TORONTO — B'nai Brith Canada is standing up for concerned Jewish faculty members at the University of Toronto (U of T) following problematic and antisemitic comments made by a University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) official.
In speaking at a June 15 panel discussion at York University's Osgoode Hall, Terezia Zoric, UTFA's president, claimed that an "entitled powerful Zionist minority" was engaged in "psychological warfare" against critics of the recent Cromwell Report. In her remarks, Zoric simultaneously invoked centuries-old anti-Jewish conspiracy myths while also denying the legitimacy of Jewish people's concerns of antisemitism.
In his letter, our Senior Legal Counsel David Matas explained to U of T's president Meric Gertler and Vice-President of Human Resources and Equity Kelly Hannah-Moffat the reasons why these comments are bigoted, inappropriate, and harmful to the campus' Jewish community. Matas noted that just because the word "Jew" was substituted with the word "Zionist" in her remarks does not give her license to spew stereotypes and slurs against broad swaths of Jewish Canadians.
"The bigoted often use double entendres, words that have both an innocent meaning and a coded meaning to their bigoted cohort," Matas wrote. "They use dog whistles, sounds with the intent that only their bigoted cohort will appreciate."
Matas concluded the letter by making the following recommendations:
Ms. Zorić should resign as president of the University of Toronto Faculty Association. She holds publicly expressed views which are incompatible with that position. The Faculty Association should request her resignation.
The University of Toronto should disassociate themselves from the remarks of Ms. Zorić. The University should state publicly that her views do not represent the views of the University.
CAUT should reconsider its censure of the University of Toronto in light of the publicly expressed views of Ms. Zorić. The impact that those views may have had on the decision to censure justifies the reconsideration.
"The Jewish community and other Canadians of good conscience have long since seen through the charade that anti-Israel extremists try to pull in claiming that their fanatical demonization of anything to do with Zionism or Israel can never be antisemitic in nature," said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B'nai Brith Canada. "Jewish Canadians — i.e. the people directly affected by antisemitism — do not agree with this blatantly silly claim, and to dismiss and deny our collective experience is itself an act of antisemitism on Zoric's part.
"Just last week, B'nai Brith released an alarming report about the sudden rise in violent anti-Jewish incidents both here and around the world, much of which was fueled by the kind of hostile and hateful rhetoric that Zoric has engaged in here. U of T must recognize the toxicity that this individual is injecting into the working environment and act to defend the safety and rights of its many Jewish faculty members, who are extremely concerned."
B'nai Brith notes that UTFA is not a formal labour union, meaning that members can withdraw and redirect their fees to a charity instead. Interested members can contact B'nai Brith for more details.