OISE Hate Thesis author Jenny Peto resurfaced last night at an anti-Israel event at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Well, not actually at OISE. It was originally scheduled to be there but was relocated at the last minute to a location a block away. One can speculate at the reasons, but the possibility that OISE is not entirely thrilled about the prospect of continued association with Ms Peto does seem a plausible explanation.
I was only able to attend the last hour of the event, but was there in time to hear all of Peto's speech and the question and answer period after, in which she referred to her brother as a "right-wing fanatical, racist, Zionist."
There were two things that Ms Peto's speech made me aware of. One was that I would be a rich man if I had ten dollars for every time she uttered the term "right-wing." The other is that the Hate Thesis polemicist seems to be chanelling another proponent of Jewish conspiracy theories.
Among the most famous uses of Canada's Hate Speech laws was the case of notorious Holocaust denier and Hitler-admirer, Ernst Zundel. A German-born landed immigrant who spent most of his life in Canada, Zundel was prosecuted, convicted and jailed in Canada and later Germany for publishing false claims that the Holocaust was exaggerated and part of a Jewish conspiracy to manipulate the non-Jewish world.
Take away the part about the Holocaust being exaggerated and the Hitler stuff but leave the rest and there is a striking similarity between Zundel and OISE Hate Thesis author Jenny Peto, who alleges a Jewish conspiracy to "obscure Jewish privilege, deny Jewish racism and promote the interests of the Israeli nation-state."
As Zundel faced his legal battles with Canada's judicial system and Human Rights tribunals, he put forward the free speech argument that his ideas were being suppressed because they were unpopular. Despite the falsehood of his allegations against Jews and his despicable motives, he had a point about free speech with which the Supreme Court of Canada eventually agreed.
Throughout the course of his campaign, Zundel astutely tried to frame the argument in terms of the right to free speech. He claimed he was articulating an opinion, and, though controversial, what right did a democratic government have to suppress it and jail him for its public expression?
OISE's Jenny Peto, in her tradition of spreading The Big Lie and twisting data (on those rare occasions she actually uses data) to reach bizarre, illogical conclusions, is now trying to frame criticism of her Hate Thesis in a similar context as Zundel cast his.
The convergence of Peto's and Zundel's respective writings reflects radical leftists' trend over the last dozen years of using language about Israel and Zionism which is virtually indistinguishable from that used by neo-Nazis. But in the matter of free speech, Ms Peto has, not for the first time, failed to piece relevant information together for a coherent argument.
The government of Canada, as well as others within the Jewish community were indeed trying to suppress and prevent the publication of Zundel's paranoid bigotry and made him a criminal in the process.
No one is trying to criminalize Ms Peto for what she said or to suppress her work. The situation is the exact opposite. Those who are concerned about the state of affairs at U of T's OISE are doing their utmost to publicize Ms. Peto's thesis in order to demonstrate the seriousness of the problem. While Ms Peto's hateful thesis, which lacked first-hand sources, showed inept scholarship, had factual errors, and substituted personal angst and opinion for fact was indeed the best example, in fact, the original article used by The National Post did not refer exclusively to Peto's thesis, but also included another to demonstrate the extent of the bias at OISE.
Jenny Peto is now trying to make her case one of Academic Freedom and is narcissistically framing the debate around her. That's bait-and-switch on her part. Peto has said that the controversy "is about who I am as a pro-Palestinian activist and what I have to say."
It isn't. The controversy really isn't about Jenny Peto at all. It's about a University of Toronto program that has become so overtly politicized that it accepts incompetent scholarship as long as it is critical of Israel and Zionism.
As Ms Peto basks in her notoriety and tries to mislead anyone who will listen into thinking criticism of her thesis is an attack on "academic freedom," people should remember what the issue really is about. There are plenty of theses in universities denouncing Israel's treatment of Palestinians. No responsible person is suggesting these papers cannot exist in academia.
The issue at hand, that Ms Peto wants people to forget, is that the controversy is about incompetent scholarship and bias masquerading as social justice and academic achievement at OISE. The principal culprit is not Ms Peto, but the instructors who gave academic imprimatur to her substandard work. The question that remains is, what is the University of Toronto planning to do about it?