All too often, organizations and individuals jump to criticize someone or something for no reason other than they did not listen carefully, or made assumptions without checking facts.
Two recent incidents come to mind. One occurred at York University in Toronto. Cameron Johnston, a social sciences and humanities professor, sought to demonstrate that not every opinion deserves to be heard. Johnston, by the way, is Jewish. He explained his premise to his class and then gave as an example “All Jews should be sterilized.”
A student who was not paying close attention heard the statement, but not what preceded it. She stormed out of the class and reported Johnston to an on-campus Israel advocacy group, which all-too-quickly demanded that Johnston be fired.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs came to the professor’s defense, saying the statement was “without ill intentions [and] taken out of context.”
That was not enough for B’nai Brith Canada, however, which is demanding “sensitivity training” for the York faculty and a full investigation of the incident. It does not matter, apparently, that there was no incident to investigate.
The second incident was closer to home. Both an on-campus student group and a national Israel advocacy group jumped all over Columbia University and its president, Lee Bollinger, for inviting Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the campus for a “banquet,” apparently in his honor. Neither Bollinger nor the university invited the notorious Iranian to anything, however. A student group planned to meet him way off campus for a private dinner.
Anti-Semitism exists and seems to be ascendant. There are real causes of concern out there. Crying fire where there is not even smoke will only cause others to turn deaf ears to our alarms when they are justified.
For 5772, let us resolve to put our words where the facts are, not where we imagine them to be.