcome here. If they persist and come to campus, they will find that spaces are closed off to Jewish students who wish to table to promote March of the Living trips to Eastern Europe, they will be denied funding if they want to order kosher pizzas while hearing a speech about Israeli politics, and they will be denied the opportunity to promote a Tu B’Shevat Seder with the Hillel rabbi.