The world is flat ! The moon is made of green cheese !


Do you have a sincere belief that the world is flat ? The University of Toronto will give you an M.A. for saying so. Do you think the moon is made of green cheese ? Ditto. Do you think that Jews, though they may look like humans, are actually pigs and/or monkeys ? An M.A. — perhaps a Ph.D. — is yours, again, of course, compliments of the U. of T. And, it goes without saying, compliments of the Ontario taxpayer.

Or so it would seem, judging by how the U. of T. has replied to critics of the MA that it awarded to Jennifer Peto. That MA, it will be recalled, held that the Jews of the world, mainly through Holocaust education, oppress the “people of colour” throughout the world.

Those who criticized this MA made three points, in order of importance:

1) The thesis was devoid of scholarship

2) It was untruthful

3) It was hateful

The U. of T. has now answered all three of these criticisms in a statement that may be condensed as follows: We believe in freedom of speech; to us freedom of speech is absolute. You, the critics of the thesis, are out to suppress academic freedom. Neither integrity of scholarship, nor indeed scholarship of any sort seems to enter the U. of T.’s thinking. Here is the statement, as reported by the Canadian Jewish News:

Responding to a request for an interview, the University of Toronto issued a written statement by vice-president and provost Cheryl Misak: “Due to our privacy obligations to students, I cannot discuss an individual student’s academic work or his or her performance. What I can, say, however, is that freedom of expression issues are ever-present in our society, especially on a university campus. The University of Toronto’s Statement on Freedom of Speech makes it clear that freedom of inquiry lies at the very heart of our institution: ‘all members of the University must have as a prerequisite freedom of speech and expression, which means the right to examine, question, investigate, speculate and comment on any issue without reference to prescribed doctrine, as well as the right to criticize the University and society at large.’

“Of the thousands of MA theses written at the University of Toronto in partial fulfilment of degree requirements, it is inevitable that some will have elements that offend various individuals and groups. In such cases, the university is committed to allowing and encouraging a full range of debate. The best way for controversy to unfold is for members of our community to engage with the perspectives and arguments they dispute. It is intelligent argument, not censorship, that lies at the heart of our democratic society and its institutions.”

I have received similar statements from the President of the U. of T. and the Dean of OISE (see below for the link to this correspondence). In each instance, these University officials made the insulting suggestion that the critics of Ms. Peto’s thesis are motivated by a desire to restrict freedom of speech. Neither President nor Dean took notice of the fact that the criticism of the thesis concerned its scholarship, not its point of view.

I cannot believe that this can be the final word from one of the world’s great universities. The many great scholars there, and the friends of the University around the world, simply cannot allow this to happen.

See my correspondence with U. of T.’s President Naylor and OISE’s Dean O’Sullivan.

See story in Toronto Star of Dec. 7

My related postings on this topic:

The Frauds of OISE

The World is Flat !

My correspondence with U of T officials

For OISE, the Peto Thesis Was no Aberration

Eighteen OISE Theses

Prolegomena to the Study of Jews Who Hate Israel

OISE: Social Science Captured by the New Dogmatists

The Frauds of OISE

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

OISE, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, is associated with the University of Toronto, one of the world’s foremost institutions of learning. And now this year OISE has given its imprimatur to a hateful and fraudulent piece of anti-Semitic propaganda. And it all started with a misguided but apparently sincere student who was allowed to vent her hateful emotions …

There is a striking scene in the classic documentary about the Wannsee Conference — the 1942 meeting of Nazi leaders to plan the Holocaust. One of the attending Nazi officials urges quick action against any remaining Jews in German cities. “Can you tolerate,” he says, or words to that effect, “that Mrs. Israel and Mr. Cohen should live in comfort in our cities while our brave soldiers suffer on the front ?” The man was so sincere in his outrage; no wonder he quickly obtained the approval of his assembled accomplices.

And so is Ms. Jennifer Peto sincere. I can summarize her thesis at OISE, “The Victimhood of the Powerful; White Jews, Zionism, and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education” as follows:

The Ashkenazi Jews of the world, in particular those in North America, constitute an over-privileged White group which is ever trying to extend its hegemony over others, especially people of color. To that end, these Jews have organized various forms of Holocaust remembrances. Such observances serve to oppress Palestinians and people of color everywhere. Decent people, for example the author of this thesis, have therefore been forced to become anti-Zionist Jews and Palestine solidarity activists, as well as, apparently not incidentally, activists for LGBT rights.

Does this point of view make sense ? As a point of view, as an emotion, yes it does. Ms. Peto thinks she is right, and she declaims her beliefs with disarming verve and obvious sincerity. It is the sincerity of someone with a strong and consuming idée fixe. And she is an autodidact who knows how to quote from others, whenever that seems to serve the cause, and thus to give her thesis the sheen of formal scholarship.The only problem is that the footnotes and references to the literature in no way support her contentions, and that she does not muster facts or data of any kind to give her thesis the weight of an academic argument.

As it happens, the sociological literature is exceptionally rich in empirical studies of Canadian and US Jews (to which I have made modest contributions in the past), their demography, political alignments, and ideological commitments. But Ms. Peto’s bibliography is strictly bereft of empirical work. To take one example, the problem of political alignments of North American Jews. If US Jews were indeed committed, as Ms. Peto contends, “tirelessly” so, to “align [themselves] with oppressive forces in their own country” (p. 6), “especially [against] people of color” (p. 78), how would they have voted in 2008, two years before Ms. Peto completed her opus ? For Obama or for McCain ? Well, the empirical data show an overwhelming Jewish support for Obama, exactly what Ms. Peto’s thesis holds could not have happened. She does not deign to discuss these widely-available data. She does not discuss any data. She cannot, apparently, be distracted from her holy rage by mere facts.

From the point of view of scholarship, there is a most telling item on the very first page of Ms. Peto’s thesis. She recalls that when she was in 9th grade, in 1995, she attended a Jewish school (unnamed) in Toronto at the time that the Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein killed some 49 Arabs in a rampage in Israel. Ms. Peto tells us that her teacher supported Goldstein, and that she, the fifteen-year-old, had difficulties with both the teacher and principal about the matter. She tells this story as a pivotal point in her awakening to the evils of “the oppressive beliefs of my parents, teachers, and religious leaders” (p.2).

I can see how to a 15-year old, or even to the now-thirty-year-old ideologue that she is today, this unexamined putative incident can loom large. But it is purely subjective. The value of our scholarly tradition is that it can take such subjective events and test them against objectively-available social data. The obvious question, from a scholarly point of view, is whether what Ms. Peto remembers as having taken place in her (unnamed) Toronto school is in any way typical of the reactions of Canadian or North American Jews. The record happens to be very clear. All sections of world Jewry, with only tiny exceptions in very restricted ultra-religious circles, reacted with shame and horror at the deeds of Baruch Goldstein. Why didn’t it occur to Ms. Peto to examine (or, as she would put it, “interrogate”) the record of world Jewry’s reaction to Goldstein ? Because she is in no way a scholar, obviously; because empirical data mean nothing to her, as indeed they mean nothing to the ideologues of any sort. I do not blame her for this. She is entitled to believe as she wishes, to be in the throes of any delusion that she was unfortunate enough to contract.

But it is a different matter with OISE, a taxpayer-financed institution affiliated with the world-famous University of Toronto. OISE has accepted this thesis, it is being made available to the world under the OISE imprimatur, and it is OISE that, in effect, promotes a fraud by sponsoring wild accusations and hatreds as if they had a scholarly basis.

In her introduction, Ms. Peto pays tribute to her OISE thesis supervisor, Professor Sheryl Nestel. Now why didn’t Professor Nestel press her student to take a scholarly approach to evidence ? One answer may be that Prof. Nestel herself is identified, on the internet, as an anti-Israel activist. But the true fault obviously lies in OISE itself, since it does not seem to have institutional safeguards against passing off subjective feelings as verified facts.

The Baruch Goldstein story in this thesis — suggesting that the Jews of the world supported Goldstein when in fact they overwhelmingly rejected him — is part of the anti-Semitic fraud that is perpetrated by OISE here. But only part of it. The thesis as a whole — no matter how forgivable when presented by an untutored naif — is an act of both fraud and hatred when it comes from the halls of academe. And let’s not forget that the perpetrators receive their salaries from the taxpayers of Ontario.

Read my my correspondence with U. of T. President David Naylor and OISE’s Dean Sullivan

For more information on this thesis, and on yet another thesis at OISE under the tutelage of the same thesis adviser, see the article and blog by Richard Klagsbrun.

Klagsbrun suggests that if you are unhappy about the goings on at OISE, you may wish to write to John Milloy, the Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities, jmilloy.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Also, see story in Toronto Star of Dec. 7

And the column by Geoffrey Alderman in London’s Jewish Chronicle

My related postings on this topic:

The Frauds of OISE

The World is Flat !

My correspondence with U of T officials

For OISE, the Peto Thesis Was no Aberration

Eighteen OISE Theses

Prolegomena to the Study of Jews Who Hate Israel

OISE: Social Science Captured by the New Dogmatists

Left Wing, Right Wing in Politics

Few people think that the political spectrum can be usefully depicted as extending from a “Left” to a “Right.” Ever since the Bolsheviks became fatefully different from the Socialists — about 1903 — it has been apparent that what some people still insist on calling the (overall) Left conflates political forces of fundamentally different values.

But there is another aspect of this sloppy “Left vs. Right” usage that is often overlooked. While “Left” is a term that some political forces use as self-description, “Right” is not. English-language dictionaries do not describe the political connotations of political terms, but the great French Robert tells us under “droite” (‘right’) :

Dans le contexte français contemporain, le mot est surtout employé par des adversaires, se disant de gauche; les partis et le public dits de droite (par les autres) se réclamant en général d’autres dénominations.

In today’s French, the word is mostly employed by opponents, who refer to themselves as being of the Left. Parties and public-opinion tendencies that are called right-wing (by others) generally use different self-descriptions.

So it would appear that the whole Left-Right political usage is primarily one of those who like to refer to themselves as being of the Left. Certainly those who are called “Right-wing” (as in such inexcusable phrases as “the Israeli government is a right-wing coalition”) do not themselves use the term. In other words, while “Left” is often used by political groups — for their own political ends — to describe themselves, “Right-wing” is almost always used as a pejorative, as a term of abuse.