The University of Winnipeg has completed an investigation into a panel discussion in February that was criticized for being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.
On Feb. 28, the University of Winnipeg’s Global College gave space to a coalition of community members to hold a panel discussion on Jewish, Christian and Muslim reactions to the U.S. recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Although the event was billed as a dialogue on “the religious and spiritual importance of Jerusalem to the three Abrahamic religions,” it was criticized for being little more that an Israel hate-fest, and for being held on Purim.
The Christian and Muslim panellists were Fadi Ennab and Idris Elbakri, two local Palestinian figures. Ennab accused Israel of committing a “genocide” against Palestinians, while Elbakri tarred Israeli Jews as “European settlers.” He went on to suggest that there is no space for a “Jewish ethnic enclave” in the “Arab Middle East.”
The Jewish representative on the panel was Rabbi David Mivasair, an American-born resident of Vancouver, who also has a history of hostility toward Israel. The founding rabbi of Vancouver’s Ahavat Olam congregation and a self-professed peace activist, he has supported the flotillas that have attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza and criticized the federal NDP for not adopting a BDS motion. He is also on record as blaming Israel for Palestinian terrorism and America for the 9/11 attacks.
At the time, Dean Peachey, the acting executive director of Global College, said that in light of concerns raised by members of the Jewish community, including B’nai Brith Canada, the university would be conducting a review to determine if the panel crossed the line into anti-Semitism.
On Oct. 25, the university released its findings. It acknowledged that statements made by the panellists were anti-Semitic, as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition.
The report concluded that the panel did not reflect a full range of viewpoints on the subject, gave credence to marginal Jewish voices and that Global College rebuffed suggestions by B’nai Brith to include mainstream Jewish representatives on the panel.
“Speakers at the event made comments that were anti‐Semitic,” the report concluded.
The university issued a statement saying that it regrets the anti-Semitic statements that were made by the panellists and promised to “work with members of the Jewish community and other racialized groups to enhance our campus environment and promote safety and inclusivity.”
Among the recommendations made in the report was to publicly acknowledging the serious problem of anti-Semitism, ensure that organizers of events consider any religious holidays that could prevent people from attending, encourage events that educate community members about the Holocaust and anti-Semitic stereotypes and that the university promote channels of communication and partnerships with representatives of Jewish and other community organizations.
The panel discussion was sponsored by Independent Jewish Voices, the Mennonite Central Committee, Peace Alliance Winnipeg, the United Church Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, United Jewish Peoples Order and United Network for Justice & Peace in Palestine & Israel.