‘Anti-Semitic’ social media posts cited
Next Target: Lethbridge U Prof. Anthony Hall
Powerful anti-free speech forces struck a major blow against Canadian academe and civil society this week with the firing of a veteran York University laboratory technician from his position in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Canada’s branch of B’nai Brith pointed to controversial social media posts the group deemed anti-Semetic to request York administrators take “real action” against the employee.
Ilana Shneider of CIJ News reports:
In a letter from the Office of the Dean, Faculty of Science at York University which was obtained by CIJnews, Nikolaos Balaskas was terminated for cause effective September 14, 2016 because of “continued conduct, actions and behaviours” which are “unacceptable and inconsistent with your obligations and responsibilities as an employee of York University”.
“This is a very positive step, coming from a university where there have been ongoing, and very public, issues of antisemitism. It is incredibly heartening to see that the administration, in this case, not only took the allegations seriously but took real action to correct the problem,” said Amanda Hohmann, National Director, of The League For Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada.
Balaskas’ social media posts, some of which were merely “shared” on Facebook, argue that American-Israeli citizens harbor distinct loyalties, and further contend that Zionist elements were behind the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.
The militant B’nai Brith Canada, “a leading Jewish advocacy group which combats anti-Semitism and racism,” filed a complaint with York President Mamdouh Shoukri’s office concerning the posts published between 2014 to 2016. Shoukri’s office initiated an inquiry via York’s Human Resources Department, according to B’nai Brith.
On August 31, 2016 Balaskas was put on paid suspension.
In a meeting with York administrators in early September, Balaskas asserted that although he regretted if any of the social media activity impacted York staff or students and noted some of the posts he shared or attempted to share had been deemed “disturbing.” At the same time he maintained that “persons are not forced to read these posts”.
A portion of the posts, Balaskas observes, were blocked by Facebook, yet he attempted to re-post them because he doesn’t “believe in censorship”.
After the September meeting York officials effectively issued Balaskas no trespass and gag orders, stating that he was to no longer frequent university facilities or discuss the matter with any party other than York and union representatives.
The University “investigation” found that Balaskas understood “that his Facebook posts were not restricted and available to the public, and that he knowingly did not limit these posts, which were visible to York students, staff and faculty members,” according to CIJ News.
With Balaskas’ termination B’nai Brith leaders announced the next Canadian academic on their list: Lethbridge University’s Anthony Hall, a professor of political economy and global studies well-known for his public commentary. Hall also co-hosts an online current events program with Islamic Studies scholar Kevin Barrett.
“Unfortunately not every administration is prepared to act with such decisiveness, as the ongoing saga surrounding Prof. Anthony Hall at Lethbridge University shows,” B’nai Brith’s Hohmann said.
“I hope that the administration in Lethbridge can use the excellent example set by York University on this matter, and take appropriate steps to ensure that their students are not similarly subjected to hatred and antisemitism on campus.”
Earlier this year aligned forces forces prompted an investigation of Oberlin assistant professor Joy Karega for remarks made on social media deemed anti-Semitic. In December 2015 the Jewish Forward was instrumental in mobilizing the Jewish community to advocate for James Tracy’s termination from his tenured post at Florida Atlantic University.