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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Ryerson University, Toronto

Pro-Israel posters removed: "clearly offensive" and "meant to incite"

From an independent newspaper on campus, The Eyeopener:
Ryerson campus, already on edge over the Middle East conflict, was hit with a controversial pro-Israel poster campaign last Thursday.

Many of the posters spread around the lower floors of Jorgenson Hall depicted a Palestinian protester clad in the checkered scarf associated with Palestinian solidarity and featured the caption, "Do you want this in your neighbourhood? Speak out against Palestinian terror."


The posters had not been approved by RyeSAC, and the student union's reaction was swift.

"We certainly did not approve," said President Ken Marciniec. "There was no stamp on any of these posters. It's clearly offensive."

Ann Whiteside, Ryerson's discrimination and harrassment prevention services officer, said she had recieved only a few complaints, likely "because they were taken down so quickly."

Most of the RyeSAC executive, who would ordinarily be required to pass judgement on such politically sensitive material, was away last week attending the Canadian Federation of Students national convention. Mike Verticchio, RyeSAC vice president of finance and services, took control of the issue in Marciniec's absence.

"It's the university's responsibility to enforce the discrimination and harrassment policy," said Verticchio, who passed the posters on to the administration.

Some of the promotional posters asked students if they were IDIOTS, an acronym meaning that "I've Divested In Original Thoughts."



The posters are pieces of promotional material by Upstart Activist, an Israel-based organization that exists to "significantly improve Israel's image on campus and advance the centrality of Zionism and Israel in the lives of North American Jewish students," according to the organization's Web site.

The Upstart Activist Web site lists the Israeli ministry of Foreign Affairs and Hillel as clients. However, the Ryerson chapter of Hillel issued a statement denying their involvment in the poster campaign.

"We suspect that that this task was driven by distraught individuals who did not have Hillel's approval or support," Jewish Student Association President Victor Volfson said in the statement.

Whiteside said it was a smart move by Hillel to denounce the poster campaign.

"It was a wise and peacemaking decision," she said. "Our big concern is that we get into a tit-for-tat situation here. We don't want to go down the same road as many other campuses on this issue."

Though Whiteside said that the poster's contents were not expressly hateful or discriminatory, "they are clearly meant to incite."

She said that Ryerson security has been given copies of the posters as well as instructions to tear down any more.

"Our campus is not combative on this issue right now, and we want it to remain that way," she said.