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CAEF Letter to City Librarian at TPL re hosting of antiZionist pro-BDS Norm Finkelstein & responses

November 27, 2023


To: Vickery Bowles, City Librarian, Toronto Public Library


Dear Ms. Bowles,


We note that there is an event scheduled to take place at the Toronto Reference Library in the Braum and Bluma Appel Salon on December 5th. Not many speakers could be more insulting and injurious to the Jewish community than Norman Finkelstein who also represents an extreme insult to the namesakes of this room.

For many years Finkelstein has presented himself as a supporter of academic freedom but nothing could be further from the truth. Please note he was denied tenure at DePaul U for his failure to "respect and defend the free inquiry of associates." He is well-known for his work of "accusing Jews of exploiting the Holocaust for monetary gain" and for supporting the terrorist group Hezbollah.

More information on the website of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis states the following about Finkelstein: "He’s called Israel 'a Sparta-like society consumed by revenge, the thirst for blood.' Just a few weeks ago, Finkelstein called an IDF veteran a 'concentration camp guard,' and called Israelis 'biped bloodhounds drinking the blood of one million [Palestinian] children.' This is literally the medieval blood libel that historically incited pogroms in which Jews were murdered."

At a time when antisemitism is the highest it has ever been in Canada (since WWII) and rising, it is imperative that publicly funded organizations and institutions do not add to the lies, bigotry and disinformation provided by such individuals. While one might argue that support for the enemies of the Jewish people are entitled to a voice in Canada and that free speech includes mouthing the words of terrorists such as Hezbollah and Hamas, this is surely contemptible and inappropriate for the Toronto Public Library to support?

Norman Finkelstein has glorified the massacre of over 1200 Israelis and foreign nationals on October 7th, which is support for terrorism and genocide. Surely this is sufficient to make this man a despicable choice for speaking anywhere in Toronto.

Please watch the attached video that describes the atrocities of October 7th by a responsible journalist, Douglas Murray, who also describes how horrible Finkelstein's remarks have been recently and throughout his career.



The Jewish community and all decent Canadians deserve better than to have any donor or government funds support this event, or have any public venue grant him space to speak. Please do the right thing and cancel it.

Respectfully,




Andria Spindel,

Executive Director

Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation


 

From: Vickery Bowles

Sent: Tuesday, November 28, 2023 5:17 PM

To: Andria Spindel

Cc: Shimon Fogel; Michael Mostyn; Michael Levitt, Daniel Koren, Jesse Primerano, Linda Hazzan

Subject: RE: Please be advised that a speaker at the Toronto Public Library is a threat to the Jewish community

Dear Ms. Spindel,

I appreciate you contacting me about your concerns regarding an event at the Toronto Reference Library on December 5th in which Norman Finkelstein is a panelist. I also acknowledge your deeply held views about Norman Finkelstein and his position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

However, the event on December 5 is not about this conflict; it is about academic freedom. This event is part of the Library’s Intellectual Freedom program series in which different aspects of intellectual freedom are explored. All three panelists are writers, teachers or scholars who have had their research, conclusions and, yes, personal opinions challenged by administrators, donors, sponsors or students. This has led to some scholars being fired, or as you have mentioned, having tenure revoked. The event is not meant to be an exploration of the issues or topics that have led to the silencing of these voices, but about the limits of “academic freedom” and what this term means in the 21st century.

I really hope the context for this program and the topic to be discussed are helpful in addressing your concerns.

Sincerely,

Vickery Bowles


 

November 30, 2023


Dear Ms Bowles,


It is not that the conflict cannot be discussed, but that Mr. Finkelstein will most likely turn your event into his normal tirade against Israel and the Jewish people, and he is most definitely not an advocate for free speech as demonstrated by his past behaviour.


He is antiZionist, which is a stance that claims Israel should not exist and blames the Israelis ie the Jews for all manner of evil, all of which are lies and are destructive to good relations, to academic freedom, to conflict resolution and to peace.


Sincerely,




Andria Spindel,

Executive Director

Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation




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