TORONTO — A wave of misinformation is being used by the media and academics to attack Israel, according to a panel that spoke at the Chabad Lubavitch Community Centre at Chabad Gate in Thornhill.
Crisis on Canadian Campuses, a June 11 panel discussion sponsored by the Jewish Defence League of Canada and hosted by Chabad Lubavitch, was held in advance of a two-day conference called Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace.
The panellists expressed concern about what they said was the June 22-24 conference’s agenda to push for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which many fear would put an end to the Jewish state. They also discussed the hostile climate on campus between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students.
Compared with the anti-Israel activities of the early 1980s, “the situation has [worsened] dramatically,” said panel moderator Guidy Mamann, an immigration law specialist and a York graduate. “Today, when I spoke to some of the young students who were going [to York], they described incalculable fear on campus, and that is because things almost seem to be out of control.”
University of Toronto associate professor of molecular genetics Sean Egan noted that many academic institutions have a long history of anti-western, pro-totalitarian ideologies, and he criticized what he said are the lack of legitimate credentials that are needed to be published on issues of foreign policy and race relations in academic journals.
“It’s no coincidence that many of the most influential academics have achieved high stature through ideology rather than scholarship. We can call to mind famous academics trained in linguistics or English literature who have established fame and fortune by attacking Israel,” said Egan, who was one of the signatories of an ad opposing Israeli Apartheid Week at U of T signed by 125 faculty members this spring and published in the National Post.
He suggested several steps that should be implemented in order to make not just campuses, but all public institutions and communities safer for everyone.
The first step, Egan said, is sensitivity training that would educate future generations about the positive contributions of Jews to world culture. He also believes it is necessary for Jewish and Christian organizations to unite in order to combat hostility toward Judeo-Christian values.
In addition, Egan suggested that free speech conferences on campuses that promote anti-western ideologies should be filmed as evidence of what actually transpires during these meetings.
“We need to get the university administrations to agree to film these events as the least they can do to provide a campus free of threat and intimidation,” he said.
Eldad Zacksenhaus of the University Health Network cancer research institute said that the far left’s agenda on university campuses is part of “a long campaign to delegitimize, dehumanize and eventually destroy Israel and its Jewish populace.”
Zacksenhaus, who was also one of the signatories of the ad opposing Israeli Apartheid Week, said anti-Zionist hate speech is able to flourish on campuses because it is being “camouflaged” as free speech, mostly by Arabs and their left-wing supporters.
But despite the propaganda disseminated by the Muslim world, Zacksenhaus believes that anti-Israel Jews may be a worse threat.
“It is most frustrating to watch Israeli Jews bash Israel and call for the destruction of the State of Israel… We must stop acting as apologists to those who wish to destroy us,” he said.
Ron Banerjee, director of the Hindu Conference of Canada, spoke about the unwavering support of the Hindu community for Israel and the Jewish community, as both nations can empathize with the struggles of the other.
“It is not enough just to say that India is a good friend of Israel. It is more accurate to say that the Hindu majority of India is a friend of the Jewish people,” he said.
Banerjee compared the plight of the Hindu nationalist party to that of Jewish Zionists, and he assured the audience that organizations such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which together encompass tens of millions of Hindu nationalists, stand behind Israel’s fight for justice.
“It is really the largest consolidated block of pro-Israel, pro-Zionist support anywhere on the planet,” he said of the Hindu groups.
The fourth panellist was Meir Weinstein, national director of the Jewish Defence League of Canada.