March 23, 2017
On March 9, 2017 an incident occurred at an event at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology/Durham College (UOIT/DC) that B’nai Brith has claimed was aimed at “eliminat[ing] Israeli students, and in practice Jewish students, from public life on campus.” This false allegation came out of a stunt where students covered over an Israeli flag with the flag of Algeria. B’nai Brith also falsely asserted in its statement both that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was responsible for the incident and that SJP students had called Jews “rodents” as part of their celebration of the stunt on Facebook. B’nai Brith’s CEO accused SJP of “promoting hatred.”
It turns out that the allegations made by B’nai Brith against SJP are entirely fabricated and a continuation of its lengthy record of working to shut down critical and honest debate about Israel. CIJ News, a far-right publication, blindly regurgitated B’nai Brith’s baseless claims about SJP, which were also reported on by the staunchly conservative tabloid newspaper Toronto Sun.
The far-right agenda of both B’nai Brith and CIJ News has serious implications for racialized students at UOIT/DC, who have subsequently been targeted by the university administration to determine which students covered the Israeli flag. Such racial profiling and unfair targeting of SJP students — based on the false allegations of B’nai Brith — has created a discriminatory and prejudiced environment at UOIT/DC for these students. The university’s administration ought to be protecting their students from defamatory allegations, rather than giving credence to such allegations.
Meanwhile, B’nai Brith has refused to condemn the widely-reported antisemitism and blatant Holocaust denial of Gavin McInnes of The Rebel Media, which occurred around the same time as this petty flag stunt. B’nai Brith’s complete silence here can be easily explained by The Rebel Media’s shared views that support Israel uncritically. The fact that B’nai Brith prioritized attacking a small group of Palestinian human rights activists over publicly and forcefully condemning grotesque expressions of antisemitism speaks volumes about the organization’s priorities.
IJV calls on the administration of UOIT/DC to end its witch hunt against racialized students, and to refrain in the future from giving in to the bullying tactics of far-right nationalist groups such as B’nai Brith. We reiterate that it is not antisemitic in any way to express discontent or concern about the policies of a state through stunts such as the one pulled by students at UOIT/DC. The Israeli flag does not represent Jewish people; it represents a foreign state. B’nai Brith’s conflation of all Jews with the State of Israel is in itself a form of antisemitism, as it implicates all Jews in the actions of this state. Such a conflation endangers Jewish students and silences dissenting Jewish voices.
Finally, we urge all Jewish organizations in Canada to condemn real antisemitism when it occurs rather than — as so many do — focussing their attention on critics of the State of Israel.