|Challenge: Anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric
Sometimes, swastikas are crudely scrawled in hallways.
Sometimes, bathroom walls are defaced with anti-Jewish slurs. Often,
campus newspaper articles decry Israel as a brutal oppressor. And
most recently, a Jewish student at York University has alleged an
assault at the hands of protestors denouncing war with Iraq. These
are just a few of the incidents that have left their mark on Jewish
students at Toronto universities this year.
Since the eruption of the Palestinian campaign
of violence against Israel in September 2000, reports of vandalism
and graffiti on university campuses have escalated. "One particular
elevator had to be painted every two weeks for months," says
Shayna Allen, Director of Hillel:The Centre for Jewish Campus Life
at York University. At Ryerson, students were chilled to see their
sukkah sprayed with the words "How many more children are you
going to kill?" An investigation into the incident by campus
police led nowhere.
As troubling as these incidents are, those occurring
inside the classroom can be even more challenging for students.
"A handful of professors and teaching assistants have dropped
offhand derogatory comments," says Lisa Isen-Baumel, Allen's
counterpart at the University of Toronto. "Students are very
sensitive to it now."
Inside and outside the lecture hall, Jewish students
are often placed in the awkward position of confronting their teachers,
while others shy away for fear it will impact their grades
The unease Toronto's Jewish students are
experiencing on campus is symptomatic of a larger ill that is pervading
academic institutions across North America. Hating Israel has become
acceptable, as sympathy for the Palestinian cause gains momentum.
And, although some pro-Palestinian academics have protested that
criticism of Israel is too readily labelled anti-Semitism, the two
are often difficult to distinguish.