U of T Accepts Thesis on "Racist" Holocaust Education Programs

Published: December 14th 2010
in News » Local

Hart House, U of T

The University of Toronto has come under attack for accepting a Masters’ thesis which calls two Holocaust education programs “racist.”


The thesis, written by Jenny Peto, a Jewish activist with the Coalition Against Apartheid Israel, slams both the March of Remembrance and Hope, which brings young adults of diverse backgrounds together with Holocaust survivors to sites of Nazi violence in Poland, and the March of the Living Canada, part of an global program that brings young Jews and survivors to Poland and Israel.


In her thesis, titled “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education,” Peto argues the programs in question cause Jews to believe they are innocent victims. In reality, she writes, they are privileged white people who "cannot see their own racism."


The "construction of a victimized Jewish identity," Peto argues, is intentional, and produces "effects that are extremely beneficial to the organized Jewish community" and to "apartheid" Israel.


She further questions "the implications of white Jews taking it upon themselves to educate people of colour about genocide, racism and intolerance."


According to Carla Wittes, director of the Canadian Centre for Diversity, Peto “makes unwarranted claims and false statements about our philosophy, our goals and objectives and our methodology. . .We were shocked and offended to read the thesis. We are a nonfaith- based organization concerned with educating people about the dangers of discrimination, and the Holocaust is obviously a prime example.”


Irving Abella, a Canadian historian, as well as the former president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told the Toronto Star that the thesis is "not scholarship, it's ideology. It's totally ahistorical; I found it full of untruths and distortions and held together by fatuous and very flabby analysis. It borders on anti-Semitism."


Abella also noted that he is “appalled that it would be acceptable to a major university."


Holocaust survivors who have partaken in both programs have also called the thesis hurtful. Retired University of British Columbia sociology professor Werner Cohn penned a letter to University of Toronto President David Naylor, saying the thesis "makes wild charges against [Peto's] fellow Jews without a shred of evidence," the Canadian Jewish News reported.


Peto, who was part of a group that tried to occupy Toronto's Israeli Consulate in 2009, said the entire controversy is an effort by "right-wing, pro-Israel groups and individuals."


"This is not the first time I have been dragged through the mud by pro-Israel groups," she told the Star, "and I am sure it will not be that last."

Related articles: (u of t, Irving Abella, thesis, March of the Living, March of Remebrance and Hope)
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