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Spy on your fellow (pro-Palestinian) students to get a scholarship

Originally published: The Canada Files on June 5, 2023 (more by The Canada Files)  |

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) offers scholarships to proponents of the world’s most aggressive European settler colonial outpost. It’s a small part of a broader campaign to harass internationalist activism at Canadian universities.

FSWC gives various grants to undergraduate and graduate university students. Since 2010 it’s given out eight scholarships a year to high schoolers as part of its Ambassador Program.

Each recipient will be expected to become an FSWC ambassador by continuing to build community awareness and by maintaining meaningful involvement with the organization”, notes the group. FSWC ambassadors receive $1,800 to report “antisemitism” and “hate” on campus.

As part of the grant application students are required to explain how they “plan on fulfilling your role as FSWC campus ambassador?” The website states explicitly that “personal characteristics and goals that align with the mandate of FSWC” are the most likely to be funded.

FSWC is clear that its “mandate” is subverting Palestine solidarity. An archived version of the Ambassador Program explains that “one of the greatest issues facing Jewish and pro-Israel students on campuses today is the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” It adds, “any comparison between Israel and Apartheid South Africa is not only incorrect, but defamatory. These comparisons are useful for anti-Semites who do not believe Jewish people have a right to national self determination in the land of Israel.”

While Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Al Haq, B’tselem and the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinians have all concluded Israel is committing the crime of apartheid, FSWC ignores that and the country’s racism.

It’s unclear exactly how the Ambassador Program was conceived, but the same year it began FSWC launched a $5,000 scholarship for graduate students as a response to the controversy over a University of Toronto Masters’ thesis. In 2010, Jenny Peto argued that Israel was an apartheid state and modern Jews enjoyed “white privilege.” To counter this apparent outrage, FSWC announced a scholarship for those “focused on publishing academic papers on the legitimate rights and aspirations of Israel and the Jewish people.” In a release FSWC CEO Avi Benlolo said, “we have to enhance and support legitimate academic inquiry at the graduate level in order to lead to greater understanding and appreciation of Israel’s right to exist as a free and democratic state that promotes tolerance, justice and human rights in a troubled region of the world.”

FSWC’s scholarship program is but a small piece in an extensive, well-funded, network of groups harassing students who campaign against apartheid. There’s a website entirely devoted to sabotaging the job prospects of university students who participate in pro-Palestinian activism. In a bid to intimidate students, Canary Mission details individuals’ purported anti-Jewish activism.

Canary Mission and FSWC work alongside StandWithUs Canada, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), Israel on Campus, Honest Reporting Canada and other anti-Palestinian organizations. More than a dozen campus based Hillels, as well as Israel and Jewish studies departments usually established by well-to-do Israel supporters, often participate in the anti-Palestinian slander campaigns.

Adding to the movement targeting Palestine solidarity on campus, the director of the Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies at Carleton University, Deidre Butler, recently launched the Network of Engaged Canadian Academics. The Canadian Jewish News described it as “a group for professors who want to counter antisemitism on Canadian campuses and provide support for pro-Israel faculty to express their Jewish identities.” Butler told the Canadian Jewish News that she was motivated to establish the network after she was criticized for taking students to Israel and faculty associations opposed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s anti-Palestinian definition of anti-Semitism.

Probably the most politicized of the campus focused groups, CAMERA gives fellows $1,500 USD and the opportunity to attend an International Student Leadership Conference, if they fulfill a series of anti-Palestinian actions.

A rabidly pro-apartheid ‘flack’ group, CAMERA says university “campuses are the scene of propagandistic assaults on Israel”. The Boston-based group with a $5.7 million budget monitors Israel discussion on campus and calls for “tracking all relevant class curriculum offered at your university.” According to the Jewish Forward, CAMERA is “known for intimidation and smear campaigns against scholars and students whose views they oppose.”

In August 2022, CAMERA fellow Josh Fried sued (with the assistance of B’nai B’rith) McGill’s undergraduate student union and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights in response to 71 per cent of students voting for the “Palestine Solidarity Policy”, which called for divesting from and boycotting “corporations and institutions complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians.”

The groups outlined above share large sums of money that sustain a bevy of groups and initiatives seeking to undermine Palestinian solidarity on campuses. Their support of apartheid must be exposed.

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