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September 18, 2011

Anti-Semitism Controversy at York University - Is there something in the water there?

Anti-Semitism is a serious issue, but it can be hopelessly trivialized when it's charged in absurd situations.

It all started when professor Cameron Johnston, a Jewish man by the way, was beginning his "Self, Culture, and Society" course at York. In it, he explained that:
...the course was going to focus on texts, not opinions, and despite what they may have heard elsewhere, everyone is not entitled to their opinion.

“All Jews should be sterilized” would be an example of an unacceptable and dangerous opinion, Johnston told the students.
Sarah Grunfeld, a 22-year-old student who has evidently been there for four years (but evidently was not busy developing critical thinking skills in that time), stormed out of the class and started complaining to the higher-ups at York about Johnston's anti-Semitic remark.

Yes, you read that correctly. He was saying that the statement "All Jews should be sterilized" would not be an acceptable opinion. Grunfeld evidently wasn't paying attention, only starting to when he uttered the phrase itself, not when introducing the whole reasoning for why he said it.

She storms out, sends a note to a campus Jewish group, Hasbara, which immediately starts spreading the call for Johnston to be fired without actually investigating the claim. (I'm assuming they didn't investigate it, because any investigation would reveal the context of the statement). They release the statement to other Jewish groups as well as the media, which, of course, runs with it.

Calls for his firing grew, and all apparently without actually looking into what actually happened. This could have been nipped in the bud if somebody along the chain of events had actually stopped to think before spreading this.

The flap is easily explained, and you would think that Grunfeld would be properly mollified now that the context of the statement was revealed to her (and maybe she should actually start listening in class).

You would be wrong.
Grunfeld said Tuesday she may have misunderstood the context and intent of Johnston’s remarks, but that fact is insignificant.

“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”
Are you kidding me?

Ok, all of you who didn't believe I was a sexist pig last week should at least now be reporting me to the authorities for typing those hated words above. Oh, and don't forget the Toronto Star, whose article I'm quoting in this post, along with all the other media outlets that repeated what he said.

Because just having the words come out of your mouth is enough to brand you an anti-Semite.

Maybe we're safe because we typed them rather than saying them. That's the kind of critical thinking being displayed here, so who knows?

Going to university is supposed to broaden your mind and help you learn how to think critically. To absorb information and learn how to evaluate it for yourself.

I'm beginning to wonder if that's what's truly happening, though.

Note: this story is from Wednesday, September 14. I have found no record of more recent stories, so I don't know if Grunfeld is still sticking by her charge. If not, she hasn't publicly said she's changed her mind. And obviously nothing has happened to Johnston, or that would have made the news too.

Which means sanity has actually prevailed in this case.


  1. Wow, I think you said it all Dave - crazy making here. What a mixed world we live in!

  2. Sometimes it is frightening, isn't it Elizabeth?

  3. just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all...


  4. My post or the article I linked to?

    Either way, thank you very much! And thanks for stopping by too.


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