Many of you are aware of the recent disturbing decisions of a university to defend a mural they categorize as “artwork” despite its conveying a very clear hateful message.
The mural in the Student Centre at York University depicts a Palestinian holding rocks (which are frequently used by Palestinians as weapons) while staring at an Israeli vehicle. In the mural, the Palestinian is wearing a scarf featuring a map of Palestine that seemingly forgets to include Israel. The mural creates a toxic, frightening environment on campus. It fosters ignorance and encourages a great divide amongst York’s diverse student population.
As I write, on February 1, York has announced it will defend the art work and the mural will not be removed. Hopefully, by the time this column is published, the university’s student union and administration will wake up and recognize the mural is not simply an artistic expression of free speech, but rather an excuse to incite pure hatred.
Toronto’s mainstream media has largely failed to address the severity of this situation, improperly framing the narrative of these events. What has made the news is the decision of a major financial donor to the university to pull out. Film executive Paul Bronfman told the National Post he would withdraw his financial support to York unless the mural comes down.
“That’s not artistry, it’s just pure hate … It wouldn’t be tolerated by any well-respected institution, whether it’s a university or any other public body,” said Bronfman.
His actions have been greeted with support from other York alumni and donors. His response, however, was also met with heavy criticism.
In defending York’s decision to keep the mural, National Post columnist Chris Selley wrote, “The short answer is: Too bad. It’s university.”
You’re right, Chris. Too bad it’s university. Universities exist to deliver a high standard of education to their students. A university that is reputable and delivers such education is not a university that condones, much less allows, the display of such an uneducated hatred.
Though I do not go to York, I feel a strong connection to what goes on there. No Jewish university student anywhere should ever be made to feel uncomfortable or frightened while walking down the hallways of their school. One of the fundamental policies our country rests on is fostering a tolerant and accommodating environment for all minorities within Canada. Forgive me, York, for I’m sure every member of your administration is well aware that Canada’s multiculturalism policies enacted in 1971 are still in fact applicable to our daily lives. I’m sure that a mural depicting Muslims as terrorists would never fly at York University, or any other Canadian institution of higher learning.
The University of Ottawa, which I attend, has also received negative attention in the media for absurd reasons on occasion when certain student groups have tried to prohibit things its students could possibly derive joy from. This includes an attempt to ban Sabra hummus from campus (really?) to a claim that yoga on campus should be banned due to “cultural appropriation” (that stunt made international news).
The school has its flaws. However, I am confident that my university’s administration would never allow something like the York mural to hang. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have been so sure. But, thankfully, things seem to have calmed down on our campus. That being said, anything is possible, and it is very scary to know the nation’s mainstream media would fail to condemn publicly something like the York mural.
I would hope that, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership, Canada’s new government will stand up and condemn the actions of York University and will follow in the past government’s footsteps by reinforcing Canada’s loyal friendship with Israel.