On March 23, 2023, one of our media fellows, Yair Shpiler, was published in York University’s Student Newspaper, The Excalibur, on being both frustrated and upset to have come across a recent post on the York University Fessions Instagram account that included three different confessions from apparent York University students, which not only were deeply antisemitic and offensive but that also distort history.
Yair Shpiler: Anonymous Confessions Distort History and Hurt Jewish Students
As a Jewish student at York, I was both frustrated and upset to come across a recent post on the York University Fessions Instagram (@yu.fessions) account. This post, which boasted hundreds of likes and included three different confessions, is not only deeply antisemitic and offensive, but it could not be further away from the truth.
The first confession stated that the York Federation of Students (YFS) was right to not let Israeli students participate in CultureFest because Israel has no culture and “is a country built on the genocide of Palestinian families”. This statement is both factually incorrect and deeply offensive. Israel is a legitimate, democratic country that was founded in 1948 on the back of a rich 3000-year-long connection to the land of Israel, dating back to biblical times. This connection is not only religious and cultural, but also historical.
Claims that Israel “has no culture” are simply false. Israel’s culture is deeply rooted in the Jewish religion and its diverse population has contributed to its dynamic, creative, and diverse culture with contributions in areas such as art, literature, music and cuisine.
The claim that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people is an ugly distortion of reality. Genocide is defined as the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. The reality is millions of Arab citizens live peacefully and freely in Israel, with equal rights and opportunities under the law. Arab citizens hold positions of power in government, business, and academia and they are represented in the Israeli parliament and judicial system. Israeli hospitals treat Palestinian patients alongside Israeli patients, Israeli universities admit Palestinian students alongside Israeli students, and all citizens enjoy full opportunity to participate in Israel’s vibrant economy.
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is complex and reducing it to a simplistic narrative of genocide is not only inaccurate but also dangerous. It is important to recognize that Israel is not committing and has never committed genocide. Both sides have suffered in this conflict. This February alone, 13 Jews, as young as six years-old were murdered by Palestinian terrorists solely for the fact that they are Jewish. Most people on both sides desire a peaceful resolution that recognizes the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, and to end the non-stop suffering from terrorism that Israeli people have endured — Jewish and non-Jewish, alike.
Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, as the second confession post does, is not only absurd, but also deeply offensive to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Such comparisons trivialize the atrocities committed by the Nazis and demonstrate a profound ignorance of history.
The third confession is the face of today’s antisemitism. It is a cheap coverup of the same old, vile forms of antisemitism Jews have suffered from for thousands of years. While you could technically be pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel without physically hurting Jews, the notion that taking an anti-Israel position is not only detrimental to Jewish people, but is also utterly foolish from all viewpoints. It is important to note that there is a line between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. Denying the legitimacy of millions of Jews living in their ancestral homeland and denying their right to self-determination is antisemitic. This is not a matter of political opinion, but a basic human right that is afforded to all people, even to those without a rich history and ties to a land like the Jewish nation.
What is particularly concerning about these confessions is not just that they are offensive and frightening to Jewish students, but also that they contribute to the spread of antisemitism in our society. Antisemitism is a type of hatred that not only harms Jewish people but one that perpetuates fundamental flaws in society and negatively affects everyone.
We have seen time and time again throughout history the horrific consequences of allowing antisemitism to take hold.
It is crucial that we, the York student community, come together to fight against antisemitism in all its forms. This means standing up against hate speech and discrimination, and fostering an environment of inclusivity and respect for all students, regardless of their background or beliefs. For future events held by the YFS, we must demand from the federation to be truly inclusive and allow for the fair representation of all students, including those of Israeli descent. We must all work together to create a campus community that is inclusive, respectful, and free from hate speech and discrimination.
Yair Shpiler is a first-year student at York University