Universities face fights over posters Students angry as Carleton, U of O ban anti-Israel art
Student organizers of “Israeli Apartheid Week” at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa are demanding an explanation as to why both administrations banned a graphic poster advertising next week’s event.
The banned poster — a cartoon created by a Brazilian artist — shows an Israeli gunship firing a rocket at a Palestinian child in Gaza.
Even though the University of Ottawa agreed Monday to allow organizers to post a different, milder poster advertising the March 1-8 event, they remain unsatisfied.
Mahmoud Hmouz, of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, said his group wants the university to explain its decision or reverse its action.
“We’re actually really outraged at the University of Ottawa,” Hmouz said. “We feel we haven’t done anything wrong.”
At Carleton, the students’ union has approved the new poster for noticeboards it controls, said Jessica Carpinone of Students Against Israeli Apartheid. But that hasn’t defused the issue, she said.
The university has given “no valid reason for banning the poster other than that it’s a controversial issue,” she said, adding that her group’s freedom of expression “is being stifled by the administration.”
But Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada, commended both universities for the ban.
He said they should go even further and ban Israeli Apartheid Week itself, which he described a “hate fest” that threatens Jewish students and professors.
“This is part of an ongoing, well-orchestrated campaign of intimidation and harassment and now, at times, even resulting in physical attacks.”
Two weeks ago, he said, Jewish students at York University were “held captive” in a room surrounded by Israeli Apartheid Week supporters. “People were banging on walls and screaming things like ‘death to the Jews,’ ” Dimant said. Police finally escorted the Jewish students off campus for their own safety.
Dimant said complaints from Jewish students on campus have spiked in the runup to next week’s event, which began five years ago at the University of Toronto. It has since spread to more than 40 campuses and locations around the world.
According to its website, the event’s purpose is to “educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system” and build boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns. This is the third time the series of speakers, films and panel discussions has been held at the University of Ottawa, and the first time at Carleton.
University of Ottawa spokeswoman Andrée Dumulon said the university turned down the first poster mainly because it felt it could be inflammatory and “capable of inciting confrontation.”
At Carleton, spokesman Chris Walters said the university’s equity services office turned down the poster because it felt it could incite infringements of Ontario’s human rights code.
The equity office has seen the new poster, he said, and has no problems with it, but can’t approve it until organizers submit it for approval.
Carpinone said there’s been a “huge response” to Carleton’s rejection of the first poster. About 350 people have written to university president Roseanne Runte, and at least 40 Carleton faculty have signed a letter of protest, she said. SOUNDOFF Do you agree with the poster ban?