John Ivison: The Canadian university teacher facing firing for daring to denounce Hamas

John Ivison: The Canadian university teacher facing firing for daring to denounce Hamas

John Ivison: The Canadian university teacher facing firing for daring to denounce Hamas

Is Paul Finlayson’s statement ‘I stand with Israel’ now considered ‘unsafe’ for the delicate ears of our coddled student cohort?

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As anyone who uses social media knows, anger erodes our self-control and makes us do things we often later regret.

Paul Finlayson can certainly relate to that, after responding to a post on LinkedIn last month.

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The 59-year-old marketing lecturer at the University of Guelph-Humber came across a post from an educator in Pakistan, who was using what Finlayson considered genocidal language about the conflict in Gaza, by calling for a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea.”

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Incensed, Finlayson responded with a post that he admits was “hot-headed and unwise.”

Most reasonable people would probably consider the response to be slightly over-caffeinated but well within the bounds of fair comment.

But most reasonable people do not work as administrators at North American universities in an age when the illiberal left has deemed that anything that makes students or faculty feel “unsafe” must be rooted out and destroyed.

A student who saw the post, responded: “REPORT, REPORT, REPORT.” Another said he or she was “absolutely ashamed” by her professor’s comments, “filled with hate and Islamophobia.”

Finlayson has no right to work in academia in future, the student said, a position that appears to correspond with that of the Guelph-Humber administration, which called him in and told him he was suspended with pay, pending an investigation. Courses that he was scheduled to teach next semester are no longer being offered.

In the real world, that investigation would last the time it takes to read Finlayson’s post. I quote it in its entirety to let readers make up their own minds.

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“It is frightening that an educator is essentially a pro-Nazi zealot,” Finlayson wrote. “If you say ‘from the river to the sea’, you’re a Nazi. I’m not neutral. I stand with Israel. I stand against anti-Semites who want nothing but dead Jews; who take millions from their education and health care budgets and spend it on making war. Israel has a full right to their land. You stand with Palestine means you stand with Hitler. You don’t want peace, you want dead Jews. Just like Palestinians who freely admit this to pollsters. They murdered 1,400 innocents and took 250 hostages and the people celebrated rapist monsters as heroes. They want a barbaric, primitive Islamic caliphate and hate all post-Enlightenment values. They murder their own people for being gay and you stand with them. Disgusting. Move there.”

Some people might take issue with the interchangeable use of Hamas and the Palestinian people. President Joe Biden has said that Hamas does not represent the Palestinians.

On the other hand, an opinion survey published last week by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research suggested 72 per cent of Palestinians believe that Hamas was “correct” when it slaughtered Israelis on October 7th, and a majority would vote for the terror organization if elections were held across the Palestinian territories today.

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As for the rest of it, it’s all verifiably true: Hamas boasts proudly that it wants nothing more than to kill Jews; it robs its own education and health budgets to fund its war; its murderers and rapists were celebrated like heroes when they returned to Gaza on October 7th; its founding charter states is goal is the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state; and being gay in Gaza is illegal, with Amnesty International reporting that the authorities do not prevent or investigate any threats or attacks on the LGBTQ community.

So, what is so distasteful that the Guelph-Humber speech police have been persuaded to investigate? The statement: “I stand with Israel”? Is that now considered “unsafe” for the delicate ears of our coddled student cohort?

Caroline Grech, department head of communications and public affairs at University of Guelph-Humber, said she could shed no light as she could not comment on employee affairs.

Finlayson says there is now a concerted campaign by a group of students to oust him. “I’m hearing ‘hate speech’ and ‘unsafe environment,’ with no concept of free speech. It is a cacophony of uninformed, screaming buzzwords,” he said.

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The effort to de-platform Finlayson has sparked a counter-protest from students who marched to his department head’s office and demanded his reinstatement. “It’s Kafkaesque,” he said. “This is my livelihood and my firing is being treated as nothing.”

Finlayson says he has taught at Guelph-Humber for 13 years, has no disciplinary record and has never been an activist.

“I’m not a political agitator or an Israel zealot. I work hard, I care about my students and I feel they’re getting shafted,” he said.

The opaque rules of university justice will now run their course, absent much in the way of due process. Finlayson is represented by unions OPSEU and CUPE, whose Ontario president Fred Hahn memorably celebrated “the power of resistance” the day after Hamas slaughtered hundreds of Israeli men, women and children. “I don’t know how anyone who agrees with Fred Hahn can be on my side,” Finlayson said.

Once again, a career is threatened with ruin because all the emphasis is on the impact on the listener or reader, rather than on the intent of the speaker or writer.

The lesson that appears to be lost is that, while students should be physically safe in the corridors of our higher education establishments, they are not in jeopardy when they hear something with which they may disagree.

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