Anti-Israel Disinformation Abounds In Recent Articles In McGill University, Western University & Simon Fraser University Student Newspapers

June 23, 2024

In recent weeks, when college and university students across the country should have been preparing for convocation and celebrating their academic achievements, many instead disappointingly chose to engage in anti-Israel smear campaigns, spreading lies and demanding divestment from the Jewish state. Student papers at Simon Fraser University (SFU), Western University and McGill University all ran wildly inaccurate and poorly fact checked pieces outlining recent anti-Israel mob tactics on campus. Given that students should be wrapping up the academic year, one might have hoped that they would have learned the skills of critical thinking and evidence evaluation, but unfortunately, neither were on display.

One June 15 article entitled: “SFU administration to discuss divestment from Israel,” written by Hannah Fraser, in SFU’s The Peak, predictably included mention of “genocide in occupied Palestine”. That line alone should tell readers that whatever is to follow is pure nonsense, since by no metric can what is currently happening in Gaza be called a ‘genocide’. The term has an internationally accepted definition – one that was specifically coined to address what the Nazis did to Jews in WWII, it’s worth pointing out – and the use of it in this case is not only wildly incorrect, but also offensive to those around the world currently actually facing a reality of genocide (like the Jewish people at the hands of Hamas, for example).

Claims of ‘occupied’ Palestinian land are equally as ridiculous. What lands are being occupied, and by whom? Given that Israel withdrew from Gaza nearly 20 years ago (land that it only controlled after winning the territory during a defensive war to which there was no established sovereign, it’s worth pointing out), these students obviously couldn’t mean that Gaza is ‘occupied’. Since they don’t define their terms, one must assume they mean the lands of Israel proper, or perhaps that of the West Bank – land which is some of the most historically meaningful and significant to the Jewish people, and which is home to some of the most important Jewish historical sites. But let’s continue with their accusation – ‘occupied’ by whom?

Adshayah Sathiaseelan’s June 18 article in Western University’s Gazette entitled: “Talks back on, convocation sees protests,” did a better job in terms of accuracy of reporting, at least. No wild claims of genocide or occupation were made as though they are factual, but that’s about the extent of the praise that can be applied. The author reported on the progress of the student divestment campaign, aimed at pressuring the administration into divesting from Israel. She reported that the divestment campaign issued a statement claiming that “after 18 days of silence from the Administration, we have finally engaged in what we believe to be a productive conversation to move towards a resolution.”

Sathiaseelan did not question the appropriateness of students taking over public university spaces to demand anti-Israel actions, nor did she point out the hypocrisy of demanding that students show solidarity with a cause aimed at removing Jewish self-determination in their ancestral lands while waxing poetic about human rights and moral integrity. In fact, she did the opposite, by giving space in her article to those who would compare present day Israel to apartheid South Africa. Though Sathiaseelan herself fell short of calling the Jewish state ‘apartheid’, she made a point of mentioning that some have used Western’s 1985 commitment to divest from South Africa in protest of apartheid as precedent that should be applied here. Responsible journalists would mention that there is no real comparison, given that Israel is not, nor has it ever been, an apartheid state, so the analogy is moot.

Finally, an article in The Tribune, a student newspaper at McGill University entitled: “Protesters occupy James Administration Building, demanding McGill heed encampment’s calls for divestment,” published June 18, written by Eliza Lee and Titouan Le Ster, rounds out the trio of anti-Israel rants for the week. They open their piece in the same way as Fraser, with the throw-away statement of alleged “genocide against Palestinians”. They went on to lay out the plight of the anti-Israel mob in failing to gain any real traction in meeting their demands. And while any honest and mature person observing the scenario might feel differently – after all, McGill University has offered, according to them, several proposals about how to approach legitimate calls for divestment – student leaders refuse to engage because they “gohrough these institutional mechanisms that have historically failed the student body, but also that take up to years, […] to achieve divestment, and it’s not even a guarantee.”

That’s how democracy works. One has to use fair, pre-established mechanisms to achieve one’s desired goals. Having a temper tantrum in a public space and demanding that institutional rules don’t apply when you don’t like them, isn’t how adults operate in a democratic society. But then again, many in the anti-Israel crowd march in support of Hamas and Hezbollah – not exactly known for their democratic characters. So perhaps it’s all in the family.


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