March 23, 2014
Doris Strub Epstein
Underreported, Jewish students are facing intimidation, hostility and downright anti-Semitism by student groups, supported by student government, said Aleysha O’Hare and Dimitri Bazos, students at University of Toronto, Scarborough, UTSC, and members of the UTSC Campus Conservative Club. They were speaking at the third annual, day-long, Israel Truth Week Conference held at the Lodzer Shul on Sunday.
“Our good friend, Tyler Samuels, president of UTSC Jewish Student Life, is proud of his Jewish heritage and is a practicing Orthodox Jews. These days , however, he does not wear his yamalka to school. These days, he does not wear his Star of David to school…there is a culture of radical , anti-Semitic behaviour at our campus that is actually supported by our student union.”
Israel Apartheid Week and BDS are endorsed by the UTSC student union. ” No one says openly that Israel shouldn’t exist or should be destroyed. They instead mask it in this language of social justice and equity,” said Dimitri. The majority who participate are not anti-Semitic, but are naive first year students with little knowledge of the Israel- Palestinian conflict or anti-Semitism . It is primarily a core, elite group of the Scarborough Campus Student Union which is anti-Semitic.”
Thus far. the administration has not taken action. Alyesha quoted the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism which reports there is often a huge gap between what students experience on the ground level and what deans know sitting in their offices. “They are not walking the hallways overhearing anti-Semitic slurs. They are not browsing the Facebook pages of Jewish students where anti Semites invoke blood libel,” said Aleysha.
Most often students don’t make formal complaints because they are afraid of repercussions or because nothing will be done about them. “Most likely both,” they said.
Amnon Zohar is an Israeli-Canadian entrepeneur. Now in his early sixties, he fulfilled a life-long dream and went back to university to major in political science. But when he started taking classes as a fourth year student at York University, in a course called War and Peace in the Middle East, he found ” a hornet’s nest of anti-Israel activism”.
The professor, through a combination of his opinions and one sided selective reading material, presented a “blatant distorted view of undisputed historical facts. Palestinians were victims of American imperialism and Israeli colonialism, with no balancing information.”
Amnon, in the class, debated and challenged the professor, in a civil ,appropriate manner. In return, the teacher demanded he apologize to the students for “disrupting the class”. Letters to the president and various university administrators requesting that the content and method of delivery of the course material be examined and upgraded, came to naught. Although “I got bounced around”, he is not giving up, he told the audience who in recognition of his courage, rose up in a standing ovation.
Shobie Kapoor, founder of Canadian Patriotic Society, A Hindu- Canadian’s Case for Israel, lives five minutes away from the UTSC and says the students are being “brainwashed”. She has been called a “Zionist whore” she said laughing. She finds a huge similarity between Jews – “our natural allies” – and Hindus. Hindus, including her family, were forced by the Muslim take-over, to flee Pakistan with barely the clothes on their back. after living there thousands of year, never to return. Like the Jews from Arab countries she pointed out, there was not even an expectation of a right of return, nor was it kept alive and simmering as an enduring media topic. They simply got on with their lives and stopped being refugees.
Judy Oron has had a 25 year long association with the Jews of Ethiopia. She assisted them in the transition to life in Israel and adopted two Ethiopian sisters, one of whom she freed from slavery. In the Cry of the Giraffe, she writes about Israel’s role and her own in rescuing Ethiopian Jews.
Jonathan Halevi, Lt. Col (IDF RET) senior researcher at Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs and Managing Editor of Shalom Toronto, showed disturbing films that exposed how UNRWA, the majority of whom are in Hamas, keeps the Palestinian refugee issue an open wound, and abets hatred of Israel and glorification of terrorism even in elementary school. “Gaza is a greenhouse for radicalism” , he said. He also revealed to an alarmed audience, that Al Qds University with its Islamic jihadi student organizations, has affiliations with several of Canada’s main universities.
Speaking on “Peace in the Middle East : Fiction or Attainable Reality?”, he pointed out Mahmoud Abbas’s continued intransigence. Last week in Washington he said no to the core issues in the negotiations with Israel; he refused to give up the demand for the right of return of millions of Palestinian to Israel; no to an “end of conflict” deal that would mean he makes no further demands on Israel; and no to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
This year’s theme, Truth Before Solutions: Safeguarding the Honour of The Jewish People, honours the late attorney Howard Grief, who dedicated 25 years of his life to an “inconvenient truth”: that modern Palestine was created as the “national home” for the Jewish people under international law by the l922 League of Nations Mandate For Palestine.
Salomon Benzimra, co- founder of Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights and author of The Jewish People’s Rights To The Land of Israel amplified on Israel’s legal rights, drawing from his book. Yehudit Shier Weisberg of the Legal Forum For the Land of Israel, raised awareness of language, warning about “the dangers of adopting the language of Israel’s enemies” followed by Richard Bass, author of Israel in World Relations.
Noted civil rights activist and Nazi hunter, Meir Weinstein, National Director of the Jewish Defence League of Canada, shared his insights of the promise, “Never Again!”
Mark Vandermaas, founder of Israel Truth Week, electrified the audience with his zeal and dedication. ITW is expanding quickly in the three years since its inception. Whether it be a day- long conference like this, or a couple of hours – people ,equipped with the knowledge about the facts about Israel and the anti-Israel propagandists, are galvanized into wanting to “stand together” for Israel. To help this movement, Mark wrote a pamphlet, Rules for Freedom Activists: Israel Advocacy Edition. Modeled after Martin Luther King’s non violent methods , it is a guide for responsible and effective advocacy based on his 14 years of actual field experience. This was made more explicit with the panel, “Taking to the Streets: Why and How”, with Weinstein, Vandermaas and Gary McHale, who Vandermaas calls his “mentor”.
It was his experience, with McHale, with the violence and breakdown of law and order by “racially biased” police against the residents of Caledonia, that galvanized him to action on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people.
While admission was free, voluntary contributions were made to Canadian Magen David Adom.