Demonstrations on campus are getting out of hand

Every week, students at academic institutions have to walk by anti semitic slogans chanting “intifada” or “from the river to the sea–” two genocidal chants that have no place on a university campus, as well as graphic protests, including ‘die-ins,’ encampments, and hunger strikes. 

The demands of protestors are for universities to take a stance against ‘genocide’ and “refuses to boycott academic institutions complicit in the genocide of Palestinians, including universities involved in Israel’s military research and development.” The boycotting of Israel because of their alleged malpractices is highly hypocritical when other countries with actually proven unethical practices are not similarly targeted, suggesting a bias against Israel and its policies, rather than a consistent application of human rights principles. 

On another note, it’s Hamas (and not Israeli forces) who are the ones stealing Palestinian humanitarian aid, shooting innocent citizens when they disagree with their beliefs, and promoting sacrificing women and children to protect themselves, which shows that demonstrators hold a clear double standard and only advocate for the false narratives against Israel, as none of their demonstrations are targeting the vulgar actions of Hamas–the elected government of the Palestinians. 

Not only are students disturbed by grotesque demonstrations, but Jewish students are often blamed for the actions of the IDF, ultimately turning them away from being involved in their programs and student groups. We have seen alarmingly increasing rates of antisemitism on campuses and most of the time, slogans being chanted have negative connotations towards the Jewish people and Israeli citizens. The impact of this is seen in classes when professors talk about the conflict when it doesn’t relate to the topic of discussion, group project members refusing to work with those who have opposing views, and students being at risk of biased grades if the professor or TA disagrees with their points of view. Additionally, it inhibits productive conversations about the conflict, ignores the significant aid Israel provides for technological advances, agriculture, and research, and creates even more polarization between different opinions on campus.

These protests are not a long-term solution. They are big gestures to gain sympathy for a short amount of time and turn students against each other. Demonstrations should be held to encourage understanding of Palestinian suffering and promote peace; however, the displays seen on campuses prove that peace is not the goal that these demonstrators are working towards. Peace will only come from understanding both sides of the argument, showing respect to others’ opinions, and having discussions on what can be done to acknowledge the suffering of innocent civilians on both sides. Villainizing Israelis only further contributes to the alienation of Jewish students and pushes them further away from the cause that Palestinians are fighting for. It is much more difficult to be understanding while also having to be defensive of one’s values and beliefs.

As a university student, I have seen the impact of these vile demonstrations, as debate is not encouraged, making students feel as though they have to take a side in a conflict that is much more complicated than how these demonstrators make it seem. It is completely unfair to silence Israeli voices and erase history to prove a point. Often, when these protests happen on campus, they use tokenism of the Jewish people, by recruiting fringe anti-Israel Jewish voices to speak for the entire Jewish community. They are also purposefully disruptive to students on campus and create an environment of hostility rather than fostering productive discourse and understanding.

The conflict in the Middle East goes back thousands of years and is highly nuanced. It is natural for there to be conflicting opinions about it, but it is ignorant to fail to acknowledge the positive economic, political, and social impact that Israel has for all countries they have peace with, including Canada. Israeli students on campus deserve to feel represented, supported, and free to speak their opinions without being threatened and intimidated. Between the world-wide encampments, the McGill hunger strike, UofT’s die-in and TMU’s apartheid week, unproductive disruption and anti-Israeli censorship are rampant in our academic institutions.

Rather than intimidating students, censoring voices they don’t agree with, and risking their health in support of their cause, demonstrators should be educating themselves by engaging in healthy dialogue and debates with history, facts, and evidence, while practicing mutual respect for all parties involved.

About the Author
Vicky Sirkovich and is a Jewish student at the Toronto Metropolitan University, studying Business Technology Management. She is very passionate about advocacy and speaking out against Antisemitism.
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