Ryerson Student Union praised for adopting new anti-Semitism definition

Ryerson University campus. FACEBOOK PHOTO

The Ryerson Student Union has adopted a new, comprehensive definition of anti-Semitism amid reports that the head of a university program resigned over anti-Semitic tweets.

The RSU’s executive on March 29 passed a motion changing its definition of anti-Semitism to add the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism, adopted by the federal government in 2012.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it’s not aware of any other university student union in Canada to adopt the Ottawa Protocol as its definition of anti-Semitism.

In part, the new wording defines anti-Semitism as: the denial of Jews’ right to self-determination; applying “double standards” by requiring of Jews “behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”; using symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism and drawing comparisons between contemporary Israeli policy and the Nazis.

The effort was spearheaded by Students Supporting Israel and Stand With Us Canada, founded in 2013 to support, train, and provide resources to university and college students.

The old definition was “prejudice or discrimination based on stereotypes and assumptions about Jewish people. This can include policies, views, or actions that harm or discriminate against Jewish people individually or on an institutional level.”

The latest version keeps the old wording and adds the wide-ranging Ottawa Protocol.

The older version was passed in November 2014, but the RSU rejected references to Zionism after objections from non-Jewish students, SSI president Rebecca Katzman told The CJN.


She said she started working on the resolution last November, when the RSU failed to pass a motion to mark Holocaust Education Week after Muslim, after pro-Palestinian students staged a walkout that triggered a loss of quorum.

The motion was passed in December, and it was later revealed that RSU president Obaid Ullah had orchestrated the walkout, despite earlier denials.

Since then, the student union and the pro-Israel group have worked together to pass the new definition, Katzman said.

“Now I can confidently say that this motion makes it far more difficult for anti-Semites to perpetuate anti-Semitism at the student government level, and now, we are able to hold them accountable,” she added in a statement.

Allysa Moses, associate director of Hillel at Ryerson University, said she hopes other student governments adopt similar motions to help strengthen the fight against anti-Semitism on campus.

The development came the same week as the Eyeopener, a Ryerson student newspaper, reported that Hirra Farooqi resigned as president of the university’s orphan sponsorship program (OSP) in late February after anti-Semitic tweets she had sent out in 2014 were discovered online.

The tweets, forwarded to The CJN by Jewish students, included the following: “My heart burns with hatred for the scums of Israel”; “Nothing pisses me off more than pro Israel pieces of s–t”; and “f—k Israel.”

Farooqi apologized for the remarks “to ensure that people of all different faiths and backgrounds feel safe and welcomed to be involved in OSP,” the Eyeopener reported.

The messages were sent out “in my teenage years” and were “without a doubt, unacceptable and hurtful to entire communities,” wrote Farooqi. She added that she does not stand by the “hateful rhetoric.”

The CJN could not reach her for comment.

Her remarks were posted at Canary Mission, a site that monitors individuals and groups that promote hatred of Israel, Jews and the United States at North American universities.

Founded by Ryerson’s Muslim Students’ Association, the OSP is “designed to unify, raise awareness and leave a positive impact for a humanitarian cause,” according to the group’s website. The group raises money for orphans worldwide and claims that in an earlier year, it raised more than $70,000.

It partners with SOS Children’s Villages, an international group that bills itself as “the world’s largest charity working with orphaned and abandoned children.”

SOS Children’s Villages Canada said it’s not directly involved in the planning or execution of any third-party fundraising activities, which should be “free of religious prejudice and racial discrimination,” spokesperson Kerline Usher said.