Tuesday, January 31st | 9 Shevat 5783

March 3, 2019 1:14 pm

York University Investigates ‘Jews Run This Uni’ Tweet, Though Concerns Over ‘Violent’ Campus Mural Erasing Israel Remain

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avatar by Shiri Moshe

Aerial view of York University. Photo: The City of Toronto.

York University in Toronto is investigating an antisemitic tweet shared by an individual who may be a student at the school, a prominent Jewish advocacy group said, though concerns remain over a campus mural that critics say is offensive to the Jewish community and legitimizes violence.

According to a screenshot captured by B’nai Brith Canada, a user identified as Abdul Rafay Iqbal wrote in a Tweet on Wednesday, “Jews run this uni…. they here for the money not the students.”

Iqbal — whose username has since changed, and whose affiliation with York University could not be immediately confirmed — was responding to a statement from the school’s official Twitter account, notifying the campus community that classes will resume following an inclement weather watch.

B’nai Brith Canada denounced the since-deleted comment as “blatantly antisemitic” in a tweet on Thursday, saying it reached out to the school’s president, Rhonda Lenton, and its Center for Human Rights to call for disciplinary action. York University’s official Twitter account likewise called the tweet “antisemitic,” adding that it was reported both to the social media network and “York colleagues.”

Ran Ukashi, national director of the League for Human Rights at B’nai Brith Canada, confirmed to The Algemeiner on Friday that Lenton has since told the group that her administration is confirming whether Iqbal is a student.

If so, “they will launch the process used for investigating such incidents, and depending on the findings, they will pursue the appropriate disciplinary measures,” he related.

A representative for York University did not respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment by press time.

Ukashi also expressed disappointment over the continued display of a mural titled “Palestinian Roots” at the university’s student center. The artwork depicts a Palestinian man holding rocks and wearing a keffiyeh, which is decorated with both a Palestinian flag and an outline of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, all depicted as a single territory.

Photo: York University Student Center.

While the piece was only set to “be displayed for two years” after winning a student art competition in 2013, according to the contest guidelines, it has remained in place long after.

The mural’s artist, then-student Ahmad Al Abid, said his inspiration was “the ongoing issue in Palestine where illegal settlement expansions have become common,” yet Jewish student leaders have repeatedly argued that it offensively dismisses their own identity while promoting violence. Media mogul Paul Bronfman ultimately withdrew his support to York University in 2016 over the administration’s failure to remove the artwork.

Shira Ragosin — a York student and president of the Israeli Students Association, which is supported by the Zionist advocacy group CAMERA — echoed these objections on February 18, saying the mural “depicts violence and aggression towards a population that has a right to exist as much as the next.”

“How are students supposed to come to university everyday, when they have a constant, daily reminder of hatred above their heads?” she asked in an essay published by CAMERA. “[The mural] represents the discontent and unwelcoming environment that Jewish students face on campus.”

“It perfectly represents why Zionists feel uncomfortable on the campus, and how anti-Zionism is tolerated, if not supported, by the student government and university staff,” she added. “It stands for an anti-Semitic narrative, which erases not just a religion, but also a group of people, an entire nation, and that nation’s existence.”

Ukashi likewise said that B’nai Brith Canada is “still very disappointed” that the mural remains visible, calling it “a very offensive message” with “a clear allusion to violence.”

“It’s a standing offense to Jewish students and Israeli students on campus who have to walk past that every day,” he added. “I think it’s outrageous.”

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