An open letter to anti-intellectual, antisemitic anti-Zionists

I write now because we can see how you’re harming our community.

By
March 21, 2017 20:17
4 minute read.
NO ROOM for this message at McGill?

NO ROOM for this message at McGill?. (photo credit: REUTERS)

I submitted this column to the McGill Daily and heard nothing. I now publish it as an open letter:

Dear McGill Daily, As a McGill professor since 1990, I believe in leaving student politics to students. Traditionally, whenever students complained about the McGill Daily’s bias, I always advised: “it’s a student newspaper – you’re the student, you write.”

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However, as an educator, and a proud McGill community member, I can no longer stand silent. When I – or any colleague – see anyone fostering bigotry, violence, a mob mentality on campus, we have a moral responsibility to defend our students and our communal values. For that reason, I return to last fall’s controversy, which remains unresolved: I demand you reconsider your narrow-minded, fake-news-oriented “editorial line of not publishing pieces which promote a Zionist worldview, or any other ideology which we consider to be oppressive.”

It’s hard to believe that a newspaper purporting to be progressive would take such a regressive, unthoughtful approach. It undermines any criticism you make against Donald Trump’s resistance to facts and opinions he detests.

You’re worse because you wrap your bigotry in a mantle of self-righteousness, mocking the progressive thought you claim to embrace.

Beyond misrepresenting the Jewish people’s liberation movement, your approach is anti-intellectual, illiberal, an affront to McGill’s central mission and contrary to every journalistic tenet in the democratic, non-totalitarian world. Let’s learn from our academic rivals: The Ryerson School of Journalism encourages students to “search for the truth and create insightful and engaging news stories.” News flash: You can’t search for truth when you block off possible conclusions. “In this age of information,” the Ryerson website continues, “there has never been a greater need to dispel rumors and misinformation, and to present an accurate picture of the world.” You’re perpetuating today’s problem rather than continuing journalism’s tradition of using open honest reporting – including commentary – to find fresh solutions.

Judging you by your own standards, you fail. Please amend your first statement of principles: “To serve as a critical and constructive forum for the exchange of ideas and information relevant to McGill and related communities.” Your constricted, Stalinesque forum is neither “critical” nor “constructive.”



I write now because we can see how you’re harming our community.

Along with growing awareness of intersectionality, how different oppressions reinforce one another, there’s another phenomenon, which you and other bigots have inspired me to name Hate Swarming.

Hate breeds hate. You’re the epicenter of a McGill Hate Swarm against Israel and Jews (including blocking discussions of antisemitism at your intersection).

Just as chauvinists hostile to feminism are motivated by hatred toward women, those claiming they are “only” hostile to Zionism, the Jewish people’s liberation movement, usually hate Jews.

Connect the dots – as we teach our students to do.

Last spring we saw how the movement to boycott Israel culminated in Tweets calling fellow McGill students “Jew-boy” – escalating from “just” anti-Zionism to rank antisemitism. This semester’s Hate Swarm has a student leader tweeting “Punch a Zionist Today” – escalating from “just” rhetorical attacks to calls for violence.

I won’t wait for the next step – from endorsing violence to acting on it. It’s time to change your policy.

Every McGill colleague and student should follow our principal and provost by condemning your policy as an assault on our community.

Finally, a word about Zionism. Zionism has three fundamental propositions: that the Jews are a people; that the Jewish people have one historic homeland, the land of Israel; and that like all other peoples they have collective rights to establish – and now perfect – a country in that homeland. When you condemn Zionism you negate Jews’ collective identity – and arrogantly presume to repudiate most Jews’ own self-definition.

When you condemn Zionism you ignore its role as the inspiration for millions and the home for the oppressed, the dispossessed. When you condemn Zionism, you hurt the Palestinians, perpetuating the conflict, making Israelis defensive while discouraging the healthy, idealistic discussion that might encourage compromise.

In short, your bigotry is not just fueling this Hate Swarm, it is being that which you pretend to hate – “oppressive” – toward Jews, Israelis, Zionists and any McGill community member who dares to think critically beyond your groupthink.

Shame on you – and shame on us for letting our silence, our politeness, our respect for student sensibilities keep the hate swarming rather than encouraging the critical thought so central to McGill’s mission and democratic journalism.

Sincerely, Gil Troy P.S. (added): Your efforts are backfiring. Gallup polls show that 71% of Americans have a positive image of Israel, an increase over 20 years ago. A Cohen Center at Brandeis study concludes: “Even when they experience antisemitism and hostility toward Israel, students’ connection to Israel remain strong.” Foreign direct investment in Israel increased by $10.6 billion in 2016’s fourth quarter, defying boycott calls. Israelis rank high as among the world’s happiest people – despite your hatred.

On a lighter note, more than 30,000 runners from 65 countries participated in the Jerusalem marathon, celebrating 50 years of a united city. Running the 21 km.

race, I passed a woman in a pinkish-red hijab cheering while photographing us with her iPhone. The mix of old and new, and this traditional Muslim Arab delighting in the simple human effort of overcoming physical challenges, transcended politics. That’s the real Israel, the real Jerusalem, the real Zionism that will drain your Hate Swamp.

The author, a Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University and a Visiting Professor at the Ruderman Program at Haifa University, is the author of The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, published by St. Martin’s Press. His next book will update Arthur Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy.


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