University of Toronto Must Speak Out Against Anti-Israel Speaker

University of Toronto Must Speak Out Against Anti-Israel Speaker

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March 2, 2019

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Dear friends,

Many of you are familiar with Israel Apartheid Week – the annual program, founded by students at the University of Toronto in 2005 – which, in my opinion and the opinion of others, spews hateful lies and misinformation against Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, on campuses globally each spring.

As you can imagine, Israel Apartheid Week is an especially busy time for our Hasbara Fellowships Canada staff and students. But sometimes Israel Apartheid Week programming features a speaker so objectionable that there is absolutely no alternative but to speak out, and to do so loudly.

This year, in my opinion an especially vile speaker will be presenting at the University of Toronto – Mississauga, Norman Finkelstein, and Hasbara Fellowships Canada is compelled to speak out.

Finkelstein, a former professor at DePaul University in Chicago, and who was banned from Israel for 10 years in 2008, originally gained notoriety in 2000 with his book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, arguing that Israel was using the Holocaust to deflect from its own alleged abuses.

Next week, Finkelstein will be a guest of the Association of Palestinian Students at the University of Toronto – Mississauga campus for a “Q and A on Gaza.”

Finkelstein is no ordinary anti-Israel speaker. A small selection of past statements include:

  • “If you want to prevent antisemitism there’s two things you can do: number one you can stop committing massacres and number two stop calling yourself a Jewish state.” Link
  • “Netanyahu is the true face of Israel. He is an obnoxious,loudmouth, racist, Jewish supremacist, and that’s the whole population now.” Link
  • “I was of course happy to meet the Hezbollah people, because it is a point of view that is rarely heard in the United States. And I have no problem saying that I do want to express solidarity with them.” Link
  • “We are all Hezbollah.” Link
  • “…sometimes I feel that Israel has come out of the boils of the hell, a satanic state.” Link

Anti-Israel propaganda is unfortunately common on Canadian campuses, and in this instance, we are compelled to speak out.

We call upon the University of Toronto’s Governing Council to repudiate Finkelstein’s past remarks and publicly denounce Israel Apartheid Week.

In my view, Finkelstein’s past comments are worthy of condemnation because they do not build bridges or mend fences. They do not further any process of mutual understanding. Rather, these are divisive statements and in them we see shades of anti-Semitism. Will the University of Toronto speak out?

We are certain that the university does not want to be seen as being complicit in Israel Apartheid Week as a result of their silence. Given these notions, it is our hope that the administration and board summon the courage to speak out as doing otherwise would reflect poorly on their institution, particularly given that it was from their students that Israel Apartheid Week was born 14 years ago.

In that vein, we ask you to contact the president of the university, Meric Gertler, at president@utoronto.ca as well as sign the petition below.

Please sign and share the petition to be sent to the University of Toronto, forward this email to others, and if you would like to help Hasbara Fellowships Canada continue to effectively train pro-Israel student leaders so they can continue to be Israel’s front line on campus, please consider a tax-deductible donation HERE.

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