Toronto Metropolitan University on Monday November 6, 2023. Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia

Pro-Hamas law students paying the price

Firms tell Toronto Metropolitan University to root 'out the Jew-hatred' before students will be hired in work placement program

For seven months, since Oct. 7, university students have been enjoying revolutionary cosplay. Their faces swathed in Arafat scarves, they wave flags, demand Israel disinvestment, scream mantras premised in genocide of Jews: Living entirely in the moment, they find it all tremendously exhilarating. That there may be an eventual downside to their conduct doesn’t seem to occur to them.

So it came as a shock to some law students in the U.S. that certain pro-Hamas public pronouncements they put their name to following the Oct 7 pogrom of Israeli civilians might affect their post-university careers.

In late October, more than a dozen of America’s top law firms put law schools on notice that they “have zero tolerance policies for any form of discrimination or harassment, much less the kind that has been taking place on some law school campuses.” By zero tolerance, they meant the creation of an employment blacklist.

Notably, hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman called on Harvard to release the names of signatories to a letter circulated by a coalition of 34 Harvard student groups that “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”

Former Harvard president Larry Summers took a more indulgent line. Summers blasted Harvard’s leadership for their “silence” on the letter’s antisemitism, but balked at naming, shaming and boycotting students who display it, posting on X that many “naïve and foolish” signatories at Harvard “did not understand exactly what they were approving.”

A Canadian case now posits the same dilemma. Should law students be held to a higher standard than the general student population? And if so, blacklist or forgiveness of youthful indiscretion?

On April 19, an email, which I have reviewed, was sent from a Placement Coordinator with Toronto Metropolitan University’s Law Practice Program (LPP) to a Jewish practitioner of family law, “reaching out to see if you can provide a 16-week work experience for an LLP Candidate.” The Placement Coordinator says TMU “would be thrilled to have you participate.” The recipient responded tartly that she could not support the program until TMU’s Lincoln Alexander School of Law (LASL) “cleans up its act and roots out the Jew-hatred that is so prevalent (and apparently supported) there.”

The Jewish lawyer was referring to a viciously anti-Israel, pro-Hamas Oct, 20 letter directed to a cluster of TMU deans by LASL’s “abolitionist Organizing Collective,” and signed by 74 LASL students, more than a few anonymously. TMU’s law school responded to the letter with a broad, toothless condemnation of “antisemitism and intolerance,” acknowledging that the open letter improperly attempted to justify violence.


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But it was more than improper, as dozens of Ontario lawyers argued in a critical rejoinder to TMU’s boilerplate discourse. The students’ letter “contravene(d) the values of the law school and is in violation of the Student Code of Conduct and the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy.” The lawyers called for every signatory to be sanctioned, claiming that as “shills for Hamas,” they are not fit to be called to the bar. Howard Levitt, an employment lawyer and Financial Post columnist, called the students’ letter “hate speech,” adding, “I, and many lawyers, will never hire these people.”

TMU’s next gambit was to kick the can down the road by engaging a retired Nova Scotia Chief Justice to determine whether the LASL students had contravened TMU’s Student Code of Non-Academic Conduct. (Odd that a school chock full of legal experts should not consider itself competent to interpret its own Code of Conduct.) That was in November. For six months, the Nova Scotia judge has apparently been valiantly, but unsuccessfully struggling to interpret TMU’s Code of Conduct.

By now, the public has forgotten the whole kerfuffle, and the terrorism-supportive student signatories, their school records unblemished on the page, will soon fan out to careers in law, with their potential Jewish employers none the wiser about their odious convictions.

The chirpy request for a Jewish family law lawyer’s help in placing LASL students in its Law Practice Program was a bridge too far for many other family law lawyers. On April 30, a group of them sent a letter to the Family Lawyers Association.

The letter, which is not online, but which I have seen, recapitulates the above events, assessing the original LASL letter as “hate speech.” It also notes as “bitterly ironic that many of the signatories and promulgators of this hate continue to hide their faces and identities in public, while they seek employment and assistance from Jewish lawyers.” As for those students who claimed they “signed without reading it,” this is “an incredible claim for those in law school.” (So yes, law students should indeed be held to a higher standard.)

My own sympathies lie with the Ackman-Levitt school of tough love. Back in the day when antisemitism was more genteel, Jews were denied entry to white-shoe law firms on the basis of their identity, so they started their own firms. Their success was hard won. Every Jewish lawyer and judge practising today is aware of the rocky road that led to his or her own comfort in their profession. Jewish-led firms have the right, one might even say a moral obligation, to reject employment consideration to useful idiots who have chosen, with or without due diligence, to valorize radical antisemitism in the public forum.