Friday, March 25, 2016

UK: ‘You can’t force-feed students anti-Israel policies’

Gabriel Dorey reports on UCLU’s undemocratic embrace of BDS

While we may have become accustomed to the authoritarian excesses of campus politics, some incidents still have the ability to shock us. There was a particularly maddening incident at University College London last week, when the student council pushed through a motion endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, with little support from the student body.

The motion, which passed by 14 votes to four, called for UCL’s students’ union, UCLU, to ‘work with students to publish a report on academic, corporate and economic links between the university and companies or institutions that participate in or are complicit in Israeli violations of international law’. What’s more, UCLU will stop stocking or advertising Israeli products.

The day before the vote, members of the UCLU Friends of Palestine Society dressed as IDF soldiers and set up mock checkpoints on campus, dubbing it the ‘Palestinian Experience’.

I spoke to a Jewish UCL first year called Isaac. Though Isaac was previously not engaged in the issue, he is angered by the union’s actions. ‘I don’t care what the agenda is’, he says. ‘You can’t force-feed 30,000 [students] a political stance that is so contested – it’s undemocratic and unfair.’

A petition was launched in the wake of the vote, calling for the motion to be debated by the wider student body at a general assembly. ‘We need this to happen because [the union] needs to let people have their say’, Isaac says. ‘The fact that the UCLU Debating Society opposed the motion the night before just shows that the student body is not in parallel with what the union believes. The union has been very crafty about it.’

Isaac feels the motion will alienate Jewish students. ‘I honestly feel intimidated by the situation, and I know for a fact that it’s going to put off Jewish students from coming here next year.’ What’s more, he finds the boycott itself illogical: ‘Are they going to ban every iPhone because it has a chip inside it made by Israelis?’ He points to the fact that BDS recently succeeded in shutting down a Sodastream factory in the West Bank, causing 500 Palestinian workers to lose their jobs: ‘Where’s the justice in that?’

It seems that, due to its underhand methods, UCLU has shot itself in the foot. ‘I heard about [the motion] a few days beforehand, because I’m flatmates with a member of the UCLU council’, a former UCLU sabbatical officer, who wants to remain anonymous, tells me. ‘I can’t imagine how disassociated others must feel. I think there’s a tendency in the BDS movement to be more about delegitimising Israel than helping Palestinians, which isn’t a good way to go about things because you’re antagonising people who might support you otherwise.’

The undemocratic nature of the decision is what most dismays him. ‘I love the students’ union, and I want students to be engaged and talk about political issues. But people talking in small rooms shouldn’t be deciding big, important things for the majority’, he says. ‘Why not try and convince people of your point of view if you believe in BDS? Try and convince people, and maybe you’ll pass it in a general meeting.’

This undemocratic streak goes right through the BDS movement. Certain student politicians seem to consider those who disagree with them as contemptible troglodytes, justifying, in their minds, the movement’s anti-democratic antics. Jacob Diamond, ex-president of the King’s College London Debating Society, suggests that both sides of the Israel-Palestine debate are somewhat guilty of this. ‘That’s the sort of culture you have on campus now – if you question either side, either the Israel Society or the pro-Palestinians, [they will] come down on you like hellfire.’

That said, he thinks there is a specific problem with anti-Israel campaigning sometimes lapsing into something close to anti-Semitism. ‘[Anti-Israel students] use the term “Zio”, which ultra-right-wing people use to denounce Jews, even if they’re not Zionists’, says Diamond. ‘It is a derogatory term.’

The rise of campus authoritarianism has boosted censorious campaigns like BDS. With a slender mandate, UCLU has imposed a highly contentious policy on tens of thousands of students. Unless liberal-minded students start defending their rights, these scandalous evasions of democracy will go on unchecked.


Since when has a game of tag been a threat to children?

Christ The King School, a primary school in Leeds, has banned the game tag. Apparently, this dangerous activity is ruining the children’s clothing and leaving them ‘upset’. The school has even implemented a new set of rules, including ‘keep hands to self’.

Of course, this is not the first school to clamp down on a long-standing children’s game. Three years ago, for instance, a primary school in Bolton banned tag and British bulldog because pupils kept having accidents.

Maybe children in the north just aren’t very good at games. But, either way, I find all of this safeguarding a great shame. It shows how childhood, which should be a free and exploratory time, is now being over-policed. Schools are wrong to assume that banning tag protects children – in fact, it merely encourages risk aversion.

Teachers and regulators forget just how important a few childhood scrapes can be. Falling over doesn’t traumatise children; rather, it helps make them resilient. I don’t know if the teachers at Christ The King have noticed, but children have a remarkable ability to pick themselves up again.

Besides, many children actually enjoy the danger of tag or British bulldog. These are not only games, they are character-building exercises, fostering resilience, competitiveness and a simple love of running around. If children can’t handle tag, something’s gone seriously wrong.

After tag, who knows what will be banned next? Perhaps kiss chase will be deemed a type of sexual harassment. We need to think long and hard about mollycoddling children. Over-protecting children in playgrounds today will leave them ill-equipped to tackle the adult world tomorrow.


Jewish Donors: Stop Funding Anti-Semitism — Divest From Universities

Paul Bronfman is a hero to the Jewish people. He gave York University an ultimatum: Take down the anti-semitic mural within 24 hours or else I withdraw all support. As the chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios, he had been supplying thousands of dollars of film equipment, technical services, and know-how to York University’s Cinema and Media Arts Program. They refused to take down the mural. And he followed through with his threat. He pulled money, production equipment, seminars, open houses with students, learning labs and training programs – everything!

Mr. Bronfman’s action has attracted a lot of media coverage because it is big news. As a result, anti-semites everywhere have been crawling out of their holes. A hundred faculty members at York University have exposed themselves as Israel haters when they signed an open letter defending the now infamous anti-semitic mural and critizing Paul Bronfman for pulling funding over it. Even Rogers Waters of Pink Floyd fame, today mainly known for Jew hatred, has chimed in with his useless opinion. It doesn’t happen every day that a Jewish donor steps up to the plate. In fact, it has as far as I can recall, never happened…until now.

Despite the fact that universities across North America have become sewers of anti-semitism, rife with anti-semitic professors, anti-Israel demonstrations, and verbal and physical assault of Jewish students, Jewish donors have generally chosen the path of denial and continue their love affair with their chosen universities. Personally, I lose sleep when I know fellow Jews are harassed or attacked. But maybe that’s just me and my like-minded friends and cohorts. Apparently Jewish donors have no problem dishing out hundreds of millions of dollars to educational establishments that allows its Jewish students to be treated like garbage. They pretend that all is well and continue pouring big money into their alma matters – because after all, that campus building is simply not going to name itself.

It is astonishing that Jewish University donors not only keep silent in the face of unprecedented Jew hate on campus but also continue to endow it with their philanthropic gifts. Again take York University, one of the most notorious universities, where there exists a whole culture of Israel hatred that permeates the campus. If a student dare attempt to stand up for Israel or Zionism, point out radical anti-Israel perpetrators, or report incidents of anti-semitism, they get shut down, silenced, targeted, threatened, intimidated, and harassed from the student body and administration alike.

It was in 2005 when movements like Israel Apartheid Week and BDS against Israel lit the anti-Jew fire, and the public starting hearing about one hate-filled incident after another. At what could be considered the height of Jew-hate tensions at York University between 2005 and 2010, which included the hosting of Hamas-loving speakers, mini-riots against Jews, swarming of pro-Israel tabled events, storming events of pro-Israel speakers, physical violence, barricading of Jews, and shouting profanities and anti-semitic slurs (“Die Jew, get the hell off campus” and “Zionist pigs”), a well-known Jewish donor who was also a member of the school’s board of directors, apparently thought nothing of it when he/she made a substantial donation for a particular center on campus.

If you want to put your money into a secular university rather than, say…Israel, or a Jewish institution, you may have a skewed sense of priorities, but that is your business. When you fund a place that at that very moment is making our kids’ lives hellish and leave them to fend for themselves – that is shameful.

And ‘official’ Jewish organizations in the community or on campus, often connected to those same Jewish donors, have only made matters worse by playing down incidents, turning a blind eye, to even being complicit with the university and unabashedly supporting their stance. Shockingly it was the Director of Israel Affairs of an on-campus Jewish organization that gave the green light for the infamous Israel Apartheid week to be born at the University of Toronto in 2005. It has since spread to 87 cities worldwide and is an annual Jew-hate fest on university campuses across the globe. Our Jewish children have been sacrificed for the preposterous pretense of ‘dialogue’ and disgracefully abandoned to bear the onslaught of the resulting Jew hate alone.

The same problems or worse exists for Jewish students all across North American college campuses. And yet Jews are still among the biggest donors of those North American college campuses. Our kids are being physically assaulted, verbally abused, spat at, called terrorists, baby killers, Nazis, racists, have been told to “get rounded up” and to ‘go burn in an oven”. Nevertheless, staggering amounts of Jewish money continues to be pumped into these academic institutions as they simultaneously explode with anti-Jew and anti-Israel hatred. What does it take to wake the Jewish university donor?

Perhaps a visit to web sites such as Jew Hatred on Campus and AMCHA Initiative that documents testimonies of anti-semitism on US campuses would make them think twice. In 2015, there were 300 reported incidents that took place at 109 schools in 28 states. Here are but a few examples:

* An orthodox Jewish student was punched in the face at Medgar Evers College and told to “Leave the school, you Jew.”

* Anti-semitic words like “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” was found etched on UC Berkeley school property.

* University of Chicago students posted “Gas them, burn them and dismantle their power structure. Humanity cannot progress with the parasitic Jew.”

* A Jewish star was found with a cross through it and the words “Hitler was right”, and “With Jews you lose” scrawled on Townson University campus.

* A mezuzah was vandalized and multiple swastikas drawn on Northeastern University property.

* A swastika was drawn outside Hillel Director Rabbi Ely Allen’s office at Farleigh Dickinson University.

* York University’s administration threatened to sue a Rabbi and demanded his apology for suggesting to protest against George Galloway who was invited to speak on campus for an anti-semitic pro-Hamas event.

* A Jewish fraternity at UC Davis was defaced with “grout out the Jews” etched into Hillel House, and swastikas and profanities were found carved on cars with slashed tires.

* A convicted terrorist, Rasmeah Odeh, was the keynote speaker at San Diego State University to promote the anti-semitic BDS movement.

* A Jewish student at the University of Oregon was victimized by anti-semitic slurs and threatened to be assaulted with a firearm.

It is absolutely mind-boggling that Jewish donors continue to fund schools where these types of incidents are taking place.

And then there’s Columbia University, which has a reputation for employing some of the most virulently anti-semitic professors, including Rashid Khalidi who was a spokesman for the PLO when he lived in Beirut in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He and other like-minded professors have harassed Jewish students on multiple occasions and have made numerous bigoted statements about Jews. Many disgraceful anti-Israel speakers and events have been brought to the campus, including, who can forget, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who had vowed ‘to wipe Israel off the map’.

Unbelievably, none of this has stopped Jewish donors from pouring money into Columbia U. In 2006, a prominent New York Jewish couple donated $250 million, the largest gift ever to an American university for a single facility. In 2011 another Jewish donor gifted the place with $200 million. Another $100 million in 2013 came from, you guessed it, another Jewish couple. And the list goes on.

Just last year, Jewish billionaire John Paulson gifted Harvard University with a record breaking $400 million. Harvard is no different than the others with matters regarding Israel. In 2012, it hosted the anti-semitic One-State Conference, which was dedicated to discussing the dismantling of the Jewish state. Speakers included Israel bashing and Hamas supporting academics, terror apologists, and a former advisor to the PLO who was also, big surprise….a Hamas supporter.

Why shouldn’t universities continue their anti-semitic business as usual, when there are no consequences from its biggest Jewish supporters? Why should universities acknowledge how horrifically anti-semitic their campuses have become when Jewish supporters have ignored all of it and continue to give?

This intolerably absurd situation cannot be allowed to continue. It is high time that Jewish donors divest from their universities. It is high time for Jewish donors to be held accountable if they don’t. Will they take a cue from Paul Bronfman and follow suit? One should certainly hope so. I, for one, am waiting for many more heroes to emerge. Everyone is watching and waiting. It’s time for Jewish donors to let go of their beloved universities. Their universities do not love them or any of us back. It’s time for Jewish donors to take a stand…if not for themselves, at least they should do it for the sake of our Jewish kids, and their own.


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