Over the last few days of ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza, we have seen a corresponding uptick in the demonization of Israel and Jews across Ontario university campuses. This has left Jewish students vulnerable to intimidation, harassment or worse and has emboldened “anti-Zionist” activists to escalate their hateful campaigns of misinformation.
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) takes every incident seriously, diligently working with university officials to address cases of antisemitic propaganda, threats and intimidation targeting Jewish students.
At York University, a teaching assistant emailed his students unsolicited anti-Israel propaganda, urging them to participate in anti-Israel activities and make financial donations to anti-Israel causes. FSWC immediately contacted York University President Rhonda Lenton, explaining that the teaching assistant, in a power position, crossed a line by creating a toxic and inflammatory environment for Jewish students. York University officials took the complaint seriously and have assured us that the matter is being dealt with, and we are awaiting further information.
FSWC was also made aware of a libelous anti-Israel statement released by Queen’s University’s student newspaper The Queens Journal, including a vow by the Journal’s editors to donate funds to the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. We immediately urged Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane to step in, ensure that student funds were not improperly allocated to BDS groups, and address the unacceptable comments issued by the Journal. We are pleased to note a full retraction by the Journal’s editors has been posted.
Finally, there were two incidents involving McMaster University and Laurier University students who took to social media platform TikTok to spew hatred and antisemitic rants. Last week, a Laurier student published a video of herself dancing and holding a knife and making stabbing motions over the image of an Israeli flag. As soon as we became aware of this video, we launched a complaint with TikTok, which removed the content immediately. Laurier University has stated it will be taking appropriate action with respect to the students involved in the video, and we await information about what this action will entail. A McMaster University student took to TikTok to launch a full verbal attack on a Jewish classmate for her professed support of Israel, calling the Jewish student a “rat” among other very derogatory insults. FSWC reached out to McMaster President David Farrar with a detailed complaint about the video, and we have been advised that the administration has spoken with the student responsible, who has removed the video from social media. We await follow-up information.
Sadly, Jewish university students are learning a difficult lesson: if they stand up for Israel, they may be making themselves vulnerable to harassment and social ostracism. That is why the work we do at FSWC is so important. We let students know that they are not alone, we help fight against intimidation and misinformation, and we make sure that all students feel safe and secure on campus.
FSWC will remain vigilant in this area as the conflict rages on, and we pray for an end to the violence that has been terrorizing Israel and the Jewish people.