More than 300 Jewish faculty members at the University of Toronto have signed an open letter denouncing their colleagues who have accused Canada’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism Irwin Cotler of “inciting anti-Palestinian racism” during a speech he gave on Jan. 26, the day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In their letter, the staff members drew attention to “the falsehoods, twisted logic and anti-Semitic rhetoric that are contained in the letter sent by other faculty members to the Temerty Faculty of Medicine in which they condemn Irwin Cotler’s presentation on ‘Contemporary Antisemitism.’ ”

After his presentation, 45 staff members signed a petition condemning the university for having Cotler give a speech about anti-Semitism. They said the event was “reinforcing anti-Palestinian racism” and found fault with Cotler’s endorsement of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.

They also took issue with the fact that the talk was supported by “special interest groups,” such as the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. According to the petition, such groups have intimidated people of color, which has apparently “sent a chilling message to other faculty and students.”

In their letter, Jewish faculty members point out that the petition portrayed Cotler’s “defense of Jews as anti-Palestinian racism, thereby perpetuating an anti-Semitic tradition of accusing Jews who defend themselves as erasing the voices and suppressing the lives of others.” They added that the petition’s claims against the Holocaust remembrance event are “trivializing and demeaning the torment and industrialized murder of Jews in the Holocaust.”

The letter goes on to state that the petition’s reference to “special interest groups” perpetuates “the classic depiction of Jews as dominating and controlling.”

“Taken in its entirety, their letter is an example of the very anti-Semitism that Mr. Cotler dismantled in his presentation,” it said in conclusion. “Naturally, the other faculty members don’t like being exposed.”


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