Feb 3, 2012 – 7:00 AM ET | Last Updated: Feb 2, 2012 4:36 PM ET
ADRIAN LAM/Postmedia News
Students take a break from studying beside a fountain at the University of Victoria in Victoria.
By Michael Ross
At an espionage symposium at the University of Victoria in 2011, I spoke after a history professor who gave a lecture on the history of the CIA. I realize the CIA has had its share of shady moments, but this was an hour-long diatribe that could have been written by Fidel Castro. When I took the lectern, I told the audience that I’d be talking about the world of espionage, minus the politics, seeing as they’d endured enough ideological indoctrination for one day.
Were I asked to define the mission of a university, I would say it is the pursuit of truth and the dissemination of knowledge through research and teaching. Universities should enjoy autonomy as institutions, governing their own affairs internally and making their own decisions on academic matters. Having said that, some university departments have discarded the ideals of eternal truth in favour of mindless relativism and anti-Americanism/anti-Zionism; essentially existing as moral dead zones where faculty do little more than indulge their basest political biases and engage in what I can only describe as ivory-tower intellectual onanism.
Take for instance, the University of Victoria’s Social Justice Studies Department. (On the departmental website, a nostalgic photo of Che Guevara fades in and out, and readers are reminded that UVic is situated on the “territory of the Coast and Straits Salish people.”) A quick scan of the event list for February includes presentations on the gendered politics of militarization and globalization, the question as to whether the global justice movement is colonial, and of course that “social justice” staple that appears with the frequency of a bad penny: “Israel’s Blockade of Gaza — Canada’s Role.”
That’s right. Syria’s civil war, in which thousands have been killed, including hundreds of children tortured and murdered, apparently is a non-issue on campus. Iran’s nuclear ambitions and terrorism-sponsoring in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria aren’t a priority. Robert Mugabe’s megalomaniacal destruction of Zimbabwe is off the syllabus, and Nigeria’s worsening religious-ethnic bloodshed is outré.
What is important to the UVic Social Justice Studies Department, however, is Ehab Latoyef — this being the Captain Ehab of the “Freedom Waves to Gaza aid flotilla” — who will be speaking at the university later this month. The university describes Mr. Lotayef as a “Montreal-based poet and long-time solidarity activist, who was on board the Canadian humanitarian aid boat, the Tahrir, which was heading to Gaza when it was hijacked by the Israeli navy in international waters.”
This is what the university considers social justice: A ridiculous pantomime that sailed last November to ostensibly break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, but instead made fools of themselves after the UN Inquiry found that Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza is entirely legal under international and maritime law.
It’s a sad reflection on any university that it has allowed its core principles to be subsumed into a self-perpetuating political and cultural subset of its faculty that is less intent on illuminating young minds than perpetuating their own ideological control of the syllabus.
Michael Ross is a former deep-cover officer with the Israel Secret Intelligence Service (Mossad).
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