Campuses For Palestine: Public Letter to the York University administration
We, the undersigned, demand that York University and Toronto Police Services undertake immediate investigations regarding the verbal and physical assaults that occurred against students, employees and community members by members of Herut Canada, the Jewish Defence League, and others.
On Wednesday, November 20th, 2019, York students and allied community members gathered to protest an event that was to feature the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). The IDF regularly and deliberately targets civilians, kidnaps children, shoots journalists and medics, and removes families from their homes on Palestinian land that they have been occupying for decades. The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the “Great March of Return” found Israeli Defense Forces guilty of serious human rights violations as they intentionally shot protestors, health workers, journalists, people with visible disabilities, as well as children, knowing them to be such.
In the last two weeks, the IDF has killed 34 Palestinians trapped in besieged Gaza, including killing 8 members of a single family in one targeted airstrike. Since 2008, the IDF has launched 3 major assaults on Gaza, and in 2014 alone killed 2251 people, of which over 500 were children. In these attacks, the IDF indiscriminately bombed schools, hospitals, and civilian neighborhoods. It should be clear why the Palestinian community feels unsafe and angry when someone representing a group so violent towards us is allowed to speak on our campuses.
The Jewish Defense League (JDL), which has been listed as a terrorist organization by the FBI since 2001, put out multiple calls for a “response” to the protest. Calls and emails from our community to York University asking them to cancel the event in light of the JDL’s threats went unanswered. We now know York University sent a message in advance directly to the JDL, expressly asking them not to appear on campus on the evening of November 20th. Despite this, when JDL members arrived on campus and began harassing and assaulting protesters, York Security Services and Toronto Police Services did not remove JDL members. One protester received a concussion from the JDL and another was choked with his Kuffiyeh (Scarf), among other violence, threats, and intimidation from the JDL and their supporters, involving sexual harassment, islamophobic slurs, and racism. The Toronto Police and the York Security did not remove the offenders, but rather allowed them to walk away, with no charges.
We, The York University Community would like to directly respond to York University’s President’s statements:
“In democratic societies, universities play a central role in facilitating debate on difficult issues.”
We agree. That being said, the international community is in agreement that Israel is an apartheid state, not a democracy, and the IDF represents the ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and colonialism of the Indigenous Palestinain people. There is a difference between “facilitating debate” and “platforming openly hateful, criminal, and dangerous ideologies.” York University should consider how its policies allowed a foreign military representing an undemocratic regime accused of war crimes to speak on its campus.
“I want to emphasize in the strongest possible terms that acts of violence are not tolerated on our campuses and York University has zero tolerance for hate.”
This is a reiteration of York University’s Policy on Freedom of speech. We are appalled that this policy does not seem to extend to Palestinian students or their allies, who were subject to physical, verbal, and sexual harrassment by members of the JDL and IDF supporters.
Claims of anti-semitism are unfounded. Protesters were opposed to the presence of the Israeli Defence Forces, not Jews or Judaism. It is ludicrous, and in fact, anti-semitic, to presume that all Jews support the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces, or that the actions of the IDF represent all Jews worldwide. Some of the protesters against the IDF’s presence on campus were in fact Jewish - one protester’s account of the evening can be read here.
Hatred and racism should have no place at York University, nor should reservists from a foreign military accused of war crimes. York University should be held accountable for allowing members of a racist, apartheid regime to present on campus, and for knowingly allowing members of the JDL, a terrorist organization, to assault students, their invited allies, and at least one University employee.
We demand that York University and Toronto Police Services investigate the circumstances that led to Herut Canada and the JDL’s presence on our campus, and the verbal and physical assaults that occurred against students, employees and community members. This investigation and repercussions should take the following into account:
Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities
Human Rights Code RSO 1990, c H.19.
ss. 318, 319, 430(4.1) and 718(a)(i) of the Criminal Code R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46
Organization or Affiliation
York University Student or Community-member signature
Organizational or Individual endorsement
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