SPME, representing over 50,000 academics worldwide is deeply concerned about the hiring process and potential hire of Dr. Valentina Azarova to lead the Faculty of Law’s International Human Rights Program (IHRP). We believe there is ample evidence that should question her ability to lead the IHRP.
A review of Azarova’s CV clearly states that she was employed on two separate occasions as a Senior Legal Researcher and as an External Legal Advisor and Senior Editor for the Al-Haq organization between 2010-2011 and 2013-2014, respectively, and has been connected to Addameer.
Contextually, there needs to be a deeper understanding of some of the organizations that Azarova has been involved with. Addameer’s former deputy director of the board was none other than Khalida Jarrar, a senior operative in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization who was convicted of incitement and promoting terrorist acts in 2015 and most recently arrested in 2019 on suspicions of “involvement in terror activity.”
Al-Haq is led by Shawan Jabarin, a convicted terrorist and former senior operative of the PFLP, and employs other former PFLP operatives to work at Al-Haq. Many of its employees, including Jabarin, have been arrested or served time for terrorism-related offences—a far cry from a commitment to human rights by any stretch of the imagination.
Further, the numerous NGOs and agencies she has been affiliated with including the UN Human Rights Council are among the leading groups that promote the double standards used to demonize Israel, through the use of BDS and lawfare. These NGOs include Diakonia, GLAN, and Al Shabaka. Azarova has also participated in antisemitic platforms and propaganda activities such as Electronic Intifada, Al Majdal Quarterly (Badil), and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Azarova’s written work is equally problematic.
We certainly have no problem with actual criticism of the State of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country. Azarova’s writings however, are overwhelmingly obsessed with the demonization of Israel, using a standard that she does not apply to any other country.
We are troubled that if someone with her record was to be appointed to such a sensitive position under the guise of promoting human rights it would clearly imperil academic freedom and free speech and create a chill among students, faculty and staff who might have any contact with the program. Dr. Azarova’s documented associations and professional ties with such organizations and individuals will clearly influence the program, its staff and students and the university community at large.
All of the above would irreparably tarnish the longstanding reputation of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, and the University at large. As such, we urge the Faculty of Law to stand by its commitment to scholarship and the defense of human rights, and resist any undue pressure to hire Dr. Azarova or anyone with such a record.