Avi Benlolo: Silence, as antisemitism abounds at U of T Faculty of Medicine
Dr. Kuper writes that 'there are those who do not only cross over the line to anti-Jewish hatred but who do so proudly'
Author of the article:Avi Benlolo
Published Dec 16, 2022 • 4 minute read 18 Comments
Around the world, leaders are embarking on unprecedented campaigning to quash the unfathomable spread of antisemitism, but it’s not happening here in Canada. In Washington this week, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the creation of an inter-agency group to counter antisemitism and other forms of racism. At the Vatican, the Pope warned of a worrying reappearance of antisemitism, and in New York, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a US$50 million fund for victims of antisemitism. Even Germany has adopted an action plan against antisemitism that is being described as a milestone, some 80 years after the Holocaust.
But here in Toronto, a new important academic paper published in the Canadian Medical Education Journal by an insider at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine (TFOM) at the University of Toronto (U of T), has yet to mobilize our leaders into some-kind of serious action. Dr. Ayelet Kuper, an associate professor in the department of medicine, spent a year as senior advisor on antisemitism in the faculty. During that time, she detailed an incredible level of antisemitism among her professional colleagues that should warrant an investigation.
Kuper is not an armchair warrior. She is accomplished, meticulous and brings an unprecedented level of credibility. She has published dozens of peer reviewed journal articles on a wide variety of topics related to medical education and social justice in health care.
For those of us who have been battling campus antisemitism, Dr. Kuper’s paper is hardly surprising, despite its revolting revelations. For more than two decades, I have been arguing with the U of T’s leadership about its allowance of hateful events like the so-called “Israeli apartheid week” and the acceptance of various speakers on campus who spread lies and distortion about the Jewish State, and by extension, the Jewish people. I used to have vibrant debates with former U of T President David Naylor about hate speech versus free speech and the danger of anti-Israel propaganda seeping into the institution causing it irreparable harm.
In her paper titled, “Reflections on addressing antisemitism in a Canadian faculty of medicine,” Dr. Kuper discusses “personal experiences as a faculty member and as a clinician (including antisemitism that I personally witnessed or experienced).” In one instance, Dr. Kuper writes that “there are those who do not only cross over the line to anti-Jewish hatred but who do so proudly and perhaps sometimes as the primary goal, hiding behind the Palestinian cause all the while.” Examples provided are far reaching including the purposeful distortion of the term, “Zionism” to infer racism and deter support for Israel; assuming, falsely, that a substantial donation to the faculty was made by a Jewish donor, simply because he was wealthy, letters and campaigns circulating to undermine pro-Jewish speakers, and accusations that those who stand up to antisemitism are a part of “racist” special interest groups.
Dr. Kuper writes: “I personally experienced many instances of antisemitism, including being told that all Jews are liars; that Jews lie to control the university or the faculty or the world, to oppress or hurt others, and/or for other forms of gain; and that antisemitism can’t exist because everything Jews say are lies, including any claims to have experienced discrimination.” For the first time, in a long time, we now have a credible academic paper with damning evidence of antisemitism presented from within a university-faculty setting. The report’s revelations should result in a system-wide actionable plan to investigate and address the problem, but the response has been muted.
The university’s central administration has, so far, been silent. The Faculty of Medicine did issue a condemnation of antisemitism, expressing that “it takes courage to step forward and shine a light on hate. We hear you. We see you and we are with you.” But are these words enough? A better statement would have announced the launching of an internal investigation conducted by an external professional, like a respected retired judge.
The University of Toronto owes us an explanation. It has hardly addressed the recommendations provided by its own working group on antisemitism, which issued its report last December.
Of the eight commitments the university promised to fulfill in combating antisemitism, the university says it has only completed one item. Aside from the working group’s recommendation that Kosher food be provided on all campuses (something so simple yet not implemented), the other seven recommendations primarily deal with setting new policies around racism, inclusion and diversity and hiring new staff — almost none of which has apparently happened.
Sadly, I am very concerned about the future of our nation, particularly given the incredible level of antisemitism on our university campuses, at school boards and now most recently, in our own Parliament and government agencies. Dr. Kuper has courageously given us an important insider account at the highest echelons of the university bureaucracy. This bad behaviour is not only consequential for the Jewish community, but for all Canadians who still remember the sacrifice our nation made while liberating Europe from the Nazis. Lest we forget.