Friday, January 14, 2011

Who's Silencing Whom?

Professor David Noble of York University died recently. I wrote a piece for the Engage website about Noble back in 2006 concerning a pamphlet he distributed accusing members of York U's fundraising foundation of being an evil influence because of their connections to various Jewish community organizations - in effect damning them solely because they were Jewish...

Toronto. Dec 6, 2006. I won’t say anything about History Professor David Noble of York University in Toronto; I can’t afford to. However, the Toronto Star (22 Nov 2006) reports that Noble "is suing York University's fundraising foundation and several Jewish organizations for defamation, claiming they suggested he is anti-Semitic".

Noble’s suit is for $25 million. This is in addition to his original "union grievance seeking an apology and $10 million in damages for defamation".

It began in 2004 when Noble distributed a flyer titled, "The York University Foundation: The tail that wags the dog".

According to the Star, "members of Hillel of Greater Toronto sent a fax to the university expressing concern that the flyer suggested 'Jews control York University' … [And] The university later issued a news release condemning what [York University President] Marsden called 'this highly offensive material, which singles out certain members of the York community on the basis of their ethnicity and political views.'"

According to the Star, Noble says that he only "criticized York figures for their political views on Israel, not their ethnicity or religion".

Specifically, Noble claims in his flyer that the York University's fund-raising foundation "is biased by the presence and influence of staunch pro-Israel lobbyists, activists, and fundraising agencies".

Among others, Noble names:
MARSHALL A. COHEN, chair of Board of Governors, YU [York University], former Molson [Brewery] CEO, former director, MSHF [Mount Sinai Hospital Federation], Cassels Brock law firm

JUDITH COHEN, chair of YU Fiftieth Anniversary Committee, wife of Marshall.

Does Professor Noble consider Molson’s Brewery a political affiliation? Or was it Marshall’s fund-raising for Mount Sinai Hospital that prompted Noble to add the Cohens to his pro-Israel list? Who knows.

Professor Noble outs additional members of the York University Foundation as being affiliated with other Jewish organizations, such as the United Jewish Appeal – or if not connected to the UJA themselves, for having a brother who is. For example:

H. BARRY GALES, director, MSHF [Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation]; Midland Group, business partner and brother (?) of Leslie Gales, chair of the board, UJA.

The UJA spends most of its money on Jewish education and other local community services, but it does put a fraction of its budget toward pro-Israel lobbying and sends a whack of money to Israel for university scholarships, development of the Negev, settlement of recent immigrants, etc.

So perhaps we should indeed suspect anyone involved with the UJA of supporting Israel’s existence. Indeed, some of these people could be Likudniks – no one knows what their politics are!

Here's my question: Should people with such political views be allowed to raise money for a university? For that matter, should they be allowed to raise money for hospitals? Or to donate money?

This is a serious issue, because it's not just Jewish hospitals. Peter Munk recently gave $37 million to Toronto General. The Kimel brothers donated $15 million to the Baycrest Geriatric Care Centre. Leslie Dan gave $13 million to the University of Toronto's school of pharmacy. Seymour Schulich donated $27 million to York University's school of business and $20 million to McGill's faculty of music. And the list goes on.

I haven’t conducted the sort of research Professor Noble has, so I don't know if these philanthropists have also donated to Mount Sinai or to the UJA or if maybe their brother did. But these philanthropists are Jewish, and on that basis, I believe we should suspect them of supporting Israel's existence.

So what's to be done?

Professor Noble appears to believe ... [Disclaimer: I'm not asserting this as fact, only as my understanding. Readers should look up Noble's actual words] ... but, as I was saying, Noble seems to think that people who countenance Israel shouldn't be part of York University's fundraising foundation.

Noble writes: "The York University Foundation (YUF), which was established in 2002, is the tail that wags the dog that is York University". And: "The recent decisions by the YU President and Board of Governors to discipline pro-Palestinian activists ... and otherwise to clamp down on campus protests, appear to reflect the strongly pro-Israel orientation of the YUF".

I think it's safe to say that not everyone agrees with Noble. Some people doubt that the fund-raising foundation tells the university what to do about student politics, and Noble doesn't seem to offer any evidence for his suggestions. Nor does Noble explain if members of the foundation who haven't been fund-raisers for a Jewish hospital go along with this supposed pro-Israel influence. But, who knows, the lobbyists may have covered up these details.

After all the lobbyists squash all contrary voices, don't they?

According to the Star, Noble is "claiming they [York University Foundation, Hillel, et al] suggested he is anti-Semitic to try to gag [his] criticism of their activities".

Noble also goes on about the pro-Israel influence on student elections (an Israel-hating clique got voted out of power) and the pro-Israel influence on the building of a football stadium on campus (I’m not joking). However, although I'm sure Professor Noble would never dream of trying to gag his critics, I can't afford to go into all of that, lest I say something he finds objectionable.

No comments:

Post a Comment