The last week or so has seen intense conflict and rising tensions in the Middle East, specifically between Israel and Hamas. As a Jewish student who cares deeply about Israel and my family who live there, it was quite an anxious time. Hearing how often my family had to run to bomb shelters and seeing videos of rocket barrages and the Iron Dome intercepting them was both scary and awe-inspiring.
Unfortunately, this recent round of violence has also led to a barrage of antisemitism worldwide, including on social media. At first, fellow high school alumni posted their support for Palestinians, but their version of support included delegitimizing the Jewish state and defending Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Despite my attempted conversations with these individuals, trying to explain to them why supporting terrorism and genocide is wrong, I was met with insults, unfollows, and blocks. Later on, I was sent a TikTok of a fellow Laurier student who posted a video encouraging the stabbing of Israelis, burning the Israel flag and vomiting on it. Thankfully, Wilfrid Laurier University caught wind of this and took appropriate action. Unfortunately, once this news got onto the Laurier subreddit (a forum dedicated to a specific topic on the website Reddit), there was quite a lot of antisemitism. It ranged from people misunderstanding the conflict (calling Israel an occupying and apartheid state), to blatant antisemitism (commenting that this further proves Jews control the media and the world at large), I was quite horrified. When Laurier posted these news on their Twitter, there was even more hate, with comments such as “maybe Netanyahu and his RW government should stop trying to commit genocide.” Of course this is a blatant lie, but this didn’t stop people from commenting. Furthermore, the Laurier/Waterloo Diveristy, Equity and Inclusion office made a post on Instagram with statements such as “we stand against settler colonialism, apartheid” and more, all terms direcly targeted towards Israel and its supporters. The inclusion office successfully managed to exclude the vast majority of Laurier’s Jewish population. Thankfully, a group of Jewish students, including myself, explained why their post was inaccurate and it was taken down.
The most recent Israel-Gaza conflict has caused a 438% increase (Jewish News) in antisemitism, and videos of protesters physically hurting Jews across the globe are abundant. As a Jewish student who will be on campus in September, I no longer feel safe supporting my homeland or wearing my Magen David in public. I hope that the Laurier administration will put more effort into dispelling anti-Israel lies and combating antisemitism and choose to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which it has historically rejected.
Until now, the message to Laurier’s Jewish students from their peers, the student union, the administration at large or the diversity, equity and inclusion office, could not be clearer: we are not welcome. And so, I can only hope for change and full inclusion of Jewish students at Laurier and for my Jewish peers at universities across Ontario.