A York University staff member was fired for sharing numerous public anti-Semitic posts and comments on his Facebook page.
Nikolaos Balaskas, a laboratory technologist in York’s department of physics and astronomy, was “terminated with cause” Sept. 14, after York’s administration investigated a complaint launched by B’nai Brith Canada.
According to a termination letter addressed to Balaskas from York’s office of the dean of science, Balaskas attended a meeting Sept. 8 with union representatives and York administrators to discuss “the nature and content of your social media posts, including those on your Facebook page, and the compliance of those posts with York University policies, procedures, standards and values.”
The letter spoke of statements Balaskas made at the meeting, including that his intention was not to promote hate, but to raise awareness of “historical circumstances that… did and still impact lives today.”
“You see York University as a microcosm, and that you want to return to the workplace as it is your duty to expose students from over 200 countries to these posts and comments… You expressed your belief that it is your duty and obligation to post this material and that you are glad the posts are read.”
Examples of some of his anti-Semitic posts include one that said “Jewish Bolshevik mass murderer Genrikh Yagoda was responsible for between 7 and 10 million deaths. The fact that you’ve never heard of him is exactly why the Jews should not have total control of the media.”
Under the post, he commented: “Let us never forget this covered-up Holocaust where 66 million Russian Orthodox Christians were systematically killed from 1917 to 1945… Pray that these same Zionists, haters of God and His children, do not succeed in their goal of bringing about World War III.”
On Aug. 14, Balaskas re-posted a comment that was originally posted two years earlier and which exposed some of his anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
“Know thy enemy. If the Zionists… will ask for forgiveness, compensate their victims (including the thousands they murdered in the U.S. on 9/11) and renounce violence forever, we can permit them to live in peace with the rest of mankind. The big worry among world leaders is that if the Zionist crimes against humanity are exposed and will be tried in world court for war crimes, the Zionists will not go down alone but will take everyone (New York, London, Moscow, Tehran, etc.) down with them in a global nuclear Holocaust.”
In addition to sharing articles from JewWatch.com, a notorious anti-Semitic website, Balaskas also wrote posts that suggested Jews declared war on Germany and forced England into a war, that Israel is home to an organ-trafficking centre, and that Israel is responsible for genocide against the Palestinians.
The termination letter from York said Balaskas’ “posts and comments target identifiable groups… [and] denigrate particular religious faiths, including those of the Jewish faith… The university supports and defends the exercise of free speech, however, the university will not tolerate hatred or racism.”
Balaskas’ firing comes after five documented reprimands and suspensions by York since 2014.
“This is a very positive step, coming from a university where there have been ongoing, and very public, issues of anti-Semitism,” Amanda Hohmann, national director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights, said in a statement.
“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.”
B’nai Brith spokesperson Marty York said the termination letter was posted by Balaskas privately on his Facebook page for his family and friends, and B’nai Brith didn’t learn about his firing from York administrators directly.
“I am surprised they haven’t contacted us to let us know about their decision, because it was our organization that initially complained about Balaskas’ anti-Semitic social media use,” York said.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also praised York for firing Balaskas.
“Now more than ever, universities have a right and a responsibility to hold staff accountable for promoting racist content online – particularly given the impact such hate has on the campus community. York deserves credit for having policies in place to address such offensive behaviour,” said CIJA GTA co-chair Berl Nadler.
Robert Walker, national director for Hasbara Fellowships Canada, a grassroots pro-Israel campus advocacy organization, said the dismissal sends a positive message.
“For countless Jewish students across Canada, university campuses are hotbeds of anti-Israel and often anti-Jewish activity, but if accurate, this dismissal is a sign that York University takes our students’ concerns seriously,” Walker said.