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January 26, 2016 3:10 pm

Canadian Media Mogul, Philanthropist Threatens to Pull Donations to York U Over ‘Antisemitic’ Mural

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The York University mural that is the subject of controversy. Photo: City News/Screenshot.

The York University mural that is the subject of controversy. Photo: City News/Screenshot.

Canadian businessman Paul Bronfman has threatened to pull “thousands of dollars” in funding from York University in Toronto if campus authorities do not remove a Palestinian protest mural hanging across the student center.

“The upshot is that if that poster is not gone by the end of day today then William F. White [a production subsidiary of Bronfman’s Comweb Group] is out of York. York is going to lose thousands of dollars of television production equipment used for emerging student filmmakers, access to technical people who do education and student training and student seminars, workshops and open houses at William F. White Center that help them develop the hard skills needed to fill industry infrastructure positions like gaffer or grip: they will no longer be invited. York University will be persona non grata at William F. White international until they take that poster down,” Bronfman said in an open letter to university President Mamdouh Shoukri.

The poster has apparently been hanging in Vari Hall since at least last September, when the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies released (FSWC) a statement describing how the image was offensive to some students:

The subject of this complaint is the mural entitled ‘Palestinian Roots’ that is currently displayed in the York University Student Center. The mural depicts a young man staring off at a bulldozer that is facing an olive tree. The scarf that hangs over his shoulder displays a Palestinian flag next to a borderless map of Israel. The man is seen holding rocks in his hands behind his back. The artist’s explanation states that the images represent the ‘defenseless, the antagonist and the other.’

The words “peace” and “justice” are written at the bottom of the image in several languages, including Arabic and Hebrew.

“I know how difficult this step must be for Paul – he is very dedicated to helping the next generation of filmmakers and is such a cheerleader for the Canadian film and TV industry but – at the end of the day, I am so proud to see him taking a stand for our community and for all students who feel threatened and intimidated by this hateful poster, and neglected by an administration that has never expressed any sympathy or understanding for their concerns,” wrote FSWC President and CEO Avi Benlolo, in a statement released on Monday.

Bronfman’s letter apparently came after the businessman already contacted Shorkri and university authorities seeking an explanation for why the poster was still hanging.

“Shoukri said the university had gotten a lot of complaints,” Bronfman explained, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “But all I received were regurgitated political statements – nothing of substance; nothing that showed the university cared in any way about the students harmed by the hate this mural represents.”

Palestinian rock-throwing at Israeli vehicles — military and civilian — is a common occurrence in the West Bank, and some attacks have resulted in fatalities, including the September 14 attack many say marked the beginning of the current wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has gone on almost unabated since.

According to a 2014 report in the Canadian Star, Bronfman “oversees a multi-million-dollar operation that contributes either equipment, services or studio space to about 60 per cent of all film and television work shot in Canada.”

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