This is a guest post by Brian Henry
Recently, I learned of a session offered by York University’s Faculty of Education on “The Politics of Israel/Palestine in the Classroom.” The panel consisted of three notorious Israel-bashers set to discuss: “How do we bring political debate into the classroom?”
Clearly, the real subject was How to teach Israel-bashing to kids – a subject York U apparently thought was worthwhile offering as part of its annual conference for Graduate Students in Education.
Jason Kunin, the high school teacher on the panel, first gained notoriety in 2007 when he introduced an anti-Israel boycott motion at his teacher’s union local. He also proposed putting together an “education package” for teaching anti-Israeli propaganda in schools. Kunin’s motion was overwhelmingly defeated.
The second panelist, Elle Flanders, teaches at York University and makes obscure anti-Israel films. But she is best known as a spokesperson for Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid. This is the group that marches in the annual gay pride parade calling for the eradication of the only state in the Middle East where it’s legal to be gay.
The third panelist, Bh Yael also makes anti-Israel films and teaches at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He and Jason Kunin have both been members of “Not In Our Name.”
In 2007, Not in Our Name attended the Cairo Conference, where members of the Israel-hating left met in Egypt to talk strategy with terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Jamaat al-Islamiya. At the time Jamaat al-Islamiya was best known for murdering 71 tourists. It has since become an official branch of al-Qaeda.
Attendees at the Cairo conference decided that terrorists should continue blowing people up while the western far left groups should confine themselves to propaganda and to promoting a boycott of Israel and Israelis.
Did I mention that all the panelists at the How to bash Israel session support a boycott of Israel?
Another session at York’s education conference featured a presentation by PhD Candidate Nayrouz Abu-Hatoum on the “Politics of the Visual.”
Nayrouz describes the subject of her PhD studies as: the “Israeli-built apartheid wall in Palestinian lands, where I intend to explore creation of new spaces of belonging and resistance to state power.”
Her presentation at the conference was on the same subject, which of course has nothing to do with education. Apparently, her slide show was just meant as a short anti-Israel rant to help break up the day.
But here’s the thing, I’m reporting missed news – this education conference at York happened a year ago.
The media covers big hate festivals such as the annual anti-Israel apartheid week, but how many other outrageous anti-Israel events do we never hear about? Plenty. Because at some universities political activism masquerades as academic inquiry every day of the week.
We saw this recently in the Jenny Peto scandal at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (part of the University of Toronto). For her master’s thesis, Peto wrote a dissertation devoid of research or other academic content. Instead, she attacked Jews as racists. (See Werner Cohn’s excellent series of postings on the scandal here.)
When people objected to the University of Toronto granting an MA for this rant, the university responded that it was an issue of free speech.
This was pure deflection. No university can really believe that, in order to avoid trampling a student’s free speech, it must grant an MA for any old crap the student feels like writing. Really, the university was saying: Bug off – it’s none of your business.
Similarly, in 2009, York University held a conference on a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a solution which amounts to replacing Israel with an Arab majority state.
One of the conference organizers was Ali Abunimah, best known as a founder of Electronic Intifada, a website that glamorizes terrorism. Many of the other presenters at the conference were also anti-Israel activists, not academics at all.
Gary Goodyear, Minister for Science and Technology, suggested that government funding for the conference should be re-considered. The president of the Canadian University Teachers Association responded with outrage. How dare the government consider withdrawing its funding for a university event!
Clearly, our universities regard themselves as independent Duchies, not subject to any oversight. Canadians can’t afford to indulge them in this delusion. Especially, since at some universities, the propagation of hatred seems to be part of their day-to-day business.
During the Cold War, it was the Soviet Union that handed out advanced degrees in exchange for students developing propaganda. Perhaps most famously, Mahmoud Abbas, current president of the Palestinian Authority, got his PhD for a thesis concocting a tale of collaboration between the Nazis and the Zionists, with a bit of Holocaust denial tossed in.
Who could have imagined that Western universities would take on this role? That a York student would be concocting a PhD thesis on the“apartheid wall”? That an OISE student would defame Jews as racist – and get a Masters degree for it?
Most universities are still places where learning takes place. But in some departments at some universities, ideologically motivated professors have attained a dominant position. Instead of pursuing knowledge, they’re spreading propaganda – and we’re paying them to do it.
It’s past time for the government to put its foot down and stop this practice.
Brian Henry is a Toronto writer and editor and a columnist for The Jewish Tribune. He blogs sporadically at http://brians-op-eds.blogspot.com/