Adam Zivo: U of T faculty association targets ‘powerful Zionist minority’ in temper tantrum over hiring scandal – National Post

Posted By on July 21, 2021

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Jewish groups and professors are alleging the University of Toronto Faculty Association has a problem with anti-Semitism. Their concerns centre on the conduct of UTFAs president, Terezia Zoric, who is alleged to have used anti-Semitic language and created a hostile environment for faculty who have more moderate views of Israel.

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On June 15, when speaking at York University, Zoric made reference to an entitled powerful Zionist minority which was engaging in psychological warfare against critics of the Cromwell report a document that exonerated the University of Toronto of wrongdoing in a decision not to hire Valentina Azarova, a militantly anti-Israel activist.

In response, Bnai Brith Toronto, a Jewish human rights organization, condemned Zorics remarks as blatant dog-whistling, noting that they invoked centuries-old anti-Jewish conspiracy myths. The Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation has similarly condemned Zoric, while four Jewish faculty members at U of T have started a petition to remove Zoric for her comments.

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Rather than a conspiracy by Zionists to censor pro-Palestinian activism, it appears that the Azarova affair boils down to a temper tantrum by activists who unsuccessfully attempted to use an under-qualified candidate to inappropriately politicize U of Ts human rights program.

In 2020, Azarova was recommended for the directorship of the International Human Rights Program in U of Ts Faculty of Law but was not hired due to her legal ineligibility to work in Canada until months after the positions start date. Additionally, the position firmly required a candidate who is licensed to practice law, but Azarova was not licensed in any jurisdiction.

However, independent of this, a Jewish federal judge, David Spiro, whose extended family had donated millions to U of T, expressed concern to a friend, who was a university administrator, that Azarovas candidacy would be controversial.

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Azarova quickly became the cause du jour for Palestinian supporters who, titillated by rumours of powerful Jews pulling strings, unshakeably believed that Spiros concerns were the reason why Azarova was dropped. Zoric is one of those stalwart supporters.

In October 2020, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) hastily released a report decrying perceived attacks on Azarovas academic freedom and threatened to censure the university. The invocation of academic freedom was ironic given that, in 2018, Azarova controversially attempted to prevent a Jewish academic from speaking at an international legal conference.

Around that time, Zoric had UTFA initiate a CAUT-funded association grievance against U of T, seeking to punish the university for not hiring Azarova. Louis Florence, the former treasurer of UTFA, alleged to me in an interview that Zoric did this secretly, violating normal procedures by not consulting UTFAs full executive team, which Florence alleges was not informed of the grievance until months afterwards, in December 2020.

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In response to this uproar, the University of Toronto commissioned the Honourable Thomas Cromwell, a former Supreme Court judge, to conduct an independent and impartial review of the issue. In March 2021, Cromwell released a 78-page report where he concluded that Spiro had no impact on Azarovas cancelled candidacy.

Cromwell confirmed that the reason why Azarova was not hired was because she resides in Germany, is not a Canadian citizen, and almost certainly would have been unable to secure a work permit until months after the positions start date.

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Cromwell also noted that Spiro had only stated that Azarovas appointment would be controversial (which turned out to be true 3,000 people signed a petition against her potential hiring) and did not actively advocate or campaign against her.

Curiously, the report details how, when questions arose about Azarovas eligibility, one member of the hiring committee (which had recommended her) threatened to resign, raising questions about the committees impartiality.

U of Ts president accepted Cromwells findings. However, Azarovas supporters have rejected them and continue to press the narrative that Azarova lost a lucrative job opportunity due to powerful Jews, not visa issues. Chasing windmills, they have insinuated that the report has issues with external influence and false testimony.

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In March, CAUT moved to censure U of T for the Azarova affair an exceptionally rare decision (the last time CAUT censured an organization was in 2008).

Meanwhile, others petitioned to have Spiro fired, claiming that he could not be trusted to impartially adjudicate court cases. In May, the Canadian Judicial Council determined that Spiro should suffer no discipline, concluding that, though Spiro should not have weighed in on Azarovas hiring, the fear of bias on the part of Justice Spiro is based on misinformation and speculation that is inaccurate. Azarovas supporters have sought a judicial review to overturn that finding.

It seems that, for Zoric and those like her, when your narratives are contradicted by a former Supreme Court judge and the Canadian Judicial Council, the only possible explanation is that a shadowy cabal of Zionists (Jews) are crusading against you.

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I emailed Zoric, as well as David Robinson (CAUTs president), with a list of specific questions about the association grievance (i.e. the scope of funding UTFA is receiving from CAUT; how UTFAs membership was consulted prior to launching the grievance).

Neither acknowledged these questions and only referred me to public-facing online resources which left most concerns unaddressed. Zoric has not responded to requests to clarify which exact organizations, individuals or entities she was referring to in her complaint about an entitled powerful Zionist minority conducting psychological warfare against her.

Florence, the retired treasurer of UTFA who is also one of the professors behind the petition to remove Zoric, was not surprised that the UTFA president resorted to apparent anti-Semitic dog-whistling.

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At the beginning of 2021, Florence recommended that, given growing anti-Semitism, UTFA ought to explore supporting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliances (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.

The IHRA definition attempts to capture more subtle forms of anti-Semitism and has been formally adopted by Canada and several major Western countries. It is opposed by militant anti-Israel activists who believe that it is overly broad.

Zoric organized a committee meeting to discuss the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, but Florence chose not to attend, feeling that the meeting was structured as an ambush. He alleges that, based on how the meeting was described to him by those who attended, his concerns were validated. Florence shared screenshots with me of UTFA online discussions where professors expressed concerns about dissenting voices being denied opportunities to share their views.

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Stuart Kamenetsky, another of the professors behind the petition against Zoric, has called her association grievance morally bankrupt and procedurally ludicrous, given Azarovas history and lack of qualifications. Kamenetsky alleges that voices like his are being stifled within UTFA, and that he received emails implying harm would come to him after publicly signing a petition against Azarovas hiring.

Anti-Semitism continues to simmer at the University of Toronto. Sometimes it is explicit (such as when Jewish students have coins thrown at them). Other times, it takes more subtle forms, such as when a faculty leader leverages offensive tropes in defence of a witch hunt.

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Adam Zivo: U of T faculty association targets 'powerful Zionist minority' in temper tantrum over hiring scandal - National Post

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