by: Jonathan Wasserlauf
My Experiences with Anti-Semitism on Campus
I am eternally grateful to have attended Concordia University a decade after the infamous Concordia University Netanyahu riot spawned and carried out by students associated with Concordia’s Student Union (CSU) During this riot, students and non-students alike busted up windows, spat on a rabbi, kicked a Holocaust survivor in the groin, and assaulted – physically and verbally – hundreds of visitors invited to hear Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu speak in Concordia’s Hall building located in downtown Montreal.
Despite the school’s internal security, the presence of police officers, and private security – all in attendance, the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic mob savaged the respected academic institution. This violence was particularly troubling for the Jewish community, which felt strongly connected to Concordia University for historical reasons: Jewish students were accepted into Sir George Williams College (so named prior to integrating with Loyola College to become Concordia University) when McGill University, Montreal’s other English-language university, applied quotas on the number of Jewish students admitted (Austin, 517).
To this day, the CSU and the broader Concordia student body remain well-versed in anti-Semitic rhetoric. Even though I am sincerely glad I never got the brunt of it, as did the previous generation of Jewish students, I experienced my share of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda and behaviour. My experiences, though, as angry as they made me feel, did not dissuade me from speaking out. Instead of melting into the background, they encouraged me to stand up proudly for my people and Israel as well as pursue peaceful, pro-Israel dialogue whenever possible.
As an undergraduate majoring in Political Sciences at Concordia, I routinely dealt with professors that spread libelous slanders about Israelis and Israel. I was also subjected to vile anti-Semitic and anti-Israel imagery hanging about the campus, to near physical violence, threats, and verbal abuse. My greatest fear was that I would be powerless to remotely respond to the victimization of my Jewish brethren despite fighting with everything I had. The following is the first part in a short recollection of my darkest anti-Israel moments at Concordia University that expose the deceptive claims that universities strive to create diverse and “safe” spaces for all its students. On the contrary, today’s universities provide open seasons on those whose identity or political convictions are not in keeping with political correctness or high up in the intersectional hierarchy. In this oppressive political and cultural environment, antisemitism – the oldest hatred – has been normalized.
A Healthy Dose of Anti-Semitism 101
For legal purposes, I will refrain from naming specific professors, who were so misguided in their anti-Semitic positions that they were unable to discern fact from fiction, and spouted their biases and ignorance unabashedly. There was a professor in one of my introductory courses who, lecturing on the subject of torture asked the class: “What is the only other country besides the United States of America where torture is legal?” She quickly piped in the answer: Israel. Of course, this incited swarms of anti-Israel students to enthusiastically shoot up their hands eagerly awaiting the opportunity to promulgate Palestinian propaganda.
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel Passes
Anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hostilities took a turn for the worse during Concordia’s Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions elections in 2015. Concordia’s Israel on Campus and Hillel initiatives were ineffectual in countering the pro-Palestinian apartheid rhetoric prevalent across campus, which equated Israel with apartheid South Africa in the 1980s.
For Jewish and pro-Israel students, the tension was palatable and disconcerting. On-campus students were approached by pro-Palestinian students who deliberately misinformed them regarding historical and contemporary facts about Israel, feeding them anti-Israel propaganda to influence the vote. They succeeded – the pro-BDS ballot passed.
The Death Sukkah
However, just when I thought that anti-Semitic behaviours at Concordia hit its peak, the Sukkah of Death made its appearance on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot in the second-floor lobby of the Hall building where the infamous riot took place a decade earlier. Palestinian activists assembled a mock sukkah, a small hut typically adorned with fruits and vegetables, except in this case, their sukkah had pictures hanging of dead babies Israel supposedly killed by the Israelis, as well as historical misinformation demonizing Jews and Zionism. Besides the feeling of grave malaise, this was hands down one of the most extreme and disgraceful examples of cultural misappropriation I had ever experienced or witnessed: these terrorist sympathizers misappropriated Jewish traditions and imagery to perpetuate lies vilifying my people.
The administration did not intervene in any way. One can easily imagine how the university would have reacted had any other minority group been targeted in this way.