As Jewish community organizations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), we want to commend you for recently defending the right to freedom of political expression at York University in the presence of heavy-handed pressure from Israel lobby organizations.
It is false to assert that Jewish students are subject to intimidation, bullying, marginalization, bigotry, or other forms of discrimination at York University. Nevertheless, Israel lobby organizations, claiming to be “advocating for the Jewish community,” continue to assert this claim.
There is nothing in the mural at York University that incites violence or bigotry. An objective view of the mural will recognize its depiction of the destruction of Palestinians’ homes and uprooting of trees, and Palestinian resistance to these oppressive Israeli measures. A failure to acknowledge this points to the racist lens through which these lobby organizations view this issue.
B’nai Brith of Canada, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), Hasbara Fellowships Canada, Hillel Ontario, StandWithUs Canada, and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto (UJA) distinguish themselves by their unconditional support for the policies of the Netanyahu government of Israel. These include the policies of brutal occupation and colonial settlement of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, administrative detention of political activists, the repeated arrests of women, men and children for no other reason than simply being Palestinian, forcible prevention of the return of Palestinian refugees, and racist discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
These organizations may represent their members, but in no way can they claim to represent, or speak for, all Jewish communities. Jews are diverse in their political views, religious beliefs, and ethnic backgrounds.
Membership in our respective organizations includes students at York University, alumni of York University, faculty of York University, and emeritus faculty of York University.
More and more Jewish students, faculty, and community members feel alienated from the racist policies of the Israeli state. We organize and speak for a growing number of Jews in the GTA who are dissatisfied with political Zionism, and who seek inclusion, not in a Zionist “consensus,” but in a broader community dedicated to freedom, justice and equality.
This intervention on the part of Israel’s apologists has been calculated to intimidate all people, including Jews and Palestinians, who want to speak out and organize in solidarity with the Palestinian people. These apologists for Israeli misconduct aim to impose censorship on political education, discussion, and debate, and to impede solidarity action. They aim to promote anti-Palestinian bigotry.
Dr. Shoukri, we urge you to remain steadfast in the face of such bullying. Universities must take measurable steps to support freedom of political expression and academic freedom. We hope to see you take steps to uphold the fundamental rights and freedoms of all people, including York University students, faculty, and staff.
Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Independent Jewish Voices – Toronto
Independent Jewish Voices – York
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network – Canada
United Jewish People’s Order Canada
YorkU Jews Against Colonialism