Toronto (October 23, 2020) - Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) was disturbed to discover that a University of Toronto professor spoke last night at an online event honouring the legacy of a terrorist who helped orchestrate the massacre of 26 civilians in Israel.
The event celebrated the legacy and “Palestinian Resistance Arts” of Ghassan Kanafani, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist who was involved in organizing the 1972 Lod Airport massacre, which left 26 civilians dead, including one Canadian, 17 Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico and eight Israelis, with an additional 80 people injured. Dr. Chandni Desai, Assistant Professor in the Critical Studies of Equity and Solidarity at the University of Toronto, served as one of two panelists at the event, glowingly describing Kanafani’s accomplishments and referring to the work of the terrorist being used as an “inspiration.”
Not a single mention was made by Dr. Desai or any of the participants about Kanafani’s legacy of terror or the victims of the Lod massacre, and the only reference made to terror during the entire event was a passing mention by Dr. Desai of “the Zionist sort of narrative of terrorism or whatever” in relation to Kanafani.
Dr. Desai also confirmed during the event that she sits on a panel of judges for the annual Ghassan Kanafani Resistance Arts Scholarship, which distributes money to students every year to honour the life of the man behind the Lod massacre.
FSWC is calling on the University of Toronto to take immediate action to enforce its policies that commit faculty, staff and students to creating an inclusive environment that respects human rights and is free of ethnic, religious or other kinds of discrimination.
"It is shocking and totally unacceptable that a professor at a Canadian university would participate in an event that honours and venerates an individual complicit in the mass murder of civilians," said Michael Levitt, President and CEO of FSWC. “We urge University of Toronto administration to uphold its commitments to both human rights and an environment of inclusion by making it clear it will not tolerate the glorification of terrorists by faculty members.”
Last year, a similar event honouring Kanafani was scheduled to take place at Toronto’s Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, but was cancelled by church leadership following public outcry.
Kanafani served as spokesman and was a member of senior leadership of the PFLP, which is considered a terrorist organization by the Government of Canada.