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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

No way to foster civility at York University

...In 2013, a mural of a Palestinian demonstrator brandishing a rock was selected for display in the York University Student Centre. Despite being scheduled for removal last year, the mural remains to this day.

As a response to Jewish community’s concerns about the mural, York University’s president, Mamdouh Shoukri, announced in January that he was forming a President’s Advisory Committee to examine “effective methods to ensure inclusive, respectful exchanges of ideas, particularly on sensitive social and political issues.”

This was a welcome announcement and a laudable goal. Simply put, many Jewish students and their parents are fatigued, distressed and disappointed with the fact that aggressive, anti-Israel activism has become the new status quo on campus. At the same time, many non-Jewish students are tired of seeing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict played out on campus and their unions used as platforms for divisive agendas that are irrelevant to the needs of the student body.

In selecting the committee’s membership, however, the university showed an astonishing level of indifference toward the real dynamics that have made so many Jewish students feel alienated, and at times unsafe, on their own campus. Nearly half of the committee’s members have a record of anti-Israel activism.

One, for example, is a leading BDS activist who captured headlines when he attempted to join a radical flotilla assembled to confront the Israeli navy outside Gaza. Another signed an open letter pressuring Shoukri to boycott Israel, which it claimed was committing “genocide.” One appointee signed a 2013 petition accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and calling on Canadian universities to cut their ties with the Jewish state. Another wrote an entire column in the Toronto Star advocating boycotts of Israel.

These individuals are active proponents of the very movement that sowed division and discord at York University. How could they possibly be seen as part of the solution? It is ludicrous to expect inclusion and diversity to be upheld by those who call for a blacklist of Israelis, or denigrate Zionists students...

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