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October 25, 2018 6:42 pm

University of Winnipeg Apologizes for ‘Antisemitic Statements’ Made at Campus Event on Jerusalem

avatar by Shiri Moshe

University of Winnipeg. Photo: AJ Batac.

The University of Winnipeg in Canada expressed regret for “antisemitic statements” made at a campus event on Jerusalem during a Jewish holiday in February.

In a report authored earlier this month, a university committee “determined that certain statements made at the event could be considered anti‐Semitic” under the internationally-recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which covers both traditional anti-Jewish tropes and their modern manifestations, particularly those involving Israel.

The committee did not specify what these comments were, and a university spokesperson declined to elaborate.

Framed as a discussion of the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, the event — titled “My Jerusalem: Responding to the US Embassy Announcement” — claimed to feature “panelists representing the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”

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Two speakers from Palestinian backgrounds, Fadi Ennab and Idris Elbakri, stood in for members of the Christian and Islamic faiths. The third panelist, representing the Jewish faith, was Rabbi David Mivasair, who has in the past alleged that Israel is an “apartheid state,” that Zionism supports “crimes against humanity,” that “Zionists” and “Zionist [organizations]” respectively control the American and Canadian governments’ policy on Israel and the Palestinians, and that “False [charges] of antisemitism are often deployed to silence honest discussion” on Israel.

His views were rebuffed by the Jewish civil rights group B’nai Brith Canada as “well outside of the Jewish mainstream.” The organization said it asked the university to replace Mivasair with another Jewish speaker, and for the event — which took place on Purim — to be moved to a date that would allow the Jewish community to fully participate.

The panel discussion nonetheless proceeded as planned, with the sponsorship of the university’s Global College and several other groups, including the Canadian Arab Association of Manitoba, Independent Jewish Voices – Winnipeg, Mennonite Central Committee – Manitoba, Peace Alliance Winnipeg, United Church Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, and the United Jewish Peoples Order – Winnipeg.

In its subsequent probe into the event, the university committee said it considered video evidence, as well as notes and comments from a follow-up discussion on the controversy that was held with “interested parties” on April 16. It also reviewed written submissions by “interested parties,” as well as the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

B’nai Brith said the national director of its League for Human Rights, Ran Ukashi, also participated in the review.

The university committee ultimately recommended that the administration take eight steps in response to the event, such as issuing a public commitment to prevent “the serious problem of anti‐Semitism,” tracking “incidents of antisemitism on campus,” and ensuring that future events are welcoming to religiously observant individuals.

“The University will be working to implement the recommendations in partnership with members of the local Jewish community and members of other racialized groups,” a spokesperson told The Algemeiner on Thursday. “We feel this is appropriate corrective action.”

Last October, students at the university voted down a resolution supporting the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign by a two-third majority. The following month, the university’s official campus radio station suspended one of its programs after it broadcast a speaker who accused Israelis of gassing and cremating victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to B’nai Brith.

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