York University Admin Takes a Page From the United Nations Cookbook
If it is good enough for the UN, it must be good enough for York University.
Since the negotiation process seeking to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict (involving Arabs now living under the Palestinian Authority/Hamas) is going so well, Toronto’s York University decided to implement the same approach to a problem on their campus. They were (belatedly) responding to a particularly disturbing campus event in Vari Hall. Herut Canada held a meeting on November 20 at which former Israeli IDF soldiers talked about their experiences and SAIA (Students Against Israeli Apartheid) demonstrated outside the session hall, chanting calls for intifada.
On December 5, York University admin sent a letter to the two groups separately (here and here), inviting them to a mediation session to be held in the near future:
In order to facilitate a pathway forward, with the two-pronged goal of ensuring that the events of November 20, 2019 are not repeated and restoring currently withdrawn privileges, we invite both Herut Zionism [Oz: it is really called Herut Canada!] and SAIA to participate in a facilitated mediation. …
The process we outline in this letter will provide the opportunity for an honest and respectful discussion and provide opportunities for each of your organizations to present their perspectives and viewpoints at future events in a safe and civil manner.
That sounds like an adult way to resolve conflicts, no?
Perhaps. But it seems reminiscent to me of the way the ongoing hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are often referred to as “the cycle of violence”. As if there is no particular starting point. As if, well, as if they are two siblings fighting and, when your young children fight and each accuses the other of starting it, you likely send both of them to their rooms to cool off. Was that the thinking behind York University’s administration when they banned both campus groups Herut Canada and SAIA?
…please note that your privileges including reserving space tabling and and postering at York University have been withdrawn.
Note that they sent both groups the exact same letters (informing them of the banning and of the impending mediation) but separately, just changing the names of those addressed at the top. I wonder why they could not have addressed the leaders of Herut Canada and SAIA on the same document unless they were afraid their server would explode in protest of such close proximity on the page.
Who Started it?
It is interesting that the official York Federation of Students statement released following the event blamed only the JDL (Jewish Defense League), an off-campus group, and neither Herut Canada, that organized the event, nor SAIA, that organized the protest, were mentioned at all. They also lied. They claimed that someone from the JDL stole the Palestinian flag and urinated on it but linked to a post admitting to stealing the flag and pouring juice on it. I guess they figure nobody actually clicks on the links and links give the impression of a well researched statement. They also claimed that a student:
… was assaulted and suffered a concussion after being punched in the back of the head. As he was being rushed out of Vari Hall and into an ambulance, a group of young men filmed him while laughing and mocking the injured student.
But this is contradicted by another video posted online showing the man lying on the ground for a few moments and then getting up and apparently leaving on his own two feet. It was very uncomfortable for me to see him on the ground. While the link provided in the quote above is to a JDL member bragging about having knocked someone out for 10 (?) minutes, there is no mention of the fact that Jewish students felt intimidated by the protest. One report stated that a police escort was required to get some Jewish attendees safely off the premises at the end of the event. Still, I do not justify the use of violence unless it was really a case of self-defense. And I also do not agree with stealing a flag and pouring juice on it. But I also believe in telling the truth.
In their statement, the YFS claim:
There is overwhelming evidence of aggression and violence by JDL members inflicted that evening. Many of our members have video recordings and photos of JDL members shouting hateful racist and Islamophobic slurs at York University students.
In fact, they show none of these “many video recordings” and I located three supposedly incriminating videos in an article on none other than the love-to-hate-Jews site, Electric Intifada. Regarding the first video, they say that:
… JDL members are clearly heard chanting “Am Yisrael chai,” or “the Jewish people lives,” a Hebrew slogan often chanted by right-wing Israeli nationalists, sometimes as they assault Palestinians in racist attacks.
They link here to their article showing events that took place during Jerusalem Day in Israel as if that is relevant. And really, I did not know that “Am Yisrael chai” is chanted only by right wing Israeli nationalists. It is actually part of a popular song by Shlomo Carlebach that is sung on many occasions.
But most misleading is this:
A man in the same video, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, can be heard chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Palestine has got to go!”
In fact, I heard the chant: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the occupation has got to go!” repeated on and on and on before the guy in the hat shouted out his own version ONCE in response. So much of the video is hard to hear but I was able to make out the anti-Zionist protestors repeatedly chant “No peace, no justice” and later “No justice, no peace” and it is likely they do not mean it in the way Martin Luther King did, but more in the threatening way it has been used in protests in the USA. Overall, in the video that lasts almost 6 minutes, the JDL can be heard for less than 30 seconds.
In the second video link put up by EI, the claim is made that:
… someone is heard shouting the racial slur “monkeys” in the presence of students, as pro-Israel activists appear to surround them and unfurl an Israeli flag.
The only things I can make out clearly are the shouts “Viva viva Palestina” coming from the protest upstairs and the Jewish guy inviting the protestor to face him downstairs. And while I did see the unfurling of an Israeli flag (horrors!, shock!) it is very hard to surround people when you are at the bottom of the stairs and they are at the top. Really, do they not think anyone will click on the links they provide? Please tell me if you hear the Jews saying anything about a monkey or any other slur. Maybe I missed it in all the noise.
A different video is said to show a JDL member threatening a student. The student urges a campus security officer to escort the man off campus.
If you click on it, perhaps you will hear what I heard; I heard the Jew say: “If you do that, I will step on your head.” We need to ask who threatened whom first.
And for your listening pleasure, you can enjoy 54 seconds of continuous “Viva, viva intifada” (which translates as: Let us go on killing the Jews) as you read the conclusions to my article just below this.
Where York University Deviates From the UN
The one positive thing I can say about York University admin is that they deviated from typical UN script when they banned BOTH Herut Zionism (ummm, Herut Canada, really) and SAIA. The UN usually just tells one party to stop: they tell Israel to stop defending herself against Hamas missiles and incendiary kites.
And here is an interesting point to ponder: we see no evidence of Herut Canada doing anything to disrupt or display violence toward the anti-Zionist protestors. Instead, the off-campus group, the JDL, is the one being accused of that. So if the JDL had not come onto campus to protest the protest, would anything have been different here? I think it would have been.
Without the JDL distracting attention from the real issue instead of preparing better for this particular protest, we would have had what we usually have: protests and hate directed at Jews/Israel just because they exist and for some strange reason because they insist on exerting their right to exist (nervy of them/us). There would have been no censure of SAIA on the part of the university administration and no call for both groups to come to mediation to see how they can express their opinions “in a safe and civil manner”. Herut Canada would continue to organize events they feel open up important discussion and debate concerning Israel and SAIA would continue to chant calls for intifada.
And many Jews on campus will continue to feel unsafe in being open about being Jewish, a phenomenon likely to continue even after the upcoming mediation as much as they apparently do now without it.
Feature Image credit: FB photo accompanying article posted on Independent Jewish Voices Canada, 24 November 2019.