Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre urges Jewish students to think twice before applying to York University

TORONTO (JTA) – Jewish students are being urged to think twice before applying to York University in Toronto following accusations that its faculty association was endorsing a “censorship campaign against Israel and the Jewish people.”

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said in a statement issued Tuesday that it was “concerned for the safety and security of [York’s] Jewish students and faculty,” and made the accusations against the faculty group. The association’s executive voted in favour of a campaign urging the university to divest from investments in weapons manufacturers, domestic or international.

Though the approved motion did not mention Israel, the Wiesenthal Center group contended it was anti-Semitic because the divestment campaign is being led by the York chapter of Students Against Israeli Apartheid, which endorses the international Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment drive against Israel. The divestment of weapons are often for companies that supply the Israeli army for use in the West Bank.

“The campaign is initiated by Students Against Israeli Apartheid – an organization known for its anti-Semitic and anti-Israel positions,” said the statement issued Tuesday by Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The group cautioned “Jewish students from choosing to attend York” should the vote be endorsed by the faculty union’s Stewards’ Council.

“What I’m asking for Jewish students who are considering going to York or putting in their application for the … 2016-2017 year, is to know what’s going on at York (and) to maybe take a pause until the final vote is in,” Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre President Avi Benlolo told the National Post.

In a letter to the faculty association’s president, the Wiesenthal Center group said the union’s 51-member Stewards’ Council still has a chance to overturn the executive vote.

“They may not realize that this boycott movement, couched in the language of human rights, is in reality a malicious campaign that targets and singles out the Jewish community as a collective; demonizes Israel and Israelis; applies unfair double standards to Israel at the exclusion of other nations in the Middle East; and rejects the legitimacy of Israel as the only Jewish State in the world – and therefore incites discrimination,” said the letter.

Richard Welland, president of the faculty association, said Students Against Israeli Apartheid is among several groups supporting the divestment campaign.

He also accused the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center of “bullying” him and other members of the executive.

“I’m Jewish (and) they’ve basically called me anti-Semitic,” he told the Post. “It’s distressing.”

The warning comes a month after Canadian media executive Paul Bronfman – a member of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre board – announced his decision to cut his company’s donations to the university over a pro-Palestinian mural hanging in the student center.

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