‘Twisting the truth’: Holocaust Day speech at university labeled ‘anti-Palestinian’

“None of what Professor Irwin (Cotler) said consists of anti-Palestinian racism, so they’re twisting the truth,” said the letter demanding an investigation.

By World Israel News Staff

Some 300 Jewish staff members at University of Toronto signed a letter addressed to the instituion, demanding that it recognize and investigate antisemitism on campus, after a Holocaust Remembrance Day speech was condemned by professors as promoting anti-Palestinian racism.

Prominent human rights advocate and attorney Irwin Cotler, a former justice minister who serves as Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, gave a speech on Zoom to the university’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine in January in which he discussed modern-day antisemitism and Israel.

In his remarks, Cotler said that Israel was unfairly targeted by the United Nations and that the disproportionate criticism of the country was a manifestation of contemporary antisemitism.

He urged the university to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which has been ratified by the U.S., UK, Germany, France, and Sweden.

Apparently, this was considered to be “anti-Palestinian.”

Shortly afterwards, 45 faculty and staff from the medical school wrote a letter to the dean, charging that Cotler’s speech “reinforced anti-Palestinian racism in a way that is consistent with a broader pattern of silencing and erasure of Palestinian voices.”

It claimed that students and staff working towards “Palestinian life and liberation” are subject to harassment and “calls into the office” by administrators, and that there has been a spike in anti-Palestinian racism at the institution.

Doctors Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (DARA) co-founder Dr. Frank Sommers, who helped write and organize signatures for a follow-up letter to the dean from Jewish staff, told the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) that “none of what Professor Irwin (Cotler) said consists of anti-Palestinian racism, so they’re twisting the truth.”

Sommers wrote that the medical staff’s “attack was not only on Professor Cotler. It was an attack on Jewish faculty members and the Jewish community.”

The letter condemning Cotler is “an antisemitic tradition of accusing Jews who defend themselves as erasing the voices and suppressing the lives of others,” he wrote.

“Their letter is an example of the very antisemitism that Mr. Cotler dismantled in his presentation.”

Sommers told CJN that in his “50 years of association with the faculty of medicine and the University of Toronto, I have not seen this level of anti-Jewish hatred that has manifested in the recent past.”