On Wednesday, February 16th, a most unique and historic colloquium was convened in Toronto by the Advocates For Civil Liberties (ACL), a new and dynamic organization of attorneys, professionals and concerned citizens dedicated to spotlighting the egregious manifestations of anti-Israel propaganda on university campuses across North America. The day-long symposium that drew over 400 people was entitled “When Middle East Politics Invade Campus,” and was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Toronto. The forum featured a panoply of distinguished speakers, including such vibrant and erudite intellectual personalities as Israel National News op-ed contributor, Dr. Phyllis Chesler, emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at CUNY. Dr. Chesler is also journalist, noted lecturer and author of 13 books including, “The New Anti-Semitism” and “The Death of Feminism.”
The other speakers included Dr. Catherine Chatterley, a research fellow at the University of Manitoba and founding director of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism; Judge Hadassa Ben Ito, an international jurist and past president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; Dr. Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University, renowned author and presidential historian; Elliot Chodoff, a Major in the Israel Defense Forces and a political and military analyst specializing in the Middle East conflict and the global war on terrorism; Dr. Richard Cravatts of Boston University and author of a forthcoming book entitled, “Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel;” Andrew Roberts, founding member of the Friends of Israel Initiative and a noted British historian, author and lecturer; and Salim Mansur, professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario.
Spearheaded and organized by conference coordinator Meryle Kates, the ACL has been established to advocate for civil liberties protection in Canada, particularly in university settings. Their efforts have been devoted to countering unbalanced anti-Israel messages from organizations whose objectives are to promote propaganda against the State of Israel, with the result of inciting anti-Israel sentiment and hostilities. The directors of the ACL include Lorne Saltman, an attorney with the firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell, LLP, Stephen Posen of Minden Gross, LLP, and Robert Grant of FusionPro UK.
According to their mission statement, “the ACL seeks to collaborate with academic officials to devise appropriate, enforceable ground rules for campus political activities. Increasingly, demonstrations such as, but not limited to the upcoming ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ on campus, create a hostile atmosphere, and one that stifles the genuine exchange of views on sensitive Middle East issues. Groups promoting Israeli Apartheid Week attack the very concept of dialogue and freedom of speech. Rather than engage in civil discourse, these groups become involved in hateful protests to delegitimize Israel’s standing internationally, and create a climate of intimidation for many members of the university community.”
Serving as moderator for the proceedings was Jonathan Kay, a managing editor at Canada’s National Post newspaper and a columnist on the newspaper’s op-ed page. “The only way to disprove a lie is to establish the facts,” declared Judge Hadassa Ben Itto, as she delivered the opening remarks of the conference via video feed from Jerusalem. Judge Itto is best known for her scholarly monograph entitled “The Lie That Wouldn’t Die, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (2005), a text that has been used for a century to demonize Jews and delegitimize Israel. “In 1964, the Protocols were finally declared ‘the hoax of the century, yet both the Jewish people and Israel are now targets of haters who still insist that there is a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world,” she ruefully observed.
Referencing the tendentious climate on campuses as it pertains to Israel and the spurious “scholarship” that is being substituted for facts, Judge Itto said, “The organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week prove that they know nothing about Israel. Professors at some universities are guilty of presenting distorted information about Israel along with one-sided bias and slanderous rhetoric. Boycotts of academics and the assault on the free marketplace of ideas are replicas of the public square where public opinion is dictating policy today.” Adding that she personally witnessed “real apartheid” in South Africa years ago, she condemned the concept of an Israeli Apartheid Week as “outrageous” and called for responsible educators to set the record straight.
Students at such respected academic institutions as York University in Toronto are no stranger to the acrimony that is engendered during Israeli Apartheid Week, as their campus has previously morphed into a hotbed of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred during past events of this kind. In a very special panel dedicated to the voices of those who have experienced this phenomenon, Mr. Kay introduced five York students who articulated their views and expressed concerns about the future.
Sara Akrami, an Iranian human rights activist and second year political science student at York said, “Clubs are established at York with the sole purpose of creating discord and promoting anti-Israel violence and the administration takes no action against them.” Ms. Akrami noted that the November 2010 appearance of British parliamentarian George Galloway was opposed by a majority of the students at York. Galloway is a highly polemical figure who achieved notoriety as a rabid hater of the Jewish state, asserting that Israel created “conditions in the Arab countries and in some European countries to stampede Jewish people … into the Zionist state.”
Akrami decried the “inhumane and terrorist activities of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” and added that those on campus who support the draconian regime of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have “treated her organization with hostility and disrespect.” She angrily admonished Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and called upon him to ”stop dealing with the Iranian government.”
Others such as Josee Chiasson, a fourth year student at York completing an honors BA in psychology, has undertaken the task of uniting Christian and Jewish leaders on campus, and has assumed the role of president of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). “I knew nothing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during my first year at college. It was only when I visited Israel and witnessed the truth firsthand, did I begin to understand that the insidious rhetoric of the organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week simply did not hold true.”
Declaring that the pernicious canards against Jews extolled by Hitler were tantamount to those spewed forth by George Galloway, Ms. Chiasson said, “Hitler promised world peace if only the Jews were eradicated, and so did Galloway. He said that if Israel makes peace with the Palestinians then there would be world peace and we know that that is a complete falsehood.” She exhorted students and faculty alike to “challenge the radical beliefs that are rampant on our campuses” as she spoke of “students who have been targeted for abuse and threats” by vehemently anti-Israel organizations on campus.
Other students such as Michael Payton, a cognitive science major at York, sociology major Afroza Mohammed, and Noah Kochman also addressed the issue of students being subjected to verbal invective and physical assaults by members of the Muslim Student Association and other anti-Israel groups. Mr. Kochman, a member of the Canadian Association of Jewish Students, spoke of the violent outbursts of Palestinian student groups that led to the cancellation of an address scheduled to be delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Concordia University in Montreal in 2002. “Pro-Israel student demonstrators were trapped in their own space, unable to move, because of the overt aggression of the demonstrators who resorted to violence.”
Subsequent to the student panel forum, Andrew Roberts, noted British author, historian, lecturer and founding member of the Friends of Israel Initiative, took center stage and spoke of the aims of the relatively new organization. Established in August of 2010 to concretely challenge the British boycott of Israeli academia, Mr. Roberts said that among the goals of the Friends of Israel Initiative was to “counter the growing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders. The Initiative arises out of a sense of deep concern about the unprecedented campaign of delegitimization against Israel waged by enemies of the Jewish state, and perversely, supported by numerous international institutions.” Among the founding members of the Friends of Israeli Initiative is John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations.
Professor Richard Cravatts of Boston University and author of a forthcoming book entitled “Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel,” which documents the extensive web of Islamist influence that pervades the university campus, spoke of “brand hijacking” in terms of Israel’s global image. “Those who would re-write the history of Israel and the narrative of the Palestinians in the Middle East have hijacked Israel’s branding,” he intoned, adding that we live in a “world turned upside down in its relationship to the interpretation of the reality in the Middle East.“ Dr. Cravatts illustrated his assertions by pointing out the sheer hypocrisy of the worldview shared by the international community as it pertains to standards of equity and justice in Israel. “We ignore the fact that Arabs in the territories would receive the death penalty for selling an apartment to a Jew, but we never raise our voices when Israel is roundly condemned for building 1300 apartments in East Jerusalem; a right that any other nation takes for granted.”
Warning of the existential threat that Israel faces from the burgeoning Muslim Brotherhood, Eliot Chodoff, a political and military analyst and lecturer on the history and challenges of the Middle East, said, “There is an all out assault on Israel taking place” and reminded his audience of the parallel between the recent revolution in Egypt and the Iranian revolution that took place in 1979. “It was students, intellectuals and shopkeepers that led the revolution against the Shah of Iran,” he intoned, adding that the teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood were predicated upon a Nazi-like ideology and it is precisely these beliefs that provide their basis for launching a global jihad.
“The campuses have become increasingly and aggressively anti-Israel and pro-Islam,” declared Dr. Phyllis Chesler, prolific author, emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at CUNY and a foremost expert on gender and religious apartheid in the Muslim world. “Pro-Israel students are verbally humiliated and physically attacked. Professors in Middle East Studies teach students only one point of view – the pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel point of view,” she said, adding that, “this has been the case at York University, Concordia University and the University of California at San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Berkeley and Irvine.”
Speaking at length on the history of the progenitors of genuine apartheid in the Middle East, Dr. Chesler said, “Israel is not an apartheid nation. Islam is the world’s largest practitioner of both religious and gender apartheid. Muslims have persecuted, murdered, and forcibly converted the entire Middle East, India, parts of Africa, Asia and now Europe.”
Dr. Chesler outlined her important work on the phenomenon of “honor killings” of Muslim women throughout the world that was published in 2009 and 2010 in the Middle East Quarterly. “Islamic gender apartheid is a human rights violation and cannot be justified in the name of cultural relativism, tolerance, anti-racism, diversity or political correctness,” she said.
“We are facing two jihads,” said Dr. Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University in Montreal and author of the book “Why I am A Zionist.“ “As we’ve discussed today, there is the jihad on campus and a jihad in the classroom, in our textbooks and emanating from our professors,” he said. Exhorting students and parents to become more involved in the sphere of academia, Professor Troy said, “We are living in a golden age for Jews on campus, but we must raise the standards of teaching and rescue academia from corrupt academics and fight educational malpractice.”
Attacking the pervasive trend of multiculturalism, Salim Mansur, professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario said, “The right of Israel to remain a safe and secure state must be defended against the ideology of multiculturalists,” adding that “multiculturalism is a big, odious, disgusting lie. China, Japan and the Arab nations are not practicing multiculturalism, so why are we?”
Dr. Catherine Chatterley of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism spoke of the historical basis of Israeli Apartheid Week saying, “The ideology behind Israeli Apartheid Week is not a new one. The former Soviet Union was a leading proponent of this anti-Zionist philosophy. This was the ideology that declared that Zionism is tantamount to imperialism, racism, discrimination and organically linked to the repression of the human being.”
She also addressed the broader global machinations of those orchestrating Israeli Apartheid Week. “The concept of Israeli Apartheid Week is part of a global, political strategy to dismantle the Jewish state. It began as a Canadian invention and now takes place in over 55 cities worldwide.” She added that the organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week are making concerted efforts to build alliances with the disenfranchised in general, thus furthering their anti-Zionist distortions.