Yesterday's post regarding OISE has got a fair bit of attention due to its being picked up by The National Post, so there are some points I'd like to add.
Regarding academic freedom. It may seem paradoxical to follow up a post that was highly critical of the premises of two theses based on their abstracts with a post insisting on the right to academic freedom, but I'm going to do that nonetheless.
Because my concern was not based on a desire to censor Ms Peto's or Mr Epstein's positions or their right to hold or write them. Let me make this explicitly clear. They have every right to do so, just as those who disagree have the right to criticize them.
But those premises, as far as I inferred from the abstracts, suggested that Jews bore some special moral guilt on the basis of ethnicity, or responsibility on the basis of pigmentation and there was an organized community effort to mislead and manipulate and those are suggestions that I feel merit the most extreme criticism.
They have the right to their opinions.
But it seems to me that the natural extension of their ideas is that a particular race can be either inferior or superior, that some races merit special privilege or punishment. These are ideas that most of us in liberal democracies have hoped were abandoned a long time ago. If these ideas can be applied to Jews, they can be applied, in some form, to anyone. And one doesn't have to look too far in history to see where that kind of thinking leads.
But again, my concern is not about the ideas of two or three individuals whose ideas, I don't think, merit great consideration. My concern is what appears to me to be a pervasive attitude at OISE and to some extent at the University of Toronto. It is an outgrowth of an academic anti-Zionism that is at its substance exactly what the Prime Minister of Canada warned against at the international conference on anti-Semistism last week.
It is the way that this form of racism has insinuated itself into some academic institutions that needs to be examined and exposed.
When fanatical anti-Zionism extends to Jews in general and the notion of collective Jewish guilt, it is something that should be alarming to any thinking person.
OISE has played host to conferences whose purpose was the boycotting and sanctioning of Israel, part of the campaign to assign the false label of "apartheid" and, in effect, the deligitimization of that country.
The Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, federal ministers and civic leaders of all stripes have spoken out against that in the most forceful terms and have suggested it is a new form of anti-Semitism.
Zionism is the belief that Jews should have a homeland in Israel. If the anti-Zionists were against the idea of any people having a national homeland with a religious component, and put equal energies into the condemnation of all, then their standing would have more credibility. But I am yet to find an "anti-Zionist" call for the end of the Islamic republics of Iran and Pakistan and the Islamic rule in other countries where religion and state are not distinct. The call for an end to such systems throughout the world is in no way significant among the anti-Zionist movement. The focus in those cases on one people and one religion appears to me to be highly suggestive of bigotry.
It is this and the anti-Israel politicization of academic programs that I believe requires serious examination.
UPDATE: let me reiterate this to anyone who thinks this post is a "softening" of my position. It isn't. The theses in question are repugnant in their respective suggestions that Jews are conspiring to exploit Holocaust guilt for ulterior motives and that anyone bears some sort of "accountability through genealogy."
But what I also want to make abundantly clear is that these theses are being used as examples of a greater problem. Presumably they were approved by a thesis committee at OISE. It is the institutional politicization and bias that is concerning, not individuals of questionable significance. That is always what the issue has been, for those who missed the point.