Re: York University backlash an attempt to criminalize substantive criticism of Israel

As acts of anti-Semitism are becoming more prevalent in Canada, the U.S. and around the world, it is becoming evident that anti-Semites are no longer afraid to hide in the dark.

In their article “York University backlash an attempt to criminalize substantive criticism of Israel” published in the Manitoban on Jan. 6, 2020, Cam Cannon laments that a group chanting “Viva intifada” received a suspension from the York University administration.

In case Cannon is not aware, the word “intifada” has a very specific connotation when referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — specifically, a series of violent events. Intifadas include hundreds of Israeli deaths, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, in cold blood. Acts of intifada have been perpetrated through inhumane methods such as suicide bombings in malls, restaurants and crowded buses and through rocket attacks.

The most recent intifada in 2015 and 2016, known as the “Stabbing Intifada,” saw cases of young Palestinians attempting to stab Jewish people with knives and occasionally succeeding.

For the leaders of organizations like Hamas — which is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S., Canada and the European Union — who teach their youth to use weapons of war in order to inflict violence and pain, intifada is the way  these terrorist groups in support of Palestinian nationalism wish to cleanse the Land of Israel, “from the river to the sea,” of Jewish people.

I condemn any and all actions of civilian casualties on any side of any conflict, and will most definitely condemn all acts of violence on campus, regardless of whether the culprit is Muslim or Jewish. However, when groups like Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) demonstrate a clear pattern of hatred and anti-Semitism, that’s when university administrations must intervene on behalf of the greater student body.

SAIA has not only been banned by UMSU at the U of M on the grounds of alleged “discrimination” and “harassment,” the University of Toronto’s SAIA chapter organized an event off campus in 2019 with a guest speaker, Issam Al-Yamani, who was set to be deported in 2005 for allegedly belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization as listed by the Canadian government since 2003. How many more opportunities to spark fear in Jewish students will SAIA leaders be afforded by the York administration?

Refusing to acknowledge the hateful nature of SAIA’s practices — its name alone seems to imply members are more interested in promoting anti-Israel hatred than they are about promoting justice for Palestinians — is one of several blatant failures of Cannon’s article.

But the most egregious inaccuracy in Cannon’s piece is the complete and unfounded ignorance toward the indigeneity of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Historical and archaeological evidence confirms that Jewish people are indigenous to this land, which they have called home for over 3,000 years, and where there has been a continued Jewish presence since then.

Jewish indigeneity does not negate that Palestinians have also known this land as their home. But SAIA’s demonstrations against Israel Defense Forces reservists, who sought out dialogue rather than intimidation, made it clear that it did not support the right of Jewish people to defend themselves against terrorism. In my mind, the calls of “Viva, viva Intifada” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” translate into one call: “Jewish people out.”

I reject extremism on any side of this conflict and can recognize that if Palestinians have a claim to this land, so too do the Jewish people. By furthering a narrative that refers to Israel as a “settler-colonial project,” Cannon is contributing to a seemingly growing fallacy that Jewish people have no claim to Israel.

With soaring levels of anti-Semitic acts, I hope Cannon joins me in calls that will hopefully one day reverberate through the world in these difficult times: “Anti-Semites out.”