The mystery of our university presidents

I watched hours of testimony in the parliamentary committee examining antisemitism in Canada. I understand the role projection plays in Jew hatred. As a psychiatry resident, I learned projection is a defence against anxiety. It’s easier to live with yourself, if all your evil deeds/thoughts/impulses are projected out onto the other person. The Muslim Brotherhood and its army, Hamas, have made that defence into a strategy of the propaganda war. They have spent more than seven decades and tens of billions of Qatari money to realize that aim.

Although their stated goal is to create a multicontinental caliphate, free of Jews, killing them all, they have accused Israel of genocide since the 1960s. It is only now, after October 7, that their accusation is reaching the apotheosis of success. As Hamas uses its own people as human shields and stores armaments in a tent camp of refugees, Israel is blamed for the tragic loss of innocent lives. Hamas started this war in a barbaric genocidal massacre but Israel is accused when she defends herself. The extraordinary efforts made by the IDF to protect civilian life are not believed or dismissed.

Jews have been expelled from almost every Arab country, yet Israel, that is 20% Muslim, is accused of ethnic cleansing. Before October 7, there were no Jews in Gaza and only 1000 Christians left. Israel is called an apartheid state although Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Baha’i and others all enjoy equal rights in Israel. Religious minorities are severely persecuted in most of the Muslim Arab world.

Jews are accused of manipulating the media and using their money to achieve global control, but it is Qatar, with its vast oil wealth, that has created the virulently antisemitic Al Jazeera as a mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar has donated US$100 billion over the last 50 years to elite North American universities. That money has been used to set the curriculum and revise history to promote a hateful antisemitic narrative.

Which brings me to the testimony of four of our university presidents on Monday, May 27, 2024 where I watched each of them obfuscate and tell a story in complete contradiction to all other evidence presented at the committee. Our MPs were aware, but extremely polite, unlike their American counterparts in the senate hearings. No one, with the exception of Melissa Lantsman, really held their feet to the fire when they claimed that DEI included Jews as a vulnerable minority.

I am an alumna of the University of Toronto, having graduated from medicine in 1985 and doing residencies in internal medicine and psychiatry there. I still live just a few blocks from my old school on Kings College Circle, the site of the encampment. I visited daily in disbelief, in the first two weeks, as I watched it grow larger, more entrenched, and more hateful each day. Not only has UT president, Dr. Meric Gertler, done nothing to curb the blatant antisemitism, calls for genocide and violence against Jews and the destruction of Israel, but he lied to the committee saying that the antisemitic posters had been removed. I took photos of 27 posters still hanging on the fence the day after his testimony. The only posters that had been removed, were those of tragically crushed children, pulled from the rubble in the first days of the war. All the others remained.

There are the ubiquitous ‘from the river to the sea,’ ‘globalize the Intifada’ and ‘resistance by any means’  posters.  I believe that the social workers placing a sign to support the encamped students may not understand that the bloody handprints are a symbol of killing Jews with your bare hands, as terrorists did in the West Bank when two Israelis inadvertently lost their way.

The triangle at the bottom of a poster calling for Intifada is a symbol in support of Hamas. Intifada is a call to kill Jews, the world over.

Why would Dr. Gertler lie? At first I thought that as a child of Holocaust survivors, maybe he was so afraid of the accusation of bias that he failed to act. But that was likely a projection on my part. I visited so often in the first two weeks, since I could hardly believe what was happening. My father grew up in Vienna, watching his neighbours cheer as the Nazis marched in during the Anschluss. He was almost beaten to death by brown shirts in a square on the Ringstrasse, but was saved by woman who thought he was too young to be killed brutally. So when I see the quad, meant to be a beautiful public gathering place outside my old school, overtaken by murderous, violent antisemitism, it raises a kind of primal fear in me. I did not want to overreact. However, watching the committee meetings, reading, observing others, it has become clear that I am not acting based on some distant history. Even if it were true for Dr. Gertler, how then to explain the other three presidents, so meek, so ready to negotiate with thugs. Is it fear of losing the vast wealth spread around our elite institutions by Qatar? Are there other reasons? I don’t know, but I do know a piece of this story is still missing.

About the Author
Dr. Cynthia Lazar graduated from University of Toronto medical school in 1985 pursuing internal medicine and an HIV primary care practice. She later pursued psychiatry and had a 30 year career in her second field. She is the founder of Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School. The daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she is interested in fighting antisemitism in North America.