HRC / AVI Campus Media Fellow Published In The Toronto Sun: Navigating Falsehood And Discrimination As A Jewish Student At Toronto Metropolitan University

June 3, 2024

On May 31, 2024, one of our Campus Media Fellows, Maxine Khalfon, was published in The Toronto Sun, about how encampments, like the one currently taking place at Toronto Metropolitan University, are encouraging the rise of antisemitism on campuses. Often masked as criticisms of Israeli policies, these protests are bigotry and hate disguised as a social movement.

The presence of these encampments and the lack of action by school administrations to remove and punish these students, who are preaching hate toward Jewish students, is completely unacceptable. 

Navigating falsehood and discrimination as a Jewish student at Toronto Metropolitan University

By: Maxine Khalfon

When I first applied to Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson), I was ecstatic to start a new chapter. I knew that university was life-changing, marking the beginning of a transformative time for me. I quickly accepted my business commerce application with no hesitation. I was shocked to find out that there were so many on campus who perceived me as second-class as a Jew and as a Zionist. A school filled with people’s constant harassment opened my eyes to experience fear as a university student.

One particularly egregious example is what I saw: An article that had resurfaced, posted on May 2021, when the School of Disability Studies issued its “Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” It was filled with falsehoods, blood libels, and absurd allegations against Israel that it looked like a paint-by-numbers UNRWA classroom assignment.

The authors accuse Israel of “indiscriminate bombing of Gaza” and “brutalizing Palestinians” — neither of which is anywhere true, as stated in numerous sources. Israel never indiscriminately bombs civilian areas on purpose. They write that “Israeli law systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel,” which of course has no basis in truth since the law is applied equally across the board. Arab citizens have the freedom to participate in government, business, medicine actively, and many more just as equally as Israelis.

Most bafflingly, they “assert that Palestine is a feminist, queer, and disability justice issue.” Trust me when I say this, but this is the most upside-down thing I’ve ever read. Feminists and queers certainly would not be free to express their identities and views openly in the Palestinian territories, as opposed to the state of Israel which is known for its inclusivity and support for the LGBTQ community. Tel Aviv is considered “ the gay capital of the Middle East” followed by the pride parade held annually.

The article’s portrayal of Israel as engaging in “brutal settler colonial violence and ethnic cleansing” echoes classic antisemitic tropes, by dehumanizing and demonizing Israelis and the state itself, which has been historically used to justify discrimination and violence against the Jewish people. As well as misrepresenting history. This was meant to do what human rights advocate Natan Sharansky describes as the 3Ds: delegitimize, demonize, and hold Israel to a double standard.

There were not only strong undertones of anti-Semitism, but this also made me feel alienated from the very university I decided to spend four years of my life in. This rhetoric contributes to the hostile environment Jewish students experience daily. For Jewish students attending Toronto Metropolitan, the thought of an entire program calling for the disappearance of your existence is quite unsettling.

It is clearly stated in the article that no two sides exist — only theirs. The university claims to support inclusivity and acceptance for all, but it is impossible to ignore the glaring inconsistency between its stated ideals and the opinions in the article.

Such divisive rhetoric is heartbreaking to see in a university setting, where conversation and critical thinking are meant to be encouraged. The program’s position increases animosity, rather than promoting understanding and empathy.

Toronto Metropolitan University must reaffirm its commitment to promoting an inclusive, respectful, and intellectually diverse environment where all students, regardless of their background in culture or religion, feel respected, and this especially includes a vulnerable population under threat, Jewish students. It’s time for the university administration, and the student body at large, to speak loudly and clearly, and show its support for Jewish students on campus.

The encampment currently taking place at Toronto Metropolitan University grounds is yet another example of rising anti-Semitism encouraged on campuses. Often masked as criticisms of Israeli policies, these protests are bigotry and hate disguised as a social movement. The presence of these encampments and the lack of action to remove and punish these students who are preaching hate toward a community of students who attend Toronto Metropolitan University is unacceptable. This encampment just begins to border the issues where the university neglects to effectively and immediately address hateful rhetorics directed at their students.

By allowing such events to take place on school grounds, Toronto Metropolitan University is encouraging and supporting Jewish student’s feelings of alienation. This creates not only an unwelcoming environment but an unsafe one. It is critical for the university, as well as faculty members to take a strong stand against such behavior on campus.

As I reflect on my journey at Toronto Metropolitan University, I am struck by the contrast between the anticipation and excitement I felt accepting my offer to this school and the reality I had coming for me being a Jewish student on campus. The recent encampments on school grounds serve as a reminder of the overwhelming anti-Semitism that the Jewish community feels every day attending this school. The reluctance of the university to address and condemn hate directed at students only amplifies the feeling of isolation and fear.

In addressing these challenges, the university community must stand united against discrimination and hate by taking a loud and firm stance against any form of antisemitism emphasized on campus, and around the world.

Maxine Khalfon is a student at Toronto Metropolitan University and a Campus Media Fellow with HonestReporting Canada & Allied Voices for Israel.


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