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Monday, April 21, 2014

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Israeli flag vandalized at York’s Multicultural Week

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Ross Humanities & Social Sciences Building at York University [Wikimedia Commons photo]

TORONTO — Hillel at York is praising York University for condemning the vandalism of an Israeli flag that was part of a display for the university’s Multicultural Week.

On Feb. 7, one day before the closing ceremonies of the event, which celebrates diversity at York, representatives of the university’s security service told Hillel they took down an Israeli flag that had been draped over a railing in York’s student centre alongside flags from around the world after discovering it was covered in red paint, said Tamara Caplan, Hillel at York’s director.

In a statement that was mass emailed to the York community, the university said it supports freedom of expression and peaceful discussion, but the vandalism went too far.

“York University is unwavering: this type of conduct is unacceptable, is contrary to our values and will not be tolerated. Toronto Police Service was immediately contacted and we are currently supporting their investigation,” said the statement, signed by Rhonda Lenton, vice-president (academic) and provost, and Janet Morrison, vice-provost (students).

Caplan called the vandalism especially disappointing, given that it happened near the end of what was otherwise a successful Multicultural Week.

The initiative is organized by the York Federation of Students (YFS), the school’s undergraduate student union.

“We participated in a lot of events this year, and the reception we received was amazing,” Caplan said, explaining that this year, Hillel highlighted Judaism in Morocco. “That’s why it was such a shame… The students who organized it felt really welcomed in the community.”

Hillel released a statement thanking both the administration and York security for responding quickly to the vandalism.

In the release, Jessica Cherkasov, president of York Students for Israel, which is affiliated with Hillel, said that her group replaced the flag shortly after the vandalized one was removed to stress that pro-Israel students will “not be intimidated by such cowardly acts.”

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