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September 30, 2020 4:54 pm

Top Human Rights Watch Official Condemns University of Toronto for Not Hiring Anti-Israel Academic

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The University of Toronto. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A top official at the global NGO Human Rights Watch’s Canada branch vigorously condemned on Tuesday the University of Toronto’s decision not to hire an anti-Israel academic, but then revealed that the academic’s spouse was one of her colleagues.

The university had been considering placing Valentina Azarova at the head of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at its law school.

The prospective appointment met with strong criticism due to Azarova’s long history of anti-Israel activism.

Critics noted that a vast majority of Azarova’s academic work was on the Palestinian issue, and she had displayed a strident bias against Israel.

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Furthermore, critics pointed out that Azarova had worked with the al-Haq, which has links with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group.

The university ultimately decided against hiring Azarova, saying that “no offer of employment was made.” The reasons for this have not been disclosed.

In a statement replete with over-the-top rhetoric, HRW’s Canada director, Farida Deif, said of the decision, “Not only does this do serious harm to the academic freedom, integrity, and reputation of the university’s human rights program, it creates a dangerous chilling effect on other scholars’ rights to research and advocacy.”

However, she offered no evidence of such a “chilling effect.”

Then Deif acknowledged that she and her organization had a vested interest in defending Azarova.

“For full disclosure,” she said, “the spouse of Dr. Azarova is my colleague at Human Rights Watch.”

She added, “This controversy is about more than the individuals involved; it speaks to the core of what academic freedom means and the principle that no country should be off limits for critique of its rights record.”

Deif concluded by urging the university to “urgently conduct an independent external review, make its findings public immediately, and swiftly address any improprieties.”

“No one should pay such a price simply for exposing human rights violations by any country, including Israel,” she declared.

Deif presented no evidence that Azarova was not hired because she had uncovered human rights violations in any country.

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