HRC / AVI Campus Media Fellow Published In The Toronto Sun: History Is Repeating Itself — The Encampments Are Only The Beginning

May 28, 2024

On May 24, 2024, one of our Campus Media Fellows, Justin Chow, was published in The Toronto Sun, about how the rhetoric at the illegal encampment at the University of Toronto, and others around North America are not isolated or harmless incidents.

They are part of a resurgence of violent Jew-hatred that echoes the darkest chapters of history and are part of a broader, more insidious wave of antisemitism cloaked in the guise of political protest.

History is repeating itself — the encampments are only the beginning

By: Justin Chow

The pro-Palestinian encampments that have plagued campuses across North America have flared up like infected sores, spreading the same message of inciting violence and genocide against Jews from Columbia University to our very own University of Toronto.

If the majority Canadian populace continues spectating from the sidelines, this vitriolic movement could erode the very foundations of democracy, decency and respect that this country is built upon. And it’s getting dangerously close.

Jewish students have expressed feeling a ubiquitous atmosphere of hostility and aggression, to the point where some feel afraid of returning to campus the following semester. To say that this kind of relentless intimidation is justifiable for any kind of cause is gaslighting and manipulation at their finest.

According to a statement from U of T leadership, saying “glory to all martyrs,” telling Jewish students to “go back to Europe” and that they are Hamas’s “next targets” is a narrative that does not cross their “high threshold for expression,” regardless of if these remarks are “uncomfortable and offensive.”

If glorifying martyrs (i.e. suicide bombers, militant radicals) and telling Jewish students to go back to where the Holocaust unfolded constitutes valid debate, then our institutions have truly lost all sense of ethical integrity and sanity.

It is time to face a disconcerting truth: The rhetoric spouted at these encampments is not isolated, nor is it harmless. It is part of a broader, more insidious wave of anti-Semitism cloaked in the guise of political protest. This is not merely about freedom of expression — it’s about a resurgence of violent Jew hatred that echoes the darkest chapters of history.

Every chant for an intifada and every sign equating the Star of David with a swastika is not just distasteful, it’s an incitement to violence. This rhetoric has historical precedents — the gas chambers of Auschwitz and the pogroms of Kishinev began with similar hateful speech. These comparisons are harsh, but history teaches us that harsh realities often start with subtle signs.

Universities, once bastions of intellectual freedom and moral clarity, are now the staging grounds for this toxic revival. Administrators might cloak their inaction in the guise of free speech, but we know the truth: They are either complicit in the spread of this hatred, or they are staggeringly indifferent. Silence and inaction are forms of endorsement. There is no middle ground. You are either against this blatant hatred, or you are on the side of the perpetrators.

What does this mean for you, the reader? It means it is time to stand up. Confront this hatred wherever you see it. Demand more from your institutions. Protest, write, speak — do not let this issue fade into the background noise of your daily scroll through social media. Get involved with groups fighting this scourge of anti-Semitism. Demand that your educational institutions not only denounce these actions in words but take concrete actions to prevent them.

And to the university administrators: Your tepid responses are inadequate. We demand zero tolerance for hate speech and anti-Semitism. Implement rigorous educational programs on the history of anti-Semitism and the consequences of unchecked hate. Treat anti-Semitic incidents with the same severity as homophobia, transphobia, and anti-Black racism. Your students deserve a safe environment. If you fail in this basic duty, you fail not just the Jewish community but every student under your care.

For all of us, let’s remember: today, it’s anti-Semitism on the front lines, but unchecked hatred is a scourge that knows no bounds. Tomorrow, it could manifest against any group, based on any characteristic — race, religion, sexual orientation, or beyond.

If we let this wave of bigotry pass without a strong response, we’re not just ignoring a problem, we’re setting a dangerous precedent that normalizes such abuses in the future.

Justin Chow is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto and a campus media fellow with HonestReporting Canada and Allied Voices for Israel.


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