Since October 7, our most sophisticated universities have confirmed the most basic lesson every kindergarten kid learns – when good people cower, the bullies win. We all know that most professors don’t hate Jews. Nevertheless, the Silence of the Tenured Lambs has let a rabid minority of Jew-hating anti-Zionists run rampant on college campuses with minimal pushback. Treating lush quads like prison yards, thugs throughout North America have harassed Israelis, attacked Jews, and repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction – “from the river to the sea” – and mass Jew-killing by “globalizing the intifada.”
The result, on too many campuses, is a poisoned-ivy league, a new network of universities where half the Jews on these campuses report feeling scared, more than a third report witnessing acts of violence against Jews in their universities, and more than a third have felt compelled at one point in the last few weeks to hide their Jewish identity from their peers. So much for safe space!
These 555 physicians had the Zionist impulse to defend themselves, their people, their state, their highest ideals, and Western civilization.
But look closely at these haters shouting, “Gas the Jews!” and “When People are Occupied, Resistance is Justified.” You see that, like all bullies, they are cowards at heart. They are human rights “activists” who rationalize mass murder; feminists who are silent about mass rape; physicians insensitive to human suffering when it is Israelis who bleed; and totalitarian liberals who support dictatorships and terrorists.
When I challenge professors to take a stand, too many of them shrug. They don’t want to disrupt their careers. They worry about a few fanatic colleagues or students shouting them down or trashing them on social media. They act as if it’s not their responsibility to make sure that everyone on campus feels comfortable, respected, free to think independently — even if the students dare to be pro-Israel. And many of these paralyzed professors simply wonder, what are they supposed to do?
Appalled by the way these Hamas apologists have obsessively and selectively singled Israel out, and struck by the silence of medical professionals, Dr. Berger did what comes naturally to him – he took a stand.
Fortunately, 555 Jewish Physicians in the University of Toronto’s TFOM – Temerty Faculty of Medicine – have shown us how easy it can be to do the right thing. Like all those heroic Israelis who fought back ferociously to save Israel from Hamas that day, these 555 physicians had the Zionist impulse to defend themselves, their people, their state, their highest ideals, and Western civilization.
Here is their full statement, released earlier this week:
OPEN STATEMENT TO THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO TEMERTY FACULTY OF MEDICINE FROM JEWISH PHYSICIAN FACULTY
The Israel Gaza War is causing agony for many TFOM faculty and polarization in the TFOM. We feel immense anguish over the suffering and deaths of innocent Israelis and Palestinians. We believe in the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to self-determination and statehood.
Yet, on the streets of Toronto and in the TFOM itself, the hostile and belligerent position towards Jews who identify with the state of Israel, or who identify as Zionists, is discriminatory. The distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is tissue thin. Only for Jews is self-determination and autonomy – Zionism – denounced as a racist endeavour. Only for Jews is living in their indigenous homeland considered “colonialism.”
We, therefore, hold the following as central to our identity as Jews in the TFOM:
- We affirm the right of TFOM faculty to be openly Zionist and to support the right of Israel to exist and defend itself as a Jewish state and for those faculty to be free of public ostracism, recrimination, exclusion, and discrimination in the TFOM.
- To us, being a Zionist in 2023 means that we accept the right and the necessity of the survival of the Jewish people, and the existence of a Jewish state that ensures their survival. Anything that undermines or threatens Israel’s survival, undermines, or threatens the existence of the Jewish people and is, ipso facto, antisemitic.
- We know that accusations against Israel as “apartheid”, “colonialist”, or “white supremacist” or committing genocide are mendacious and aim to promote the argument that Israel should be dismantled as a Jewish state, making such accusations themselves antisemitic.
- We reject as antisemitic any blame on Israel for Hamas’ slaughter of Jews and non-Jews, and any justification for the slaughter because of historical context, opposition to settlements and occupation, or legitimate resistance.
- We reject as antisemitic any claims of equivalency between the Israeli people’s right to self-defence against terrorist groups who seek to annihilate Israel and the Jewish people, and the Hamas terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
- We reject as antisemitic any claims of equivalency between the duty of Israel to rescue its citizens who are being held hostage by Hamas and the Hamas terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
- We reject as antisemitic the imposition of a collective political responsibility on Jews to denounce Israel simply because they are Jews. We affirm the right of Jews alone to define antisemitism for themselves absent any interference from those outside of the Jewish community.
- We implore the TFOM in any investigation of antisemitism to apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
- We reject the expectation that Jews must reach total consensus on the definition of antisemitism; we know that the vast majority of Jewish TFOM faculty endorse the IHRA definition; and we disavow the weight given to a tiny minority of Jewish faculty who object to the IHRA definition.
- We abjure the cover of “academic freedom” within the TFOM to permit unrestrained antagonism by some TFOM faculty to Zionist Jews and their publicization of grotesque and antisemitic characterizations of Israel, the only Jewish state.
- We believe that academic freedom is not absolute. In particular, leaders in academic medicine with power over learners and faculty, who in some cases are the sole leader responsible for thousands of learners and faculty, should not be issuing statements which collide with equity, diversity and inclusion for Jews or which make Jews feel unsafe and unwelcome in the TFOM and which are unrelated or unessential to their core academic role, research, and publishing of results.
- We ask and expect that Jews receive the same consideration and protection that the TFOM provides to other minority groups.
How did this statement come about?
Dr. Philip Berger, an Officer of the Order of Canada and an inductee in the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, is among those who initiated the effort. He has spent his 45-year-career practicing at the intersection of medicine and social justice. The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame describes him as “an advocate for refugees, members of the LGBT community, people with HIV/AIDS, those suffering from addiction, homelessness, and living in poverty.” Dr. Berger “has also worked to promote methadone treatment, needle exchanges, documentation and recognition of the aftereffects of torture, academic infirmaries for the homeless, and clinical treatment of AIDS in Africa.” This “tireless champion of social justice and accessible health care in Canada and the world,” has “been a crusader never afraid of the controversial,” while serving “the needs of the sick and those who have suffered abuses of power.”
Alas, he has one strike against him. He is also, he reports, “a defiant left-wing Jew and Zionist.”
Since October 7, Berger — like so many other academics and social justice warriors – has been seeing colleagues, including many who consider him a mentor, attacking Israel viciously. He and others in the Toronto medical community have seen videotapes of once-cherished colleagues screaming at the front of a rally, demanding another intifada, which they clearly recognize, as Berger notes, as “a call for the murder of Jews.” Another associate “posted that he would rather stand with the devil than with Israel.”
Dr. Berger and his colleagues only circulated this letter to Jews because as a Zionist he understands the need right now to empower Jews.
Appalled by the way these Hamas apologists have obsessively and selectively singled Israel out, hearing how the language is anti-Semitic not “just” anti-Zionist, struck by the silence of medical professionals in the face of the Hamas bloodbath, Dr. Berger did what comes naturally to him – he took a stand.
“I have been on the Left my entire adult life and am intimately familiar with its analyses regarding Zionism, antisemitism and Israel,” he explained. “I am also intimately familiar with the emotions of my Jewish Zionist colleagues. I simply wedded the two to exploit the vulnerabilities of the left and the inadequately expressed angst of the Zionist colleagues.”
True, Jew-hatred is the problem of the Jew-hater not the Jew. But Dr. Berger and his colleagues only circulated this letter to Jews because as a Zionist he understands the need right now to empower Jews. This “is a fight to the death for Jews and a fight that Jews alone have to wage,” he declares. His vision – and strategy – “struck a deep chord.” Within a week 555 Jewish physicians on faculty has signed.
As we cheer this initiative, pray for each of its signers, and – in this case – hope for massive copycatting worldwide, one may be tempted to think this is what courage looks like. But it shouldn’t take courage to stand for truth, fairness, and justice for Hamas’s victims. This is what self-respect looks like. This is what standing for liberal principles and truth looks like. And this is what big tent, righteous, Zionism looks like.
Jewish professors across America who support Israel would be wise to emulate this Zionist courage.