York University Conference Report by UJA Fed & CIJA

Here is a recent e-mail from the UJA Federation of Toronto:

Now that the controversial York University conference called Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace has ended, UJA Federation and CIJA (Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy) wanted to provide you as soon as possible with a brief report.

UJA Federation and CIJA have a long history of supporting the principle of academic freedom. However, months before the conference began we expressed concern about its adherence to “academic” principles and its unbalanced approach, and we criticized York University’s endorsement of what we feared would become a propaganda exercise against the concept of Zionism.

CIJA assigned three observers to monitor and evaluate the event, attended by approximately 150 participants and, unfortunately, the tone of the conference confirmed our fears.

The conference devoted virtually no time to suggestions about an invigorated peace process and concentrated instead on Israel as a military machine determined to dominate the Palestinians. There was no discussion of terrorism or Israel’s security needs and there were no speakers who presented an Israeli centre-left or centre-right perspective. The assumption that Zionism and Israeli society are based on violence and racism predominated.

At one panel discussion, “Zionists” were blamed as the cause of domestic violence perpetrated by Palestinian men against Palestinian women. At another, some participants questioned the sanity and integrity of an Israeli presenter. Speakers who defended Zionism were often jeered and heckled and virtually all of the publicly available material was anti-Israel.

The presentations and attitudes of participants should now convince York President Shoukri that “Mapping Models” did not come close to meeting the rigorous academic criteria that he expected.

In view of all the disturbing events that have taken place at York University this year, we believe endorsement of this conference represented a serious lapse of judgment by the university.

CIJA and UJA Federation are preparing a more detailed assessment of the conference. We are working on a wide range of initiatives to combat campus antisemitism and virulent anti-Israel sentiment and we will do our best to prevent another conference of this kind. A commission established by Hillel of Greater Toronto, Hasbara at York, UJA Federation and CIJA has already submitted dozens of recommendations to a York University task force about improving the current climate at York.

We will certainly keep you informed of future developments. If, in the meantime, you have any questions, please e-mail us at info@jewishtoronto.com