An instructor at York University is refusing to lead social justice seminars she is being paid to teach, citing the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“I am sure you have all been following the news about what is happening in Palestine, between the occupier (Israelis) and the occupied (Palestinians),” Dina Zaid Alkilani, a Ph.D. student leading a cohort of undergraduate students in the full-year course “Prospects and Perils of Globalization in a Social Justice Context,” wrote in a mass email on Oct. 18.
“Over the past ten days, York University, following the footsteps of the Canadian government, has spared no effort in condemning the acts of resistance by Hamas militants against Israel’s ongoing and violent occupation and apartheid regime.”
Alkilani’s email, addressed to the “Beautiful Minds” enrolled in the course, went on to rationalize the Palestinian terrorist group’s brutal attack that has claimed the lives of over a thousand innocent civilians.
“Tragic, indeed, what happened to the Israeli civilians, and Israelis understand now that violence only breeds violence,” the political science graduate student explained. She went on to accuse York University, “in an act of utter complicity,” of echoing the Canadian government’s condemnation of Hamas terrorism as part of a broader “Western genocidal propaganda camp.”
“As a Palestinian-Jordanian, Muslim and Arab, I refuse to be intimidated and/or silenced by such messages by YU or by the Canadian government’s genocidal and warmongering lies and propaganda against my people. I am NOT a ‘human animal’ nor are my people,” Alkilani said in closing her letter, apparently misrepresenting Israeli president Isaac Herzog’s reference to Hamas as “monstrous animals.”
“Those who refuse to speak out should feel eternal shame and disgrace,” the graduate student asserted before explaining to her students that she is voluntarily restricting her TA duties in light of current events. “Please keep submitting your journals as required. I have nothing to teach you now except that Humanity is a Myth.”
Before signing off, Alkilani shared a quote accusing Israel of being “1,000 times” worse than Hamas.
One pupil, speaking to True North on the condition of anonymity, explained that worsening conditions in class and on campus have led them to consider ditching the course.
“It’s my last course I would need to take,” the student wrote. “I want to drop it if this keeps going on, but then I’m out six credits. If I do drop it, though, the school better give me a full refund since this is complete bulls**t.”
Alkilani’s mass email letter feels detached from everyday life on campus, the student added. Less than a week earlier, three influential campus clubs – the York Federation of Students, York University Graduate Students’ Association, and Glendon College Student Union – released a joint statement denouncing “so-called Israel” and euphemizing Hamas’s butchery of children, pregnant women, and elderly as “a strong act of resistance.”
The solidarity statement even drew a rare condemnation from the university, noting that it was “widely interpreted as a justification for attacking civilians and a call to violence.” The college demanded the student unions immediately retract their statements and unequivocally condemn antisemitism, with the leadership compelled to resign immediately.
None of the student groups have removed the controversial post from their social media accounts as of Oct. 24. Neither York University, Alkilani, nor her faculty supervisor, responded to True North’s repeated request for comment.
For a Jew, recent developments on campus have been “awful,” the student explained. “There are daily protests, large groups of between 50-150 people at least.”
“I’m scared for my safety. The chants and scale of these gatherings” have led them to feel intimidated.
“Before, I would walk around campus and not notice who was around me, and lately, it just feels like I’m surrounded by people who want to hurt me or my family. This is not normal.”
Although the student is not visibly Jewish, they have decided to hide any signs of their Jewishness while at York. “I recently started to wear my Magen David (Star of David), but only ever under my shirt. I don’t think I’m very visibly Jewish (I’ve heard otherwise), but either way, the way things are going, I try to keep my Jewish identity to myself as best I can.”
Despite rising campus antisemitism and York’s pledge of diversity, inclusion, and tolerance for all, Jews are conspicuously absent from the university’s page announcing its latest “Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy,” shows masked staffers with orange “Every Child Matters” tshirts and hijabed women as the touchstone image.
As the student has learned in recent weeks, Jews are not welcome under the diversity banner. Only virulent expressions of anti-Zionism, as well as renunciation of their connection to Israel, will gain them admission to the club.
“I’m not out here attacking them, but they feel they have the right to? It’s madness,” the exasperated student said.