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On US & Canada, Jewish students say their voices are shut out of academia. As campus anti-Semitism morphs, bullied Jewish students try to counter-organize

The Graduate Student Union at University of Toronto wants Jewish students to know it’s sorry.

On November 18 it was reported that the union – which in 2012 voted to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – said it wouldn’t make kosher food available on campus because such food is “pro-Israel.”

The Department of Education announced November 19 that it would investigate alleged anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents at Duke University that occurred earlier this year. One event, Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities, was sponsored by the Duke-UNC Middle East Consortium, and according to news reports was replete with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic references.

On November 14, pro-Israel activist Hen Mazzig gave a presentation at Vassar College in New York on indigenous Jews of the Middle East for the group Vassar Organizing Israel Conversations Effectively (VOICE). Outside the auditorium nearly 30 students with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chanted, “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.” They chanted so loudly Mazzig had to stop speaking until they left.

Although their protest didn’t end Mazzig’s talk, this kind of rhetoric can sometimes have a chilling effect on Jewish student life.

“The result is Jewish students shying away from Jewish life on campus, or feeling afraid of showing they’re Jewish. Jewish students are also afraid of joining clubs on campus because they worry about being singled out,” said David Goldenberg, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest office.

The student government at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which is 10 percent Jewish, made headlines on October 23 when it passed a resolution redefining anti-Semitism. The resolution, which distinguishes the hatred of Jews from anti-Zionism, was drafted without any input from Jewish students — save for the far-left, anti-settlement Jewish Voice for Peace, according to several UIUC students.

There is mainstream acceptance among governments and organizations worldwide of the working definition for anti-Semitism put forth by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which does say that anti-Zionism can be a form of anti-Semitism.

At University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the call for a new definition of anti-Semitism followed the discovery of a swastika painted on the school’s foreign languages department building, as well as criticism of Chancellor Robert Jones, who labeled an SJP presentation on the Israel-Palestine conflict as “anti-Semitic” in a campus-wide email. Jones was not alone in his criticism: The Illini Public Affairs Committee (IllinPAC), which works to support US-Israel relations at the University, called the presentation “a narrative of demonization of Israel and its citizens and Jewish students.”

In defense of the separation of anti-Semitism from anti-Zionism, one of the resolution’s sponsors, Bugra Sahin, said that “criticism of a state is not anti its people, or religion, or ethnicity,” according to the News-Gazette.

However, the paucity of Jewish voices in the resolution, which also criticizes Jones and passed in a 29-4 vote, has Jewish student leaders fuming.

“With the resolution, it felt like when a roomful of men decides what is right for women. On campus you have a bunch of non-Jewish people identifying and saying what is anti-Semitic,” Lauren Nesher, president of the pro-Israel club IllinPAC, told The Times of Israel via phone.

At the October 23 resolution vote, Nesher spoke on behalf of the university’s Jewish community and organized a mass walkout.

“We do not negotiate our safety, we do not negotiate our fear, we do not negotiate our homeland, we do not negotiate anti-Semitism,” Nesher said.

Then she led a walkout of 400 Jewish students and allies amid jeers of “Free Palestine” and through a sea of posters such as “Free Palestine/Fuck Zionists.”

Rhetoric demonizing and delegitimizing Israel increased 32% nationwide, with expression accusing Israel or Zionism of “white supremacy” more than doubling, according to AMCHA. Additionally, expression promoting or condoning terrorism against Israel increased 67%.

Read the full article in The Times of Israel