Wed. May 29th, 2024

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Dozens of Ontario lawyers are demanding a Toronto law school take stronger action against law students who issued an open letter saying Israel is “not a country” and is committing genocide against Palestinians.

In a letter to Toronto Metropolitan University – previously known as Ryerson – the Ontario lawyers’ group says the law school has responded tepidly to antisemitism.

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The group of students behind the initial letter, including 74 signatories, some of them anonymous, attend the Lincoln Alexander School of Law, and call themselves the Abolitionist Organizing collective.

The law school has already disavowed the letter, sent on Oct. 20, 13 days after Hamas terrorists killed more than a thousand Israelis, including children and babies and hundreds attending a dance party.

The students’ letter argues “’Israel’ is not a country,” and demands the university call for a ceasefire, federal aid for Gaza, a Canadian arms embargo and economic sanctions.

The letter also seeks “an end to the entire system of settler colonialism that has strangled Palestine for the last century … and recognizing Palestinian resistance as fundamentally just and as a means of survival for Palestinians.”

It gave the university a deadline of Friday at 5 p.m.

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In its response Oct. 23, the law school said it condemned the “anti-Semitism and intolerance,” of the letter.

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“The letter does not represent the views of our law school or the many students, faculty, staff and community members that are committed to upholding our values of inclusivity, dignity, and respect. Statements that seek to promote or justify violence directly contravene these values.”

In its letter, the lawyers’ group said each student should be sanctioned, and they are not fit to be called to the bar because they have become “shills for Hamas.”

“(The Hamas murders) are not acts of resistance – these are acts of terrorism and war crimes,” they state in the letter.

It decries the “toxic” atmosphere on campus, and says inclusion is meaningless if Jews are not fully included.

“I, and many lawyers, will never hire these people,” said Howard Levitt, a Toronto-based employment lawyer. He called the letter “hate speech.”

Levitt said he knew Lincoln Alexander, whose name is on the law school, and he supported the State of Israel and would be horrified by the students’ actions.

Levitt called the university’s response was “insufficient” and said the school should demand a strong apology as a condition to remain in the program, but not without at least a term’s suspension.

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“Anything less isn’t fulfilling the spirit of Lincoln Alexander,” he said.

Toronto-based lawyer Harold Niman said the university’s statement showed weakness in not firmly responding to the demands.

“The demands are the most egregious part of the letter.”

Niman said the demands, coupled with a deadline, made the incendiary letter an “act of terror,” and that there is “no need to equivocate on the issue.”

Niman said freedom of speech has limitations, and the students should be sanctioned in a way that the school finds appropriate, but added they should all be identified. He suggested that one sanction should be to watch the “Trial of Adolf Eichmann,” a documentary on Netflix on the trial of a Nazi general who was tried in Israel following the Holocaust.

“They will learn about justice,” he said.

When the National Post reached out to Toronto Metropolitan University for comment, the school sent its earlier statement.

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