The Hasbara Campus Blog
Want to learn what BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) really means for Ontario? Hear from students on the front lines.
On Thursday, December 1, Gila Martow, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Thornhill, will be presenting a motion in the Ontario Legislature that states that Ontario rejects the ideals and mission of the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) movement.
Across Canada, BDS is a movement that is particularly active on university and college campuses. Read below to see the testimonials of a selection of Hasbara Fellowships students as they state exactly what BDS means on campus. Please feel free to share these students' testimonials with your elected representative so they can see what BDS means to students on campus. Hasbara Fellowships Canada joins our partner organizations in speaking out in support of this motion and in opposition to BDS in Ontario.
If you wish to contact your MPP, click HERE.
BDS was passed on my Campus at York University before I even got there. I can only imagine how things would've been different if it had not been passed, but my reality is an unnerving one. As a Jewish student I fear revealing my identity in classes and socially. I worry I will be treated unfairly by professors who espouse anti-Israel rhetoric whether relevant or not. I am discriminated against in progressive circles for who I am and for believing the Jewish people have a right to their ancestral homeland. BDS is a hate movement, and it affects me personally.
BDS hurts students' social life on campus, their academics and the overall school environment. School is about learning to build bridges, help one another learn and graduate and help create a positive and active social environment. With BDS, students are prevented from doing so. It is focused on fighting the "other" based on their differences in nationality, ethnicity and religion, creating a hostile campus environment for students to be at.
University of Guelph-Humber
BDS is a movement that demonizes Israelis, supporters of the State, and creates tensions & divisiveness among communities (be it academic, or otherwise). It is usually detrimental to Palestinians too - the very people SPHR/SJP believes they are supporting (i.e. Sodastream shutting down a factory in Judean Samaria, and 600 Palestinians losing their jobs). BDS limits everyone's opportunities to work with Israeli products/technology and Israeli academics. As Canadians, we should continue to honour our relationship with the one true democracy in the Middle East. Having an open conversation about concerns within the region is valid, as it is important that we can be critical about leadership on both sides, but demonizing an entire people is the opposite action we should exercise.
As a student, I attend university in hopes of gaining knowledge and learning truths about the world. BDS is not only a group that is against one side in a two side battle, BDS contradicts the very principles of an educational institution by warping history and creating their own truths. School should be a place where one goes to learn the truth, not where truths get created.
George Brown College
BDS presents a dangerous single story to the student body by virtue of it systematically shutting down dialogue and debate. It has given legitimacy and a “green-light” to closeted Anti-Semites on university campuses to attack the Jewish People indirectly, by means of belittling and encouraging animosity against Israel. With every protest and event championing the BDS movement, the more blinded our fellow-students and faculty members become. In the current times, we live in today, with conflicts ongoing and the build-up of animosity being pitted against the Western World, it has gained the attention and support of anti-Israel entities on campus. This ongoing coalition has the intent of intimidating and silencing those who dissent and question. In the end, those who truly support a peaceful middle-east will have to face the consequences of BDS head on, and as students, we implore our figures of authority to take a concerted effort in gaining insight into the history of the ideology which birthed BDS and has inspired violence.
I was a student at McMaster University when BDS passed. The campaign was detrimental to my and many other students’ well being. We were afraid to go through the Student Centre for the month-long campaign. There were false graphic images depicting violence in Israel, there were mock Israeli soldiers that went around harassing students, I know several students who were harassed for their Judaism and support of Israel. The holocaust was belittled and equivocated to the situation in Gaza. Israel was demonized. By passing BDS the student body sent a message to Jews and pro-Israel students that they were unwanted on campus. It made me and many others feel unsafe.
The anti-Israel BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) movement has been dealt another blow at the University of Toronto. The Graduate Students Union of the University of Toronto’s General Council rejected with a 34-17 vote (and 11 abstentions) a plan to make the BDS ad-hoc committee a formal part of the graduate student organization.
Hasbara Fellows Chaim Katz and Ari Blaff, along with graduate students Kyra Morris and Aidan Fishman helped defeat the vote.
“This is just the first of many steps to pushing back against anti-Israel discrimination on campus,” Ariella Daniels, Hasbara Fellowships Canada Campus Advisor, said. “Defeating a BDS referendum, or preventing the encroachment of BDS, is a critical first step, and even more importantly, we are working with our incredible Hasbara Fellows to proactively be ambassadors for Israel so we, and not our opponents, can set the agenda.”
The University of Toronto has seen anti-Israel sentiment not just with BDS, but in the classroom as well.
Robert Walker, National Director for Hasbara Fellowships Canada, lauded the vote. “This is yet more proof that the anti-Israel movement on campuses is losing steam, with more students seeing that universities should be places of higher learning, not blind hate.”
For more information:
Hasbara Fellowships Canada, the country’s largest grassroots pro-Israel campus advocacy organization, has announced that an official complaint has been filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against both the Students Association and the Faculty Association of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College, following the discriminatory decision to ban Hasbara Fellowships Canada from participating in a campus ‘Social Justice Week’ in the spring.
“There are few cases in Canadian campuses of such egregious and open discrimination such as Hasbara Fellowships Canada has experienced,” said Robert Walker, National Director. “This step we are taking is a clear message to universities and colleges across Canada that Jewish students can rely on our full support, and that the time for legal action has arrived.”
Mr. Walker is represented by experienced counsel in this case.
Hasbara Fellowships Canada is demanding that the Student and Faculty Association publicly apologize to Hasbara Fellowships Canada, disseminate their apology to campus, local & national media and their respective websites, invite the group to campus for a public presentation, and repeal any discriminatory policies in place.
According to Shanel Jacobs, a Jewish student at UOIT and currently participating in a Hasbara Fellowships Israel advocacy training program in Israel, “This is a matter of clear discrimination and the student government of a publicly funded institution needs to be held accountable for their actions.”
In early March, the Students Association of UOIT & Durham College hosted a “Social Justice Week”. When Robert Walker, National Director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, responded to an open invitation for community groups to participate, he was denied because Hasbara Fellowships seems "closely tied to the state of Israel.”
When the Social Justice Week proceeded, it included a 5-hour presentation on “Israeli Apartheid.”
Following the national news coverage that followed, the president of the Students Association responded in the media by comparing Hasbara Fellowships Canada to the KKK.
Hasbara Fellowships Canada
You may recall in March, Hasbara Fellowships Canada was banned from participating in 'Social Justice Week' by the Student Association & Faculty Association of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) because Hasbara Fellowships "seems closely tied to the state of Israel."
In the days which followed, the leadership of their Student Association even compared us to the KKK and made other outrageous claims about Hasbara Fellowships Canada.
Well today, we are fighting back against this open discrimination. In a first for Jewish students on campus, our organization has filed an official complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against both the Student Association and the Faculty Association of UOIT, and their affiliated college, Durham College, to fight for Jewish students on campus.
We are demanding that the Student and Faculty Association publicly apologize to Hasbara Fellowships Canada, disseminate their apology to campus, local & national media and their respective websites, invite us to campus for a public presentation, and repeal any discriminatory policies in place.
We are enormously grateful to our experienced legal counsel for their advice and for representing Hasbara Fellowships Canada.
At Hasbara Fellowships Canada, our mandate is empowering pro-Israel and Jewish student leaders, and we are enormously proud that at UOIT, we are doing exactly that. Right now, Shanel Jacobs, a Jewish student leader, is participating in our Hasbara Fellowships advocacy training program in Israel, and we are planning some incredible things at UOIT! Stay tuned!
Help Support our Legal & Campus Initiatives at UOIT
As you can imagine, taking on a multi-million dollar student government is no small task for us. Please consider making a meaningful contribution to aid us in our associated legal and campus initiatives at UOIT. To donate securely online and receive a full tax receipt, click HERE.
Tell the President of UOIT to say NO to discrimination!
Please (and ask your friends also) to write Dr. Tim McTiernan, the president of UOIT, at email@example.com, and tell him to take action against the discrimination from the university-funded student government at UOIT.
Hasbara Fellowships Canada Legal Task Force
After facing this open discrimination at UOIT, it became clear to us and our student leaders that a new legal task force was needed to help students in need. After extensive consultation with Hasbara Fellows, we are excited to announce the formation of the Hasbara Fellowships Canada Legal Task Force, a dynamic project which will train student leaders, respond to issues in real time and even (in partnership with Aish Toronto's Jewish Legal Network), provide mentorship to students wishing to pursue a legal career. We are seeking more lawyers & law students to join, so please contact me if you are interested!
Thank you (and we will keep you updated on any developments!)
Hasbara Fellowships Canada
Pro-Israel student leaders across Canada are getting a lot of attention these days, after noted philanthropist Paul Bronfman delivered an ultimatum to York University, saying that his donations to the school would be cut unless they removed an anti-Israel mural in the University Student Centre. At this point, while the deadline has passed and the mural still stands, York University has unfortunately chosen to keep the mural standing.
However, a tremendous impact came as a result of Mr. Bronfman’s actions, jumpstarted by our friend Avi Benlolo at Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC): now, more so than in a long time, the wider pro-Israel community is taking notice of the real situation on campus for pro-Israel and Jewish students, both with respect to the anti-Israel mural at York University, other issues at York, and across Canada.
Thanks to the attention now paid on the mural, more pro-Israel community members are having a serious discussion about the extent and influence of anti-Israel forces on many university campuses, whether it be their wide access to student government on various campuses, intimidation, frequently anti-Israel articles in student newspapers, leadership in various student clubs, and more.
On many campuses across the country, pro-Israel students face a well-financed juggernaut of anti-Israel groups whose sole focus is to demonize Israel, and frequently done so in a dishonest way. On other campuses, the situation is quieter, but still many students, after years of conflict, are simply disinterested and apathetic. Those students are the ones we need to reach out to and show what Israel truly is.
But we haven’t been silent, nor reactive. Our Hasbara Fellows have successfully built pro-Israel social media campaigns, engaged with student governments, reached out to campus newspapers, built sustainable relationships with non-Jewish students, and ran highly successful events on campus, in order to counteract both the hate speech and the apathy rampant on campuses, and more importantly, to set a positive, proactive tone for the wider student body to experience.
And for a long time, this was all behind the scenes. But thanks to a public statement from Mr. Bronfman, more attention is being paid to what’s really happening on campus – the good, the bad and the ugly – and for that, we are grateful.
We, the undersigned, a selection of Hasbara Fellows from universities across Canada, want to both thank Mr. Bronfman for taking a stance, and also to take this opportunity to highlight the nature of campus for many Jewish and pro-Israel students across Canada.
Since 2001, Hasbara Fellowships, a grassroots pro-Israel campus advocacy organization jointly founded by the Israel Foreign Ministry and Aish International, selects the top pro-Israel campus leaders and brings them to Israel for intensive activism training, and works with them to offer resources, guidance, and empowerment so that they can be ambassadors for Israel on campus.
Robert Walker, Canadian Director, Hasbara Fellowships
Jake Birrell, Hasbara Fellow (Mt. Royal University)
Ari Blaff, Hasbara Fellow (Western University)
Alexandra Brenner, Hasbara Fellow (Carleton University)
Kelly Bryant, Hasbara Fellow (Carleton University)
Ariella Daniels, Hasbara Fellow (York University)
Liora Domb, Hasbara Fellow (York University)
Sapir Fellus, Hasbara Fellow (University of Ottawa)
Shane Hamilton, Hasbara Fellow (University of Calgary)
Leora Karon, Hasbara Fellow (York University)
Esti Kass, Hasbara Fellow (York University)
Chaim Katz, Hasbara Fellow (University of Toronto)
Leah Khodak, Hasbara Fellow (York University)
Rebecca Khodak, Hasbara Fellow (Ryerson University)
Tamar Lyons, Hasbara Fellow (Ryerson University)
Ruben Perez, Hasbara Fellow (Concordia University)
Dan Poliwoda, Hasbara Fellow (Western University)
Adi Rittenberg, Hasbara Fellow (Queen’s University)
Yael Shneiderman, Hasbara Fellow (York University)
Rena Silver, Hasbara Fellow (York University)
Rebecca Starkman, Hasbara Fellow (Western University)
For more information, contact Robert Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org