Dear University of Toronto Administrators,
I stand in horror at the hypocrisy as I address this letter to you all, who stand on stolen land, yet fail to acknowledge the theft and genocide of another.
Amidst the rising toll of murdered Palestinians at the hands of the colony of Israel, the University of Toronto administration has fallen silent. Your silence has deafened your ingenuine calls for peace and coexistence.
The attempts of published statements addressing the collective punishment dealt by Gaza and the rising violence in the West Bank have been pathetic. Instead, we have received a futile lecture on the importance of dialogue and supposed disapproval of discrimination, while simultaneously overlooking the genocide in Palestine.
The first statement released by the University of Toronto’s office of the Vice-President, International on October 9, 2023, was disappointing. The failure to address the genocidal attack on Gaza, the 75-year-long occupation of Palestine, and the 17-year blockade in the Gaza Strip, was neither a shock nor a surprise, but rather, a reflection of the university’s quivering morality. The statement claimed that you “condemn terrorist violence,” but it appears that your condemnation is conditional, much like your humanity.
On October 13, 2023, the University of Toronto’s Vice-President and the Principal of the University of Toronto Mississauga, Alexandra Gillespie, critiqued the University of Toronto Mississauga Student’s Union (UTMSU) for their pro-Palestinian declaration, in a statement that further intensified the humiliation and indignity suffered by Palestinian students on campus. The mere absence of the word “Palestine” within the statement was sufficient proof of the administration’s cowardice.
The University of Toronto’s President, Meric S. Gertler, finally took notice of the Middle East on October 18, 2023, releasing a statement that reassured the school’s complicity in stripping their Palestinian students of their dignity and safety. The irony of the statement was truly sealed in an email version sent to the university body, in which the President’s refusal to address Israel’s settler colony was accompanied by a land acknowledgement. You cannot claim to care for the indignity of the First Nations while villainizing the indignity of the Palestinians—the liberation of all indigenous people is simultaneous and in coexistence.
When the University of Toronto administration released such statements following October 7, 2023, I saw the familiarity that the words were nestled in. People saw themselves in a summer music festival, perhaps downtown, with loved ones, and the possibility of an attack in this scene drove the West to sympathize with Israelis. The West fails to sympathize with Gazans because the thought of living under a 17-year-long siege, under 75 years of colonialism, under the tents of a refugee camp, is incomprehensible, unseen.
But since October 18, 2023, the University of Toronto administration has remained silent. Know that your words were insufficient, that your efforts have been miserable, and that your silence intensifies this inadequacy. In fact, your silence has extended for years, for you have chosen to ignore the attacks on Gaza in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2021, and 2022—and on Palestine, since 1948.
You have acknowledged that there exists a “privilege of belonging to an academic community such as ours,” yet you have done nothing but bask in that privilege and hide behind the entitlement of the western world, watching silently. Watching as kids abandon their mother tongues and speak in ours begging to be seen, as parents cradle the organs of their children in the streets, as journalists mourn their colleagues and family while being interrogated by our media, as doctors are murdered in hospital bombardments. You watch from atop your pillar of privilege and gaslight us into thinking that you are powerless.
There is an inhumanity, an injustice, in the way the University of Toronto has catered to their Palestinian students while their people continue to be torn away from their lands, murdered in cold blood, trapped under rubble, targeted, silenced, and dehumanized. This school has amplified the secondary human status that the world has assigned Palestinians.
A responsibility weighs on your titles as the administration of this university, and this responsibility can no longer be conditional or performative.
There will come a day when Palestine is free. When your grandchildren ask you about today, I hope that you will stand unwavering in your honest guilt about your failures as the administrators of the University of Toronto. I hope that even in an attempt at fabrication and manipulation of the truth, the efforts of resistance displayed by students on our campuses will be proof of your inhumanity.
A daughter of colonial oppression, tainted resistance, and liberation.
Associate Opinion Editor (Volume 50) — Yasmine is a third-year student, majoring in History and Anthropology. Her writing is best described as sometimes sarcastic, sometimes radical, and always an excuse to bring up her heritage (and colonialism). She hopes her work with The Medium will inspire conversations, debates, and a path to abandon our deeply rooted stubbornness. In her spare time, Yasmine enjoys reading, knitting, arguing with uncles on politics, and fangirling.