Ottawa

U of O bans pro-Palestinian poster

The University of Ottawa has banned a poster put up by pro-Palestinians to promote Israeli Apartheid Week, which opens at universities in 10 countries March 1.

The University of Ottawa has banned a poster put up by pro-Palestinians to promote Israeli Apartheid Week, which opens at universities in 10 countries March 1.

Carleton University, also in Ottawa, banned the poster 10 days ago.

The poster shows an Israeli helicopter firing a missile at a Palestinian child labelled "Gaza."

Although they have censored the posters, neither university has banned the event. Organizers said Tuesday the censorship issue has actually given them free publicity, and has made people more interested in the annual event, which was first launched in Toronto in 2005.

"We suspect the administration is trying to suppress anything that has to do with us showing the nature of apartheid in Israel," said Mahmoud Hmouz, a director for the group Solidarity with Palestinian Human Rights.

Palestinian supporters say the bans are proof that universities are biased against them.

They point out that both U of O president Allan Rock and Carleton president Roseann Runte have accepted trips to Israel, paid for by Israeli advocacy groups.

Rock was part of a group of six Canadian university presidents who visited Israel for a week-long tour last summer.

At the time, the Canadian Jewish News reported that the trip was partially financed by the Canadian Council for Israel, Jewish Advocacy and private donors, but participants contributed toward their own travel expenses.

In 2005, Runte filed a daily blog during her trip to Israel as part of the Israel Institute for University Presidents, a joint venture between the United Jewish Communities, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and a community relations council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

The executive director of the Jewish group Hillel Ottawa, Alana Kayfetz, said her organization didn't complain about the pro-Palestinian poster, but advised the students who did.

"We had nothing to do with the posters being taken down. Our students felt uncomfortable with them, and we said, any time a student feels uncomfortable with anything at all, they're supposed to go to equity services, and go to security. Students complained and the university took action," she said.

Kayfetz said other universities should follow Carleton's lead.