Fear not unfounded
I picked up a copy of The Link and was surprised to find the article written by Aaron Lakoff, a member of Not in Our Name Concordia. He claims that there has not been a rise of new anti-Semitism on campus, nor does it even exist.
As someone who has seen this new anti-Semitism spread across Canadian campuses in my capacity as a student leader, I can tell you that Mr. Lakoff is just plain wrong.
Throughout my time at Concordia, I have seen numerous examples of blatant anti-Semitism masquerading behind a thinly veiled illusion of anti-Zionism. I have personally witnessed a group of students marching through the Hall building shouting slogans like “Ibtach el yahud” (which to my rudimentary understanding of Arabic translates to “kill the Jews”).
Let’s be perfectly clear—legitimate debate over Israeli policy is of course acceptable and encouraged through academic dialogue. Unlike most other countries in the Middle East, Israel is a liberal democracy that encourages such free exchanges of ideas.
That said, there is a point at which well-intentioned debate is overrun by hatred and intolerance, creating an environment where dialogue no longer exists. On campus, this happens when anti-Israel groups are aggressive in their tactics to delegitimize the state of Israel and deny its right to exist.
The anti-Israel sentiment of events like Israeli Apartheid Week is based on intimidation and bullying, and is solely focused on making students feel threatened and unwelcome on campus, not about bettering the situation of the Palestinian people. There is nothing progressive or liberal about that.
True academic freedom cannot take place in an environment where fear and intimidation are tools used to silence your opponents.
Anti-Israel groups on campus do not seek dialogue. “Peace” is not in the vocabulary of the Israeli Apartheid Week or boycott movements. As a former president of Concordia Hillel, I have tried to organize peaceful events to create dialogue, to build bridges, and to foster relationships. Rather than opening dialogue to find ways to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, anti-Israel groups shut down progress before it can even begin.
A university is supposed to strive for an atmosphere of respect and tolerance, where open dialogue is encouraged. That atmosphere cannot exist when a portion of this student body are attempting to demonize and intimidate another.
VP Finance, Canadian
Federation of Jewish Students