Canadian students fight back against rogue anti-Israel professor
Joanne Naiman is an anti-Israel advocate for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Here is our response to her latest crusade against the Jewish State:
Dear Ms. Naiman,
We, the undersigned students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, recently came across your open letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, published on Rabble.ca. As students at post-secondary institutions within our diverse and tolerant province, and across the nation, we are thoroughly disheartened that you would, in your zeal to intimidate our premier into cancelling her trip to Israel next year, resort to such depths of hatred and distortion.
Moreover, we express our concern with the plethora of articles you have authored for Rabble in support of the anti-Semitic “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” campaign against Israel. It is disturbing to learn that a Canadian professor emerita would use her position of academic authority to advocate for such an exclusionary, divisive movement. We respectfully request that you consider our thoughts and feelings as written below.
Like many Canadian leaders across the political spectrum, Kathleen Wynne recognizes that supporting Israel is a natural extension of the Canadian commitment to liberalism, freedom and equality. Indeed, the leaders of Canada’s three major federal political parties — Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservatives, Justin Trudeau of the Liberals, and Thomas Mulcair of the NDP — have all unequivocally denounced the BDS movement.
Support for Israel is not a matter of partisanship, but of morality: it is wrong to seek the isolation, marginalization, and demonization of the Jewish state whilst ignoring far more egregious human rights violations in other nation states. Ms. Naiman, how is it that you can claim a genuine commitment to human rights advocacy if your indignation is selectively conferred to talks of increased economic cooperation between Israel and Canada, yet no similar reaction is evoked when it pertains to Premier Wynne’s trade mission to repressive and undemocratic China?
As students, we find it bizarre that you, a professor emerita at Ryerson University, are seemingly unable to grasp the hypocrisy of your behaviour. The BDS motion seeks to curtail partnerships between Israeli and Canadian professors — a policy that is antithetical to a university’s obligation to free speech and diversity of opinion. Moreover, it is appalling that someone in your position appears to actively ignore the animosity, hatred and vitriol that the BDS movement breeds on university campuses.
Many of us have been personally affected. We have had chants of ‘Nazi’ directed towards us on a public city bus by BDS advocates. We have been shouted down in the hallways on our respective campuses. We have been made to feel unwelcome and unsafe at campus events. We have been marginalized and ostracized from campus activities – especially those put on by our student unions. The BDS campaign has made our campus experiences nightmarish — solely because of our support for the Jewish state.
All across Canada, the movement has led to a marked increase in anti-Semitic acts, including the distribution of anti-Semitic posters at Trent University in Peterborough, the vandalization of a student union executive’s office at the University of Windsor, and the mobbing of Jewish students in the Hillel offices at York University. Jewish students, by and large, have felt attacked, victimized and marginalized on university campuses.
Can a Jewish student in your department openly and confidently express their pro-Israel views without fear of academic and social reprisal? How do you think Israeli students feel about participating in a class discussion with the knowledge that their professor has deemed Israel a “criminal state?” Non-Jewish students have also felt pressured, ostracized and intimidated for expressing their support for Israel. Why should Christian students be shamed for supporting the only nation in the Middle East where their religious freedoms are protected and not institutionally restricted? Why should feminist students be shamed for supporting the only nation in the Middle East where men and women are equal before the law? Why should members of LGBTQ student communities, who love Israel for its role in providing the only safe haven for gays and lesbians in the Middle East, be shamed for expressing this opinion? Indeed, our Premier is a proud member of the LGBTQ community who is surely cognizant that her rights and freedoms as a gay woman would be upheld only in Israel.
Ms. Naiman, we also find it disturbing that a professor, presumably bound to the higher academic standards of truth and empiricism, would consistently resort to lies and historical distortions in order to malign the Jewish state. For example, although you repeatedly claim that Israel is an apartheid state, this statement does not reflect reality. Israel is a democracy that grants equal rights, freedoms, and protections to all of its citizens. While discrimination against Arabs can certainly occur on an individual-to-individual basis (as can, and does, happen in Canada!), there are no government policies restricting the rights of Israeli Arabs to vote, hold political positions, or own land. Adalah, the organization that you reference to support your allegations, is known for disseminating false information. According to NGO Monitor, Adalah’s database of ‘discriminatory laws’ classifies any reference to the Jewish connection to Israel as inherently racist and misleadingly includes legislative proposals that were rejected by the Israeli parliament.
More fact distortion is demonstrated in your summary of last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli anti-terror campaign aimed at ending Hamas’s indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. Critically, you omit the events that precipitated the conflict — Hamas’s kidnapping and slaughter of three innocent Israeli teenagers, Hamas’s illegal tunnel network that was intended to launch a massive terror attack against Israeli civilians on the Jewish High Holidays, and the indiscriminate firing of 1,497 rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians. The death of every Palestinian civilian is an unspeakable tragedy, but the responsibility lies solely in Hamas’s heinous use of human shields, as the terrorist militants used civilian areas (including UN schools and refugee shelters) to launch their attacks. In your fervour to portray Israel as an aggressive human rights violator, you ignore the millions of Israeli civilians who have also suffered from this conflict and obscure Hamas’s responsibility for Palestinian casualties.
Like you, we grew up in the shadow of the Second World War, yet we are sufficiently versed in history to know that any equivocation of the Holocaust with the Israel-Arab conflict is morally perverse. You would be wise to remember that the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews was preceded by the boycott of Jewish professionals, businesses, and institutions. Today, the movement to boycott, divest and sanction the Jewish state is meant to serve as precedent for the elimination of Israel. If you wish to draw Holocaust analogies (as was done in your previous comparison of Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto) this comparison seems like the only appropriate one to draw.
Ms. Naiman, it is deeply concerning to us that someone in your position would abuse the privilege of authority bestowed upon you to perpetuate this sort of blatant and haphazard propaganda. It would behoove you to remember that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.
Unfortunately, your actions have the potential to taint Ryerson University’s pristine reputation. We fear that students, especially those of Jewish background, will be dissuaded from attending universities where professors and faculty are known for engaging in such unprofessional behavior. It would be one matter if you were promoting such ridiculous views in your position as a private citizen, but it appears that you have been using your academic authority to broadcast this sort of hatred. Your visit to the University of British Columbia this past March, for the sole purpose of lobbying their student union to endorse the BDS motion, is a prime example.
If playing politics is your passion, we would encourage you to run for public office in the upcoming federal election. However, as we presume you know, this career switch may prove fruitless, as all of the three major federal parties recognize the bigotry and racism underlying the BDS movement and would likely reject your candidacy. Is this not an indicator of how far your views deviate from civil opinion? We would refer you to a statement released by Ryerson’s Office of the President regarding the BDS movement; “Ryerson University does not support a boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. We have been consistent on this point. We support a safe and inclusive campus that is welcoming to everyone.”
In fact, university campuses — the only places where BDS has flourished — have now begun echoing federal sentiments and rejecting the hatred espoused by the campaign. Trent University’s recent rescindment of a BDS policy by a landslide student vote shows that when students are educated about the anti-Semitic undertones of a policy that disregards all other global atrocities while exclusively condemning the world’s only Jewish majority state, they overwhelmingly reject the movement and come to support peace, prosperity and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The recent rejection of a BDS motion at McGill University — for the umpteenth time — follows the same trend.
As Canadian students, we are sick of this campaign of hatred and bigotry. It is tearing our campuses apart and is an embarrassment to the values we hold dear. Ms. Naiman, you might be surprised to learn that one can build up the Palestinians without also tearing down the Israelis and bullying its valuable allies. Unfortunately, your letter to Premier Wynne only served the latter two aims. If you would be interested in learning more about how the BDS campaign negatively impacts Jewish and non-Jewish students alike, we would encourage you to meet with us. Until then, please lay off the discrimination.
With profound disappointment,
Danielle Shachar, York University
Corey R. LeBlanc, Trent University
Rebecca Katzman, Ryerson University
Talia Knezic, Ryerson University
Ariela Karmel, University of British Columbia
Erin Chesney, University of Windsor (Faculty of Law)
Dalia Karol, Queen’s University
Shelly Yachaev, York University
Devin Scully, Nipissing University
Jordana Lebowitz, University of Guelph
Rebecca Hubble, Trent University
Nathan Gibson, University of Toronto
Nicole West, Wilfrid Laurier University
Emily Amon, Trent University
Willem Hart, York University
Laurenne Mandel, George Brown College
Daniel Quesada – Trent University
Ariella Daniels, York University
Liel Simone, University of Guelph
Leah Khodak, York University
Michelle Efrosman, University of Toronto
Christy Tran, Western University
Rachel Carr, University of Ottawa
Victoria Sparrow-Downes, University of Toronto
Tommas Trivieri, Brock University
Ariella Sibony, York University
Jonathan Pellow, University of Toronto
Ricky Firth, York University
Marni Shankman, Wilfrid Laurier University
Russell Waldman, University of Waterloo
Anna Frenkel, Queen’s University
Joshua Hill, University of Waterloo
Michal Olchovski, Seneca College
Nitsan Yaish, York University Lauren Bromberg, Trent University