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York University Moves to Suppress Offensive Speech — But Only When Jews Are Speaking

The Canadian university hosts the odious anti-Semite and pro-terrorist George Galloway, and moves to suppress the free speech rights of a Jewish rabbi for condemning him.

by
Richard Cravatts

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November 19, 2010 - 12:00 am
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York University in Toronto, which has gained for itself the dubious distinction of being Canada’s epicenter of campus anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, is displaying once again the moral inversion that seems to have infected its student body and administration when the issues of the Middle East are discussed.

The issue at hand is a November 16th visit to the York campus by British MP George Galloway, as the invited guest of the York Federation of Students. In 2009, Mr. Galloway had been barred from entering Canada due to his public support of and donations to Hamas, a group designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. State Department, Canada, and the EU, but a court has since overturned that decision and given Galloway access to Canada once again.

Not everyone was thrilled with the prospect of having Galloway, who, according to wry commentator Christopher Hitchens is “100 percent consistent in support for thugs and criminals,” arriving on the York campus to spew forth his rabid fulminations against Zionism, Israel, and the West. In particular, Toronto-based Rabbi Ahron Hoch took it upon himself to post an announcement on his Aish web site in which he urged readers to proactively protest Galloway’s appearance, and to take specific steps to inform the greater community about the noxious speaker, including emailing York’s president, calling the dean’s office to lodge a formal complaint, and participating in a rally to be held on the York campus.

Feeling that the Galloway visit was one more contribution to the cesspool of anti-Semitic, pro-Palestinian activism that has punctuated the York campus for years now, Rabbi Hoch took York’s president, Mamdouh Shoukri, to task for  allowing Galloway  to speak “under the pretext of freedom of speech,” even though it “was never meant to be used as a vehicle to spread support for terror, murder and genocide.”

And more relevant to Rabbi Hoch was that York’s president had again failed to take a strong stand to rid his campus of anti-Israelism that frequently has morphed into anti-Semitism. “Mr. Shoukri has again showed his amazing tolerance for anti-Semitism and lack of vigilance regarding the feeling of safety for Jewish students on campus,” Hoch wrote.

Rabbi Hoch did receive a response from the university, but not the one he had probably hoped for. In fact, what he received was a formal letter from Harriet Lewis, York’s general counsel, who ordered the rabbi, in no uncertain terms, to remove the announcement “from [his] web site and to direct [his] supporters to cease and desist” any further distribution of the online poster. Why was the university demanding these steps? Because it believed that Hoch’s comment about President Shoukri was “untrue, harmful to [him] and his reputation, and to that of the university.” More ominously, the university considered the rabbi’s words “actionable,”( read: criminal), and expected “a retraction and apology forthwith.”

The letter also warned Hoch that his request for individuals to come to the York campus to protest Galloway’s appearance “might disturb and provoke others to disturb the peace” and “that this too is actionable and may constitute criminal behavior.” (Emphasis added.)

In a morally coherent world, university administrators might be better able to distinguish between behavior by terrorist-coddling ideologues  and the actions of those who wish to protect Jewish students from hatred, bias, and vilification as a result of their perceived support of Israel. But not at York, where, when someone stands up and asks why anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism have infected the York campus and have even recently widened into physical assaults and attacks on Jews, it is that individual who is condemned for saying what has not been said before: that the university’s failure to take a strong moral stand — when it sees obvious hatred and aggression towards Jewish students as part of an ostensible discussion about Israel — is a great moral lapse that no amount of talk about “academic free speech” and the supposed right of people like Galloway to speak on campus can remedy.

Before threatening to take legal action against Rabbi Hoch for his possible criminal behavior of criticizing the moral judgment of York’s president and urging others to protest Galloway’s appearance, the university might well assess the character and odious moral behavior of Galloway himself.

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