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OTTAWA-Carleton University was only trying to keep campus political discourse civil. Now, it looks as if it will face Ontario’s human rights tribunal.
In March, a campus group advertised Israeli Apartheid Week with vivid signs of an Israeli fighter jet targeting a Palestinian toddler. Carleton told the group, Students Against Israeli Apartheid, to come up with something less pointed.
It complied, but complained to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that the school trampled its freedom of expression. A mediation will likely be held in late September or early October, and, if the parties cannot agree, the complaint will proceed to a hearing, said Yavar Hameed, a lawyer representing the Carleton students.
Hameed said criticism of Israel was a sensitive issue on university campuses, and he didn’t know if this case would be resolved during the mediation stage. “The nature of this complaint focuses on the advocacy of Palestinian human rights”, he said. “We’re hopeful the human rights tribunal will take that issue seriously so Palestinian students and their allies will not feel chilled or marginalized when they try to speak about their basic rights.”
In an e-mail, Carleton spokesman Jason MacDonald said the students’ claims were “false and completely unfounded. The issue is now being addressed by the human rights tribunal and will provide us a with formal opportunity to respond point by point to these false claims once and for all. In the meantime we’re not going to do anything to undermine that process.”
Ben Saifer, a member of Students Against Israeli Apartheid, said the group would not back down. “The days of administrative intimidation and sophism are counted at Carleton University, and the tides are turning in North America against the supporters of the illegal Israeli occupation and apartheid regime.”
On its website, the group said: “In its fifth year, Toronto’s Israeli Apartheid Week has seen an alarming increase in harassment, intimidation and physical violence against its organizers and guests. While people who seem to be affiliated with the Jewish Defense League are the primary organizers of the attacks, unfortunately, the student groups Hasbara and Hillel have also joined in, using cameras, physical proximity, and threatening language to intimidate activists, especially women students, calling them terrorists and repeating the accusations of incitement and hate speech. When these incidents of harassment and intimidation are reported to campus police, the police have taken no action.”
The university is also in hot water over its decision in late July to remove sessional lecturer Hassan Diab from a teaching post. A Lebanese-born Canadian citizen, Diab is accused of killing four people in the bombing of a Paris synagogue. Senior administrators at Carleton had approved his appointment, but the Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith said it was “deeply disturbed by the news that Hassan Diab, the alleged bomber of the Rue Copernic synagogue in Paris in 1980, will be teaching an upcoming sociology course at Carleton University. That terrorist attack, blamed on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Special Operations, resulted in the murders of four Jews, with scores more injured.”
The university fired the teacher, but a few days later, sociology and anthropology professors called for Diab’s reinstatement.