Statement of 2000 members of the University of Toronto in Response to University of Toronto VP-International’s “Message to the Community on the War in the Middle East”
"we..... have three significant concerns about the University’s statement:
This statement mentioned only the attacks on Israeli civilians. It did not acknowledge the latest militarised violence enacted upon Palestinian civilians, which at the time of the statement had already seen renewed bombarding of Gaza neighbourhoods, as well as the Israeli decision on October 8th to disconnect Gaza's access to water, electricity, fuel, food and humanitarian aid...
The statement failed to acknowledge the brutal, untenable conditions that Israel has long imposed on Palestinians, which have been decried specifically as crimes of apartheid and oppression by major human rights authorities including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. The events of the past week are a direct result of these ongoing conditions, and by failing to provide this context, the University has contributed to the villainization of Palestinians.
A statement on events in Israel-Palestine was only made when there was a mass attack on Israelis. However, Gaza has been subjected to a 17-year blockade, as well as multiple Israeli bombardments resulting in large numbers of civilian deaths:
2008 - 1,385 Palestinians killed, including 318 children
2012 - 168 Palestinians killed, including 33 children
2014 - 2,251 Palestinians killed, including over 1,500 children
2018 - 214 Palestinians killed, including 46 children
2021 - 230 Palestinians killed, including 67 children
(Source: Visualizing Palestine)
Furthermore, the ongoing Israeli occupation commits daily acts of violence against Palestinians, including the killing of civilians, infliction of life-altering injuries, sexual violence, house demolition, and arbitrary detention.
These atrocities received no comparable statement of support from the President’s Office or International Office.
We, the undersigned, decry and mourn the loss of civilian lives, Palestinian and Israeli. We ask that Palestinians’ lives, traumas, and families be valued by the University of Toronto equally with Jewish people and other equity-deserving groups." (end of quote)
The extent of repression of free expression is demonstrated by a warning at the end of the letter "We recommend that signees carefully consider the potential risks of signing this letter with their full names, as there are documented patterns of retaliation against individuals who advocate for Palestinian human rights. Signees are invited to sign using a descriptor instead of a name if they wish and to make their affiliation to UofT clear (whether student, staff, faculty, donor or alum)."