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I’m not alright with bigotry

Lisa Sygutek

May 1, 2024

Antisemitism on university campuses is a cancer that undermines the very foundation of academic freedom and tolerance.

If you watch what’s going at Columbia University in the United States regarding student protests, it is as if we are actively watching how Hitler systematically ostracised the Jewish people, little by little eroding them to the point where they were not seen as human beings. 

Yesterday, a group of Jewish students, paying members of the university, were not allowed access to the library to study unless they were wearing a bracelet that showed they weren’t Jewish. 

I watched in disgust how this situation had been allowed to unfold into blatant systemic racism. Now I see that a similar encampment is beginning at McGill right here in Canada. 

Antisemitism on university campuses is a cancer that undermines the very foundation of academic freedom and tolerance. In recent years, the rise of antisemitic incidents, often masquerading as political discourse, has ignited concerns about the toxic environment it creates for Jewish students and faculty. While universities have long been bastions of free speech and diverse perspectives, the line between legitimate criticism and hate speech has become increasingly blurred, necessitating a robust response from academic institutions and society at large.

The resurgence of antisemitism on campuses is deeply troubling, with incidents ranging from discriminatory remarks to physical assaults and vandalism targeting Jewish students and their organizations. I listened to one professor say that feeling unsafe and being unsafe are two different things and that the protests are designed to make Jewish students uncomfortable. I guess I should be surprised considering it’s these same academics teaching the students who have now in my opinion, become radicalised. Moreover, the guise of anti-Zionism has provided cover for expressions of antisemitism, with rhetoric demonizing Israel often crossing the line into hateful troupes and conspiracy theories about Jewish control and manipulation.

At the heart of this issue lies the fundamental principle of free speech, a cornerstone of academia. While universities must uphold the right to express diverse viewpoints, including criticism of Israeli policies, they also have a responsibility to combat hate speech and protect vulnerable communities. This delicate balance requires clear guidelines and swift action to address instances where legitimate discourse devolves into bigotry and discrimination.

One of the challenges in combating antisemitism on campuses is distinguishing between legitimate criticism of Israel and expressions of antisemitism. Criticism of Israeli government policies, like any other country, is a legitimate part of political discourse. However, when such criticism descends into dehumanization, conspiracy theories, or calls for violence against Jews, it crosses the line into hate speech and must be unequivocally condemned.

Universities must implement robust mechanisms for monitoring and addressing antisemitic incidents, including educational programs, reporting mechanisms, and disciplinary measures when necessary. Furthermore, fostering dialogue and understanding between different communities is essential in promoting mutual respect and combating prejudice. Interfaith initiatives, cultural exchanges, and diversity training can help build bridges and promote a climate of tolerance on campus.

Beyond the confines of university campuses, society must confront the root causes of antisemitism and work towards eradicating it from our communities. This requires addressing the historical prejudices. If I was a large employer I would honestly look twice before I hired anyone from Columbia University, or for that matter McGill. At some point we must call this out, they didn’t with Hitler, and we all know how that turned out for the Jews. I’m all for freedom to protest, I’m not alright with bigotry.

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