Sunday, December 9, 2007

Canadian Jewish groups face more anti-Israel sentiment


I can't understand how those who pretend to be in favor of liberal causes--like feminism, gay rights, and freedom of expression can favor the arabs over Israel.

Do women and gays do well under arab rule? No.
Do people have the right to speak out? No.
Are they democratic societies based on the rule of law?? No.
Do they have a free press? NO.

I guess it goes to show us that anti-semitism, even among Jews, is stronger than a belief in human rights.


By SHERI SHEFA, Staff Reporter
Thursday, 06 December 2007

TORONTO — Controversy about the Middle East continued to flare late last month on Toronto-area campuses as Jewish groups faced strong anti-Israel sentiment at both York University and the University of Toronto.

Late last month, the Campus Coalition of Zionists (CCZ), a York student group affiliated with Betar, set up a table in York’s Vari Hall rotunda to raise awareness about human rights abuses in Iran, as well about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial and his threats to destroy Israel, and to call for military action against the Iranian regime.

Soon after the students set up the display on Nov. 20, they were surrounded by a group of students who “physically and verbally intimidated the CCZ to pack up and leave. Eventually the students did, and the mob cheered their success and ripped up the materials left behind,” said Orna Hollander, Betar Canada’s executive director.

“The Iranian students took it as an attack on Iranians. They said, ‘How can you expect to have military action on the government? Aren’t you aware of the casualty possibilities? Aren’t you aware of the fact that, as Iranians, you’re targeting us?’”

Ben Feferman, campus co-ordinator for Hasbara Fellowships, who was at the tabling session, said the confrontation got to a point where he couldn’t stand in front of the table.

“We were just being shouted down from every angle. I felt intimidated at a point when I was completely surrounded,” he said.

“It wasn’t a forum for dialogue. It’s not about Israel anymore, it’s not about ‘occupation’ or ‘apartheid,’ it’s that people believe that terrorism is a legitimate form of resistance.”

The following day, Betar, CCZ, Hasbara Fellowships and Stand With Us hosted Palestinian Media Watch founder and director Itamar Marcus, who spoke about what he described as the systematic indoctrination of Palestinians to hate Jews and Israelis.

Hollander said about 50 anti-Israel students showed up for the lecture.

“They did sit quietly through the lecture, other than a few outbursts here and there, but after the lecture, it was chaos, in terms of people standing up and shouting different things at Itamar… One girl stood up and shouted, ‘I would be happy to be a suicide bomber and be happy to raise my kids to be a shahid [martyr],’” Hollander said.

“They weren’t even attacking the issue, just personal attacks on Itamar,” said Feferman, who moderated the event.

“[They said], ‘You’re the real terrorist, you’re ignorant, you’re propagating hate, you’re brainwashed, you have no business being here, you’re not welcome on our campus.’”

In response to the tabling session and Marcus’ lecture, a group of students who created a Facebook group called “No More Hate Speech” approached the York senate on Nov. 22 to demand that the CCZ be disciplined for spreading hate speech on campus, Hollander said.

Upon learning of the group’s plan to approach the senate, Hollander and Jonathan Roth, student president of CCZ, e-mailed a letter to senate members in advance of the meeting.

The letter said that “as supporters of Israel, we see over and over on this campus the demonization of Israel and the spreading of ideas such as apartheid, occupation, militarism, etc.… Our only action against it is to exercise our own freedom of speech.”

Feferman, who attended the Senate meeting, said the group argued that calling on military action against Iran, calling it a terrorist regime and a human rights violator is hate propaganda.

Hollander said that although she doesn’t think the senate will follow up on the issue, she is concerned about the fact that a number of the 200 senators expressed support for the protesters.

“They said they would help them get this issue resolved. My concern is individual members from the senate will pick this up as something they decide to champion… I don’t think this is a dead issue,”she said, adding that since the senate only meets once a month, she doesn’t expect to hear about any developments, if any, until January.

Hillel of Greater Toronto’s Israel affairs director, Rebecca Woods Baum, said Hillel doesn’t shy away from controversy on campus, but it chooses to focus on programming that promotes dialogue and notes that Israel is a democratic state committed to achieving peace.

“We have seen the effectiveness of the positive educational programs we run on our campuses in reaching out to those students who are undecided about the issue or may just lack certain information about Israel in general,” she said.

Hillel of Greater Toronto’s associate director, Tilly Shames, said that although it has worked with Betar and Hasbara in the past, these recent events didn’t fall under their mandate.

“Our experience on campuses across the GTA has shown us that effective advocacy cannot be achieved through provocative images and hurtful slogans from all sides. Constant confrontations are counterproductive to campus life and will not lead to true understanding,” Shames said.

But the confrontations continued a week later when Norman Finkelstein, an American academic who is known for promoting anti-Israel views and famous for authoring books such as The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering, spoke at U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

Hollander said the basic point of Finkelstein’s lecture, titled “Israel and Palestine: Roots of conflict, prospects for peace,” was that Israel is the root of the Mideast conflict and that the only prospect for peace is for Israel to “return all the land,” accept a Palestinian right of return and compensate Palestinians.

Finkelstein, who is Jewish, told a gathering of about 500 people that Israel is becoming an embarrassment for Jews, and he spoke about the Holocaust being used as a weapon for the ongoing support of occupation, Hollander said.

“We stood outside the event and handed out four different types of posters focusing on the questions surrounding his academic credibility and his support of Hezbollah. Also, the [Jewish Defence League] had a presence… with picket signs and Israeli flags,” Hollander said.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please do not use comments to personally attack other posters.