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Doctor’s report on anti-semitism at Toronto medical school highlights age-old stereotypes of Jewish power, money and control

By MYRON LOVE We who grew up as part of the postwar “baby Boom” generation have lived in what could be described as an ahistorical time.  I have lived my life both in a Jewish milieu and also in a free and open society where being Jewish has – for me – never been an issue.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have experienced what some might call anti-Semitism.
In the aftermath of the horrors of the Holocaust and the rebirth of the State of Israel, classic anti-Semitism was thoroughly discredited (or so I had thought).  What Jew hatred there was emanated almost exclusively from a handful of fringe losers who would have been referred to as far right  – people such as German-born Ernst Zundra or Alberta high school teacher Jim Keegstra – who represented no one and faced condemnation by all.
Sadly, judging by a report by Dr. Ayelet Kuper of the University of Toronto Temerty Faculty of Medicine, that era where classic anti-Semitism is held in opprobrium has come to an end.
Kuper is an Israeli-born child of Holocaust survivors who grew up in Montreal and has studied at Boston and Oxford.  What she found in her study of the situation – along with her personal experience – is greatly disturbing because what she describes goes beyond the unfortunately expected anti-Israel and anti-Zionist garbage.  Demonstrating that she herself is not of a conservative bent, the  Senior Advisor – Temerty Faculty of Medicine, Office of Inclusion and DiversityUniversity of Toronto, writes that she  “has many proud Jewish and non-Jewish colleagues and friends  who  support  the  existence  of  an  independent Palestine  in  multiple  ways  (as  I  do)  without  also perpetrating hatred for Jews”.
“In the years before the war in Gaza,” she reported,  “I overheard faculty colleagues complaining about “those Jews who think their Holocaust means they know something about oppression,” heard about non-Jewish students who thought a Jewish classmate had the power to block their residency matches and offered to help address the refusal of student groups to  provide  kosher  food  for  students  at  TFOM  events. “However,” she continues, “growing support for antisemitism at TFOM has been  carefully  re-framed  since  the  spring  of  2021(after the latest Israel-Hamas conflict)  as political activism against Israel and as scholarly positions held  under  the  protection  of  academic  freedom.  The resultant physician advocacy has, however, been rife with dog-whistles, traditional  antisemitic  tropes and disingenuous  claims  of  oppression.  I  personally experienced  many  instances  of  antisemitism,  including being told that all Jews are liars; that Jews lie to control the university or the faculty or the world, to oppress or hurt others,  and/or  for  other  forms  of  gain;  and  that antisemitism can’t exist because everything Jews say are lies,  including  any  claims  to  have  experienced discrimination.
“More specifically, I experienced the now-common strategy among those at TFOM who have made what I believe to be antisemitic statements to say that any Jew who calls them out is just racist and is lying in order to oppress  Palestinians.
“There are also,” she goes on, “a small number of people who identify as Jews or as having Jewish heritage among the group of people  whom  I  have  witnessed  to  be  encouraging antisemitism at TFOM. Some of those self-identified Jews have said discriminatory things to me about Jews; some of them have also described to me a deep embarrassment at being Jewish. However, their being Jewish is often used by them and by their non-Jewish colleagues to claim that what they are all saying or doing can’t possibly be antisemitic.”
She notes that the traditional  antisemitic  trope  that,  in her  experience, crops up is the age-old accusations that Jews control the media, the economy, and the actions of major nation-states.   “I have heard it said,” she reports, “(in person and on social media) within TFOM that Jews control CaRMS (the Canadian Residency Matching Service, which  manages  the  residency  selection  process),  Jews control faculty hiring, and Jews control TFOM’s promotion decisions. To share a specific example, when a lecture on religious discrimination was instituted within the medical school in the spring of 2021, I was asked by non-Jewish learners why content about Jews was “being forced on the students  by  the  Jew  who  bought  the  Faculty.”  Those learners explained that they meant James Temerty, who with his wife had made a sizeable donation to the Faculty (which was subsequently renamed in their honour), and who is not Jewish.
“I was specifically told that a substantial number of students had assumed that the Temerty family was Jewish because of their obvious wealth. I have also heard repeated many times a pervasive belief in certain circles of faculty members and learners that anyone at TFOM  who  angers  “the  Jews”  will  have  their  career destroyed by “the Jews”–and I have had it explained to me on multiple occasions that this fear of Jews, instead of being a bias to be combatted, is actually the reverse: that those who fear Jews based on this egregious stereotype are actually the ones being discriminated against, since they have to cope with their fear of “the powerful Jews”! And of course, I have heard non-Jews who stand up for Jews, including in the face of these sorts of hateful comments, being accused of having been “bought by the Jews” or similar.”
She points out that “even some of the friendly, supportive non-Jews I know and like still seem to buy into the centuries-old stereotype of the rich and powerful Jew. For example, almost all TFOM faculty members are physicians, and so by definition are some of the highest earners in Canadian society; nonetheless, it is my experience that Jewish  physicians  who  have  comfortable  lifestyles  are sometimes talked about by other faculty members as having those lifestyles because they are Jewish, not because they are physicians.  I have been subject to a long list of microaggressions perpetrated by otherwise lovely and reflexive people at TFOM and at its affiliated hospitals about Jews being pushy and demanding and in charge, Jews having (or wanting) lots of money, and Jews only looking out for other Jews.
Furthermore, the antisemitic trope of excessive Jewish power means that Jews standing up to antisemitism  only  worsens antisemitism because it is used to justify further fear of a cabal of powerful Jews, turning us into the problem TFOM must  solve  instead  of  the  victims  of  discrimination ourselves.
She adds that she has been told by colleagues that being born in Israel and refusing to denounce the existence of my place of birth as a Jewish state means that she is inherently racist and that any discrimination she encounters as a Jew in Canada is therefore deserved.
“Even as an experienced educator,  social  justice  scholar,  and  leader,  I  was frequently at a loss as to how to escape from the circular reasoning that dismissed my experience of discrimination while  dehumanizing  me,  calling  me  out  as  racist  for defending  myself  against  racism,  and  ascribing  to  me sinister, hidden power,” she writes.  Although I am very practiced at speaking out against the oppression of members of many other social groups, it has sometimes been impossible to defend  myself  against  those  who  twisted  any  form  of defense against the oppression of Jews into ‘proof’ of a powerful  and  controlling  Jewish  cabal.”
Regrettably, Kuper offers few solutions to this abhorrent resurgence of traditional  anti-semitic views other than standing up for each other as Jews and trying to educate supportive non-Jews.
A bleak report indeed!

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