Campus Battlegrounds


apartheid-week-poster1Even though Equity Services at Carleton University is being tight lipped about both the complaints they received regarding the IAW poster and their legal justification for the ban, the Jewish Tribune has brazenly published one of the complaints.

Ariella Kimmell, vice-president, external, of the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students, filed a personal complaint with Equity Services at Carleton about the posters. She said the posters use ‘Nazi and Holocaust imagery’ to make the situation of the Palestinians in Israel look like that of Jewish people in concentration camps during World War II. (Jewish Tribune, Feb. 26, 2009)

Last week I spoke with a representative from Equity Services to file a complaint about censoring political speech and expression. I specifically mentioned that it is completely fraudulent to claim that Jewish suffering has a monopoly on the cartoon depiction of barbed wire, walls and military aggression. The representative was not there to debate with me, rather to courteously absorb my criticism and take notes.

I mentioned that there was a glaring double standard with activism on campus while showing the representative another article from the Jewish Tribune.

Called simply ‘Terror Built This Fence,’ the controversial presentation – which was at York and was on dislplay there for about two weeks before coming to Ottawa – arrived at the Atrium of the University Centre of Carleton University for one day only April 3.

The display itself comprises a 15-foot by 5-foot chainlink fence – a replica of Israel’s Security Fence – with photographs of Israeli suffering on one side, and terrorist beliefs on the other. The Israeli side shows about two dozen graphic colour pictures, including one of an Israeli emergency worker holding up a blood-soaked tzizit. It is hard to hold tears back looking at the photo of four yeshiva boys crying out in agony at the loss of their school mates in the attack last month in Jerusalem. There is a close up shot of a leg pierced with shrapnel. (Jewish Tribune, Apr. 13, 2008)

The representative from Equity Services had not heard of this event but she had only been with Carleton for about 10 months. However, when I asked Feridun Humdullahpur (Provost) about this incident, he said he couldn’t remember it ever happening! I told him that the fact he didn’t even remember was telling in and of itself and that I would be very surprised if the university did not receive formal complaints relating to the display.

This glaring double standard illustrates how the University’s claim of neutrality is demonstrably false. Why didn’t the university kindly remind the entire university community that “Terror Built This Fence” was not representative of the views or opinions of Carleton University like when Al Haq visited? Why did the administration not feel the need to remind everyone to be respectful and civil when debating controversial issues because of the “Terror Built This Fence” exhibit? Can you imagine the cries of anti-Semitism that would envelop Carleton’s decision to ban the “Terror Built This Fence” display because it was ‘likely to incite hatred’ or that it used ‘Nazi and holocaust imagery’ to make the case for Israel’s brutal subjugation of Palestinians?

Nonetheless, it would be a lie for me to say that the University took no action in respect to the fence display.

Eventually security came and asked the organizers to move the fence to a smaller place in the Atrium. (Jewish Tribune, Apr. 13, 2008)

The article that was earlier quoted (Jewish Tribune, Feb. 26, 2009) began with a statement not falling short from taking credit for the banning of the IAW posters.

Following B’nai Brith Canada’s full-page ad in the National Post demanding an end to ‘Hate Fests’ on campuses, Carleton University deemed Israeli Apartheid Week posters offensive and has banned them from its property.

When I called B’nai Brith asking about their defamatory ads in the National Post the secretary asked if I would like to contribute to their campaign financially. I was able to speak to Michael Mostyn. When asked about IAW, he told me that the term apartheid was ‘false’ and ‘repulsive’ in relation to Israel. He also told me that events such as this (IAW) would only further polarize any discourse on the subject. When asked if large advertisements in one of Canada’s national newspapers calling Carleton students anti-Semites and a legitimate event a hate fest was polarizing, he simply said ‘no.’

Carleton University President Roseann O'Reilly Runte (carleton.ca)

Carleton University President Roseann O'Reilly Runte (carleton.ca)

In response to the banning of the 2009 Israeli Apartheid Week posters at Carleton, over 100 students, professors and community members rallied in support of free speech and expression on campus (Feb. 26). The event consisted of a gathering to explain the current repression on campus relating to Palestinian solidarity and a symbolic silent march to the President’s office to publicly read a speech and deliver her a letter addressing their grave concerns dealing with the political repression on campus. While the speech was being read, Runte awkwardly stood by with CBC News cameras capturing the entire event. Runte responded to the speech by reassuring students that they are able to speak and are being listened to. She then went back into her office and locked the door, refusing an interview with the CBC cameraman.

I think your presence here is exactly an evidence that you can speak on campus. And the fact that I listened to you is a fact that you are heard. Thank you for coming here today.

In CBC’s reporting of the poster ban at the University of Ottawa, they made specific mention of Runte’s participation in public relations trips to Israel while President at Old Dominion University. When I asked Feridun Humdullahpur (Provost) about Runte’s public relations trips and mentioned that students were worried about outside pressure affecting university policy, he assured me that the university’s actions are not influenced by outside pressure or lobbying, including B’nai Brith’s recent ads attempting to bully students raising advocacy about Palestinian human rights.

In 2005, Runte filed a daily blog during her trip to Israel as part of the Israel Institute for University Presidents, a joint venture between the United Jewish Communities, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and a community relations council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. (CBC.ca – Feb. 24, 2009)

Following the protest at Carleton, students traveled to the University of Ottawa to join their fellow students to protest the poster ban on their campus. Unfortunately, protesters were not greeted by President Allan Rock and were instead greeted by police officers behind locked doors. For great coverage of the events click HERE.

In the wake of the University of Ottawa’s suspension and decision to dismiss Professor Denis Rancourt, some of the researchers working under Rancourt have decided to file a lawsuit against the university for breach of contract and misfeasance in public office.

See details in the press release below.

PRESS RELEASE: RANCOURT STUDENTS FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS
Tuesday, February 24, 11:00 a.m., lobby of Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa

On December 10, 2008, the University of Ottawa summarily, without notice consultation or due process, closed the laboratory of Professor Denis Rancourt, locking out its researchers, seizing equipment and derailing years of award winning scholarship in nanoparticle physics.  As a result of this ill-conceived plan, post Doctoral researcher Meizhen Dang’s employment was terminated after twelve years of dedicated research assistance. Master’s student Sean Kelly lost nearly six years of specialized research in the area of ferromagnetism and Master’s student Joseph Hickey has been bullied by the administration to abandon his fully funded NSERC research project under Professor Rancourt.
“Academic excellence and freedom at the University of Ottawa are under a profound attack when the administration takes a personal dislike to a certain professor” according to Joseph Hickey. “I came to attend the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at this University on a fully funded scholarship to work with a leading world expert in physics, not to be coerced and treated with such disdain.”
“Every day that we are locked out of our research jobs, the value of our scholarships diminish and the likelihood of regaining our research momentum decreases rendering the prospects for our scientific careers more doubtful,” explained Sean Kelly.
For Meizhen Dang, she is concerned about the lack of consideration and disrespect shown to longstanding researchers at the University of Ottawa.  “Had I known that after a decade of work I would end up by being unceremoniously locked out of my lab and having my research seized despite producing internationally recognized and award winning scientific results, I would have left this environment years ago.  What have I done to deserve this?”
After their requests to return to their academic supervisor and laboratory research group fell on deaf ears, the postdoctoral researcher and graduate students will file a joint claim against the University  and the Dean of Graduate Studies, Gary Slater for monetary damages relating to breach of contract and misfeasance in public office.  On February 24, 2009 at 11 a.m., in the lobby of Tabaret Hall, these students and researchers will announce their plan to take legal action against the University.  In so doing they also hope to encourage a broad ranging discussion on the fall out of the University’s crack down on scientific research and scholarship, which may encourage greater transparency in administrative procedures and basic respect for the students and researchers who are the lifeblood of academic excellence within the institution.
Initial press coverage:

apartheid-week-poster3The controversy of Carleton and UofO banning Israeli Apartheid Week posters has culminated in a protest planned for this Thursday (Feb. 26) including both campuses. Here’s the info courtesy of OPIRG Carleton:

On Thursday February 26th, join OPIRG-Carleton and students at U of O to show your support for SAIA and SPHR. Come to a public discussion and TWO RALLIES (one after the other) to call the Administrations at Carleton and the U of O to account by asking them to clarify why and how these posters were banned. Show these administrations that civil discourse is dependent upon rights to free expression and organizing, especially around contentious issues.

Date: Thursday February 26th 2009

Time: 11:30 – 1:00pm.

The regular shuttle service leaves Carleton at 1:30pm after the Carleton rally will and arrive at the U of O at 1:50pm. People will gather at the shuttle drop-off location (across from Montpetit) to begin the rally at the U of O. The rally at the U of O will begin in front of the shuttle bus-stop at 2:00pm.

Meeting location at Carleton: C264 Loeb Building

Meeting location at U of O: shuttle bus-stop (across from Monpetit)

Event Description: The rally at Carleton will be mostly silent. People are invited to symbolically cover their mouths. The rally at the University of Ottawa will not be silent. If you have letters (from groups, unions, organizations or individuals) you would like to deliver to the university administrations about the banning of the Israeli Apartheid poster please bring them with you. Both rallies will end at the presidents’ offices.

(more…)

“What follows is the documentation of a deliberate attempt by the UofT administration to prevent a Palestine solidarity conference from being held, the direct involvement of pro-Israel organizations in determining the use of student space and collusion between a number of Ontario universities to prevent the annual Israeli Apartheid Week — a student led week of events about Israeli Apartheid — from taking place. All of the emails referred to in the article are available online.”

Liisa Schofield – Rabble.ca – February 18, 2009

To read the entire article click HERE.

This documentation leaves little doubt for anybody skeptical of the institutional framing of dissent on campuses relating to Palestinian Solidarity. It remains to be seen how universities across Canada and the world will respond to Israeli Apartheid Week this year. Will this act of intrepid investigative journalism provide the impetus for other campus groups to expose their administration’s conscious suppression of student rights? Stay tuned for interviews with Carleton University and B’nai Brith regarding the planning of Israeli Apartheid Week at Carleton University.

For the schedule of events planned in Ottawa check: http://ottawa.apartheidweek.org/

Carleton University Administration violates free expression – bans and confiscates posters
Write to Carleton University president to demand the restoration of student rights

February 18, 2009

On February 8, Students Against Israeli Apartheid at Carleton University put up 100 posters for “Israeli Apartheid Week”, a series of lectures and public events that will occur on campuses in over 40 cities around the world.  On February 9, these posters were taken down at the request of Carleton’s Equity Services, under the rationale that the posters “could be seen to incite others to infringe rights protected in the Ontario Human Rights code” and are “insensitive to the norms of civil discourse in a free and democratic society”

The poster was created by noted cartoonist Carlos Latuff and depicts a situation – a child being killed by aerial bombardment – that occurred over 430 times in Israel’s latest attack on Gaza according to United Nations reports. We encourage everyone to view the poster: here. Since it depicts a situation that has a factual basis and its intention is clearly to invite people to a lecture series, the notion that it is an incitement or a violation to norms of civil discourse is preposterous. (more…)

Controversial Campus Poster

Controversial Campus Poster

The poster to the left is the one that has been causing all the controversy at Carleton University lately, with the administration reportedly having it removed from campus. Later today we’ll have a report from a student who scheduled a meeting with the Provost over the poster, so look here for the “official” story then. For now, here’s my two cents on this poster.

Latuff’s cartoon of an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) helicopter firing a rocket as an unarmed Gazan civilian child holding a teddy bear is a cartoon-rendering of reality for the life of people in Gaza, especially in light of the recent brutal attack on the area. Many know the numbers: nearly 1400 Palestinians killed, over half civilian, the majority of those women and children. Fourteen Israelis were killed, four by their own misconduct. As well, it is well documented by Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights groups that the levels of force measured between rock-throwing Palestinian civilians and the IDF’s US-funded military machine are anything but equal. Yes, Hamas and other militant groups conduct suicide bombings and rocketing that target Israeli civilians. But the death and destruction of Palestinian land and people far exceeds that of Israel, many including Finkelstein, citing it at a ten-to-one ratio.

So this poster is an accurate representation of the political and conflictual realities of the two sides, with the IDF and military might on one side and the death of unarmed Palestinian civilians on the other. That said, I don’t feel it’s a very sophisticated representation, and its incindiary tone may do more to distract than attract to the activities of Israel Apartheid Week. The use of children to play on knee-jerk emotional response is ubiquitous on both sides of the conflict. However, representations that accurately portray the enormouse inequity of the conflict and that show a Palestinian civilian population imprisoned by walls (as the poster does) are important visual signifiers of the ongoing calculated destruction of the Palestinian culture by the Israeli government.

The poster should stay up, even though it may hurt feelings and cause offense in some in the campus community. It clearly targets the Israeli government and the IDF – the agents of the destruction and illegal occupation of Palestine, not Israeli and/or Jewish people.

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