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Hiring Committee chair holds same anti-Israel hostility as choice for Human Rights post

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Alleging Israel is an apartheid state that neglects and damages non-Jewish religious sites is part and parcel of the academic writings of Dr. Valentina Azarova (Photo masteringlobalaffairs.org)

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The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law has been embroiled in controversy over allegations that the law school revoked an offer of employment to an academic named Valentina Azarova for the directorship of the law school’s International Human Rights Program (IHRP). Azarova’s academic work regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict displays a clear anti-Israel bias. More on that later in this article.

The Globe and Mail reported on October 7, 2020 that Azarova was the unanimous choice of the Faculty of Law’s hiring committee. In a subsequent October 14, 2020 report in the Globe and Mail, Azarova stated that she was offered a position on August 11, 2020 and accepted the position on August 19, 2020.  Allegations have been made that a tax court judge tried to block Azarova’s appointment, which has added to the controversy. The October 14, 2020 report in the Globe and Mail states that law school dean Edward Iacobucci “has denied that an offer was made to Dr. Azarova and denied that he rescinded the offer because of political interference from a judge.”

While there is clearly a dispute about whether or not Azarova was actually offered employment by the law school, the fact that she was a serious candidate for a prestigious leadership position at the law school is cause for concern. However, the chair of the hiring committee, Audrey Macklin, also appears to share Azarova’s anti-Israel bias.

Macklin has a history of signing onto open letters hostile to Israel. The website https://bdsmovement.net/ lists Macklin as one of 150 signatories to a 2009 letter that expresses “concerns about the campaign to suppress criticism of Israel that is being carried on within Canada”. The letter states, among other things, that “Charges that those organizing Israel Apartheid Week or supporting an academic boycott of Israel are anti-Semites promoting hatred bring the anti-Communist terror of the 1950s vividly to mind,” and that the signatories of the letter “do not believe that Israel acts in self-defense.” 

Macklin is also listed as a signatory to a March 14, 2015 letter on the www.faculty4palestine.ca website which states that the signatories defend “the freedom to support, facilitate and participate freely in activities under the rubric of ‘Israeli apartheid week’”. 

More recently, an open letter from February 2020 on the Independent Jewish Voices website lists Macklin as a signatory to a letter that opposes the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism by academic institutions and other public bodies in Canada.

Macklin, as well as the entire Faculty Advisory Board, resigned following the alleged revocation of the job offer to Azarova.

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Who exactly is Valentina Azarova?

According to Bard College Berlin’s website, Azarova has a PhD in Law from National University of Ireland, Galway. Furthermore, Bard College’s website notes that Azarova “co-founded and taught in the BA program in Human Rights and International Law at Al-Quds Bard College, Al-Quds University. She held lecturing positions at Birzeit University and the University of the Holy Spirit of Kaslik in Lebanon, and research positions at Central European University and Koç University’s Centre for Global Public Law in Istanbul.” 

A review of Azarova’s publications reveals a strong anti-Israel bias. While a complete review of her publications and academic work is beyond the scope of this article, it is worthwhile to touch upon a number of her publications to illustrate her anti-Israel bias. 

Azarova is the co-author of a June 30, 2013 article in the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy entitled “UNESCO, Palestine and Archaeology in conflict”. The article alleges that “Israel has damaged and destroyed Palestinian historical, cultural and religious sites throughout the occupied Palestinian Territory”.

The article ignores thousands of years of Jewish history in the area currently known as the West Bank. The word “Judaism” is completely absent from the article. The word “Jewish” does appear in the article a total of two times, with one of its uses to describe the “neglect of non-Jewish religious sites” in Jerusalem.  Incredibly, the website of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was used by Azarova and her co-author (David Keane) as a source for these allegations. It is important to note that the Palestinian Liberation Organization has a long history of glorifying and sponsoring terrorist attacks against Israelis, promoting violence against Jews on Palestinian TV and other media outlets, and misappropriating  millions of dollars of international aid money.

In an April 1, 2015 article on Birzeit University’s website “Palestine’s Day in Court”, Azarova actually suggested that there is “overwhelming evidence” that Israel has established a system of “apartheid” in the West Bank. Azarova wrote that “The Prosecutor could also investigate whether a regime of apartheid results from the establishment of settlements and their ensuing effects – including two separate legal systems for Palestinians and Israelis that entrench systematic and widespread violations of humanitarian law. Despite the overwhelming evidence, the Prosecutor might consider an apartheid prosecution to be excessively novel, challenging, and politically charged.” 

Sun newspapers across the country published a column written by B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn asserting “Azarova’s body of work is overwhelmingly devoted — arguably obsessively committed — to “Palestine work.”” (photo B’nai Brith Canada)

If anyone really has any doubt as to the extent of Azarova’s anti-Israel bias, one needs look no further than her June 2, 2017 article in the European Council on Foreign Affairs entitled “Israel’s unlawfully prolonged occupation: consequences under an integrated legal framework”.

She begins the article with a healthy dose of anti-Israel language, stating that “June 2017 marks 50 years of Israel’s belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory, making it the longest occupation in modern history.” Once again, the article ignores the connection between the Jewish people and Israel (including the area currently known as the West Bank) that dates back thousands of years. Azarova does make a carefully crafted reference to “Israeli nationals” in “occupied territory”. 

Of further concern is the fact that Azarova has given interviews to notorious anti-Israel publications including the Electronic Intifada. 

The controversy is still ongoing at the University of Toronto. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) passed a motion in mid-October to begin the process of censuring the University of Toronto over the controversy. The University of Toronto has hired former Trent University president Bonnie Patterson to conduct a review of what has transpired. 

There has been an outcry from some academics and journalists that the alleged refusal of the law school to hire Azarova as the director of the IHRP is an affront to academic freedom. Had  Azarova been given the directorship of the IHRP, the University of Toronto would have given her a prestigious leadership platform from which to promote her extreme views that demonize Israelis and ignore the connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel that dates back thousands of years.

Ultimately, this would have created a hostile environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students at the law school. University of Toronto law students deserve better.

“Jonathan Mackenzie is a lawyer in Toronto. He has a B.A. in Political Science (with Distinction) from York University and a J.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School. Jonathan previously served as a staff writer for Osgoode Hall’s Obiter Dicta Student Newspaper.”

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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