Sunday, November 28, 2021

  • Sunday, November 28, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon


On Thursday, I reported on the insanely antisemitic resolution passed by the University of Toronto at Scarborough Student Union (SCSU) that demanded that all student groups - meaning Jewish student groups - actively support boycotting Israel in order to be accepted, and that all suppliers of kosher food to Jewish students must also be anti-Israel (although the new fascists might allow exceptions if they decide that it is absolutely necessary for Jews to eat.)

On Friday, the adults in the room made a statement about how unacceptable this new brand of antisemitic fascism is on campus.


The University of Toronto is opposed to all forms of discrimination, and committed to the protection of freedom of speech and academic freedom.  The University was alarmed to learn about two motions passed at the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) Annual General Meeting on November 24.  Both motions are inconsistent with the University of Toronto’s core values of freedom of speech and inclusion.

One motion reaffirmed SCSU’s commitment to the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement; another concerns the rights of Jewish students at UTSC.  Student organizations are free to take positions on a wide variety of controversial topics. Student societies for which the University collects mandatory fees based on registration must abide by our Policy on Open, Accessible and Democratic Autonomous Student Societies.  This Policy simultaneously affirms the independent operation of autonomous student societies and the requirement that “autonomy must be exercised in a manner that is compliant with the law and University policy.  Further, all Student Organizations must conduct themselves in an open, accessible and democratic manner.”

One of the requirements in the BDS motion is that SCSU “refrain from engaging with organizations, services, or participating in events that further normalize Israeli apartheid.”  The motion allows an exception for suppliers of Kosher food if “no alternatives are available.”  A requirement that providers of food as a religious accommodation be required to apply for an exemption, or even be asked about their views about issues elsewhere in the world is unacceptable.

So too is the striking of the language about academic freedom from the second motion.  Academic freedom is an individual right, and the Policy on Open, Accessible and Democratic Autonomous Student Societies requires that these organizations must permit their members to determine which positions to take.  Nor should they restrict the speakers that they can invite, or organizations with which they can cooperate based on their connections to a particular country.

The motions are specifically focused on Israel in a way that is troubling to many members of the community.  Such motions would be no more acceptable if focused on another country, or if a student organization in which members are enrolled by their registration were to take multiple stands on a wide variety of issues.

The University’s place in society requires that its members be free to take positions on controversial questions.  These issues are addressed by a number of University of Toronto policies, including the Statement on Freedom of Speech and the Policy on the Recognition of Student Groups.  According to our Statement of Institutional Purpose,

The University of Toronto is dedicated to fostering an academic community in which the learning and scholarship of every member may flourish, with vigilant protection for individual human rights, and a resolute commitment to the principles of equal opportunity, equity and justice.

Within the unique university context, the most crucial of all human rights are the rights of freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of research.  And we affirm that these rights are meaningless unless they entail the right to raise deeply disturbing questions and provocative challenges to the cherished beliefs of society at large and of the university itself.

These requirements apply directly to the SCSU motions.  It is not acceptable to impose political tests on the recognition of Jewish student groups on any of the University of Toronto campuses.  It is unacceptable to impose political tests on suppliers of Kosher or any other type of food.

The University will be following up with the SCSU to address our concerns.

Meric S. Gertler
President
The statement is way too polite. The people behind these motions were themselves violating University policy, not to mention basic decency and liberal standards, and they should be put on notice. Putting a purity test on student groups and on suppliers of goods and services is, simply, fascism. 

Singling out Jews by making a specific motion banning kosher food from vendors who are not sufficiently anti-Israel is clear-cut antisemitism, and President Gertler should have called that out. As the Jewish Student Life group at U of T mentions:
Although there were many strong comments made by the University in our support, there is a need to call out bigotry by name when it is so clearly manifested. The actions of the SCSU were not simply political disagreement. The passing of these motions is an act of blatant antisemitism and must be addressed as such.

I am also troubled by one sentence: "The University’s place in society requires that its members be free to take positions on controversial questions." This implies that supporting the existence of the only Jewish state in the world is controversial. It is not; it is mainstream. Calling it controversial is essentially saying that one supports the positions of such human rights luminaries as Algeria, Syria and Iran. When President Gertler says a statement like that, it shows that the haters have scored a victory in putting Israel's very existence into question even in this statement against them. 

Gertler's mother survived the Holocaust and he has lectured in Israel, so no doubt the modern fascist antisemites will claim that his position is due to his being "Zionist," not because he is right.







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