Not Everything Written about Campus Needs to Be Positive — And That’s OK!

This is my 8th blog post on The Times of Israel. Primarily, I write about campus, York University specifically. The last seven writings have dealt with or at least in some way touched on the anti-Jewish “unpleasantness” that is going on at university campuses or in Canada in general.

I do not intend to be an alarmist in my reflections; I sincerely believe that the Jewish community and the community at large needs to be informed by students working on the ground, who have that first-hand involvement in campus affairs. I also do not intend to scare anyone away from advocacy, and while I may sometimes paint a gloomy picture of what it means to be Jewish on campus, I truly believe that with the right attitude and the right amount of human resources, BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel) can be beaten with a sober, proactive approach to the problem.

Recently a claim was levied against a friend of mine who recently penned her inaugural blog post about the hostilities on the campus at which this person attends. It was pretty standard: an introduction, a basic layout of the various anti-Israel student groups, examples of the hostilities against “Zionists” when the student union voted to endorse and join the BDS movement against Israel, when maps were defaced to erase Israel, and when the past president of the school’s chapter of SSI (Students Supporting Israel) was spit on for holding an Israeli flag. And like my articles, it ended with an attempt to leave the reader with a prospect of hope, and convey that there are still students willing to stand up for themselves and for their Jewish identity.

As the ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ rolled in, I was informed that my friend that in conversation, someone said “you should focus on the positive side of campus” and went on to ask “why was [your article] so negative?” My friend simply retorted: “I wanted to talk about Israel from my narrative and it isn’t positive on campus.”

The article was negative, but it was reality. It reference real life anti-Semitic attacks on campus that need to be addressed. This was the real story and this person needs to be heard by her community. One of my articles has been met with a similar criticism: that it would actually be better for Jewish students if I emphasized the positive elements of Jewish life on campus, rather than stress the negative and focus on BDS.

Let me be absolutely clear: if it was up to me, the last seven blog posts I’ve written would have purely dealt with positive subject matter. I choose to write about reality because I choose to live in it. From the bottom of my heart I wish I could just be writing about how wonderful and progressive my student union is, take delight in the openness of the student community in which I’m immersed, and rejoice that I do not have to know the same anti-Semitic vitriol growing up that my parents did.

I really wish I could. However, the truth cannot be ignored. The truth is, contrary to what some might (for what ever bizarre reason) want you to believe, it isn’t all rainbows, sunshine and smiley faces for Jewish students on campus. BDS is growing on Ontario and Canadian campuses, not receding. Of course it varies by campus, but BDS and anti-Zionism are not marginal on mine. Nor is it marginal at Ryerson or the University of Toronto from what I gather. If a problem cannot be identified, it can’t be dealt with.

BDS and anti-Zionism are not marginal elements on the fringes of student life. On my campus anti-Zionism is a major force in and of the campus politic. Its the banner under which the far left marches. Its the glue that holds all of the pieces of the radical hate-filled Marxist block together. On the contrary to the deluded narrative some may promote, it is the Jewish students and consequentially, Israel and support for the Jewish right to a homeland, that occupy the margins.

If you, the reader, find this news upsetting, then good! It’s meant to upset. Walking through my campus and seeing the apartheid wall of lies, flyers for a BDS talk, or a rally calling for my university to divest from ‘apartheid Israel’, trust me, it upsets me way more than this blog post upsets you. But only in understanding the reality on campus will anyone be motivated to stand up, declare that this state of affairs is unacceptable, and actually do something about it.

About the Author
Willem Hart is a social science and Jewish studies student at York University in Toronto. He is an active member in the pro-Israel scene, and a lifelong disabilities service worker and advocate.
Related Topics
Related Posts