JBuzz News August 22, 2014: Jewish school in Copenhagen vandalised

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Jewish school in Copenhagen vandalised

Source: AFP, 8-22-14

A Jewish school in Copenhagen had its windows smashed and anti-Jewish graffiti referring to the conflict in Gaza spray-painted on its walls, the school said on Friday….READ MORE

JBuzz News August 21, 2014: Jewish Student Assaulted at Temple University

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Jewish Student Assaulted at Temple University

Source: Jewish Exponent, 8-21-14

The school did, however, receive significant negative attention in June after an adjunct professor made inflammatory statements in an online forum about the Holocaust and Jewish influence in academia. A Temple University spokesman initially told a….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 5, 2013: Nationalists Protest World Jewish Congress in Hungary

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Nationalists Protest Jewish Congress in Hungary

Source: New York Times, Reuters, 5-5-13

Leaders of a far-right Hungarian political party accused Israelis of plotting to buy up large parts of Hungary as several hundred nationalists protested on Saturday before a meeting of the World Jewish Congress in Budapest….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 5, 2013: Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban comes up short in anti-Semitism message, World Jewish Congress says

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Hungary’s Orban comes up short in anti-Semitism message, WJC says

Source: JTA, 5-5-13

The World Jewish Congress welcomed comments by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban condemning anti-Semitism but said he did not go far enough….READ MORE

JBuzz News April 9, 2013: Laurel Leff: How, and why, some Jewish scholars were left behind

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How, and why, some Jewish scholars were left behind

Source: News@Northeastern, 4-9-13

Northeastern Holocaust Commemoration

At the Northeastern Holocaust Commemoration, Bernard A. Stotsky Professor Laurel Leff (right) explained that American universities had one of the few lifelines to extend to refugees fleeing Europe to escape Nazi persecutions, but they didn’t do enough. Photos by Brooks Canaday.

During the 1930s and early 1940s, fac­ulty posi­tions offered by Amer­ican uni­ver­si­ties served as one of the few life­lines for hun­dreds of thou­sands of scholars trying to flee war-​​torn Europe to escape per­se­cu­tion. Yet far too often, the uni­ver­si­ties didn’t do enough to save these refugees and even offered chill­ingly dis­mis­sive rea­sons for not doing so, according to Laurel Leff, asso­ciate pro­fessor in the School of Jour­nalism and the Bernard A. Stotsky Pro­fessor of Jewish His­tor­ical and Cul­tural Studies at Northeastern….READ MORE

JBuzz News November 23, 2012: Julien Bauer: Office of Canadian Pro-Israel Université du Québec à Montréal professor vandalized

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Office of Canadian Pro-Israel professor vandalized

Source: JTA, 11-23-12

A pro-Israel lecturer from Montreal found the words “Heil Israel” scrawled on his office door.

The paraphrased Nazi slogan was scrawled Tuesday on the door of the office of Julien Bauer, a political-science professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal, according to the Montreal Gazette….READ MORE

JBuzz News November 22, 2012: Julien Bauer: Canadian Montreal University Professor Target of anti-Semitic Vandalism

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Canadian Professor Target of anti-Semitic Vandalism

Source: Jewocity.com Blog (blog), 11-20-12

Canadian Professor Target of anti Semitic Vandalism Canadian Political Science Professor Julien Bauer was the target of anti-Semitic vandalism this week….READ MORE

JBuzz News July 18, 2012: Michael Brenner: Is Brit Ban The Gravest Threat to European Jews Since 1945?

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Is this the gravest threat to European Jews since 1945?

Source: Salon (blog), 7-18-12

For Michael Brenner, a professor of Jewish history and culture at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich and himself the son of two Holocaust survivors, the decision is déja-vu all over again….READ MORE

JBuzz Reviews July 17, 2012: Bruce Kesler Reviews Edward Alexander: Historian Traces Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Present

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Historian traces anti-Semitism from antiquity to the present

Source: San Diego Jewish News, 7-17-12

Review of Edward Alexander’s The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal

Edward Alexander’s latest book, The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal, would better have been titled “The State of the Anti-Jews.” Edward Alexander is a professor emeritus of English as well as one of the better informed writers on matters Jewish, who brings this broad knowledge to a series of “critical appraisals” (using Matthew Arnold’s definition of “criticism”: “to see the object as in itself it really is”) that weave the continuity of anti-Jewish ignorance, indecency, inhumanity, cowardice, and illusion from the paragon of liberty, John Stuart Mill, to today’s Boycott, Divest, Sanction activists….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 9, 2012: Catherine Chatterley: Canadian anti-Semitism institute aims to fill worldwide void

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Canadian anti-Semitism institute aims to fill worldwide void

Source: The Canadian Press, 5-9-12

When Catherine Chatterley was growing up in Winnipeg, the first serious book she read was The Diary of Anne Frank, the harrowing story of a young Jewish girl forced to hide for nearly two years in an attic in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.

“I was in shock,” Chatterley recalls. “I couldn’t understand how a girl like Anne Frank could be perceived as a threat to Germany.”

For Chatterley, who was raised in a devout Lutheran home, the famous book sparked a lifelong fascination with the Jewish people, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

That fascination has prompted Chatterley, an adjunct history professor at the University of Manitoba, to develop the first academic institute in Canada to focus on the study of anti-Semitism, which she says is a persistent — and in some parts of the world flourishing — problem facing Jews today.

“There is a void in academia, our universities and our human rights discourse” when it comes to the study of anti-Semitism, she said in a telephone interview from Winnipeg, where the Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism (CISA) is based.

CISA, which is barely two years old, is one of only six such institutes in the world. Its mandate is to promote research, education and awareness of anti-Semitism.

Ultimately, her goal is to have the independent, non-profit institute fund and offer university-accredited courses leading to an undergraduate degree in the study of anti-Semitism. In addition, she plans to develop an online publication for young people and publish an academic journal on current and historical anti-Semitism.

Already, the young institute is attracting international attention, especially after Elie Wiesel, the renowned Nobel Peace Prize winner, agreed to serve as honourary chairman….READ MORE

JBuzz Op-eds May 1, 2012: Steven Windmueller: A Perfect Firestorm For Anti-Semitism

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A Perfect Firestorm For Anti-Semitism

Steven Windmueller

Steven Windmueller

The story of world Jewry covering the past six decades must be defined as one of achievement and recognition. American Jews have achieved extraordinary success and influence, and Israel, despite threats to its existence, has flourished as a democracy, and absorbed and resettled millions of Jews. Yet, as the world marks the 80th anniversary of the rise of Nazism, the status of Jews in the world seems to be seriously eroding.

During this period international politics was influenced by the powerful motif of memory. The images of past atrocities that tarnished the 20th century created a baseline for moral action. Over time, though, the power and integrity of this historical record has seemingly faded.

Earl Raab, a prominent social scientist and communal professional, once posited that two factors aligned together could create a serious threat to the Jewish people. An unstable economy and a growing set of tensions between Jerusalem and Washington would present, according to Raab, the “perfect firestorm” for potentially accelerating anti-Semitism and in creating a destabilizing environment for Jews in this nation and beyond. Both factors seem to be in play at this time….READ MORE

JBuzz Op-eds February 28, 2012: Jonathan D. Sarna: General Ulysses S. Grant’s Uncivil War Against The Jews

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Jonathan D. Sarna: Gen. Grant’s Uncivil War Against The Jews

Source: NY Jewish Week, 2-28-12

Ulysses S. Grant.
Ulysses S. Grant.

The surprising tale of how he turned into ‘America’s Haman.’

Purim serves as an appropriate moment to recall a man known for a time as “America’s Haman.” That Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s story ended very differently than the story of Haman in the Book of Esther reminds us how America itself is different, and how often it has surprised Jews for the better.

On Dec. 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued the most Haman-like order in American history: “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.” Known as General Orders No. 11, the document blamed “Jews, as a class” for the widespread smuggling and cotton speculation that affected the area under Grant’s command. It required them to leave a vast war zone stretching from northern Mississippi to Cairo, Ill., and from the Mississippi River to the Tennessee River.

Less than 72 hours after the order was issued, Grant’s forces at Holly Springs, Miss., were raided, knocking out rail and telegraph lines and disrupting lines of communication for weeks. As a result, news of General Orders No. 11 spread slowly, and did not reach company commanders and army headquarters in Washington in a timely fashion. Many Jews who might otherwise have been banished were spared.

A copy of General Orders No. 11 finally reached Paducah, Ky. — a city occupied by Grant’s forces — 11 days after it was issued. Cesar Kaskel, a staunch union supporter, as well as all the other known Jews in the city, were handed papers ordering them “to leave the city of Paducah, Kentucky, within twenty-four hours.” As they prepared to abandon their homes, Kaskel and several other Jews dashed off a telegram to President Abraham Lincoln describing their plight.

Lincoln, in all likelihood, never saw that telegram. He was busy preparing to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. The irony of his freeing the slaves while Grant was expelling the Jews was not lost on contemporaries. Some Jewish leaders feared that Jews would replace blacks as the nation’s stigmatized minority.

Kaskel decided to appeal to Abraham Lincoln in person. Paul Revere-like, he sped down to Washington, spreading news of General Orders No. 11 wherever he went. With help from a friendly congressman, he obtained an immediate interview with the president, who turned out to have no knowledge whatsoever of the order, for it had not reached Washington. According to an oft-quoted report, he resorted to biblical imagery in his interview with Kaskel, a reminder of how many 19th-century Americans linked Jews to Ancient Israel, and America to the Promised Land:

“And so,” Lincoln is said to have drawled, “the children of Israel were driven from the happy land of Canaan?”

“Yes,” Kaskel responded, “and that is why we have come unto Father Abraham’s bosom, asking protection.”

“And this protection,” Lincoln declared “they shall have at once.”

General-in-Chief of the Army Henry Halleck, ordered by Lincoln to countermand General Orders No. 11, chose his words carefully.  “If such an order has been issued,” his telegram read, “it will be immediately revoked.”

In a follow-up meeting with Jewish leaders, Lincoln reaffirmed that he knew “of no distinction between Jew and Gentile. To condemn a class,” he emphatically declared, “is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad. I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.”…READ MORE

JBuzz Reviews February 22, 2012: Historian Harold Holzer Reviews Jonathan Sarna’s When General Grant Expelled the Jews

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“When General Grant Expelled the Jews” by Jonathan Sarna

By Harold Holzer

Source: WaPo, 2-22-12

WHEN GENERAL GRANT EXPELLED THE JEWS

By Jonathan D. Sarna

Nextbook/Schocken. 201 pp. $24.95

 

Not all Civil War-era Jews were speculators, peddlers or smugglers, and not all Civil War-era speculators, peddlers and smugglers were Jews. But Americans living through the rebellion — and many crises before and since — often cast blame on the tiny minority that 19th-century Northerners and Southerners often referred to as “the Israelites.” Shocking as it seems, one of the most notorious offenders was the greatest Union hero of the war: Ulysses S. Grant.

That Grant harbored anti-Semitic inclinations should come as no surprise. He was educated at West Point and spent years in the Army, both bastions of period intolerance. In 1862, he assumed a particularly chaotic military command, including border states technically loyal to the Union but filled with slave-owners and Confederate sympathizers. Into this combustible mix swarmed speculators eager to turn chaos into cash — among them, certainly, Jewish ones. Grant and his chief lieutenant, William T. Sherman, groused about the Jews’ presence repeatedly but initially kept their concerns to themselves.

General Grant

(Knopf) – ’When General Grant Expelled the Jews’ by Jonathan D. Sarna

What apparently sent Grant over the edge was the arrival of another camp follower — his greedy father, accompanied by three Jewish business partners, all eager to use the general to secure profitable cotton-trading permits. Grant blamed the Jews.

Still, no historian has been able to fully understand — much less justify — why, on Dec. 17, 1862, Grant issued his notorious General Orders No. 11 deporting Jewish citizens. “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade,” went the chilling text, “. . . are hereby expelled from [his command in the West] within twenty-four hours.” Those returning would be “held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners.” Just two weeks before Abraham Lincoln was scheduled to extend freedom to one minority group with the Emancipation Proclamation, his most promising general thus initiated a virtual pogrom against another.

In the end, as the gifted and resourceful historian Jonathan D. Sarna points out in this compelling page-turner, General Orders No. 11 uprooted fewer than 100 Jews. But for a few weeks, he suggests, it terrorized and infuriated the Union’s entire Jewish population. It also inspired one of the community’s first effective lobbying campaigns. Jewish newspapers compared Grant to Haman, the infamous vizier of Persia in the Book of Esther. A delegation of Jewish leaders traveled to the White House to protest directly to the president, who quickly but quietly had the order revoked, eager to right a wrong but reluctant to humiliate a valuable military commander. As Lincoln carefully put it, “I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.” He never mentioned the episode publicly.

Grant tried not to as well, understandably omitting it from his otherwise exhaustive memoirs. In 1868, however, he did issue a letter confessing: “I do not pretend to sustain the Order. . . . [It] was issued and sent without any reflection and without thinking of the Jews as a sect or race. . . . I have no prejudice against sect or race.” But Sarna notes that this weak and “self-serving” statement — neither an admission nor an apology — “did not actually bear close scrutiny.” Besides, it was motivated as much by politics as regret. At the time, Grant was running for president, and Jews were threatening to block-vote against the Republican. Although no statistical evidence survives, most Jews probably did vote Democratic in 1868. The general won anyway. And to his credit, he continued to evolve.

The Jewish tradition encourages atonement and makes forgiveness mandatory. Grant made amends; the Jews forgave. As president, Grant appointed Jews to official posts, welcomed Jewish delegations, supported Jewish relief efforts in Europe and once attended a worship service at a Washington synagogue, the first president to do so. When he died, Jews mourned him as a hero.

Sarna’s account shines brightest around the edges of the story, offering valuable new insights into ethnic politics, press power and the onetime ability of leaders to flip-flop with grace. In a particularly stunning, if disturbing, argument, he suggests that many Northern Jews brought suspicion on themselves by questioning emancipation, fearful that freed blacks, abetted by anti-Semitic abolitionists, would compete with immigrant Jews for economic opportunity. Sarna shows how ineffective communications within Grant’s command further ignited unfounded calumnies against Jews. And he posits that the general’s military subordinates might have urged their overworked chief to ban Jewish speculators in order to leave the field open for their own graft.

Some quibbles: The illustration of “Grant, about 1860” is a photo of a beef contractor mistaken for the general; and Sarna’s occasional embrace of au courant phrases (“He was a one-man Anti-Defamation League,” “speak truth to power”) proves jarring.

What is still the best analysis ever offered about Grant’s greatest mistake came from his widow. In her own unsparing memoirs, Julia Dent Grant called General Orders No. 11 “obnoxious,” admitting that her husband “had no right to make an order against any special sect.” Sarna’s excellent study offers no excuses either and comes closer than ever to an explanation.

Harold Holzer is chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. His latest book is “Emancipating Lincoln.”

 

JBuzz News February 8, 2012: “Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld Story”: York University Student who accused Professor Cameron Johnston of Anti-Semitism releases video

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“Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld Story” video emerges

Source: Macleans, 2-8-12

Student who accused professor of antisemitism is back

From The Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld story

Remember Sarah Grunfeld? She’s the York University student who stormed out of a lecture in September of last year because her professor said that “all Jews should be sterilized.”

It later emerged that Professor Cameron Johnston, who is Jewish, was using the statement as an example of an invalid and dangerous opinion that must be reasonably qualified.

It appears that Grunfeld left the 450-seat lecture before Cameron qualified the opinion. Grunfeld was widely rebuked, including by Maclean’s own 22-year-old Jewish columnist, Emma Teitel.

But she didn’t go away quietly. She’s now back in a YouTube video called The Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld story. At least, we assume it’s her; the face in the video appears in silhouette.

“I was ridiculed, I was demonized,” says the shadowy figure. “I was called an moron, a dimwit, an idiot…” The figure then explains that she was paying full attention (FULL ATTENTION!) and sitting in the front row of class. “I know exactly what I heard,” she says. The shadowy figure admits that the comment happened in the “first five minutes of [Cameron’s] talk about how opinions can be dangerous.” She says she waited for the professor to provide some kind of qualifier, but he did not.

This all comes before the shadowy figure accuses against the media, York University, Hillel of Greater Toronto and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs of mistreating her. The voice concludes by asking: “what’s the future for Jewish students?”

A better question might be: “what’s the future of Sarah Grunfeld?”

JBuzz News January 16, 2012: Joseph Massad: Barnard College cleared in bias case

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Barnard College cleared in bias case

Source: JTA, 1-16-12

Barnard College was cleared of charges that a professor discriminated against an Orthodox Jewish student by steering her away from a class.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on Jan. 11 notified Barnard that it had halted its investigation into a complaint that Professor Rachel McDermott, then the chair of the college’s Asian and Middle Eastern culture department, had discouraged a Barnard freshman in January 2011 from taking a class with Columbia
Professor Joseph Massad, a critic of Israel who also has been accused of being anti-Semitic.

Barnard is affiliated with Columbia.

The Office of Civil Rights said it decided to halt the probe due to conflicting accounts of what occurred during the meeting between McDermott and the student, and because no other Jewish students have come forward to say that they also were steered away from the course.
“Because of the conflicting version of events and no other evidence to support the complainant’s allegation, OCR determined that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the complainant’s allegation that the Chair discriminated against the Student, on the basis of her national origin, by discouraging her from enrolling in the Course,” the letter said.

The complaint was filed by Kenneth Marcus, director of the Initiative on Anti-Semitism at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. Marcus told the Columbia Spectator student newspaper that he is looking into appealing the case. Marcus is a former head of the Office of Civil Rights.

JBuzz January 15, 2012: Brazil approves Jewish studies agreement with Israel

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Brazil approves Jewish studies agreement with Israel

Source: JTA, 1-15-12

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff approved an agreement to allow students, teachers and researchers in Brazil to teach and research the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and other Jewish-related subjects.
Under the agreement, Hebrew-language and Jewish themes such as the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and intolerance will be part of curricula in some schools, universities and other educational institutions in Brazil.

As part of an inter-country exchange, Portuguese will be taught in academic circles in Israel. Several scholarships will support the exchange.

The agreement is the result of a longtime effort by Osias Wurman, Israel’s honorary consul in Rio and ex-president of the Rio de Janeiro State Jewish Federation.

“Teaching the Holocaust in Brazilian schools is key in a moment when revisionist waves grow, notably from the Iranian government, which try to wipe the memory for future generations,” Wurman told JTA. “We must shed light on the past in order to clear the future.”

The Brazilian-Israeli agreement was signed initially in 2008, approved by the Brazilian Congress in 2010, and eventually sanctioned by the presidency this week to aid in “developing and strengthening the friendship ties between both countries.”
Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, attended a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony less than one month after she started her term one year ago.

“The Holocaust is not and will never be just a historic moment. The duty of the memory should not be mistaken for passiveness of the ordinary remembrance,” she said at the time.
“Memory is the human weapon to prevent the repetition of the barbarism. We must not allow any kind of human rights violation in any country, and especially in Brazil. The Jewish tradition and dignity integrate the Brazilian nationality in a special way.”

Cameron Johnston: Sensitivity training needed at Canada’s York University, B’nai Brit Says

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Sensitivity training needed at Canada’s York U., Jewish group says

Source: JTA, 9-18-11

B’nai Brith Canada has called for “sensitivity training” for the faculty of Toronto’s York University in the wake of a complaint by a Jewish student over the remarks of a Jewish professor.

BBC called on the university “to investigate further” the incident in which a student in a class taught by Professor Johnston “felt marginalized and targeted by the way subject matter relating to odious opinions was presented.

“Clearly, a key message was miscommunicated, and sensitivity training needs to be instituted for faculty to ensure that such incidents do not happen again,” BBC said.

On Sept. 12, Johnston began an introductory lecture to a first-year course with examples of extreme opinions and whether one should be entitled to them.

“All Jews should be sterilized” is an example of such an extreme view, Johnston had said.

Sarah Grunfeld, 22, a fourth-year student, stormed out of the class and reported Johnston to the Hasbara at York, an on-campus Israel advocacy group, which sent a news release to media and other Jewish community groups calling for the professor’s firing. The story went viral on social media.

In his defense, Johnston said he pointed out “that everyone is not entitled to their opinion by giving the example of someone having an anti-Semitic opinion which is clearly not acceptable. This was an example of the fact that opinions can be dangerous, and that none of us really do believe that all opinions are acceptable.”

In a statement circulated by B’nai Brith Canada, Grunfeld said she stands by her initial concerns. Although the teacher “made the abhorrent statement in his class that all Jews should be sterilized, he failed to qualify the statement clearly as an unacceptable opinion held by others. His delivery of this statement, made in a class of 450 impressionable students, was offensive to me and to others in the room.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said Johnston’s point was “without ill intentions [and] taken out of context.” It added that the episode “is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic.”

Cameron Johnston: York University Student who mistakenly accused Professor of anti-Semitism unapologetic

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Source: Toronto Star, 9-15-11

The 22-year-old York University student who mistakenly accused her professor of making anti-Semitic remarks issued an unapologetic response to the ridicule that has been widely levelled against her.

“I understand that there may have been a miscommunication,” Sarah Grunfeld writes in the statement distributed Wednesday evening by B’nai Brith Canada. “But any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me.”

Since the story was first published Wednesday in the Toronto Star it has rapidly spread on social networking sites, where readers have been unabashedly and openly scornful of Grunfeld.

The incident has also been discussed in local newspaper comment pages and was picked up by U.S. gossip website Gawker.

Grunfeld accused social sciences professor Cameron Johnston of telling a class on Monday afternoon that “All Jews should be sterilized.”

In fact, Johnston — who is Jewish — was explaining to the students that not all opinions are valid or acceptable, using the example of Jewish sterilization as a reprehensible opinion, with historical precedent.

Here is Grunfeld’s statement in full, including a preface from B’nai Brith:

“Sarah Grunfeld, fourth year York University student has made the following statement relating to the recent incident in Professor Cameron Johnston’s class at York University, and has asked B’nai Brith Canada to circulate it to interested parties on her behalf. This statement of her position is only to be used in its entirety:

“I stand by my initial concern brought to the University’s attention immediately after the incident that when Professor Cameron Johnston made the abhorrent statement in his class that all Jews should be sterilized, he failed to qualify the statement clearly as an unacceptable opinion held by others. His delivery of this statement, made in a class of 450 impressionable students, was offensive to me and to others in the room.

“I have since been grossly misquoted and ridiculed by the media, and attempts have been made to assign blame to me with the false claim that I simply ‘misheard’ or ‘half heard’ what was said. Meanwhile, the professor has not been called to account in any way for his ‘miscommunication’.

“This is in spite of the fact that in a meeting with Martin Singer, Dean, (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York) and Rhonda Lenton (Vice Provost Academic), I was assured that they believed Professor Johnston was ‘terribly regretful’, and that they expected and would encourage him to issue an unambiguous in-class apology. I have not heard even minimal expressions of regret by Professor Johnston, and a York university representative in subsequent communications with the media, has since contradicted the assurances I was given to that effect.

“It has been a very painful experience for me to see how the university has closed ranks and reneged on its assurances to me. I understand that there may have been a miscommunication, but any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me. The media has been complicit in allowing a false interpretation of my actions to be circulated widely, which can only have a chilling effect on the ability of students to have any kind of a voice on campus.”

Cameron Johnston: York University Jewish professor forced to defend himself against anti-Semitism claims

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Cameron Johnston, a social sciences and humanities professor at York University, is having to defend himself against allegations of anti-Semitism after a student apparently misunderstood comments he made in a lecture on Monday.Cameron Johnston, a social sciences and humanities professor at York University, is having to defend himself against allegations of anti-Semitism after a student apparently misunderstood comments he made in a lecture on Monday.

Brendan Kennedy/Toronto Star

Brendan Kennedy Staff Reporter

A half-listening student, a hypersensitive campus and the speed at which gossip travels on the Internet conspired to create a very damaging game of broken telephone for one York University professor this week.

Cameron Johnston, who has been teaching at York for more than 30 years, has been forced to respond to allegations that he made anti-Semitic remarks in a lecture on Monday afternoon after a student misunderstood his comments and began sending emails to Jewish groups and the media.

Johnston was giving his introductory lecture to Social Sciences 1140: “Self, Culture and Society,” when he explained to the nearly 500 students that the course was going to focus on texts, not opinions, and despite what they may have heard elsewhere, everyone is not entitled to their opinion.

“All Jews should be sterilized” would be an example of an unacceptable and dangerous opinion, Johnston told the students.

He didn’t notice Sarah Grunfeld storm out. Grunfeld, a 22-year-old in her final year at York, understood Johnston’s example to be his personal opinion.

She contacted Oriyah Barzilay, the president of Hasbara at York — an Israel advocacy group on campus — who then sent a press release to media and other Jewish community groups calling for Johnston to be fired.

Blogs and Facebook groups picked it up, and in a few hours the allegations spread within the city’s Jewish community, albeit mostly online.

Sensitivities around anti-Semitism are particularly heightened at York, which has a large Jewish population and a history of toxic relations between supporters and critics of Israel on campus.

“I’m terribly upset,” Johnston said Tuesday. “I’m very proud of the fact that in the history of my teaching career I’ve stood for the best values of what constitutes a meaningful human community.”

Johnston, who is Jewish, said his religion likely influenced his choice of words, why he used “this example of a completely reprehensible opinion” with historical precedent.

During the Second World War, Nazi scientists experimented with mass sterilization on Jewish prisoners in concentration camps.

“I think it’s a very good thing that people are sensitive to this kind of remark, and I think it’s a very good thing that someone would respond immediately and deal with it if they thought that they heard an anti-Semitic comment,” Johnston said. “But in this case, it’s a misreading.”

The irony for Johnston is that he was trying to teach his students that ideas have consequences.

“So I’m pretty shocked to find the consequences — what I was talking about in lecture — is that I get seen as an example of prejudice.”

Grunfeld said Tuesday she may have misunderstood the context and intent of Johnston’s remarks, but that fact is insignificant.

“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

Grunfeld also expressed skepticism that Johnston was in fact Jewish.

Asked directly by a reporter whether she believes Johnston is lying, she was unclear.

“Whether he is or is not, no one will know,” she said. “. . . Maybe he thought because he is Jewish he can talk smack about other Jews.”

Sheldon Goodman, GTA co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which speaks on behalf of the city’s organized Jewish community, called the incident “a very unfortunate misunderstanding.”

“This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic,” he said.

Scotland: Top Jewish academics quit union in anti-Semitism row

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Source: Herald Scotland, 7-12-11

FOUR leading Jewish academics in Scotland have quit one of the largest UK lecturers’ unions over its stance on the definition of anti-Semitism.

The lecturers resigned from the 12,000-member University and College Union after it rejected the European Union Monitoring Centre’s working definition of anti-Semitism. The detailed guidance paper defines it as a hatred towards Jews and says the “rhetorical and physical manifestations” of anti-Semitism can also target the state of Israel….READ MORE

Canada is Fertile Ground for Anti-Semitism, Report Says

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Source: JTA, 7-11-11

Canada is fertile ground for anti-Semitism, especially on university campuses, a parliamentary committee has concluded.

After two years of hearings, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism in a report released last week called on the federal government to do more to fight anti-Semitism in Canada, which it said is rising, due partly to increased hostility toward Israel.

Over 10 days of hearings between November 2009 and February 2010, the coalition’s 22 members, consisting of lawmakers from all federal parties, heard from 74 witnesses, including federal and provincial politicians, diplomats, university administrators, academics, chiefs of police, journalists and other interested individuals.

Among its dozens of recommendations, which are not binding on the government, the coalition said that police forces across Canada should be better trained to deal with anti-Semitism; Canada’s immigration department should take into account rising international anti-Semitism when designating source countries for refugees; and the Foreign Affairs Ministry should study the United Nations’ criticisms of Israel.

It also said that legislators and others need “a clear and concise definition of what anti-Semitism entails.”

One major concern of the coalition was Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual event on Canadian university campuses.

“We had got several testimonies from students, particularly Jewish students, who were scared,” committee co-chair Mario Silvia, a former Toronto-area member of Parliament, told the Globe and Mail newspaper.

“They were quite fearful of attending classes and going to their campuses because of the fact that they felt they were being targeted for being supportive of Israel.”

Jeffrey Herf: Why Did Yale Close, Then Open, a Center for Studying Anti-Semitism?

Source: TNR, 7-5-11
Developments at Yale University in recent weeks concerning the scholarly study of anti-Semitism have aroused broad attention. In early June, Yale’s Provost Peter Salovey accepted the recommendations of a faculty committee to close the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). On June 19, however, following an outcry over the news, Salovey announced that a new center, the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism (YPSA) would be established. The university’s Whitney Humanities has agreed to sponsor it, and Professor Maurice Samuels, whose scholarship focuses on the presentation of Jews in French literature, will convene this reconstituted center.

For those of us who are familiar with YIISA and valued its engagement with scholarship about anti-Semitism not only in Europe but around the world, the decision to close YIISA was disturbing. We hope that the reconstituted program at Yale will incorporate the research concerns and ferment that YIISA fostered and place these at times unpopular efforts on a sound scholarly foundation befitting a great university. The stakes, for the study of anti-Semitism and the credibility of the academy more broadly, could not be higher.

IT WAS A gamble when Charles Small, YIISA’s director, established the center in 2007. He did so armed with a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford, engagement in social theory, experience in policy discussions in Canada, Europe, Israel, and the US, outside funding, and support from some Yale faculty and administrators. YIISA was to be a research center devoted to examining the history and nature of contemporary anti-Semitism—that is, not only the much examined anti-Semitism of the Nazi era but also Jew-hatred in the Middle East, including Iran, and in Islamist ideology and politics as well. Small was aware that there was a hard road to travel because the area specialists who read Arabic or, in the case of Iran, Farsi were almost universally opposed to even posing the question of anti-Semitism in the Middle East. Or, if they posed it, they had a ready answer to its causes—namely, Zionism and then the existence and policies of the state of Israel….READ MORE

Gil Troy: Yale Learns that scholars should study anti-Semitism

Source: Jerusalem Post, 6-21-11

After abruptly cancelling the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism – and enduring two weeks of criticism – Yale University is now launching the new Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism (YPSA). Ignoring the last two weeks’ absurdities — the hysterics who called Yale “anti-Semitic” because of its decision and Yale’s ham-handed handling of the issue — the new center is most welcome. That one of the world’s leading universities recognizes anti-Semitism as worthy of scholarly study is significant. This center should study anti-Semitism past and present, in the United States and the world – acknowledging the characteristics defining what Robert Wistrich calls “The Longest Hatred” and its many variations.

The Yale program’s mission is scholarship not advocacy. YPSA should not be the ADL for Ph.Ds. The program should not train the global Jewish orchestra’s violin section to play the haunting sounds of Jewish suffering to score points. It should not be the center of strategy for the Jewish entry in the great American victimology sweepstakes, with different groups quibbling over who suffered the most to determine who most deserves sympathy along with affirmative action. Nevertheless, scholars must study the issue clearly and boldly, no matter how politically incorrect their conclusions.

It is surprising how lonely this new program will be; there are few such centers in America. In an age of super sub-specializing among scholars, and despite campus hypersensitivity to injustice, that five years ago there were no American centers studying anti-Semitism is scandalous. Dr. Charles Small deserves great credit for launching the first center in America, and for demonstrating through his able leadership how illuminating such centers can be.

Small needed to be a pioneer because anti-Semitism in America is often obscured by an invisibility cloak. The “Longest Hatred” is today a most overlooked, masked, and rationalized hatred. The obscuring is partially because American Jewish history is an extraordinary love story, a tale of immigrants finding a welcoming home suited to their skills, values, and ambitions. American anti-Semitism does not compare to American racism or European anti-Semitism. The whys and whats of these differences are fascinating and invite study.

The invisibility cloak works most effectively in hiding the “New anti-Semitism,” which singles out Israel and Zionism unfairly, disproportionately, obsessively. “Delegitimization,” an awkward term for an ugly phenomenon, is familiar to pro-Israel insiders but means nothing to most others, many of whom simply explain all hostility by pointing to Palestinian suffering. This rationalist analysis ignores Israel-bashing’s irrational, often anti-Semitic, pedigree. The modern anti-Semite often claims, “I am not anti-Semitic, I am just anti-Israel or anti-Zionist.” And the discussion quickly becomes muddled, because there are valid criticisms to make about Israel and Zionism – as about all countries and nationalisms.

On campus today, the burden of proof usually lies with bigots to demonstrate they are not biased. Except, somehow, the burden of proof usually falls on Jews when we encounter bias. Treating Israel as what the Canadian MP Professor Irwin Cotler calls “the Jew among nations,” frequently is anti-Semitic. Especially on campuses, the discussion is distorted because much modern anti-Zionist anti-Semitism comes from two sacred cows, the Red-Green alliance, that unlikely bond between some radical leftists and Islamists. They should be natural enemies. Yet they unite in hating Israel and Zionism.

Because so many professors and students are progressive, especially at elite universities, they frequently dismiss criticism of leftist anti-Semitism as McCarthyite or “neo-con.” But the anti-Israel hatred found on the left has its own morphology and pathology. Good scholarship analyzing it could explore its roots in the Stalinist 1930s and the anti-colonialist 1960s, could compare its European and American strains, while explaining what it says about the left’s stance towards the Western world and the Third World. More broadly, there is an historical mystery involved in how Zionism was tagged with the modern world’s three great sins – racism, imperialism, and colonialism – and why Israel is compared frequently to two of the 20th century’s most evil regimes, Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.

In abandoning the realm of the rational, these accusations also demand study. Consider that Israel’s struggle is national not racial – so how is Zionism one of the few forms of nationalism deemed racist? Knowing that colonialism means settling land to which settlers have no prior claim – why are Israel’s origins called colonial? And how does imperialism properly describe the world’s 96th largest country holding on to neighboring territories it acquired after a war for self-defense, given that there are security as well as historic-religious reasons and given Israel’s willingness to return the Sinai to Egypt in 1979 for the promise of peace? With so many absurd accusations piling up, and frequently echoing with historic anti-Semitic tropes, scholars can provide clarity – without addressing the right or wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Scholars can also clarify the relationship between this genteel, often masked, “progressive” indictment and the cruder Islamist indictment, part of a systematic campaign to delegitimize Zionism, ostracize Israel, and characterize Jews as apes and pigs, monkeys and shylocks. How central is this rhetoric to the Islamist movement? What is the significance of the ugly caricatures and rhetoric emanating from the Arab world, which are a familiar fixture in the Arab press. It is not anti-Islamic or anti-intellectual to note, and analyze, the centrality of Jew-hatred in this anti-Western ideology.

We need consciences, not scholarship, to condemn anti-Semitism, and we have institutes galore to track it. Scholars can help define boundaries, create categories, sharpen vocabulary, explain origins, compare phenomena, provide context – also giving a reality check, warning of pro-Israel overreactions too. Anti-Semitism has been around for too long, done too much damage, perverted too much contemporary diplomacy and campus politics, to be ignored. Yale University should be congratulated for relaunching this program – other universities should follow.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow. The author of “Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today,” his latest book is “The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.” giltroy@gmail.com

Alan M. Dershowitz: Yale’s Distressing Decision To Shut Down Its “Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism”

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At a time of increasing—and increasingly complex—anti-Semitism throughout the world, Yale University has decided to shut down the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, YIISA. Founded in 2006, YIISA is headed by a distinguished scholar, Charles Small, with an international reputation for serious interdisciplinary research. The precipitous decision to close YIISA, made without even a semblance of due process and transparency, could not have come at a worse time. Nor could it have sent a worse message.

I recently returned from a trip abroad—England, Norway, South Africa, among other countries—where I experienced the changing face and growing acceptability of anti-Semitism. Sometimes it hid behind the facade of anti-Zionism, but increasingly the hatred was directed against Jews, Judaism, Jewish culture, the Jewish people and the very concept of a Jewish State (by people who favor the existence of many Muslim States).

In England, a prominent and popular Jazz musician rails against the Jewish people, denies the Holocaust and apologizes to the Nazis for having once compared the Jewish state to Nazi Germany, since in his view Israel is far worse. In Norway, a prominent professor openly criticizes the Jewish people as a group and Jewish culture as a collective deviation. In Johannesburg, the university severs its ties with an Israeli university, while in Cape Town a newspaper headline welcomes me with the following words, “Dershowitz is not welcome here” and an excuse is found to cancel a scheduled lecture by me at the university.

Throughout my visits to European capitals, I hear concern from Jewish students who are terrified about speaking out, wearing yarmulkes, Stars of David or anything else that identifies them as Jews.

In the United States, and particularly at American universities, matters are not nearly as bad. There are of course some exceptions, such as at several campuses at the University of California where Muslim students have tried to censor pro-Israel speakers and have been treated as heroes for doing so, while those who support pro-Israel speakers are treated as pariahs. The same is true at some Canadian universities as well.

One university that has been a model of tolerance, up until now, has been Yale, where Jewish and pro-Israel students feel empowered and comfortable, as do Muslim and anti-Israel students. Perhaps this is why the Yale Administration had no hesitancy in dropping YIISA. It can easily defend itself against charges of bias by saying, “Some of my best organizations are Jewish!” But this is no excuse….READ MORE

Caroline Glick: Yale, Jews and double-standards

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Last week Yale University announced its decision to close down its institute for the study of anti-Semitism. The move has been widely criticized as politically motivated. For its part, the university claims that the move was the result of purely academic considerations.While not clear-cut, an analysis of the story lends to the conclusion that politics were in all likelihood the decisive factor in the decision. And the implications of Yale’s move for the scholarly inquiry into anti-Semitism are deeply troubling.The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) was founded in 2006. Its purpose was to provide a scholarly approach to the study of contemporary and historical anti- Semitism. It was attached to Yale’s Institution of Social and Policy Studies. It was fully funded from private contributions. Yale did not in any way subsidize its activities from the university’s budget.

Since its inception, under the peripatetic leadership of its Executive Director Dr. Charles Small, YIISA organized seminars and conferences that brought leading scholars from all over the world to Yale to discuss anti-Semitism in an academic setting. Its conferences and publications produced cutting edge research. These included a groundbreaking statistical study published by Small and Prof. Edward Kaplan from Yale’s School of Management that demonstrated a direct correlation between anti-Israel sentiment and anti- Jewish sentiment….READ MORE