Students not happy with anti-Semitism report at Toronto’s York U.
The York University campus in Canada.
TORONTO – Hasbara at York, a pro-Israel group at York University, announced on Wednesday that it will create a task force in response to an incident in February in which students at the school were forced to take refuge in the Hillel office as protesters banged on its glass doors, chanting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slogans.
“Die, bitch, go back to Israel,” and, “Die, Jew, get the hell off campus,” they called out.
That incident and others prompted the university administration to have a Task Force on Student Life, Learning and Community “review concerns about the student environment of the York campus,” but Hasbara is not satisfied.
Sammy Katz, the Canadian campus coordinator for Hasbara, spoke to The Jerusalem Post about the organization’s newest effort and expressed his disappointed with the university report’s findings.
“Nowhere in the report is anti-Semitism or racism mentioned specifically,” Katz said. “We believe that anti-Semitism is getting worse on the York campus, and this was not addressed.”
Mamdouh Shoukri, the president of York University, was pleased with the findings.
“I am very proud of the report,” he said in a statement released by the university on September 29. “I think the recommendations are excellent. I think this is the beginning of a far more positive relationship between the students and the community and I would certainly push this agenda forward.”
The report focused on providing more space for students to have open discourse and the creation of a Standing Committee on Campus Dialogue.
In a press release, Hasbara at York said the goal of its task force will be to “investigate and report on the current trends of anti-Semitism that are found on the York University campus.”
Students at York who have been victims of anti-Semitism are being asked by Hasbara to either share their experiences at a task force meeting on Monday at the university or to go online at www.yorktaskforce.com to submit a report.
In addition to going up against the university administration, Katz was also disheartened by the Jewish community of Toronto and specifically alumni of York university, who he believes do not understand the prevalence of anti-Semitism on campus.
“There are those who believe that Jewish life on campus is great. It’s not. Many students that I deal with don’t feel comfortable wearing magen davids or T-shirts that have anything to do with Israel to classes,” he said.
According to Katz, at a recent anti-Israel event on campus a Jewish student asked a question at the end, only to be told “Shut up Hillel” by an audience member.
Katz is not optimistic.
“There is not a lot of anti-Israel activity going on at the moment, but we have heard that anti-Israel students have been planning “a week against the Wall. If last year was any indication, this year is going to be worse.”
An additional concern for Katz was the election of former rioter and vice president for equity, Krisna Saravanamuttu, as president of the York Federation of Students.
Saravanamuttu also expressed satisfaction with the university’s report.
“Out of the 10 recommendations, seven were proposed by the YFS. We are happy to see they were supported by both the task force and President Shoukri,” he said.
Saravanamuttu, who was deeply involved in the York task force, has been placed by York students at the scene of the riot outside Hillel and singled out as the ringleader.
An open letter on Facebook from a York University student to Saravanamuttu identified him as “shaking people’s hands and thanking them [the rioters] for coming. I am not a Zionist, and I am not Jewish. I can never understand the deep feelings of terror which you filled into the hearts of that community today, but that will not stop me from speaking out against it.”