‘Palestinian Roots’ painting sparks threat of protests and lawsuits if not uprooted

‘Palestinian Roots’ painting sparks threat of protests and lawsuits if not uprooted

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January 10, 2016

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The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and some pro-Israel bloggers are calling for the removal of a painting in York’s Student Centre.

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Complaints about the mural “Palestinian Roots” are by no means a new occurrence. However, tensions are surfacing again after Avi Benlolo’s visit to the Student Centre in December.

Benlolo, CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, originally called for the removal of the painting in the National Post, claiming York does “little to stop anti-Semitic hate speech.”

The article prompted a response from Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Lorne Sossin, who, being Jewish himself, passionately disagreed with Benlolo’s position.

Benlolo visited the Student Centre last month to discuss the painting again, citing it as a matter of public interest, and once again called upon the university to remove the painting.

A member of Hasbara at York, an Israel advocacy group, responded to Benlolo’s post, stating, herself, along with other students from Hasbara have spoken to York administration about the painting, but the administration told them this is York Federation of Students’ jurisdiction. 

The YFS didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Subsequently, Benlolo’s post has been picked up by Never Again Canada and members of the Jewish Defence League who have threatened a lawsuit and possible protest.

The artist, York alumnus Ahmad Al Abid, said the inspiration for this piece is the ongoing issue in Palestine, to which illegal settlement expansions have become commonplace. 

“These expansions come at the expense of uprooting century old olive trees, trees intertwined with the roots of the Palestinian people,” he writes.

“It is in question which option is best for him (the rock holder). Watching on as he is fluttered with conflicting emotions, implications, and potential consequences of action. With each of these factors pulling him toward a different route of discourse, we find him calculating his next move.”

Students Against Israeli Apartheid told Excalibur that members of Hasbara need to stop their nonsense with the mural.

“It’s irresponsible for … groups like Hasbara to continue to actively encourage gangs like the Jewish Defence League and Never Again Canada to foster a dangerous climate against students who want to support human rights for their friends and families around the world,” says Merate Atari of SAIA. 

Ariella Daniels, president of Hasbara, says the mural hanging in the Student Centre misguides the students’ perspective on Israel.

“It is a direct call for violence and glorifies terror,” says Daniels. “The mural presents a sum total solution, claiming that the way to peace is through violence and hate.”

Such a painting victimizes and targets Jewish and Israeli students and normalizes a culture on campus that targets certain peoples based on their beliefs and origins, she adds. “This does not meet the values of York University and Canada and is counterproductive to our Hasbara at York’s call for coexistence and peace.”

Hasbara is not affiliated with Never Again Canada and is an independent student organization that collaborates with external partners who share goals and respect their autonomy.

“We do not support organizations and movements who interfere with our campus dynamic and refuse to listen to the needs of the students. All radical ideology is not welcome and highly discouraged.”

“If an opportunity arises, we would love to provide a painting done by York University students because it would allow us to be a part of campus life and help us educate the masses.”

Original article courtesy of Excalibur: York University’s Community Newspaper.

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