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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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  • duPont

    “Sifter” needs to sift the bigotry out of his brain. Bronfman’s generosity to York is either appreciated or not and if this is offensive to him, he damn well should pull his support out. “Sifter’s” comment about “wealthy Jews” smacks of anti-Semitism. I am sure his comments would not apply to Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mitt Romney, Donald Trump or the thousands of other very wealthy Christians or the thousands+ of Chinese or Muslim billionaires if they had done the same thing. I can guarantee if a Christian saw a painting depicting Jesus burning in hell, they would all pull their support out of York just as a Muslim would if he saw the painting depicting their prophet being crucified. Being wealthy has nothing to do with it. “Sifter” just can’t resist demonizing Jews I guess. Fermez la grand bouche chien!

  • Elliot Miller

    Bravo, Paul Bronfman!!!

  • Joseph

    Israel has never occupied another peoples’ land in all her recorded 3,000 year history. Robbing 2,000 names like Palestinian in 1960,and changing 3,000 year Hebrew town names to West Bank in 1950 – does not change history. Its only a dead giveaway why such measures are taken.

  • Name

    I am YorkU grad and can tell you that it has been going downhill for a long long time. I believe it happened when Marsden left the President post. At that time there was some random statements, especially from YFS that didn’t sit right with me. Now it seems every time I read something about YorkU it is about as backwards as it could be. Just a shame. This is not about free speech or freedom of expression. I don’t understand how these people advocate ‘free speech’ on items that are simple racist or can defend statements/views that simply backwards just because they fit their agenda.

    If you want to be free, stand up for being free and keep our society free – stand up to terrorism and stop the BS.

  • Liz Wagner

    If only the rest of the Jews in Canada and the U.S. would finally admit what Israel, and all Jews, are up against, as has Bronfman. Jews should be withholding funds from universities, NGOs, newspapers, etc. that make false accusations, and use double standards, to condemn Israel. Instead, the Jews of North America go along, to get along, obviously having learned nothing from the Holocaust and our failure to respond to that, too, when millions still could have been saved.

  • Rosa

    Thank you Mr. Bronfman, for helping fight antisemitism. If more Jewish and nonjewish people would stand, as you are doing now, there would be less hate, and more respect for Jewish people, and Israel. G D bless you!!!!

  • stevenl

    Only the mini-TIP of an ICEBERG! And many Jews are complicit.

  • Scott

    I see York University doesn’t believe in “safe spaces” for Jews.
    Just rock throwing terrorists.

  • Jerry Itzig

    Why did Mr. Bronfman not pull his support immediately? It is obvious the university is insensitive to Jews and Israel! I am sure there is another college/university he could aid.

  • Dov

    Congratulations to a Jew who is not afraid (like Israeli government officials) to stand up for what is right. May many learn from him.

  • Since the dean is a Muslim and has been supporting Israel antisemitism on campus for some time now, (even if the poster is not removed) at least it is refreshing to see that finally someone is standing up to the University, which is supposed to be a learning and not a terrorist incitement institute!!!

  • Goldstein…

    IF More Proud Jews like Paul Bronfman stepped up we would be a lot better off!!!

  • pull it. This Uni is a hotbed of anti semitism and that country where most Jews live and I have pulled money from uni donations and called Jewish Trustees and Alumni to stand up and squash these Presidents to act

  • lisa

    That is great that Mr. Bronfman took a stand! Let the Palestinians wail to their obscene wealthy oil rich brethren who built the lavish Dubai and didn’t offer one cent to the “poor” palestinians to build their area..and while they are at they need to practice contraception the women have between 8-9 children per just to out number Israeli’s. They are a despicable people.. They were offered peaceful coexistence thousands of times and they refused because they are evil and being paid off by the oil emirates to agitate against Israel

  • I did and you did not like it

  • if i cannot write what i want this is not right

  • Jay

    Bravo Mr. Bronfman. It’s about time that Jews (who love Jews) started to fight back.

  • Jane

    Good for Bronfman. York University has been a stronghold of antisemitism for years. Anti-Israel protests several years ago were so threatening to Jewish students that they barricaded themselves inside the Hillel office on campus and asked campus police to help them out. The campus police would not come. The students finally called the Toronto police, who did come. I will not recommend York to any of my students, Jewish or otherwise.

  • Paul Cerar

    Excellent idea! All supporters of democracy should cease all donations to universities that tolerate fascist groups!

    If the universities tolerate fascists, then let the fascists pay their expenses!

    Paul Cerar
    Toronto, Canada

  • Denise Rootenberg

    Seymour Schulich donated millions to York University and the business school is named after him. Yes, it has benefited thousands of Jewish students but these days I would be horrified to have a building named after me on that campus or many in North America. I’d only donate to an Israeli institution. Kudos to Mr. Bronfman for taking a stand.

  • NuritG

    No Philanthropist should d donate to any university that harbors a smidgen of anti-Semitism

  • Sifter

    Wealthy Jews publicly brandishing financial power is hardly the answer. Are these ‘movers and shakers’ really this pathetic in their approach? Jeez, go watch The Godfather or something for tips on Machiavellian realpolitik! Unbelievable. Tell this descendant of bootleggers he just unintentionally created new Muzzie sympathizers.