| 08Dec2010 | Orest Slepokura

Jennifer Peto's master's thesis calls Holocaust education 'racist'

When the South African prime minister, John Vorster, made a state visit to Israel in April of 1976, it kicked off with a tour of Yad Vashem, Israel’s great Holocaust memorial, where the late Yitzhak Rabin invited the onetime Nazi collaborator, unabashed racist and white supremacist to pay homage to Jews who perished in the Nazi Holocaust.

Compared to oft-heard outcries from Jewish groups over even mild whiffs of Holocaust revisionism, no less remarkable was the bland equanimity both Israeli and Diaspora Jews also displayed toward the Vorster visit. Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi recalls that [The Israeli Connection, Random House: Toronto, 1987, p.x] “[f]or most Israelis, the Vorster visit was just another state visit by a foreign leader. It did not draw much attention. Most Israelis did not even remember his name, and did not see anything unusual, much less surreal in the scene [an old Nazi diehard invited to mourn the Jewish victims at a Holocaust memorial]: Vorster was just another visiting dignitary being treated to the usual routine.”

As a onetime Nazi collaborator, John Vorster should, of course, have been arrested and tried once he set foot on Israeli soil -- instead he was warmly welcomed by his Jewish hosts. The South African prime minister left Israel four days later, but not before signing several treaties between the Jewish state and Pretoria’s apartheid regime. A denouement Leslie and Andrew Cockburn describe in Dangerous Liaison [Stoddart Publishing: Toronto, 1991, pp. 299-300]:

“The old Nazi sympathizer came away with bilateral agreements for commercial, military, and nuclear cooperation that would become the basis for future relations between the two countries.”

Surely, in the diplomatic context cited above, it had actually been the failure to criticize Israel after it had so abjectly compromised Jewish dignity and Holocaust memory that was tantamount to a kind of anti-Semitism by omission. | 07Dec2010 | Editors

U of T master’s thesis calls Holocaust education ‘racist’
University defends itself on 'freedom of inquiry' grounds

A University of Toronto student who submitted a master’s thesis that argues Holocaust education is “racist,” is drawing heated criticism against the university for accepting it. In her thesis, Jennifer Peto argues that the March of the Living and the March of Remembrance and Hope programs perpetuate “Jewish victimhood” while obscuring “Jewish privilege,” denying “Jewish racism,” and promoting the “interests of the Israeli nation-state.” Her thesis is titled, “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education.”

Peto criticizes the March of Remembrance and Hope, which takes young Canadians of all backgrounds to Holocaust sites in Poland along with Holocaust survivors, stating that there are “questions about the implications of white Jews taking it upon themselves to educate people of colour about genocide, racism and intolerance.” In response, Carla Wittes, who is a director at the Centre for Canadian Diversity, which runs the program, told the Toronto Star the thesis is offensive. “We are a non-faith-based organization concerned with educating people about the dangers of discrimination, and the Holocaust is obviously a prime example,” she said.

Chery Misak, U of T’s provost defended accepting the thesis, “freedom of inquiry lies at the very heart of our institution” she said. Peto, who is a Jewish activist involved with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid dismissed criticism to the Star. “This is not the first time I have been dragged through the mud by pro-Israel groups and I am sure it will not be that last,” she said.

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