Our complaints about campus antisemitism are being ignored, say Jewish students

By Naomi Firsht, February 29, 2016
York University campus

York University campus

Jewish students at York University have complained that both the student union and the university administration are ignoring their concerns about antisemitism on campus.

Last week, Palestinian supporters at York performed Seven Jewish Children, a play about modern Jewish history which has been widely described as antisemitic.

The Jewish Society called the union, contacted university officials and the student welfare department to emphasise their concerns about the play.

In response Jewish students were told by the union that it would not act because it did not have a “no platform” policy (a policy which allows certain events or speakers to be banned).

The JSoc said that, to date, it had not received a response from the university addressing their concerns.

JSoc secretary Jordan Hennessy said the only reply the society had received from a university official was to inform them they were contacting the wrong department.

“It just seems like no matter who you talk to about it, you’re just being passed around,” he said.

“I believe, and this is not just in York, but there is a national problem of complacency surrounding antisemitism.”

In a statement, the JSoc said it felt it “has been completely alone in the battle against antisemitism on campus.”

York University’s student Palestinian Solidarity Society staged two performances of the play, by Caryl Churchill, last Thursday as part of Israel Apartheid Week activities.

In an open letter published on the Jews For Justice For Palestinians website, six Jewish and Israeli students and staff at York University defended the staging.

They said: “Our support of an occupied, oppressed people is often mistakenly perceived, particularly by those Jews who identify as Zionist, as antisemitic sentiment.”

Israeli student Eran Cohen, who is a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Society and who said he had organised the production, denied the play was antisemitic.

“It presents an accurate picture of an ugly side of Israeli right-wing politics, a politics currently ruling Israel, and it is not antisemitic to present this reality.”

He added: “I personally regret if offence has been caused, however this is a university campus and freedom of expression (short of racism) is extended to everyone. It should not be withheld on the basis that someone might be offended.”

York University and the student union have been contacted for comment.

Last updated: 10:36am, March 1 2016