The University of Toronto’s Graduate Student Union has issued a belated apology to the Hillel Jewish student organization over a distasteful incident that never should have seen the light of day.
Earlier this month, Hillel asked the union to endorse its “Kosher Forward” campaign to ensure that kosher food is available on campus. Hillel correctly assumed that its motion would be approved at the union’s upcoming board of directors meeting.
It was a simple and straight-forward request, but the union’s external commissioner begged to differ. The commissioner said that the union “might be reluctant” to address the request because Hillel’s pro-Israel orientation went against the “will of the membership.”
Predictably, the external commissioner’s obtuse response caused an uproar on campus and in the Jewish community.
Personally, I was puzzled and appalled because Hillel’s request was perfectly normal and legitimate.
I have several questions for the union: Why had it conflated kosher food with the Arab-Israeli conflict? Are observant Jewish students not entitled to kosher meals because they support Israel? Must they be anti-Israel to deserve this benefit?
I wondered whether this was a case of political correctness elevated to a crazy level.
In retrospect, I should not have been surprised by the turn of events at the University of Toronto, one of the world’s finest institutions of higher learning.
Seven years ago, the union endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose overarching goal is to delegitimize Israel, a Jewish and Zionist state, and convert it into a binational state against the wishes of the vast majority of Israelis.
Fortunately, sanity has prevailed and the union has distanced itself from its external commissioner, whoever he or she may be.
A few days ago, the union issued a statement of regret that could be taken as an apology: “The external commissioner did not intend to do harm in using this language, but recognizes that this is not an excuse for the harm that the wording of this response caused to the individual receiving its as well as to Jewish students at U of T.”
The statement made two more points. First, no decision has been reached on whether to bring the motion forward at the next board meeting later this month. Second, the union seeks a meeting with Hillel “to discuss how to remedy harm and how to mitigate future harm toward Jewish students on campus.”
This is a good beginning.
Hillel has voiced appreciation for the union’s implicit apology and its agreement to consider the kosher food motion. But as Hillel correctly noted, “This apology does not address the antisemitic nature of the (external commissioner’s) original response. This is the core issue that must be discussed.”
As per the union’s statement, Hillel and the union will meet soon to resolve this issue, but it should not have arisen in the first place. The union’s external commissioner created this unholy mess, and one can only hope that the union will draw the right conclusions from this fiasco and act appropriately in the future.