Jewish students at York University in Toronto were forced to take refuge in the Hillel office last Wednesday night as anti-Israel protesters banged on the glass doors, chanting, "Die, bitch, go back to Israel," and "Die, Jew, get the hell off campus."
During the clash in the hallway, Jewish students were singled out and pursued by a mob of more than 100 students. Tepper and the 15-20 other Jewish students escaped upstairs to Hillel's offices, where the situation worsened.
While students sat in the shelter of the Hillel office, listening to the "pounding" from the York Federation of Students office below, demonstrators reached the Hillel office, banging on the glass doors and made it impossible for students to leave.
Campus security personnel arrived and advised the Jewish students to stay in the Hillel office.
The police arrived almost an hour after the incident had begun and tried to "remain neutral," Tepper wrote.
The students in the Hillel office were evacuated soon after by police escort, amid cries of "Get off our campus" and "Shame on Hillel."
"I have never in my life felt threatened and hated like I did that night," Tepper said.
Ferman, the Hillel president, who was called a "f*****g Jew" and a "dirty Jew" by the protesters, said, "We were basically being held hostage in our own space."
The incident was somewhat "ironic," Ferman said, because 45 minutes before the press conference, members of Hillel and the Hasbara student organization had met with members of Students Against Israeli Apartheid, in an attempt to "decrease tensions" between the groups.
Ultimately, the students had to leave Hillel under police protection. You can get an eye-witness account by one of the Jewish students here.
The event that precipitated the scenario actually had nothing to do with Israel at all, though the mob besieging the Jewish students nonetheless yelled "Zionism equals racism!", "Viva, viva Palestine" and one student declared "Zionism does not speak for Jews. Zionism is an embarrassment. Shame on the Zionists." Rather, the situation flowed out of a press conference Hillel students participated in support of impeaching the York University student government for its support of a TA strike which had crippled the university for months.
I know nothing about the specifics of the labor dispute, and thus take no position as to what position on the matter is correct. I do know that it is distressing that (a) Jewish political advocacy on a topic of general concern immediately manifested itself into hatred and threats towards Jews qua Jews and (b) those threats manifested themselves in the guise of anti-Zionist talk, even though Zionism had nothing to do with the putative controversy.
This piece from the National Post is reporting a lot of rumor, so take it with some salt, but one thing he mentions is the possibility that the York Federation of Students is trying to change the subject from its support of the strike to the question of Israel and the Gaza operation. That would help explain how a move by Hillel to support an end to the strike was transformed into an opportunity to threaten Jews, and would also explain why Israel was used (as usual) as the "hook" in order to do so. It would be the same thing we're seeing in Venezuela: drumming up rage against Jews to cement shaky political support.
Unfortunately, this event was not isolated. Police already had to be called after death threats were made against a Jewish student earlier in the week. In general, Jewish students have been alleging a rapid deterioration in the security of their environment at the school over the last several years.