Quoted: Jihad on campus: inside and outside of classrooms, Gil Troy says

By Joanne Hill, Jewish Tribune, 3-1-11

There are “two different jihads” taking place on campus today, said Prof. Gil Troy: “the campus jihad,” which takes place outside of classroom hours, and “the academic jihad,” which takes place inside the classroom. To counter both, it is necessary to “get out of defensive mode” and insist on a return to traditional academic values.

“How do Zionists get a passing grade on campus? By bringing academia back to academic values. And if we do it right, we won’t just improve the situation for Jews and Zionists on campus, we’ll remind professors, administrators, students and parents about who we are and what our mission is…. Because there’s a broader issue on campus today: a lack of concern with quality of teaching (and) a lack of concern with the quality of the students’ interactions and feelings.

“There’s a paradox today: this is a Golden Age for Jews on campus…but we have to notice that it’s also a Golden Age for Israel-bashers on campus.”

Troy gave several suggestions for ways to create positive change.

“First, we have to rescue academia from all these corrupt academics…. When we talk about the content of the pro-Palestinian professor, we lose…. We’ll always lose the battle over academic freedom. But if we talk about educational malpractice, if we talk about hijacking the podium to advance your own personal political position, whether it be for the right or the left, whether it be pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli, if we link it to a broader conversation about how to improve teaching quality…then we have a chance at succeeding and a chance at improving the university.”

Salim Mansur said the West cannot solve the problems of the Arab/Muslim world but must instead focus on fixing its own “desperate” situation. He warned that the separation of religion and politics in the West might be lost because too many intellectuals are “ready to surrender it to sharia (Islamic law).”

People of the West must remember their own “bloody” history as they view the “convulsion process” currently taking place in many Muslim countries and not indulge in polemics. The focus should, instead, be on principles that are exemplified by the affirmation of individual rights such as freedom of speech and the rejection of multiculturalism.

“We are a culture that affirms individual rights and the ultimate minority in the world is the individual. The minority of the world is not a Jew, it’s not a Hindu, it’s not a Confucian, it’s an individual. (When) we protect the rights of the individual, we protect the Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, everyone, because we protect that person as an individual.”

“What are we teaching our students: to respect sharia? I am a Muslim and I have no respect for sharia…. Shariah is a legal construction of the 8th, 9th, 10th century. What has it got to do with Islam? It’s got to do with the thinking of 8th, 9th, 10th century men that puts the privilege of men over women, Muslim over non-Muslim, free person over slave. That’s 8th century thinking and it’s being upheld in the 21st century not simply by Iran…. Where are all the Jewish students and where is everybody else standing up? That’s the principle we need to fight for.”

Dr. Catherine Chatterley’s contribution to the panel was an academic look at the evolution of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

“Today Israel is confronting a coordinated global strategy to weaken its connection to the West, including the Jewish diaspora. If speaking out in defence of Israel is made the equivalent of defending apartheid, then the hope is that Israel will eventually collapse in isolation or be coerced into negotiations that make it vulnerable to dismantlement or destruction. This is the larger context in which IAW must be understood if we are to see it clearly for the political program that it is.”


Gil Troy: Student unions should stick to student issues

By Gil Troy, Canadian Jewish News, 2-26-09

Earlier this month, McGill University students voted 436 to 263 to postpone indefinitely a Students’ Society resolution condemning the “bombings” of “educational institutions in Gaza.”

The initiative paralleled similar resolutions that passed at other Canadian universities, including the University of Toronto and York. But a clear majority of McGill students proclaimed that they didn’t want their student union developing a foreign policy. As pro-Palestinian forces try to import yet another round of the Middle East conflict to campus, the McGill majority endorsed the vision of a student society devoted to students’ needs and enhancing campus society, not pontificating about political conflicts far away.

True, it’s the academic’s conceit to comment about everything. We enjoy passing judgment from our cushy ivory towers, inviting our students to join our know-it-all chorus. Few students need such encouragement, compelled as they are by their own youthful vanity to judge the world that their elders have bequeathed them.

Student political organizations convey that spirit, legitimately. Campuses should be filled with many social, political and religious organizations, reflecting diverse attitudes, ideologies and political persuasions. I’m proud of my students who campaigned for now-U.S. President Barack Obama, and my student – note the singular – who supported Senator John McCain. I love seeing young Liberals and Conservatives electioneering, and I applaud the passion of those from beyond the conventional political spectrum, too.

Nevertheless, students’ partisan identities shouldn’t intrude on student union politics. The inspiration that so many students drew from Obama was commendable, but it would have been appalling if a student union had circulated a motion praising Obama and condemning McCain. This breach of political etiquette would have turned the student union into partisan Democratic headquarters, making it the student disunion.

Following a similar rationale, the anti-Israel resolutions are divisive and distracting, as well as disproportionate and discriminatory. They sabotage the modern university’s commitment to diversity. All great universities today welcome students of different religions, nationalities, races and creeds. Pronouncing on such a hot-button issue, implying that students share some consensus position, imposes thought control and presumptions of uniformity where none exist. This posture of unity will foster disunity, importing passionate divisions into an arena where they don’t belong.

Such incendiary, irrelevant resolutions distract from what should be a student society’s mission: improving students’ experiences.

Five years ago, engineering and commerce students at Concordia University rebelled against their student union’s political obsessions. Students were embarrassed that all too often, job recruiters related to Concordia as a place characterized by radical, sometimes violent, pro-Palestinian stands rather than as a centre of academic excellence. The students elected new leaders committed to helping students, not developing a foreign policy.

Finally, the resolutions themselves give a slanted view of a complex conflict. They ignore the role of Hamas, a terrorist group with an anti-Semitic, genocidal charter that advocates Israel’s destruction, in triggering the recent violence, cowering behind educational institutions, mosques and hospitals, and targeting Israeli schools.

Where were these concerned students when 10,000 Palestinian rockets bombarded Israel? Where were student unions when these rockets fell on Sapir College in the Negev or on nurseries, kindergartens, elementary schools and high schools in Sderot and its environs? Where is the outrage that smuggled Grad missiles menaced Ben-Gurion University, or that Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva – which serves Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze and Bedouin equally – is targeted? Does anybody care that Soroka had to place sandbags on its sleep lab and evacuate its maternity ward under fire?

More profoundly, has anyone condemned Hamas for threatening chances of a two-state solution by using the Gaza pullout to launch rockets and dig tunnels rather than building a functioning civil society? The umbrage at Israel’s actions seems false and disproportionate, thus discriminatory, singling out the Jewish state for special scrutiny and particular enmity.

Campuses are fragile ecosystems, special places where many different people congregate to live together and learn together. Campus leaders have a special responsibility to avoid polluting the atmosphere with poisonous rhetoric, biased behaviour and irrelevant assaults on fellow students’ sensibilities. Indulging in foreign policy postures regarding explosive issues, particularly the Middle East, fails that test – raising tensions rather than alleviating them, doing nothing to solve the conflict and importing tensions from 10,000 kilometres away too close to home.

Fight anti-Israel week by rejecting the apartheid smear


How could it be that in 2008, whenever a certain professor mentions the market meltdown, he blames specific economists and businesspeople whom he identifies as Jewish – but never mentions other people’s religion? (And this before Bernard Madoff became anti-Semites’ newest poster child even though he most hurt Jews.) How could administrators dither as Jewish students feel bullied during the week perpetuating the libel that Israel is recreating South African racist apartheid? How could a campus “free speech forum” feature one speaker after another bashing Israel, with hecklers shouting down anyone who defends Israel? These are some of the challenges Jewish students on one Canadian campus are facing.

AS SOMEONE who has spent his life in the university, it pains me to identify campuses as centers of the new anti-Semitism. The new anti-Semitism is subtler than the traditional, more recognizable, type. But recent conversations with Jewish students reminded me how vulnerable many feel, how unsettling this new epidemic is for many.

Analyses of campus anti-Semitism must acknowledge that Jews are enjoying a golden age on campus. There never have been so many Jewish students, professors and university presidents. Most North American campuses are neither anti-Jewish nor anti-Israel battle zones. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore many students’ distress – or fail to help them.

The new anti-Semitism is not wholly dependent on the controversies surrounding Israel. The Israel-Palestinian conflict has legitimized the hatred and confused the issue. The growth in blatantly anti-Jewish remarks, the insensitivity to Jewish concerns despite hyper-sensitivity to racist, sexist or homophobic epithets, and the singling out of Israel and Zionism for particular hatred, not just condemnation, transcend Israel’s policies. It often feels that too many university communities accept Count de Clermont-Tonnerre’s proposal to the French National Assembly of 1789: “The Jews must be granted everything as individuals – but nothing as a nation.”

THIS CAMPUS hostility toward Israel and Jews collectively is rooted in the 1960s. Students’ noble fight against Southern segregation curdled into attitudes romanticizing Third Worlders while demonizing whites and Westerners. The great modern sins became colonialism, imperialism and racism – along with sexism, heterosexism and now, the latest, Islamophobia.

Palestinian propagandists cleverly tagged Israel with the first three sins – caricatured as a colonialist, imperialist project of racist Zionists. This labeling is absurd. Jews returned to their historic homeland; they did not join a colonial expedition. Moreover, Palestinian Jews fought against the British Empire in the 1940s. And calling Zionism racist is itself racist, singling out Jewish nationalism for special disapproval in a world organized by nation-states.

Casting the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a racial rather than national struggle demonized Israelis as Western whites stealing noble, colored Palestinians’ land – despite the many non-Western, non-white Israelis, the many white-looking Palestinians and the fact that some Arab Palestinians who left in 1948 were as new to Palestine as some European Jews, because Mandatory Palestine attracted many Jews and Arabs.

These distortions underline the latest anti-Israel smear, the odious attempt to link Israel with South African racism. When we simply repeat the name of the week that is often observed in early February, without putting many words between the Jewish state and the word apartheid, we fail. Repetition creates a link just as Jewish nationalism was linked with that awful word racism. We should rename the week “Anti-Israel Week.”

AS THE first semester winds down, now is the time to plan for the inevitable attack. Zionist activists should fashion a strategy based on these principles:

  • This is politics, not physics; not every action demands a reaction. The goal is not to try dissuading Israel’s enemies. If Israel’s attackers are being ignored or – as frequently happens – alienating bystanders by being aggressive, leave them alone. Only engage in battles which can build Jewish pride or present Israel to those who are open-minded.
  • Learn from feminists. In opposing sexual harassment, feminists have sensitized us to “hostile environments,” the subtle ways intentional or unintentional aggression can make people feel demeaned. Students, their parents, alumni and professors must demand that administrators foster safe learning environments. The feminist idea of “taking back the night,” is to celebrate where others may simply defend. So use the Z-word “Zionism” even if it is maligned, and turn “anti-Israel week” into a week-long celebration of Israel’s accomplishments and Zionism’s righteousness.
  • Students should be good consumers. If professors commit educational malpractice by not listening, or being so biased they squelch debate, students should file detailed complaints not against bad politics but demanding good education.
  • Find allies. The established Jewish community should find former black South Africans who endured apartheid and African scholars to explain apartheid’s pernicious racism. We should seek South Africans offended by propagandists hijacking apartheid just as Jews resent hijacking the Holocaust to score cheap political points. Every comparison of the Israeli-Palestinian national conflict to apartheid dilutes the evil, racist injustice South African blacks and “mixed colors” endured under the color-conscious, depraved system which is not similar to the security measures Israel adopts in response to Palestinian terrorism.
  • Fight the upcoming Durban conference. Rather than simply reacting defensively, let this year’s anti-Israel week become a consciousness raising moment for the university and broader Jewish community about the attempt to recreate the Durban conference this April in Geneva – again targeting Israel. Rather than stewing, and accepting the anti-Zionist agenda, use the attacks to fight the epidemic of Jewish apathy and mobilize a powerful pro-Israel response.SADLY, PREPARATION for the next semester must be political not just educational. But we must master political jujitsu – a negative force, if properly met, can be transformed into a positive one. This February let us transform anti-Israel week’s negative force into a positive force celebrating Israel, redeeming Zionism and moving forward with an effective, upbeat response to Durban.The writer is professor of history at McGill University and the author of Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today.