Canadian Media Mogul Blasts ‘Clueless’ York U Administration After Pulling Funds Over Anti-Israel Mural (INTERVIEW)
“I heard that there has been a toxic, antisemitic and anti-Israel environment at York University for years, but I wasn’t really involved in those issues until the mural was called to my attention,” Canadian-Jewish media mogul Paul Bronfman told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Bronfman, chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios and William F. White International, a supplier of film equipment and know-how, subsequently became associated with the now-famous controversy surrounding a wall painting at the university’s student center, deemed anti-Israel by many students complaining that it made them uncomfortable.
The mural, called “Palestinian Roots,” shows a keffiyeh-clad individual aiming rocks at a bulldozer — as The Algemeiner reported last Tuesday. The winner of a 2013 student contest, the mural has been on display since then.
Bronfman said he learned of its existence “by accident,” in a recent weekly email sent out by the CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Avi Benlolo. Bronfman, a director of FSWC in Canada, is also a contributor to the York University film studies department.
He responded to the mail by contacting York University president Mamdouh Shoukri and threatening to withdraw his support if the mural was not immediately removed.
“I didn’t expect the amount of media attention I’ve been getting about this whole thing,” Bronfman told The Algemeiner. “It has really snow-balled.”
Not, however, to the point that other donors have followed suit, according to Bronfman, who said that although many told him they were considering pulling funding, none so far has actually done it. Except for Bronfman himself, that is.
“I pulled everything,” he said. “Money, production equipment, seminars, open houses with students, learning labs and training programs. The students have everyone at the university to blame, from the president on down.”
“These guys don’t bloody get it; it’s that simple. They have no clue why there’s been an outcry. They’re in a land of confusion. They say it’s a free speech issue and an independent student thing, which is nonsense, because the student center where the mural is hanging is funded by the university. This is why I realized that these guys with thick skulls are not the type of people I want to support and I told them so. I also made good on my threat.”
Following Bronfman’s threat and subsequent follow-through, Shoukri released a statement on Friday to address the stir surrounding the mural.
“It is clear that the subject of the artwork is offensive to some individuals and groups, particularly Jewish members of our community,” Shoukri wrote. “The mural has given rise to a broader conversation about whether, as an institution and as individuals, we are doing all we can to ensure that all members of our community feel welcome and supported.”
According to the Canadian Jewish News, Shoukri also said that he will form a “President’s Advisory Committee on Inclusion” to “ensure inclusive respectful exchange of ideas, particularly on social and political issues,” and the university will review its policies to “better foster and protect an inclusive and positive learning environment.”
This comes after a previous statement from Shoukri saying that there were no legal grounds for removing the mural.
“That is lot of bureaucratic baloney,” Bronfman told The Algemeiner. “And Shoukri’s latest response is no better.”
In an email to the Globe and Mail, the CJN reported, Gayle McFadden, the student center’s vice president of operations, said, “This artwork is not hateful and is the artist’s depiction of the resistance to the occupation of Palestinian land. This painting is not antisemitic, as it is merely critical of the state of Israel and its continued occupation of Palestine.”