Throughout my undergrad experience at Queen’s University I was confronted on several occasions with aggressive anti-Israel rhetoric. I’m not a particularly religious person, but the climate on campus was enough to make me aware and self-conscious of my minority status as a Jew. In this blog post I’d like to relate one of the more uncomfortable situations I was presented with during my time as a student, and invite readers to commiserate with me about the new face of Antisemitism that has infiltrated left-wing politics.
I began university as a fresh-faced film major, eager to get involved with a faculty that initially seemed hip and open-minded. But unfortunately it didn’t take long for this arty department to rear its ugly head and make me feel alienated enough to switch from a double major in film and drama to the only slightly more conservative English literature.
In a first year lecture sized film course, taken by hundreds of freshmen, one particularly charismatic and radical professor thought it appropriate to subject the entire class to an interactive presentation regarding “Israeli Apartheid”. Not only is the very name of this concept disingenuous and hurtful, but the manner in which she raised the topic was distasteful, left no room for discussion and was entirely unrelated to film studies.
I arrived at the lecture hall one spring afternoon to find that all the students were being lined up outside, and a separate group of students who were not signed up for the course were checking ID cards. The students running the screening process singled some of us out at random to wait outside and enter the class late. As it turns out, the purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate how Israeli checkpoints ostracize and persecute Palestinians trying to enter the country. (I won’t even get in to the racial profiling that occurred when I was ‘randomly’ selected to wait outside by a girl in a hijab who read that my name was Jacob Abba Morgan).
Upon entering the class, those of us who were admitted with late entry were made to sit in a separated area at the back. At the front stood this film studies professor standing proudly with her small legion of militant looking students who were all dressed in black. On the screen there was a ridiculous bit of propaganda that showed an army helicopter marked IDF looming over a lone Palestinian boy sitting dejectedly in a fiery wasteland dotted with barbed wire. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It’s difficult enough to raise your hand and make a comment in a lecture filled with hundreds of your peers, let alone when you are trying to argue a counterpoint. So perhaps because I was shy, or perhaps because I was just too offended to think straight, I didn’t say anything and simply got up and left the classroom. I studied hard for the exam but quickly made the decision to leave the film department and find a place where hate-filled and one-sided politics were left out of the picture. What is clear to me is that this professor abused her position of authority, and despite the fact that I complained to my teaching assistant and I know others did the same, this angry professor never saw any repercussions for her actions.
To condemn checkpoints with no mention of the terrorism that warranted these checkpoints is blatantly biased. This is just one instance of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is distorted within the halls of Canadian universities and how many professors perpetuate the problem by abusing their positions to push their warped agendas.