U of T master's thesis calls Holocaust education 'racist' - Macleans.ca

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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U of T master’s thesis calls Holocaust education ‘racist’

  1. It is ironic that Israel, which was formed as a result of racial discrimination, should now practice racial discrimination against the Palestinian Arabs who have lived there for many centuries.

  2. Her thesis calls the entire Jewish community racist. It was poorly researched, contained basic factual errors, had no real empirical research, and was made up entirely of her subjective feelings. This is at the forefront of new questions about the academic credibility of some programs at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

  3. Shows how the U of T will graduate just about anyone, doesn’t it. This is despicable, and her advisers should have advised against. Then again, the advisers are questionable in my mind, too.

    Thesis work now allows for hate speech? What next, a department in anti-Holocaust studies? The University of Toronto should be ashamed of itself.

    (the kicker is the tag on this story as “research”)

  4. 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.

  5. I’m a university educator, and let me tell you from my un-researched, experience students these days are ridiculous and the educators enable this type of feeble academia. I lecture a class of 430 students and the malarky that I have read in their assignments on topic such as the Holocaust are alarmingly stupid. Our once bastions of society, universities, are now nothing more than massive group-think tanks with questionable funding sources. People QUESTION the credibility of your Universities! We’ve totally lost focus of what we are supposed to be doing which is critical inquiry but now we’ve succumbed to fashion politics and politically correct racism which usually involves hating in Jews. Sorry Jews, universities are failing you.

    We are not far from a department in anti-Holocaust studies. You know maybe this student should consider a Ph.D study in Iran, she would probably find a lot of grants to support her “research.” Hearing that a thesis like this is passed just drives another nail in my heart and further disenfranchises. Obama lied, there is no hope.

  6. Holocaust education is not racist. The exclusive nature of the presentation of Holocaust study, the teaching of it as something unique, greater or “more evil” than other genocides; is racist.
    And clearly the refusal by Germany, Russia and Israel to recognize the Holodomor of Ukrainians as a genocide, (when Raphael Lemkin himself used it as the very example a genocide), is racism or else something even worse. It may be cynicism of the most evil sort.

  7. 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.”

    From these few words it looks like Ms. Peto, while not addressing every aspect of the Remembrance and Hope programs, is quite on the mark with regard to those aspects of it she does address.

    With re to the title of her thesis “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education,” she is again going to the heart of an issue which is protected by taboo – a taboo which is forwarded by the professorial class throughout the university in North America.

    Serdar Tigbarji, university educator (we used to call them professors), is a perfect example of how the professorial class handles the topics addressed by Ms. Peto. He writes that he gets papers from students re the Holocaust that are alarmingly stupid but provides no example of these stupiditiers. He writes of “group think tanks,” not understanding that he is in the process of representing one. He urges “critical inquiry” onto his readers but wastes no time doing any here. He uses terms such as “fashion politics,” politically correct “racism,” and apologies to Jews because the university is failing them – even though no one can question any aspect of “their” story about the Holocaust without risking her career and livelihood.

    Tigbarji suggests that Ms. Peto should consider getting a Ph.D in Iran, implying that would be a bad thing. The irony here is that with regard to the Holocaust question there is more intellectual freedom in Iran than there is in Canada or the U.S., or in any of the European nations and Israel where revisionists are prosecuted and imprisoned for thought crimes.

    In December 2006 I spoke at the 2006 Tehran Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust. The title of my talk says it all with regard to “educators” such as Mr. Tigbarji: The title is: “The Irrational Vocabulary of the American Professorial Class with Regard to the Holocaust Question.” The text of my talk is here: http://tinyurl.com/299d2d9 .

    The Iranians were open to a free exchange of ideas on this issue at this conference. If I were to attempt to give the same talk in Western Europe or in Israel I would face imprisonment for up to five years. This is what might be called “fashion politics” for our time.

    I look forward to being able to read Jennifer Peto’s Ph.D thesis.

  8. The choice of the University of Toronto to accept Jennifer Peto’s thesis rather than reject it as anti-Semitic was a poor decision. Ms. Peto’s paper clearly meets the requirements of anti-Semitism as published by the Anti-Defamation League on its website under “Introduction: Denial as anti-Semitism”.

    The fact that Ms. Peto’s thesis is racist against Jews, Caucasians and purports that Canada continues to commit “genocide” against aboriginals (page sixty) makes the University of Toronto all the more academically irresponsible. I would argue Ms. Peto’s thesis comes very close to violating section 319(2) of the Criminal Code which prohibits the wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group (in this case the entire Canadian Jewish community), by communicating statements other than in private conversation.

  9. Can we focus for just a minute on a couple of facts of the sort that might be addressed in any discussion of anti-Semitism?

    First, that the Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, for whose crimes John Demjanjuk came close to being hanged in Jerusalem, is imaginary. If you don’t believe me, ask any historian:

    Second, the Trawniki ID Card linking John Demjanjuk to Sobibor is a KGB forgery:

    Should John Demjanjuk’s defence in Munich today be denied the right to argue these two positions because some people might choose to consider them anti-Semitic?

  10. Ms Peto is right. Jews always pretend to be victims, yet enjoy white privilege. And rather than be against all kinds of hate, they only know how to talk about anti-Semitism, which barely exists in North America today, compared to anti-black or anti-Asian racism. How many Jews spoke up about Maclean’s racist “Too Asian” piece?

  11. I have nothing but the deepest admiration for Jewish activist Jennifer Peto for her highly principled stand. Even if she is wrong, she has a right to voice a dissident opinion. As did Norman Finkelstein when he wrote his brilliant expose of the Holocaust industry.

    Remember that Finkelstein’s own mother was cheated out of her Holocaust reparations money by the rabbis who administered the Holocaust fund.

    Jewish commentators on this site would no doubt like to muzzle Finkelstein. See here:



    These are the same intolerant bigots who never cease the sing the praises of racist, apartheid Israel.

    Remember that an exemplary Jew, Judge Goldstone, led a UN investigation into Israel’s relatively recent misconduct in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead). Israel is the only country in the world, it seems, that can flout international law with impunity and engage in flagrant war crimes.

    The flotilla massacre was only one of the most recent.

    Israel can only get away with its misbehavior because of all the misguided Jews who support it — right or wrong.

    I say to these Jews: “Would you give your moral support to a serial killer if he happens to be your son? Wouldn’t you have a word of criticism for him? Wouldn’t you tell him this was no way to behave?”

    Yes, you would.

    So why can’t you condemn Israel when it breaches UN resolutions and commits serious war crimes?

    And why can’t you have the decency to shut up when a Jewish activist like Ms Peto writes a fact-based thesis hughlighting Holocaust exploitation and Holocaust propaganda?

    Freedom of speech for Zionists? Fine! Freedom of speech for critics of Zionism? Oh no! That would be unthinkable, wouldn’t it?

    I am appalled and disgusted.

  12. Congratulations for mr/L.Prytulak for his very interesting study on the Demianiuk case.A real history lesson,wish their were more historians like him.

  13. Jared Smith says:
    December 9, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    “The choice of the University of Toronto to accept Jennifer Peto’s thesis rather than reject it as anti-Semitic was a poor decision. Ms. Peto’s paper clearly meets the requirements of anti-Semitism as published by the Anti-Defamation League on its website under “Introduction: Denial as anti-Semitism”. ”

    So the Jewish-led ADL came up with a sweeping definition of anti-semitism? Wow! That is a real shocker.

    Please explain how being critical of Israel makes one anti-seimitic. I’d love to hear the reasoning.

  14. Pingback: Anonymous

  15. In Canada, we have freedom of inquiry. NOTHING is above inquiry, and the fact that there is even suggestion of the fact that this inquiry should not be allowed to be made only proves her points. You would have to be highly unintelligent not to see the irony. No one is a special snowflake, and, as a Canadian, you should be glad that you have the right to raise inquiry about absolutely anything that may concern you, especially in a thesis, regardless of whether it will be proven wrong or right.

    You may think her arguments are wrong, poorly researched, offensive, etc., and that is your right. However, if you disagree with her points, disagree with her points. Not with her RIGHT to express those points. Of course, to do that, you would actually have to be informed and educated, read her thesis, and argue against her arguments in an informed educated way. I’m sure there are tons of people who are equipped to do this (good example, Noam Chomsky, as he does talk about similar subjects in passing in a few of his books). If, however, you are not intellectually and educationally equipped to contradict her thesis, and especially if you haven’t read her thesis, and don’t know her sources and the way she presents it, all you’re doing is proving her points further and demonstrating to the world exactly how ill-equipped you are to argue these points by promoting blatant discrimination and censorship.

    It is true, of course, that both the subjects of Israel and the Holocaust are very taboo in our society. It is unwise to bring them up or argue them unless you know what you’re talking about, from many sides of the spectrum. However, as touchy as the subject is, there is nothing anti-Semitic about her inquiries, and the fact that people are throwing the word “anti-Semitic” around so irresponsibly is indeed offensive.

  16. If I may be allowed an addition to my above comment.

    A) From reading the above comments, it has become strikingly clear that not only have people not read her thesis, they haven’t actually bothered to read the summarizing of her arguments in the above article.

    B) To the “university educator” whose anger has overshadowed his or her sense of what is and what is not appropriate to blurt out on-line for the world to hear. You would have been better not stating that you are responsible for educating anyone. You have discredited yourself as an educator by discussing the folly of your students on a public forum, you’ve made sweeping, dramatic exaggerations, with no intelligent arguments behind them, and threw a bit of racism of your very own into the mix, as if it wasn’t ironic enough already. I am willing to bet you are not a professor, probably a young TA based on the quality and rashness of your arguments. The fact that you went on to state how universities are failing anyone in the same sentence is the kind of irony that I suppose escaped you.

    Also, notice how people who agree with the thesis (or at least the right for it to exist) are presenting evidence and actual arguments, while the people who are appalled and disgusted are simply stating their anger, embellished by over-dramatic exaggerations, without any educated stand-point. Feelings don’t win argument. Facts do.