B’nai Brith Canada is responding to allegations that the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) is not ensuring the academic rights of Jewish students on campus are upheld.
The advocacy organization said in a statement that its legal defense fund has hired lawyers to represent Jewish students at the Toronto university “who believe anti-Semitic conduct is violating their rights at their university.”
The students’ claims involve inflammatory social media posts by a faculty member, which led to their submission of a formal complaint.
According to B’nai Brith, “OCAD’s Dean of Design, Dr. Dori Tunstall, proclaimed in posts last May that Israel is a ‘settler colonial state’ and accused the Jewish State of practicing ‘Apartheid.’ She minimized devastating Hamas terrorism as the work of ‘Indigenous people with rockets.’”
B’nai Brith noted that Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization by the Canadian Government, and that Hamas initiated last May’s conflict and launched more than 4,000 rockets into Israel.
“False allegations of ‘apartheid’ delegitimize and demonize the sole Jewish democracy in the world that far from disenfranchises Arab-Israelis, but rather empowers them through political representation,” B’nai Brith said. “This points to disturbing indicators of a campus culture not friendly to Jews at best, and likely anti-Semitic at worst.”
B’nai Brith also pointed to the fact that “during the height of Israel’s defensive action against Hamas’ terror last year, OCAD’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Sustainability Initiatives (ODESI) made a bizarre statement accusing Jews of ‘ethnic cleansing.’”
The organization stressed that “such false claims against Israel are not only untrue, but also propagate an anti-Semitic blood libel against Jews.”
B’nai Brith said that it aims to use its legal defense fund to protect the academic rights of Jewish students on campus, and that according to OCAD regulations, students are entitled to protection from discrimination and retaliation.
They added that the “cumulation of incidents” has led to what they consider to be a “toxic education space for Jewish and Israeli students.”
Calling on OCAD to come up with a solution to make the campus a welcoming place for Jewish students, as per their own anti-discrimination policies, B’nai Brith also urged OCAD to create training modules to address anti-Semitism.
“It is time for firm action,” said B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn. “The students are seeking reasonable and appropriate remedies. OCAD should establish a means of preventing similar incidents through appropriate representation from the Jewish and Israeli communities.”
Mostyn added: “We are hopeful and we will be relentless to ensure that these students can engage in ordinary academic life without fear of unnecessary and incorrect conduct and social media messages from the OCAD’s offices.”