Dear President Gertler and Members of the Governing Council,
The Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation has written to you several times to express concern about antisemitism on the U of T campuses. While recognizing that the administration created a Working Group on Antisemitism, produced a report and committed to various activities to address Jew hatred, there is insufficient commitment to doing what really matters. One cannot eradicate, let along combat antisemitism with rhetoric, healing circles, and pronouncements. This letter is in direct response to President Gertler’s published letter of December 20, 2022 to the Governors of the University of Toronto.
The University seems to lack serious preventative and counter measures to enlighten students on truth, which is first and foremost that antiZionism IS antisemitism. I’m not referring to criticism of Israel, but criticism of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, no different than France is a French state and Britain is a British state. That the university will continue to allow student groups that sponsor Anti-Israel Apartheid Week to disseminate horrible antisemitic material, sponsor deception and lies and foment more Jew hatred, and the GSU’s BDS committee continues, is an abomination. A mere scolding is insufficient to stem the tide of hatred, all of which is based on wilful ignorance and lies.
It is incumbent on educators to educate, not allow vicious vitriol that singles out one people for ruthless disregard of truth and denial of their humanity both of which are embedded in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns, whose true and bold goal is to destroy the only Jewish state, Israel. All the lies and subterfuge that suggest BDS is a peaceful resistance movement go out the window if one just takes the time to listen to its founder, Omar Barghouti, who plainly states that the movement’s purpose is to end the Jewish state and that no Jew should be allowed to remain in the land he refers to inaccurately as Palestine.
After receiving a long and detailed report on antisemitism at U of T from B’nai Brith Canada in 2019, Mr. President, you belatedly appointed a working group on Antisemitism that took months to report what was already known, thereby providing a cover for doing less than what was needed, both then and now. It is convenient to state that BDS and Anti-Israel Apartheid Week are not controlled by the administration because student groups are independent, and this is allowable as ‘free speech’. No equivalent hate fest or campaign against any other community, would be allowed. These activities and what has now been documented as the milieu at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, are hateful, denigrating, and demonizing. Presentations by known antisemites must be condemned, and the perpetrators dealt with in order to make clear that antisemitism is unacceptable, and that you and U of T are committed to fighting this scourge with every tool at your disposal.
You have ignored the internationally recognized tool for combating antisemitism, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, and continue to keep to your script that it is free speech to allow antiZionist campaigns, ignoring their call for a genocide of Israelis and the end of the Jewish state. BDS campaigns provide and promote ongoing support for terrorist organizations that are rewarded for killing Jews. You call on all members of the campus community to unite against antisemitism but refuse to give them one of the best tools to do so--the one that clearly identifies what is antisemitism, allowing it to be called out and condemned—The IHRA definition of antisemitism.
CAEF expects you to do more to unite the entire university community, from Governors to faculty, students and staff, to become educated as to what is antisemitism—its historical roots, its multiple sources be they alt right, alt left, Black supremacist, Islamist, White supremacist, and/ or Christian -- all directed at the individual or collective Jew and also at the nation state of the Jewish people. To counter the hatred, the university could require an introductory course about antisemitism, starting with training all DEI staff to know the truth about Jewish history and Israel. Statistics show that the greatest contribution to antisemitism on US campuses is from the DEI staff and consultants, who now show up in great numbers on university payrolls. Do you know if this is any different in Canada?
Your words thus far are vacuous in light of the “solidarity” expressed by the Jew haters: in medicine, law, social work, and education faculties, and in many humanities and social sciences courses. Faculty members are sometimes at the forefront of this hatred. It worked that way in Nazi Germany also. Recent studies show that the highest levels of antisemitism in society are among the highest educated, and are the élites in universities, media and leftist political circles. And among the most virulently antisemitic are the very staff hired to counter racism, the DEI consultants. The growth in this industry has been exponential, mirroring the rise in antisemitism. The Heritage Foundation found that 61% of (US) DEI staff were explicitly antisemitic. We haven’t yet studied the Canadian equivalent, but have little reason to expect a different picture.
By virtue of full blown courses that allow antisemitic content, comment, texts and other resources, you are educating entire generations into antisemitic attitudes, antiZionist opinions, and sadly, actions that harm the Jewish community. There is no better understanding of this than that expressed by David Bernstein in his recent book, Woke Antisemitism, how progressive ideology harms the Jews.
U of T is ground zero for antisemitism, given it is educating young people to go out into the world, into professional positions, into public service, and every other walk of life, and to take with them what they have learned.
They will do that, Professor Gertler! They will take the hatred and lies they have learned, and then educate another generation, and become the leaders who may do even more harm to the Jewish people. Today, you have the opportunity to make a difference. Will you be bold enough to consider real solutions?
Adopt and implement IHRA
Introduce a mandatory course for students and faculty on the historic roots of antisemitism and its current manifestations
Cancel the Anti-Israel Apartheid Week hate fest that fuels hatred and denigrates the real apartheid experienced by Blacks in South Africa
Cancel the BDS Committee of the UTGSU which spreads what can only be called a message of genocide towards the Jewish people
Cease placing all the responsibility for addressing antisemitism in the hands of DEI staff and make it the responsibility of all faculty and staff to combat antisemitism, to teach truth, to be balanced and encourage discussion and not ideological blindness
Review texts that inaccurately portray Israel as a white colonial enterprise that is occupying someone else’s land. This is a false narrative that is crude, antiquated and antisemitic. Jews are from Judea. Arabs are from Arabia. Jews were persecuted under every conquering empire—Greek, Roman, Babylonian, Islamic, Turkish, British, but are the indigenous people of Israel.
The time is now, the situation is critical and worsening every year. It calls for courageous leadership and actions beyond platitudes, resolutions and restorative circles.
Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation