Two events took place at the University of Toronto recently which were understandably upsetting to this organization that challenges blatant and subtle antisemitism, and there were other organizations that also attempted to address these with the administration and in public responses. CAEF noted sent a letter to the university President for which I formal reply was received. We are posting our follow up letter here for readers’ consideration. If you think we are on the right track - that the university administration should speak up against calls for boycotting, sanctioning and divesting from Israel, as clear acts of antisemitism, as has the President at Cornell University, please send a letter to Dr. Meric Gertler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 18, 2019
Dear Dr. Gertler;
Thank you for responding and providing a very fulsome overview of the U of Toronto policies on freedom of speech, its history and ongoing relations with Israeli universities and of course, the student associations’ independence of the university’s administration. This is true for both the Palestinian Student Association and the GSU, both of which demonstrated significant antisemitism in their recent behavior.
It is understood that these are young adults, that they are taking leadership for their organizations, demonstrating independence from family and authorities, and sorting out the world according to their own lived experience and search for values. However, if these same bodies were to host anti-Black activists or to vote against doing business with a South American country on the basis that they don’t like some of their policies, yet conflate it with the fact that the dominant culture is Christian, or choose not to work with India because Hindus have recently killed Muslims, I assume there would be “blow back” from the Administration, if only some comment on how the Administration disagrees with the position or the speaker. I am not seeing that in this case and it is troubling.
And so, I am asking that you make a public statement, not about freedom of expression but about the hateful rhetoric that the Palestinian students spout about Israel, about the irrationality and bigotry of the GSU, about the universities strong ties to Israel, its values and its academics whose work is amazing, and to the Jewish community which suffers the onslaught of this hatred. Just as you would if Black or brown people were being pilloried by an invited speaker.
It is time that the university examine itself more closely. Where do these bigoted ideas come from and what is being done, not just spoken of, but seriously acted upon, to staunch the tide of hatred, and to truly “educate” these misguided and misinformed young people? It is incredible to me that universities across North America are making it the responsibility of Jewish communities to combat antisemitism and anti-Zionism when it is anti-Semitic, taking a defensive mode, expending huge resources, sheltering our children or arming them for what is now the expected norm at a Western university. Why is that Dr. Gertler?
Why is it not the responsibility of all educators to teach truth, to combat hatred, to defend democracy, to challenge misguided and ignorant academics or leftist anti-Semites who urge on this garbage? Why is it that Jewish parents and community must literally beg for support, do their own research to prove the hypocrisy of university profs, grad students and administrators who refuse to speak out and defend the only Jewish state in the world, and the only country in the entire Middle East and North Africa where all faiths, creeds, races, genders, and people with disabilities find they are treated with equal rights and respect?
When I last wrote, I reminded you that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” So, again I am asking that you do SOMETHING. Here are a few suggestions:
Write a public op-ed and state that the actions of the student associations and GSU are within their rights but are wrong; that they are ill-informed, biased, and destructive to student life on campus, singling our Israel (and by association Jewish students) using double standards to demonize and delegitimize Israel.
Call a faculty meeting and ask that professors who teach lies about Israel and demonize the Jewish state are exhibiting clear antisemitism as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and this working statement should be taught in the classrooms where tolerance and respect are to be shared values.
Print or email posters about the university’s strong alliance with Israeli universities, highlight the positive benefits, the research being done, the advances for humanity that this brings about.
Invite Jewish and other students to create Israel Truth Week (and I can connect you with speakers) to counter Israel Apartheid Week, as you surely know there is no apartheid in Israel and never has been.
Take out an ad in a major daily that will let people know that the administration does NOT support the student groups that which try to demonize Israel, and that you stand with Israel and the Jewish people against such denigration and demonization.
Put messages into your blog, your university newsletters, student newspaper, student orientations, that this is not welcome behavior. One can exercise free speech but it can’t be countered with truth -- that is the exercise of YOUR free speech.
I welcome your response, Dr. Gertler and I hope you will consider my suggestions. I would be happy to meet and help you implement these suggestions and I can assure you that the Jewish community would welcome some support; we value freedom from hatred for all Canadians, but we must first see that Jews are not being singled out and our concerns being ignored.