On Campus

Tensions rise over Israeli Apartheid Week

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two rights make nothing but trouble."

Coinciding with the start of “Israeli Apartheid Week” on campuses across the country, the National Post is taking a front-page look at the controversial event.

Running from March 1 to 8, the protest, which started in 2005 in Toronto, is set to take place in more than 40 cities worldwide. For students on all sides, even those who try not to get involved, on-campus tension leading up to and surrounding the event can get extreme.

According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish organization, the event is “a worldwide campaign to demonize Israel and intimidate students and faculty who support the Jewish State” that has “grown in scope and viciousness.”

In January, the University of Manitoba banned three posters advertising the event, commonly referred to as IAW. “One of them depicted a Jewish fighter plane targeting a baby stroller. Another featured a caricature of a hooked-nosed Hasidic Jew with a star of David, pointing a bazooka at the nose of an Arab carrying a slingshot; a third one showed an Israeli helicopter with a swastika on top, dropping a bomb on a baby bottle,” says the Post.

Coleman OnCampus: Carleton should have allowed Apartheid Week poster

A month later, the University of Ottawa and Carleton University banned a poster featuring a scary-looking helicopter labelled “ISRAEL” dive-bombing a small Arab boy holding a teddy bear. Both universities are allowing the week-long events on their campuses to continue, although at Carleton, the university’s provost sent an email to all students warning them that they could be expelled if their activism violated university policies.

On Feb. 18, the CBC’s Evan Dyer reported on the poster controversy and a subsequent open letter, signed by 325 Canadian academics, that says some Ontario universities use bureaucratic harassment, threats, bans and other tactics to silence criticism of Israel on campus. (For his full audio report, click here.)

At the University of British Columbia, the RCMP is currently investigating a series of alleged hate crimes in the school’s residence. The Post says Jewish students “allegedly tore down pro-Hamas posters from a student’s door, a couple of fights broke out, and both sides claimed they were victims of racial epithets.”

Meanwhile, at York University, police are investigating two possible hate crimes. One claim concerns Daniel Ferman, president of a Jewish group at the school, who claims he was referred to as a “dirty Jew” and “f—ing Jew” in a confrontation with angry protestors. Toronto police are now investigating the incident. The other claim concerns a Jewish student who said he received a phone call threatening his life and those of his family members if he did not stop his pro-Israel activities.

The Post story closes with an interview with retired York professor Michiel Horn, who observes that contrary to public perception, “not everyone at York is a hothead.” He says only about 2,000 people out of 50,000 drive political tensions at the school.

Horn also offers some wisdom: “Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two rights make nothing but trouble.”

– photo courtesy of James Emery