The student council at the University of Western Ontario in London has condemned as “hate speech” and as an incitement to violence a flier circulated on campus that claims “Jewish terrorists” were responsible for last month’s mosque shooting in Quebec City.
“This document is incredibly prejudiced, strongly promotes violence and is simply hate speech,” the student council stated in an update to students.
“Generalizing, targeting, extremism and drawing conclusions based on identities, race or religion is prejudiced, violent and has no place in any discussion or space on our campus,” the statement said.
Western’s student council was responding to a flier that had been distributed on campus by a group calling itself the Canadian National Independence Party (CNIP).
The document begins with the assertion that, “Here is Canada, here is not Israel.”
It goes on to make the claim that “Jewish terrorists who were trained by Israel Zionists” murdered the six worshippers at a Quebec City mosque.
“We request that all Zionists in Canada be tried as terrorists and all members be put in jail.”
The document’s bizarre assertions continue with the claim that the government of Canada is a puppet and colony of Britain.
Western’s campus Hillel group was alerted to the flier on Feb. 8, when a Hillel student came across it on a table in a cafeteria.
“The University Student Council [USC] president reached out to Hillel, which in turn provided advice and guidance to the USC as it prepared its public response – which we believe was a very strong statement of solidarity with Jewish students,” said Hillel CEO Marc Newburgh.
“We are thankful that the USC reacted appropriately. As a precaution, Hillel has been in contact with campus police and London police who are looking further into this matter,” he stated.
Helen Connell, associate vice-president of communications and public affairs at Western, said “Campus police received a complaint that a male was passing out the fliers. They immediate searched for the individual. That search did not find a suspect. The incident was also discussed on social media.”
Connell said the university’s non-discrimination/harassment policy promotes “a working and learning environment that allows for full and free participation of all members of the community” and that discrimination violates the fundamental rights, personal dignity and integrity of individuals or groups.
Judy Zelikovitz, vice-president of university and local partner services for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said, “While this appears to be the work of a single individual who isn’t a member of the university community, there is no place on campus for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”
Newburgh said the atmosphere at King’s College, an affiliate college of Western, has been “tense in preparation for a referendum on BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel] expected to take place within the next month.
“While there is a lot of support for Jewish and pro-Israel students at Western, we have seen other campuses where BDS has negatively impacted the campus, which is why we’re working to support the students to defeat BDS at King’s,” he said.
USC president Eddy Avila said there had been “conversations about the BDS movement at one of the affiliate college students’ councils and we have noticed and been told first hand that this has caused increased levels of stress for our Jewish community at Western and beyond.”
The flier incident “has caused a lot of unrest of the Jewish community at Western and the conversations pertaining to the BDS movement have not helped this feeling of unrest. From the USC’s perspective, we wanted to tell the Western community that although they may have different views on a particular topic, they must be discussed in a productive, intellectual manner, not in a harmful one. We will not allow hate speech on our campus.”
Efforts to reach the person whose name appears on the flier were unsuccessfuL.