Dal student retracts racism allegation against SMU prof

President of campus group called management prof an “outright racist” in her criticism of Israeli policy

The president of the Israel Awareness Committee at Dalhousie University has withdrawn remarks that called Saint Mary's University professor Judy Haiven an "outright racist."

Paige MacPherson, a third-year Dalhousie student, apologized for part of an email she had sent on March 22 to the Dalhousie Student Union executive and the Atlantic Jewish Council. In the email she asked the DSU to prevent Haiven from running in a board member election for the campus Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG), accusing Haiven of organizing anti-Semitic events and intimidating Jewish students.

NSPIRG is a C-Level funding group on campus, which means that it is funded by a student tuition levy of $2 each semester. The group runs campaigns such as Rooting out Racism and financially supports student initiatives such as Campus Action on Food, all of which must comply with its mandate of social and ecological justice and anti-oppression education and action work.

MacPherson asked in her email to have the DSU prevent Haiven from running to be re-elected into the position she had previously held for four months. Haiven, she wrote, does not meet the constitution that NSPIRG must have approved each year by the DSU.

"Judy Haiven is a massively polarizing figure on campus. [She] has personally intimidated myself and the rest of the IAC [Israel Awareness Committee] exec on a number of occasions, and is just outright racist," she stated. "I know a figure like herself would not fit into the NSPIRG mandate... I felt really strongly that I should bring this to your attention, in the hopes that you can do something about it."

Haiven, an assistant professor of management and local activist, has helped found two groups in Nova Scotia: Independent Jewish Voices, and Canadians, Arabs, and Jews for a Just Peace, which MacPherson listed as having an "anti-Israel" slant.

Haiven took offence to the email, which she received second hand, calling it "defamatory." On March 28, Haiven sent an email to MacPherson and the recipients of the original one.

"I will not tolerate this kind of activity," she wrote, "by you or anyone else. We can have differences of opinion on subjects but cannot spread falsehoods. I hope this will be sufficient to end this matter now so that further action on my part will not be necessary."

In an interview, Haiven, who is herself Jewish, cited an instance MacPherson wrote of in the email, which Haiven said did not take place.

"I have seen her standing with a megaphone in Victoria Park," wrote MacPherson, "pointing out where the Atlantic Jewish Council office is, and screaming that the Jews in Halifax are racist, urging people to send them a ‘strong message'."

"It's true [that] what I do is opposed to what the government of Israel is doing," said Haiven, "but a lot of people here [in Halifax] are very opposed right now to what China is doing to Falun Gong... I'm not criticizing the Jewish Faith; I am criticizing what Israel has done... I have never done any of those things."

MacPherson said Haiven organizes events at Dal which are like the nationwide campaign Israel Apartheid Week, and are funded by NSPIRG.

Israel Apartheid Week, she said, is "a one-sided campaign that sheds a bad light on Israel... It is known for intimidating Jewish and pro-Israel students across Canada because they use words like ‘apartheid' or ‘ethnic cleansing'."

No involvement in protest - NSPIRG

Angela Potvin, an NSPIRG representative, said NSPIRG has never held the Israel Apartheid Week on campus, although the group supported the last one, held two years ago.

"[We] do not have the opportunity to hold a full week of events at this stage of the game," said Potvin. "We basically supported it when the Muslim students' society put it on.

Haiven organizes talks with book authors and activists about the Israeli-Arab conflict. The events are hosted by community groups outside of the university, although NSPIRG has helped book halls at the University of King's College, she said.

NSPIRG heard of the complaint against Haiven by receiving a forward of MacPherson's email. "You can't be calling people racist and anti-Semitic," Potvin said. "This has to stop. We're going to stand by our board member."

"Judy, in her personal politics, doesn't agree with a lot of Israel's current policies, in regards to Palestinian people," she said. "That doesn't make her anti-Semitic, or racist. That simply means she doesn't agree with a specific government's actions... Charges will be laid, if my board member, Judy Haiven, does not get an apology about this."

MacPherson said in an interview that the e-mail was "written in haste" and "the ‘outright racist' comment was out of context in the email. I'm sorry I made that statement."

MacPherson said she comes from a "very pro-Israel family" and was shocked to see "a big bias against Israel in learning and... in papers." She is currently the president of the Israel Awareness Committee at Dal, a "non-partisan club that promotes the shared values between Israel and Canada: environmental, technological and humanitarian," she said.

An administrator of last year's Reform NSPIRG group, MacPherson also said she opposes the style of funding NSPIRG receives and opted-out of the levy this year.

Because MacPherson has opted-out of the levy, she is no longer an NSPIRG member and could not vote in the election on March 25.

"She's also trying to tell us how to run our organization - that she doesn't personally have a stake in," said Potvin, "which I find personally very offensive. She opted out of the NSPIRG fee levy. She's not an NSPIRG member."

Haiven was elected despite these allegations. Doyle Bond, the DSU's Financial Advisor for the Society Review Committee, said he has no reason to question NSPIRG's staffing.

 

The committee has not received any formal complaints about any of the three community board members and Bond said it will not interfere unless "the community member won an election and then was doing things that could be seen as inappropriate on campus and seen as disrespectful to students."

MacPherson refused to disclose when Haiven "personally intimidated" her and the IAC, during multiple interviews.

"I've never seen her act in a threatening manner to any Jewish person because they're Jewish," said Potvin of Haiven. "She might be a little aggressive in discussing things about Israel but she's always willing to discuss."

Updates

April 9, 2010: Added a phrase in paragraph 9 stating that Haiven is herself Jewish.

Comments on this story are now closed

How ridiculous is it that a student has been made out to be a pariah when she tried to get the attention of the DSU in regards to concerns stemming from intimidation and disrespect on campus. Not only that, but her e-mail was forwarded by an un-named source and then put out for public consumption. All very juvenile and underhanded, though apparently done in the name of decency. Contrary to what is expressed in this article, Paige was not trying to "have the DSU prevent Haiven from running to be re-elected". It seems odd that the author, who had the e-mail in question at her disposal, could not manage to find a quote that either explicitly states this fact or alludes to her allegation. "Sending a strong message" does not imply shutting someone out completely, unless you are fishing for a statement that serves your agenda. If there was a student funded organization involved in events that Palestinian students deemed to be offensive and disrespectful then NSPIRG would come running to their rescue. They certaintly wouldn't shoot down criticism of those who organize anti-Palestinian events. This is because NSPIRG clearly has an agenda, which is why they are involved with people well known for being anti-Israel. It is true that Paige is not a member of NSPIRG. This is because she realizes, like others have as well, that trying to effect change within NSPIRG is impossible if you are seeking to subvert their biases. I would love for NSPIRG to prove me wrong and for once organize or sponsor an event that isn't extremely polarized against Israel.

Posted by IW | Apr 9, 2021

Whether or not anyone wishes to admit the existence of the elephant in the room, the bottom line is that anti-Israel organizations have a very intimidating effect on Jewish students on Canadian campuses - some of which I have personally witnessed. Maybe Dal is a bit behind the stuff that goes on at a place like York, but it's not far off. Where is the NSPIRG on the machete attack on pro-Israel students at Carleton that took place this week? Haven't heard a thing? Likely because for all its huffing and puffing about social action and the like, its agenda is very clear from its statements (the admitted support for IAW in the above article) and the links on its website - decidedly pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. As an alumnus of Dal, I find it incredible that an organization like NSPIRG that has an overt political agenda receives any sort of funding through students. Finally, while people can disagree with israel's policies all they want, that does not give them carte blanche to wrap any comment in that blanket - modern day antisemitism is a very complicated issue and much different than, for example,the antisemitism of the Nazi era. The NSPIRG people should be aware that accusing a country of apartheid is a very serious accusation and may well constitute antisemitism and racism - it's not just some cute slogan.

Posted by Mark | Apr 8, 2021