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Canadian Jewish org. asks ministers to deny work permit for anti-Israel prof.

CM 20/08/2021

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B’nai Brith Canada petitioned Canadian government ministers to deny a work permit for German Professor Valentina Azarova if she is accepted to the position of director of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the University of Toronto. 
The Azarova controversy has been ongoing at the University of Toronto for over a year. 

Azarova applied for the position during 2020 and was unanimously recommended by a hiring committee. However, on September 9, 2020, the offer was rescinded. 
Canadian press got wind of a phone call that occurred on September 4 between University of Toronto alumnus and tax judge David Spiro and the University’s Assistant Vice President, where Spiro – who also had previously sat on the board of Canada’s preeminent pro-Israel lobby – expressed his concern over Azarova’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Azarova was initially recommended for the position due to her expertise in immigration and supply chain accountability. She had written about migrant issues and the European Union, as well as the conflicts in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, but wrote most extensively about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
She adopted a severely critical view of Israel’s actions vis-à-vis the Palestinians.
The proximity of Spiro’s phone conversation to the backtracking of Azarova’s application to the position led to an uproar.
Many Canadian news outlets reported that she was turned down because of her views and of the pressure exerted by Spiro. This was in the eyes of many a severe attack on academic freedom.
Antisemitic rhetoric entered the public debate, as “Jewish money” was accused of acting behind the scenes to control the academic climate.
The sentiment against the university was so strong that the entire hiring committee that recommended Azarova resigned, and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), which represents 72,000 academic professionals across Canada, voted 79-0 in favor of censure against the university. 
University of Toronto (credit: Wikimedia Commons)University of Toronto (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The censure led to many speakers and donors cutting off ties with the university.
In an attempt to defend its actions, the university turned to former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell to examine the hiring process and the reasons that Azarova was not chosen for the position.
Cromwell’s report, published on March 15, 2021, concluded that he would “not draw the inference that improper outside influence played any role in the decision to discontinue the candidacy of the Preferred Candidate.”
According to B’nai Brith, Azarova’s candidacy was rescinded simply because she did not have a license to practice law in the state of Ontario, which was necessary for the position.
However, the search for the new IHRP director recommenced in June, and an offer was personally made to Azarova.
No one else received a personal offer, nor did any other applicants reach out due to the CAUT censure.
In addition, the clause that the position must be filled by a licensed practitioner disappeared from the new job requirements.
That is when B’nai Brith decided to eschew the struggle in the academic arena and turn to the government ministers in the hope that even if Azarova officially is offered the position, she will not be given a work permit and hence will not take up the position.    
B’nai Brith justified its actions by arguing that Azarova was essentially antisemitic.
“Ms. Azarova was recommended a year ago by a search committee for the position but not hired, because there were qualified Canadians who applied for the position, making her ineligible for a permit, and because she did not meet the advertised requirements,” the letter states. “An antisemitic fantasy developed around this refusal to hire which led to a detailed investigation dismissing the fantasy.”
“The research of Valentina Azarova has focused primarily on arguing that the State of Israel has systematically committed gross violations of international human rights,” B’nai Brith wrote in a submission to the Cromwell inquiry.
“Her ‘scholarly’ work is substantially centered on demonization, delegitimization, and double standards when it comes to the State of Israel. Her professional associations include a multitude of extreme anti-Israel organizations … Al Haq has direct ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of  Palestine (PFLP) – a listed terrorist entity in Canada – and is headed by Shawan Jabarin, a former senior PFLP  operative. Ms. Azarova has consistently participated in some of the most hard-line anti-Zionist platforms and propaganda activities such as Electronic Intifada, Al Majdal Quarterly (Badil), and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign,” B’nai Brith wrote.
B’nai Brith concluded with a request to deny Azarova a work permit:
“In our view, hiring Ms. Azarova for the position of director of the International Human Rights Program of the Faculty of Law of the University of Toronto would cause harm to Canada by causing substantial harm to the University of Toronto, for the reasons set out in our submission the Cromwell Review cited earlier.  In any case, the search process this time around is as tainted as the first, albeit in a different way. If the present search process leads to a request for a work permit for Ms. Azarova, that request should be denied.”
It remains to be seen what the IHRP will decide to do.


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