Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is a non-partisan community of more than 50, 000 scholars worldwide, including 41 Nobel Prize winners supports vigorous debate and dialogue about contentious issues, one of which is certainly the Middle East and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in particular. But academic inquiry must be informed by the airing of disparate views and a discussion of different perspectives. Academic inquiry must be unbiased, inclusive of differing views, not ideological, and open to nuance, facts, careful analysis, and rigorous scholarship.
Of late, we have become aware of a most dangerous acts of bigotry involving the President of the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA). Had the President merely engaged in such an act as a private individual it certainly would have been appalling. The President, Terezia Zoric, however, made it very clear when she spoke publicly from the floor at Osgoode Hall on June 15, 2021 that she was speaking in her capacity as President of UTFA and that this leadership role essentially underpinned her comments. This rendered this act profoundly dangerous.
There’s a link to the video of her comments below and it begins at the 1:58:48th mark:
“Very, very quickly many thanks to the organizers of this wonderful event on the censure [by the Canadian Association of University of Teachers (CAUT) of the University of Toronto] of U of T and all the activists who’ve made it possible for those of us doing institutional work to have some room to maneuver
I wanted to offer that, as an early leader who defended the folks at the law school and the principles of academic freedom and collegial governance, there was nothing short of unending harassment and psychological warfare where those of us who were supportive of the principles at stake at the heart of the censure experienced horrible backlash by an entitled powerful Zionist minority that felt that any criticisms of Cromwell [the author of a review report] or anyone else could be met with accusations of anti-Semitism. And it took an enormous amount of work to get us to a point where we could have even have a conversation about what went on why it went on and so on.” (emphasis added)
We can all readily recognize this claim of persecution by “an entitled powerful Zionist minority” as part of one of the worst anti-Semitic tropes that historically have been levelled at the Jewish people. Perhaps she might have felt safe by just substituting the term “Zionists” for “Jews”, but the dog whistle is nonetheless entirely evident. When one speaks of “an entitled powerful Zionist minority“ the only part that seems to be missing is the old accusation, “they also own the banks and control of the media”. Further, as it is happens all too frequently in cases of rank bigotry, President Zoric uses classic victim inversion. While attacking Zionists (Jews by implication) she disingenuously insists that actually she is the real victim.
That the president of an association that represents the more than 3000 faculty and librarians at one of the world’s great universities resorted to such a horrific antisemitic trope is more than scandalous. It very much puts the academic freedom and the well-being of faculty, librarians and students alike at grave and imminent risk.
Consequently, we feel that we have no choice but to ask for urgent measures to address this grievous danger.
We demand that President Terezia Zoric resign immediately from her position as leader of UTFA.
We respectfully ask that the University of Toronto unequivocally publicly condemns this terrible act of bigotry and that it clearly disassociates itself from these horrendous remarks by President Zoric.