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November 20, 2019 4:34 pm

Dozens of University of Toronto Faculty Call Out ‘Antisemitic BDS Movement,’ Urge Adoption of IHRA Definition

avatar by Shiri Moshe

University College, University of Toronto. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Dozens of University of Toronto faculty members urged President Meric Gertler on Tuesday to root out antisemitism on their campus, which they warned had worsened after a student union formally backed the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The faculty call came after the university’s Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) said its Executive Committee may be reluctant to support a motion to bring kosher food to campus because the initiative was being spearheaded by a “pro-Israel” group — namely Hillel, the largest Jewish club on campus.

The GSU Executive Committee has since said it was “deeply sorry for the harm” caused by its response, which has been widely decried as antisemitic.

Professor of dentistry Howard Tenenbaum and 20 other faculty co-signers dismissed this apology as “tepid at best” in their letter, which was endorsed by 30 additional faculty members since its submission to Gertler on Tuesday morning, according to B’nai Brith Canada. The Jewish civil rights group was involved in organizing the letter.

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“Since 2012, when the UTGSU endorsed the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and committed student funds to this discriminatory campaign through the formation of its BDS Committee — dedicated solely to the delegitimization of the world’s only Jewish State — the situation on campus for Jewish students has continuously worsened, culminating into this most recent episode,” the faculty warned.

The original GSU vote to adopt the BDS campaign, which has been denounced by major Jewish communal representatives in North America for denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and advancing antisemitic tropes, sparked some controversy at the time. Supporters say the campaign aims to promote Palestinian rights and redress historical injustices surrounding Israel’s creation.

A complaint against the GSU BDS committee was brought forward by a Jewish graduate student to the University Complaint and Resolution Council for Student Societies (CRCSS), “yet has been stymied at every turn,” the faculty letter noted. “The very bodies intended to protect UofT students have been weaponized against the Jewish student population, with nary a word or any action of consequence from the university’s administration.”

The signatories urged the university to condemn and investigate the GSU to determine whether antisemitism informs its policies and campaigns, cooperate with Jewish groups to secure kosher food access on campus,  expedite the CRCSS complaint issued against the GSU BDS committee, and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has been endorsed by the Canadian government.

Representatives for the university, GSU and the CRCSS did not respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment by press time.

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