Toronto prof apologizes after linking Jewish judge to Nazi figure

University of Toronto law professor apologizes after juxtaposing a Jewish judge with an infamous Nazi jurist on his Twitter account.

Ben Ariel ,

University of Toronto
University of Toronto
iStock

A University of Toronto law professor has said he is “deeply sorry” after juxtaposing a Jewish judge with an infamous Nazi jurist on his Twitter account for months, B’nai Brith Canada said in a statement on Sunday.

As exposed by B’nai Brith Canada on Thursday, Mohammad Fadel’s Twitter profile picture had depicted Justice David Spiro, a Jewish member of Canada’s Tax Court. At the bottom of Spiro’s photo, Fadel wrote the words: “The sovereign is he who decides the exceptions,” a quote from Carl Schmitt, a virulently antisemitic jurist who joined the Nazi Party and facilitated its rise to power in Germany. Under the photo, Fadel wrote, “Schmitt lives in Toronto.”

In a blog post published Saturday, Fadel noted complaints he had received from Jewish lawyers following B’nai Brith’s release, and stated: “I am deeply sorry for the pain that I unintentionally caused them.”

Fadel went on to claim that he did not mean to compare Spiro to Schmitt, but rather only to criticize Spiro for supposedly acting according to Schmitt’s ideal of a sovereign. He also asserted that the slogan “Schmitt lives in Toronto” was aimed at the University of Toronto, not Spiro himself. Despite admitting to having these messages on his Twitter profile since April, Fadel had never publicly offered this “explanation” before.

Around the same time that the blog post was published, Fadel also removed the content linking Spiro and Schmitt from his Twitter profile.

“Professor Fadel’s apology and removal of the offensive material is an important first step, and we hope that it is sincere,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada.

“The fact is that as a result of the Azarova controversy, Jewish members of the University of Toronto community have been subjected to multiple incidents of antisemitism, and that needs to stop,” he added.

“The University’s failure to tackle or even comment on this issue, despite having been made aware of it months ago, is deeply concerning,” said Mostyn.

B’nai Brith noted that in June, the President of the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) invoked an antisemitic trope by alleging that an “entitled powerful Zionist minority” was engaged in “psychological warfare” against critics of the Cromwell Report, which examined in part Justice Spiro’s conduct in the Valentina Azarova affair. Despite a significant public outcry, the University failed to push back or defend its Jewish professors.

In August, B’nai Brith Canada sent a letter to the federal government requesting that a work permit be denied for Azarova, who was linked to “a variety of extreme anti-Zionist organizations” at the center of a heated dispute over whether the University of Toronto’s Law School acted appropriately last year when her hiring – recommended by a search committee – did not take place.

Last year, Azarova was recommended by a search committee for the position. She was not hired due to the availability of qualified Canadians who applied for the position, making her not eligible for the permit.

However, several groups went on to accuse the university of impropriety in the matter, alleging U of T caved in to outside pressure, including one academic who alleged that an “entitled powerful Zionist minority” was behind the decision – an accusation B’nai Brith termed an “anti-Semitic fantasy developed around this refusal to hire.”

An investigation later cleared the U of T law school of any wrong actions. The report found that allegations that a Jewish judge inappropriately influenced the decision by the law school not to hire the anti-Israel academic were unfounded. The report concluded Azarova was not hired for entirely unrelated reasons.



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