Earlier this week at a Canadian university, a professor in the Faculty of Engineering showed his class a 20-minute film produced by Amnesty International called Palestinians Through Apartheid that purported to expose the impact of the Israeli surveillance system on Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
This was after the students had been required to read an article betraying the same bias and perspective and participate in a class discussion where no additional context was provided, nor any alternate perspectives shared. At least one Jewish student in the class felt victimized and targeted.
Our local CIJA team is working alongside Hillel to provide support for the student to address this series of incidents with university administration. However, one thing remains clear: abuse of podium – when professors use their position to drive a political perspective or agenda – is always, as it was in this case, unacceptable and untenable.
The impact on both Jewish and non-Jewish students can’t be denied. A purported “fact” about Israel and the conflict from a professor carries far more influence and weight in the minds of young students than one from their peers. And just try to imagine a student challenging this video in the lecture setting – certainly risking a rebuke from their professor or fellow students and likely compromising their grade.
Those in positions of authority, especially in the lecture halls of our post-secondary institutions, must be better at recognizing what’s encouraging debate and fostering learning and what’s just attempting to spread personal viewpoints. This lack of distinction has, sadly, become increasingly common within Canadian universities.
And, while I have heard many suggest the increase in antisemitism is overstated and that US trends are not happening in Canada – that is, clearly, inaccurate.
Our children are suffering from increased antisemitism on campuses across the county, and – perhaps just as concerning – a generation of young adults is exposed to a one-sided narrative about Israel, the Palestinians, and Zionism. The result of this is the normalization of Jew-hate quickly finding its way into the mainstream because what starts on campuses does not end on campus. It accompanies graduates as they enter the workforce and participate in civil society.
We cannot afford to be complacent – we must act together, and we must act now.
That’s exactly why CIJA recently became a founding member of a new global working group with seven other organizations representing the world’s largest diaspora Jewish communities. Spearheaded by the ADL in the US, the J7, The Large Communities Task Force Against Antisemitism, is represented by CIJA in Canada and by organizations in Argentina, Australia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The J7 will meet regularly to analyze challenges in tackling antisemitism across the world, develop and coordinate strategies, and share best practices as we all work to protect the quality of Jewish life in our respective countries.
Within the J7 there will also be working groups that comprise experts from each community working to develop action plans pertaining to policy and advocacy, technology, security, extremism, and education – all to combat antisemitism.
All of this is incredibly important work. To have partner organizations from whom we can learn and share successes is exactly the type of global cooperation we need to make a difference in the fight against Jew-hatred.
And yet, it is not sufficient. We need your help, your commitment to stand together with us in Ottawa on October 16 and 17 as we face our government and our fellow Canadians and share our concerns.
A joint effort by CIJA and Canada’s Jewish Federations, Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It is a conference like nothing before it. It will address this hate by learning what antisemitism looks like, how it manifests, what it means, and how it’s undermining and marginalizing Jews. We’re going to confront this new challenge together and use this gathering to express solidarity and demonstrate unity. You will leave the conference empowered to make a difference and holding the tools and skills to address these issues in your workplace and within your networks. You will acquire the knowledge necessary to guide your children and empower them to stand up proudly and unapologetically as Canadian Jews.
Just as we are participating in the J7, we want you to join us at Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It, not just to make a difference but to be the difference.
You can find out more about Face It, Fight It here: www.fightit.ca
And, if you’re interested in learning more about the J7, The Large Communities Task Force Against Antisemitism, you can find out more here: CIJA.ca/J7
Until next time.
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