Charges laid after anti-is­rael in­ci­dent at Con­cor­dia

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - Comment - JAN­ICE ARNOLD jarnold@thecjn.ca

A 21-year-old woman has been charged in con­nec­tion with an anti-is­rael in­ci­dent at Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­sity on Nov. 9.

The in­di­vid­ual, whose name can­not be re­leased un­til she ap­pears in court, may face charges of as­sault and theft with vi­o­lence, Mon­treal po­lice spokesper­son Daniel La­cour­sière told The CJN Nov. 16. The ex­act na­ture of the charges will be de­ter­mined at that time, he said.

The woman was ap­pre­hended near the cam­pus on Nov. 9 after Con­cor­dia stu­dent Mike Nashen called the po­lice when she tore an Is­raeli flag off a dis­play in the EV Build­ing atrium and ran out of the build­ing with it. He pur­sued her, and she pushed him when he caught up with her and also hurled “anti-is­rael and anti-semitic slurs” at him, Nashen said.

He said po­lice have given him the name of the in­ves­ti­ga­tor on the case, and he wants to fully co-op­er­ate, al­though he had not at time of writ­ing been able to make con­tact. He was told the po­lice will con­sider whether hate was a mo­ti­va­tion.

Nashen was the chief stu­dent or­ga­nizer of an ac­tiv­ity that fea­tured a New York­based group called Artist­s4is­rael. The three graf­fiti artists were com­plet­ing the paint­ing of a large mu­ral that pro­motes Is­rael in an apo­lit­i­cal way. They had been there for sev­eral hours with­out any dis­rup­tion when the in­ci­dent oc­curred.

Artist­s4is­rael direc­tor Craig Der­showitz told The CJN what he saw: “An an­gry young lady came and ripped an Is­raeli flag off the wall and ran away with it.

“She was fol­lowed by a stu­dent po­litely ask­ing her to re­turn it and, in­stead, she stuffed the flag into a garbage can and be­gan curs­ing at the stu­dent say­ing the flag, the stu­dent and any sup­port­ers of Is­rael be­long in the garbage.”

Con­cor­dia’s Of­fice of Rights and Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mat­ter, after Nashen made an of­fi­cial com­plaint last week. That body deals with vi­o­la­tions of the code of be­hav­iour for stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff.

As of last week, it was not known if the woman is a stu­dent or in any way as­so­ci­ated with Con­cor­dia. Nashen said he did not rec­og­nize her.

Con­cor­dia me­dia re­la­tions direc­tor Chris Mota said that if she’s not a stu­dent or staff mem­ber, Con­cor­dia has no ju­ris­dic­tion in the mat­ter.

The Cen­tre for Is­rael and Jewish Af­fairs (CIJA) said it’s pleased Con­cor­dia is tak­ing the mat­ter se­ri­ously.

The dean of stu­dents im­me­di­ately met with the stu­dents in­volved and ad­vised them on their re­courses within the uni­ver­sity, said Que­bec co-chair Rabbi Reuben Poupko. CIJA was also pleased with the co-op­er­a­tion that cam­pus se­cu­rity has shown with the po­lice.

“Cija-que­bec is deeply trou­bled that an artis­tic ac­tiv­ity de­signed to foster di­a­logue and un­der­stand­ing was ag­gres­sively dis­rupted by an in­di­vid­ual,” he said. “Uni­ver­sity cam­puses should be havens for free­dom of ex­pres­sion and artis­tic cre­ativ­ity. Cam­puses must be spaces for re­spect­ful de­bate, and there should be no room or tol­er­ance for thug­gish be­hav­iour of this sort.”

Since 2009, the non-profit Artist­s4is­rael has been bring­ing non-jewish graf­fiti artists from dif­fer­ent coun­tries to hun­dreds of North Amer­i­can cam­puses to present a dif­fer­ent, eye-catch­ing im­age of Is­rael as a place of cul­ture.

All stu­dents are in­vited to join in the paint­ing and speak to the artists, most of whom have toured Is­rael, un­der Artist­s4is­rael’s spon­sor­ship, and can of­fer a view of Is­rael as a coun­try that val­ues artis­tic free­dom and liv­ing in peace.

This was the first time the pro­gram came to Mon­treal. The day be­fore, an­other mu­ral was painted at Mcgill Uni­ver­sity, out­doors on the main cam­pus, which drew a small group of sign-car­ry­ing protesters, but no con­fronta­tion en­sued.

Artist­s4is­rael’s Con­cor­dia ap­pear­ance was co-spon­sored by B’nai Brith Canada, the Jewish fra­ter­nity Al­pha Ep­silon Pi (AEPI), of which Nashen is pres­i­dent, and Stand­withus Canada.

Der­showitz hopes this in­ci­dent does not over­shadow the gen­er­ally pos­i­tive im­pact he be­lieves Artist­s4is­rael had in Mon­treal.

“While there was this dis­rup­tion, I don’t want that to take away from all the amaz­ing good of the trip,” he said.

“Over 1,500 peo­ple were touched by our project. We gave away over 500 shirts that asked: ‘What does peace mean to you?’ And we cre­ated a new and in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive di­a­logue about Is­rael. This one mis­guided, an­gry young woman’s hate crime should not damper a weekend of pos­i­tiv­ity and pro-is­rael creation.”

De­spite the in­ci­dent, lo­cal B’nai Brith direc­tor Harvey Levine also has no re­grets. “My per­sonal eval­u­a­tion is that this was a fan­tas­tic, highly vis­i­ble and en­gag­ing pro­gram ed­u­cat­ing ‘peace through art’ and I am happy we were part of it.”

Mem­bers of Artist­s4is­rael and AEPI stand in front of the mu­ral at Con­cor­dia.

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