York Prof: Hillel@York is "Agent of Foreign Government"



By: DAN VERBIN  
Published: October 29th 2010
in News » Local

Hillel ad in Excalibur
Pic: Hillel

David Noble, a history professor at Toronto's York University, is alleging that Hillel@York is an agent of a foreign government and asking the university’s president Mamdouh Shoukri to end the Jewish club’s Israel advocacy.

 

Noble sent a letter, dated October 8, to Shoukri and York’s student newspaper Excalibur, along with a printout of a Facebook page titled “ISRAEL AFFAIRS – Hillel@York” that he claims “indicates that this student organization advocates explicitly on behalf of the State of Israel.”

 

In the letter, he wrote that no campus club “besides Hillel serves, in effect, as an agent of a foreign government. York’s policies with regard to student organizations appear to be silent on the matter of such agency, and, hence, sanction it by default and, indeed, invite other foreign governments to establish similar student advocacy organizations on their own behalf… Such a situation would corrupt the educational mission of the university.”

 

Noble adds that “in the case of Hillel@York such corruption is already well underway, with York University’s tacit approval. York University must insist that Hillel@York end its advocacy activities on behalf of the State of Israel at once.”

 

Hillel@York President Brandon Crandall called Noble’s allegations “outrageous and comical.” He told Shalom Life that it is absurd to associate supporting a country with acting as an agent for a foreign government.

 

“In that case, millions of Canadian who express support for a variety of countries could be categorized as so called agents,” he said. “Hillel’s support for Israel embodies values embedded in Canadian culture, such as peace, democracy and the rule of law. Hillel not only has a right to support Israel but is proud to do so, without worrying about stereotypical slurs.”

 

The issue first came to light when Excalibur published a story about Noble’s letter entitled “York prof questions Hillel’s advocacy.”

 

Crandall noted that as York’s largest Jewish student group, Hillel has been a long-time advocate for civil discourse on campus.

 

“Because of its ongoing efforts to improve the quality of campus life for all students, Hillel@York has built strong and longstanding relationships with other campus organizations and the York University administration,” he said. “We will continue to foster dialogue based on civility and respect.”

 

Hillel has not heard from Noble about the issue. Crandall stated, “He never contacted us directly. He basically sent the letter to President Shoukri. It wasn’t addressed to us.”

 

Robert J. Tiffin, York’s Vice President Students, responded to Noble’s letter on behalf of Shoukri. “The Hillel Club is recognized by York University and it is in compliance with the foregoing regulations and policies,” states the letter. “As Dr. Shoukri has noted on many occasions, it is the right of any community member to express his or her view within the law without fear of intimidation or harassment. This extends to the members of a student organization such as Hillel.”

 

York Media Relations director Alex Bilyk confirmed to Shalom Toronto that Hillel@York is a recognized campus club that is in compliance with university regulations and policies. “They are entitled to be on campus.”

 

The club is planning a multi-part response, including an ad in this week’s Excalibur. “It’s a bunch of students dressed up in Purim costumes and it’s going to say ‘Proud to be an agent for peace and democracy, Hillel @York’,” said Crandall.

 

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