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I tried to enter the U of T encampment but I was blocked and cursed at

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I’m a prof and I’ve never seen antisemitism so vicious on campus before

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I’ve been a professor at the University of Toronto for 37 years and I’ve never seen antisemitism as vicious and widespread on campus as it has become within the past few months. Yet, I’m not surprised. This is because I have seen this cancer slowly metastasizing for the past 25 years among the faculty, not only at my university but across North America and Western Europe.

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For the past month, there has been an encampment of “pro-Palestinian” protesters occupying King’s College Circle, the main quad of the U of T campus. Some foolishly romanticize such encampments as the rebirth of 1960s antiwar and civil rights protests in favour of peace and love. Don’t be deceived. The encampments are led by pro-Hamas advocates who are seeking to justify Islamist terrorism by normalizing antisemitism. They do so by cleverly using a propaganda technique known as “inversion,” trying to hide their own genocidal ambitions by ascribing them to their victims. So, after the murder, rape and torture of Israelis on October 7, the advocates for Hamas immediately turned an act of incipient genocide on its head by claiming that it is the Israelis who are “genocidal.” And, for the most part, the faculty has gone along with it. In fact, many departments on my campus have issued wholehearted statements of support for the encampment. Our own professional faculty association has come out as an enthusiastic cheerleader for this mob of agitators, most of whom are not even students.

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How do I know this? I went to see the encampment for myself. Yet, even on my way to King’s College Circle, I was given a taste of what to expect. I witnessed a group of toddlers from a local daycare centre being marched toward the encampment, presumably on a “field trip.” I later discovered a video of these same children being coached to raise their fists, while shouting “Free Palestine!” in a show of support in front of the encampment. Perhaps I should have been shocked to see three-year-old children being used as pawns to advance a political ideology. But if Hamas can cynically use children as human shields, why should I be surprised if its followers spread this practice to North America by manipulating children for crass political purposes.

Nevertheless, with my kippah perched proudly on my head, I tried to enter the encampment to speak with those inside. For my efforts, I was not only barred from entering but I was also cursed, sworn at, abused, and told I should go back to where I came from. This all happened in plain sight of the campus police, who merely stood back and refused to get involved when I asked for their assistance. And I was one of the lucky ones. I later heard there were other Jews who had been punched and kicked for trying to walk freely through that campus quad.

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It’s even worse for students. This year several of my Jewish students refused to attend classes in person, because they didn’t want to face threatening mobs on campus every day. To accommodate them, I added an online component to my courses so that they could attend “virtually.” But I could not let this become normalized. I sent several letters to the university administration, protesting the blatant anti-Jewish vitriol on display. But in response, all I received was an insipid form letter, saying that these are “challenging times.”

All this has its source in an ideology that has gripped the minds of the vast majority of university professors, a neo-Marxist ideology that despises the values of liberal democratic society on which our freedoms are based. Of course, there are some faculty members who do not subscribe to this ideology, but they’re generally cowed into silence by the radicalized majority. I know from experience how risky it is to express any “contrary views.” A few years ago, I objected to the appointment of a virulently anti-Israel professor with ties to a terrorist organization, to an esteemed position at my university. That was sufficient for one of my senior colleagues to write me a threatening email, saying, “You might want to look at Ryerson’s head on a pike [a decapitated statue] and have a short moment of reflection.”

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The more the university fails to act, the more brazen the mobs become. In recent days, Hamas flags and symbols are being proudly displayed on campus. Vile banners are erected saying, “Zionists F— Off!” Meanwhile, intimidating statements are escalating, with threats to take down the entire university. “Abolish the university,” a poster screams, followed by, “We will disrupt you, we will reclaim control of you, and we will dismantle you.” They’ve even gone so far as trying to “rename” university buildings, by plastering new nameplates on the front of these structures, calling them, “Palestine Hall,” “al-Aqsa Building,” and “Gaza Centre.” Two weeks ago, a pro-Israel student tried to set up his own encampment at an adjacent spot on campus, cleverly calling it a “two-camp solution.” However, unlike the pro-Hamas encampment, which has been allowed to remain for weeks, his tent was forcibly cleared away by university police in a matter of minutes.

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We should not blind ourselves: a target has been painted on the faces of all Western people, first on the Jews but then ultimately on all defenders of western liberal democracies. Israel is merely the low-hanging fruit, attacked through the soft target of the universities.

We now have a choice. Do we allow the pro-Hamas mobs to take over our campuses? It is painful to observe the students in the encampments serving as “useful idiots”; to see the faculty largely become deluded supporters, deceived by an ideology; and to discover that the administrators are weak appeasers. This is clear in their pathetic attempts to “negotiate” with the campus occupiers by bribing them with faculty positions and student scholarships.

Since we can’t hope for anything morally courageous from most of the faculty, the best hope we have is to seek to defund the universities, to call for the resignation of their weak-kneed presidents, and to fix the broken hiring system in which a single ideology (and not merit) determines who is in and who is out. We must find a better way forward, and not just on campus. As the pro-Hamas forces make blatant use of Jew-hatred, they are testing how far they can go in upending our liberal values. If we don’t stop them now, this will only be the start of a forced march on the road to much, much worse.

Special to National Post

Kenneth Green is a professor in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto.

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