The Concordia BDS experience When does anti-Zionism become anti-Semitism?

By Jonathan Mamane on December 14, 2014

At the beginning of the semester a controversial anti-Israel referendum question was brought forward by the Concordia Student Union. As a result of the election, myself and numerous other anti-BDS Concordia undergraduate students, have been subjected to harassment, defamation, and public humiliation. In the short time period of the campaign, it was made evident that the initial purpose of the Israel boycott was an excuse for anti-Semitism.


Prior to the BDS campaign, the hostility between students was at an all time high. Opposition increased when CEO Andre-Marcel Baril formulated a question regarding the newly formed campaign. “Do you approve of the CSU supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which calls for the boycott of all academic and consumer ties with any institution or company that aids in Israel’s occupation of Palestine?” The Concordians United Against BDS based their campaign solely on the aforementioned question until the CEO - without  notifying the campaign team - unilaterally changed it to the following: “Do you approve of the CSU endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel’s occupation of Palestine until Israel complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights?” This one-sided and prejudicial question came under scrutiny by the ‘Vote No’ side. Due to thismisleading question the CEO was brought before the CSU’s judicial board, which unanimously voted in favor of changing the question. The question was changed the evening before the voting period began to an alternative question stating: “Do you approve of the CSU endorsing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel?”


The campaigning period began November 11,2014 and ended November 24, 2014. During this voting period, Concordians United Against BDS and their supporters were harassed and insulted publicly at their campaigning tables, despite the fact that the Vote No campaign ran on a student unity platform rather than a political one. Students would be repeatedly told that they were advocating for “Satan”, that they were supporting “apartheid”, and “mass murderers”. All these accusations came from fellow Concordia students. In one particular scenario, a fellow student approached our ‘Vote No’ booth and called us “pure racists” for having a “Jewish star” on “our” "effing" flag and stated that she was outraged because “no other country in the world had a religious symbol on their flag”. For starters, this accusation is completely false, as there are sixty-three other countries with religious symbols on their national flag and a flag was not present at our campaigning table. Despite this indictment, our intentions regarding the campaign were not affiliated with any religious matters or the segregation of any religion; in fact, Jewish, Christian and Muslim students were present during the campaigning period advocating for Israel around campus.


This hate-spewing student didn't stop there. After two weeks of campaigning and trying to collect as many votes as possible, students against the BDS motion came under heinous attacks on social media. That same student who aggressively approached our campaign table, continued her harassment via Facebook. On November 30, this student publically posted a Facebook status calling Concordians United Against BDS “pro-apartheid racists and supporters”, accused us of supporting “ethnic cleansing” and “killings of Muslims”. She has also included a picture from a Hillel Concordia culture event a month ago that has no affiliation with the campaign. This public provocation has violated various Concordia rules and regulations, and also the ‘Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms’ on respect for private life, psychological harassment and defamation.


The hate towards anti-BDS continued. Seemingly overnight the hate morphed from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism. Bathroom stalls within the Concordia campus demonstrated graffiti portraying anti-Semitic comments, such as “Jews are f***ed up people” and “Jews are not people.” These dehumanizing and negative comments, along with the ones found on social media, gave Concordians United Against BDS strong evidence for anti-Semitism as opposed to anti-Zionism on campus.


Jews on and off campus have been constantly insulted, humiliated and harassed because of the misconception that the Jews are the reason for the hatred and issues occurring in Israel or for wearing a Kippah. Students attend academic institutions to study and to achieve ambitious goals, thus, if individuals have any form of agitation regarding issues involving Israel, they can freely express their discontent in non-violent manners, as an academic institution should not be exposed to such acts. Although this campaign was brought forward against Israel, it was clear within the initial stages of the process that Israel was not the problem. The anti-Israel sentiment was just an excuse for anti-Semitism.

Jonathan Mamane is a leader in Concordia s United Against BDS


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