On March 29, 2016, York University announced the formation of the President’s Advisory Committee on Inclusion, which “will lead the University in examining effective ways for strengthening York’s commitment to building an inclusive and diverse campus that nurtures the respectful exchange of ideas, and that supports and prepares graduates for success anywhere.”
The “inclusion committee” was formed following media mogul Paul Bronfman’s withdrawal of support from York University over an anti-Israel mural in the school’s student centre, and was announced by York president Mamdouh Shoukri in a statement which said: “The mural has given rise to a broader conversation about whether as an institution and as individuals we are doing all we can to ensure that all members of our community feel welcome and supported”.
One of the committee members listed in the announcement is John Grayson, a hard-core anti-Israel political agitator and professor at York University.
Member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid
Greyson, a little-known Canadian filmmaker, made a name for himself as one of founders of the toxic Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), a group of fanatical anti-Israel hypocrites, who for 7 years, without a shred of irony or self-reflection, spent their time demonizing the only country in the Middle East that would afford them equal rights while ignoring persecution of gays in virtually all countries in the Middle East, including Gaza.
In 2009, Greyson joined the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which has come under fire for its vicious and obsessive hatred of Israel. BDS is illegal in France and the UK. Several US states have passed anti-BDS legislation and in February the Canadian Parliament voted on a motion to condemn BDS in all its forms.
Toronto International Film Festival controversy
In 2009, Greyson was blasted by world-renowned directors, actors and producers, when he pulled his film from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in protest over the festival’s decision to focus its City-to-City programming on Tel Aviv. The reaction was swift and harsh. Media mogul Haim Saban wrote: “The world always had anti-Semites. It has now and always will, but the people of Israel always have, and always will live and prosper. Sorry Jew haters. You lose.”
Award-winning director David Cronenberg said in a statement, “I am against censorship in all its forms. The attempts to stop TIFF’s City to City spotlight on Tel Aviv amount to political censorship. I am against it.”
In a Globe and Mail op-ed, award-winning producer Robert Lantos called Greyson and his pal Naomi Klein, another BDS supporter, “Mahmoud #Ahmadinejad’s local fifth column.”
Academy Award-winning director Norman Jewison said, “the recent attack on Israeli films at TIFF is an attempt to politicize art and smacks of anti-Semitic bigotry. Let’s keep political hatred out of the artistic community. Artists should treat each other with respect and support regardless of religion, colour, or nationality.”
“Went to bat for pedophiles”
In the August 27, 2009 letter from Greyson called “Artist Takes Up BDS Campaign Pulls Out of TIFF in Protest”, Greyson said “for instance, I’m helping organize a screening in September for the Toronto Palestinian Film Festival, co-sponsored by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and the Inside Out Festival. It’s a doc that profiles Ezra Nawi, the queer Israeli activist jailed for blocking army bulldozers from destroying Palestinian homes.”
Nawi, a far-left activist, was convicted in 1992 for the statutory rape of a fifteen year old Palestinian minor. Court documents showed that Ezra Nawi ‘was convicted for participating in an illegal gathering and assaulting a policeman, and has a criminal record on charges of illegal use of weapons, growing illegal drugs, possessing tools for the use of drugs, possessing illegal drugs for private use, sodomizing a minor, entering an unauthorized area, threats, transporting illegal residents, and disrupting the work of a civil servant’. Recently Nawi was arrested for turning in Palestinians land brokers to Palestinian authorities, knowing that they would be tortured and possibly killed for committing the “crime” of selling land to Jews.
Referring to Nawi, in an interview with Toronto Life, Greyson said, “going to bat for pedophiles has nothing on going to bat for Palestine”.
Participated in Israel Apartheid Week
In 2010, Greyson participated in an annual Israel Apartheid hate fest and created a video urging Elton John to cancel his concert in Israel.
Urged boycott of Tel Aviv University student film festival
In 2011, after failing to create a boycott of Israeli films at TIFF, Greyson, who teaches film to students at York University, encouraged a boycott of a student film festival at Tel Aviv University, prompting award-winning producer Robert Lantos to resign from the York University awards jury and issue the followingletter:
“The involvement of this individual [Greyson] presents an insurmountable problem for me. Greyson has been an aggressive advocate of hate propaganda directed against the Jewish Homeland and its people. He spearheaded the crusade to boycott TIFF a couple of years ago because of the Festival’s spotlight on films from Tel Aviv.
“By championing the censorship and oppression of art due to the ethnicity of the artists he violated the most sacred principles of free expression and betrayed his own profession, losing all credibility as a film maker. Subsequently, he attempted to organize a boycott of Tel Aviv University’s Student Film Festival and forged the name of James Cameron on a list of his alleged supporters. He fraudulently attempted to use his podium to sabotage the free flow of ideas in order to promote his own prejudices.
“As a film maker, I will not be involved with conferring laurels on any film that is associated with someone who takes a page from the fascist handbook to try and suppress works of art. As a Jew, I will not be associated with someone who promotes hate propaganda against my people. (Fashionable as that may be in certain circles). Some of the York student films show evidence of skill and talent. So I regret that I have no alternative but to resign from the Cinesiege Jury.”
In 2011, Greyson took part in the so-called Gaza Flotilla, an attempt to breach a naval blockade of Gaza by Israel. The Flotilla failed to launch after the Greek authorities prevented the boat from leaving a port in Greece.
Reaction from the Jewish community on appointing a radical anti-Israel activists the “inclusion committee”
Mark Newburgh, CEO of Hillel Ontario issued a statement which said: “We are outraged that a sizeable proportion of the ‘inclusion’ committee consists of members who have a clear record of anti-Israel activism. This includes academics who have endorsed Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israelis and publicly accused Israel of imposing ‘apartheid’ or committing ‘genocide’. These positions are deeply offensive to Jewish students and reflect division rather than inclusivity.”
Sara Lefton, Vice-President of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said: “While the intention to enhance campus inclusivity is laudable, without significant changes, this initiative will have the opposite of its intended effect and only serve to further alienate the Jewish community. It is crucial that President Shoukri select committee members with the credibility required to promote civility and unity on campus.”
Avi Benlolo, President and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal issued the following statement: “In response to the controversy surrounding the infamous anti-Israel mural hanging in the York University Student Center, as well as ongoing concerns about antisemitic intimidation and hostility on campus, York University President Mamdouh Shoukri announced the formation of the President’s Advisory Committee on Inclusion in late March.
“While Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) had hoped this committee could be a positive mechanism to address these concerns, we are troubled to learn that five out of 15 members of this committee (33%) are on the public record as being anti-Israel, which leaves the committee tainted by a reasonable apprehension of bias.”
“It is also worth noting that although 20 prominent Jewish Professors at York defended the university in a recent editorial in the Canadian Jewish News – endorsing York President Shoukri’s “vision of a campus that is inclusive and safe” – not one of them is among those named to the President’s Advisory Committee on Inclusion.”
“It is clear that this new advisory committee will do little to reassure York’s Jewish students that the university administration is acting in good faith and in their interests, or that they can expect a positive outcome from its work. This really is a missed opportunity.”