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September 5, 2017 12:50 pm

College Lecturer Promotes Antisemitism Through Social Media

avatar by Ben Shachar

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A mock Israeli checkpoint set up during a past “Israeli Apartheid Week” at the University of California, Los Angeles campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

In December 2016, the Israeli Students Association (ISA) at York University received numerous complaints from Israeli students at Ryerson University. The complaints concerned the social media use of Valentina Capurri — a contract lecturer at Ryerson’s Department of Geography & Environmental Studies.

After a thorough investigation, York’s ISA found that the lecturer had used her publicly-accessible Twitter page to spread antisemitism.

Capurri repeatedly used the antisemitic phrase “Zio,” which is a slur that has been popularized by David Duke and the American Klu Klux Klan. She called members of the public “zio-trolls,” and used pejoratives such as “zio-murderer” and “zio-fanatic” in her tweets.

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, a human rights advocate and member of the British House of Lords, says that “Zio” is a “modern-day racist epithet” and “a term of abuse, pure and simple.” London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, says that “the use of the word ‘Zio’ has become a racist term against Jewish people in the way ‘homo’ was used in the 60’s and 70’s.”

In her tweets, Capurri also makes xenophobic generalizations about Israelis, and shares links to infamous neo-Nazi websites. For example, one article that she shared featured classic antisemitic imagery and asserted that the “Rothschilds and their minions” are engaged in a “planetary hostile takeover operation.”

Capurri’s apparent antisemitism and xenophobia appear to be in violation of Ryerson’s Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy. Given her public promotion of antisemitism, Jewish and Israeli students at Ryerson may — quite reasonably — feel unsafe, unwelcome or intimidated in her classes.

The York ISA, in conjunction with Ryerson students, submitted a complaint to Ryerson officials on December 12, 2016. Despite acknowledging the complaint and forwarding it to the Office of Vice Provost Faculty Affairs and Human Resources, Ryerson has made no further efforts to engage with its students on this issue. 

In fact, soon after the complaint was filed, Capurri made her Twitter page and the offending posts inaccessible to the public.

This suggests that the Ryerson administration notified her of the complaint, and advised her to make her social media accounts private in response. In lieu of any communication from the Ryerson administration, we can assume that their solution to this complaint was to simply sweep it under the rug.

B’nai Brith Canada has since contacted Ryerson University and is pursuing the complaint. Ryerson officials must act immediately to correct their appalling behavior.

Contributed by York University CAMERA Fellow and member of CAMERA-supported group Israeli Students Association at York University Ben Shachar.

A version of this article was originally published on the CAMERA on Campus blog here.

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