Re: Words from Arij Al Khafagi’s appeal hearing

U of M alum responds to Feb. 6 feature

The Manitoban published on its front page on Feb. 6 a very long statement made by Ben Baader, an associate professor of history at the U of M, which he delivered at the appeal hearing of nursing student Arij Al Khafagi.

In this long missive, Baader made a rather alarming statement indicating that “some Zionist faculty at U of M, and the Jewish student organization Hillel, hand in hand with the off-campus organization B’nai Brith” are engaged “in a campaign of reporting what they experience as hateful and frightening speech […] in a calculated maneuver to support the current Israeli war effort.”

There is no indication from Baader that he has ever even spoken to any students who are affiliated with Hillel since Oct. 7, or been to the Hillel office. How does Baader possibly know that some Zionist faculty and Hillel are engaged in “a calculated maneuver to support the Israeli war effort,” when he doesn’t have any empirical data to suggest this is the actual case? Is Baader peddling some sort of Jewish conspiracy?

Many Jewish students go to Hillel, a cultural organization, for bagels and coffee or to play cards or nap between classes. Surely by doing this they are not supporting the Israeli war effort. Those students who support the Israeli war effort are certainly able to do so as ending Hamas rule in Gaza is a just cause.

But I would suggest that most Jewish students who affiliate with Hillel are in the process of learning about the conflict, and their views are fluid and developing. It is very problematic that Baader seems to be targeting these students as being involved in “a calculated maneuver to support the Israeli war effort.” By painting them all with the same brush, without any empirical data, isn’t it foreseeable that Baader will make it more likely that these students become the target of antisemitic verbiage or politically motivated and/or antisemitic attacks?

Baader has a duty to ensure that all students, including the vast majority of Jewish students who see Israel as an important part of their Jewish identity, feel comfortable on campus. When I graduated from University of Manitoba with a B.A. with Distinction, (1985) and a L.L.B., (1989) that was the case, and it should continue to be the case now.