During an introductory lecture in Social Sciences 1140: "Self, Culture and Society," Cameron Johnston, a Social Sciences and Humanities professor at York University, explained that the course would be based on texts, not opinions. The professor explained that, despite popular belief, not everyone is entitled to their own opinion:
"All Jews should be sterilized" would be an example of an unacceptable and dangerous opinion, Johnston told the students.
Pretty clear example, right kids? Well, apparently not for 22-year-old Sarah Grunfeld. She stormed out of the class, went straight to complain with Israel advocacy groups on campus who in turn, without fact-checking, sent press-releases to the media and other Jewish community groups, calling for the professor to be fired. The mangled accusations went forward from there, spreading online like wildfire. All based on hearsay.
When given a chance to explain himself, the various advocacy groups understood that professor Johnston was simply trying to teach his students that ideas have consequences:
Sheldon Goodman, GTA co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which speaks on behalf of the city's organized Jewish community, called the incident "a very unfortunate misunderstanding."
"This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic," he said.
See that? Admirable: people took responsibility for jumping the gun, which was nice. They also learnt from it. Except, of course, for Sarah Grunfeld, who -- rather than say, oh, I don't know, something like "I was chatting on BBM and not really paying attention to what this class was all about" -- is quoted stating:
"The words, 'Jews should be sterilized' still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that's pretty serious."
Regardless of the context? It is all about the context in this case: that the sterilization of Jews -- or any other human being -- is wrong, regardless of your opinion on the matter. Period. Never mind the fact that those same words that caused her to storm out of the class came out of her own mouth... and are now quoted on a National newspaper read by thousands of people.
But it gets better:
Grunfeld also expressed skepticism that Johnston was in fact Jewish.
Asked directly by a reporter whether she believes Johnston is lying, she was unclear.
"Whether he is or is not, no one will know," she said. ". . . Maybe he thought because he is Jewish he can talk smack about other Jews."
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