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Justification for my CUPE article and response to criticism

Last week’s edition of the Jewish Tribune featured a story of mine entitled: “Anti-Israel rhetoric flies at CUPE meeting, but no time left for voting.” A day after the paper’s distribution, I was forwarded emails from Hasbara members, who were upset about the content of the story.

This post will explain why I wrote what I did. Actually it’s more like explaining why I included this piece of information in the story.

My task that afternoon was to cover a meeting organized by CUPE 3903, a union representing teaching assistants, faculty and other university affiliated folk at York University. This is a union that hasn’t made many friends since striking for months back in 2008, and even more so with the Jewish student body – by proposing to boycott Israeli academics at the school. Don’t think I need to elaborate on the absurdity that exists with that logic (or lack thereof).

Word was that the member-only meeting would divulge an unnecessary amount of time to bashing Israel and voting on a motion leading paving the way for the aforementioned boycott. The scoop however, was that I had access to talk to members after the meeting, whom were pro-Israel. Their take on the meeting, progress and the general results of the meeting would serve as the meat and potatoes of my story.

Meanwhile a few members of Hasbara, a pro-Israel student group, also decided to show up to protest the meeting. I waited there along them while the meeting took place. A few hours later, members filed out and were greeted by those members waving flags and carrying signs. Here’s what happened next:

When exiting the meeting, CUPE members were met by protesters from Hasbara at York waving Israeli flags and singing Hatikva. Some CUPE members responded by shouting anti-Israel comments towards Hasbara members.

It was CUPE members who began hassling Hasbara members. In the middle of back-and-forth debate, I was led downstairs by the Pro-Israel members, who seemed eager to leave (with good reason). While most of the story includes excerpts from the members, it wasn’t until near the end when the article changed directions (and here’s where people start getting angry at me.)

Pro-Israel CUPE members were unimpressed with Hasbara’s failure to refute those comments effectively.

“Repeating the same thing back at them sarcastically isn’t going to help,” said pro-Israel CUPE member Ron Tal. “They need to be more knowledgeable and respond critically when countering those comments. I’m very worried if this is how Hasbara normally deals with these people.”

Emails from two Hasbara members expressing disappointment with my story greeted me the next day. There’s no need to mention their names or quote the emails.

But here are a few reasons why I included that information:

It was completely unexpected hearing the disappointment coming from the pro-Israel members. As noted in one of those emails, I certainly understand that Jews disagree with one another when combating anti-Semitism, however the goal remains the same in the end: to protect Judaism and the entities it envelopes such as the State of Israel. I could not believe how adamant all the members were about how disappointed they were with Hasbara. Personally, sitting and waiting for hours outside a meeting (on the last day of classes no less) just to represent pro-Israel voice says a lot about Hasbara’s commitment.

So I’m not surprised Hasbara members are now upset. All I did was quote the individuals who NEED Hasbara’s help, but didn’t feel they were getting it. Maybe Hasbara reps can finally understand that’s the message I’m trying to get at.

This was also why I mentioned at the end of the article that one of the pro-Israel members, is looking to organize a faculty support group, which will be done alongside student support – initiated by one of the Hasbara members protesting at the meeting.

And even though it shouldn’t have to be said, journalism is about finding what’s newsworthy and putting it out to the public. It may not please everyone, but it’s not supposed to anyway. Being so closely associated to B’nai Brith, the Tribune plays a great role in getting their word out. But that doesn’t mean disregarding judgment on newsworthiness – whether to include or omit information or not.

Here’s an example: In another article (York U President back sham of a conference), I discuss a statement made by the York U president concerning the pursuit of academic freedom. The first half explains that York will not back out in hosting a conference on June 22, which is bound to be full of anti-Israel rhetoric etc. The second half however goes in reverse and says the school will not welcome boycotts of any academia from a particular country (Israel). Hasbara and Hillel both released responses commending the York president for his words on condemning academic boycotts.

Just one problem… what about the first part of the statement?

Not one word was mentioned about the approval of hosting the upcoming conference in either statement. You know what that seems like? It could seem if Hasbara/Hillel are okay with one half of the president’s statement, than they should be okay with the other half. Now anyone with a brain knows that’s obviously not true, but try explaining that to the brainless @ York U who could hypothetically say you supported this  to Hasbara/Hillel reps when trying to slam other anti-Israel on-goings. I was told not to mention any of this in article – for Hasbara’s sake, since I was told this kind of action was so out of character for the group.

Back to the first question: Why am I writing this now? It should be very clear that if anti-Israel rubbish is to be restrained, a lot more needs to be done to improve relations and actions of those responsible for doing so. Fair and simple. 

And isn’t nice when you get anonymous comments from some out-of-province IP number such as this one:

maybe you should post your disgusting article bashing pro-israel and jewish students up on this blog… i am sure you are proud of that too…

I don’t mind criticism, that’s a given. But what I don’t like are ignorant people who feel the need to blow off some steam by posting comments upon first look have no benefit whatsoever. Let me tell you something John Dou or whatever the hell your real name is, here’s my name Tevy Pilc. Now copy and paste that to a search browser on Facebook and there you’ll find all my friends who are members of Pro-Israel groups. Ask them if they think I’m a Pro-Israel basher… Better yet, go look at the rest of this blog and you tell me if I like “truly” bashing Pro-Israel students. Even more so, why not coming at me a little more directly? I shouldn’t have to waste my trying to figure out who you are and from where did you post the comment. And if you think I’m no better by responding like this – I’ll post your excuse for a comment and put this exact same response there too.

I don’t like taking pride in things I do (or happen to me), because that’s arrogance.  But when it comes to my work, especially my stories that other prominent individuals actually enjoy and are worth putting in a newspaper, I will take pride for that and stand up for myself. I shouldn’t have to this in response to slightest bit of criticism, but I won’t stay quiet regarding ignorance and misinterpretation.

If you want to be upset about the story and not be affiliated, go ahead. Being upset is just a waste of time and energy. And next time, direct your criticism directly to me.

If not, then thank you for standing by me.

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1 thought on “Justification for my CUPE article and response to criticism”

  1. Good stuff man,

    You shouldn’t need to justify good journalism, but you did a fine job of it anyway. As it stands, that was a well written and fair article.

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