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B'nai Brith Files Complaint: Chatterley Finds Poster with UMSU stamp of Approval. Is an Investigation Required? Read the Opinions of B’nai Brith, Chatterley and Ezra Levant on the Poster.

by Rhonda Spivak, April 28, 2011

On April 28, The Winnipeg Jewish Review wrote an article about the  poster which is seen here that was put up prior to  Israel Apartheid Week advertiing an off campus fundraiser for  IAW. [The entire article is reprinted below]

B'nai Brith Canada filed a complaint about the poster suggesting it violated the University's obligation to provide a respectful learning environment. It received a response From the University set out below indicating that the  University of Manitoba was not able to find such a poster.

The Winnipeg Jeiwsh Review found that Dr. Catherine Chatterly had seen a poster stamped with an approval in Fletcher argue building, taken it down and saved it. Chatterley's opinion which is set out in the article below is that there could be a violation of the Univeristy policy in allowing this hateful poster to be put up.

As a result of the Winnipeg Jeiwsh Review's article below, the Univeristy of Manitoba contacted Dr. Chatterley to ask her to show them the poster in question. 

The Winnipeg Jewsh Review spoke to  John Danakas, media spokesperson for  the University of Manitoba on May 11, in regard to the poster in question.

He confirmed that "The stamp on the poster found by Catherine Chatterley was an  UMSU stamp.  They have oversight of a number of bulliten boards on th e University."

He added, "Because of the nature of this poster, the University through itse Human Rights and Advisory Services Office will be meeting with  representatives from UMSU to ensure that they are aware of the respectful work and learning evironment policy and to some of the sensitive issues around a poster like this one."

When asked specifically if the Uinversity of Manitoba would be making a ruling about this poster,Danakis said that we are not going to make a decision about whether this  poster violated the  University's respectfull learning environment policy after the fact.

"If it were to be presented again [next year] we would be prepared to rule on it," Danakas said.

It is thus unclear what will happen if IAW supporters attempt to use this poster again.


By Rhonda Spivak , April 28, 2011

On March 11, 2011 B’nai Brith Canada called on the University of Manitoba and its President, Dr. David Barnard, to launch a formal investigation into violations of the University’s polices against violent or threatening behaviour, that are in direct contravention of its obligation to provide a respectful work and learning environment. These violations stem from the publicity used to promote “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW).
“We find particularly offensive a poster advertising a fundraiser for IAW that was authorized by campus officials as suitable to be displayed in the University Centre. The poster, which calls for students to “Smash Israel Apartheid”, is dominated by the ugly graphic of a raised fist, which amounts in our view to incitement to violence,” said Winnipeg-based David Matas, Senior Legal Counsel for B’nai Brith Canada. “The university’s Respectful Work and Learning Environment Procedure makes provision for an investigation of this nature and this should be put into motion without further delay."
On February 18th,  Matas, Alan Yusim, director f B’nai Brith  Midwest Region, Belle Millo and Maxim Berent, a Jewish student , who is also the President of Hillel, met with Barnard, expressing the concern that the poster ought not to have been approved for display. The complaint about the poster was filed following that meeting.
In an email response to inquiries made by the Winnipeg Jewish Review, Matas said that once a complaint is filed, then certain procedures ought to be engaged and an investigation into the complaint is required.  As Matas wrote, 
“The complaints procedure for threatening behaviour can be found at
and for harassment at
Alan Yusim told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he had a copy of the poster with a stamp of approval from the  University of Winnipeg, but when he was next back at the U of W during IAW he could no longer find the poster. He said , however, he did not have a copy of a poster with a U of M stamp of approval, and although a student had seen it on U of M, B’nai Brith could not  prove that  the  U of M  had approved of the poster before it was put up.
In a response to the concerns raised by B’nai Brith, President Barnard sent a letter dated March 10, 2011 to  Matas in which  he referred to the issue of the poster in question, but said it could not be located. Barnard wrote:
“With respect to the concerns you raised about a Smash Israel Apartheid poster, I can assure you that the University has policies and procedures in place to control both the number and content of posters that are posted in University Centre. All posters are stamped when approved by trained staff at the UMSU Answers Booth, to ensure that posters comply with Respectful Work and Learning Environment and the Commercial Advertising Policies. With respect to the specific poster in question, the official University Centre poster boards all have been checked and it was not located. Staff, are however, aware of the concern and all continue to monitor the boards to ensure nothing is posted in violation of the university policies.”
At Israel Apartheid Week, the Winnipeg Jewish Review spoke with John Danakas, media spokesperson for the  University of Manitoba and was told that no investigation of the poster had taken place, since ”we looked and weren't able to find any posters around.” If a poster had been found with a Uof M stamp of approval, then Danakis acknowledged in that conversation that a decision would have to be made as to whether it violated university policy on providing a respectful  learning environment.

Since speaking to  Danakis during IAW, the Winnipeg Jewish Review has discovered that  Dr.Catherine  Chatterley, a professor at U of M and founding director of  the Canadian Institute for Antisemtism saw the Smash Israel Apartheid poster in question with a U of M stamp of approval and took it off the wall.
Chatterley wrote in an email “I did see the sign for the IAW fundraiser posted at the University of Manitoba in the Fletcher Argue Building and I have a copy that has a U of M stamp of approval. I was shocked by the violent rhetoric of the sign--in other words, the word "smash”[emphasis added]."

As a result, the Winnipeg Jewish Review has notified the U of M of this development. We have asked  John Danakis of the U of M whether they will now launch an investigation pursuant to their procedures in light of the fact that there is now proof that the poster in question was approved by the  U of M and a complaint has been filed.   We are awaiting Danakis's reply, which hopefully will be given to us next week. 
It ought to be noted that Dr. Barnard’s letter to Matas does not  refer to procedures for posters to be displayed in  Fletcher Argue building but rather in University Centre.
When asked to comment on the poster, Chatterley wrote to the Review,
“This is year two of IAW at U of M and this kind of rhetoric is most certainly an escalation that many Manitobans would find unacceptable. The image of the fist is actually a symbol of Mandela's fight for freedom and victory over apartheid in South Africa. It is the salute of the African National Congress (ANC) and so the IAW organizers are once again appropriating South African history to promote their political cause."
“Let's call a shovel a shovel: to place the words "Smash Israeli Apartheid" above a fist is provocative and threatening to Jews, the vast majority of whom have relatives and friends in Israel and therefore identify personally with the Jewish State. I can certainly see why Mr. Matas views the poster as a violation of the university's respectful environment policy and the university should review its policy and approval process on campus signage. The university would no doubt investigate hostile signage directed toward any other ethnic or religious group on campus, or toward women or LGBT students, so in the interest of fairness it behooves the university to respond similarly when it comes to Jews."
“I think it would be helpful if the university administration would educate itself about the toxic atmosphere that exists on too many North American campuses by watching the film Hate Speech on Campus ( While extreme by the standards of our current environment in Winnipeg, this film clearly illustrates the kind of hateful and hostile environment we must work together to prevent in Manitoba. It will also, perhaps, allow the university administrators to better understand our general concerns.”
When asked by The Winnipeg Jewish Review to comment on the poster, conservative pundit, lawyer and author Ezra Levant replied:
"If it said "Smash the Jews" or more certainly "smash the Jews here on campus", I'd say there was a possible case [for a criminal conviction] …But as it's written now -- smash Israeli Apartheid -- there's no chance of [a criminal] conviction. That's my opinion as a lawyer."
“You'll note that Matas uses words like "offensive" and "ugly". That's true. But that's not the same thing as violence."
“I should note, though, that B'nai Brith isn't referring to the Criminal Code. They're referring to a university bylaw about "respectful" environment. But even that subjective, wishy-washy standard might not be enough to convict someone, given the general context of freedom of expression on a university. Without studying the "jurisprudence" at U of M surrounding this bylaw -- if it's even been interpreted and applied before -- I simply don't know if it will succeed."
“What I do know with perfect certainty, though, is that whining and complaining and litigating is the wrong approach. It makes Jews look like thin-skinned bullies who can't debate, and instead want to silence their opponents. Which plays right into the stereotype the other side has scripted for us."
“A better way is to actually debate, campaign, lobby, organize and work to change hearts and minds one at a time. That requires a lot more effort than dialing 911 or tattling to the teacher. But it can actually work, and moreover the mere process of doing it strengthens the political skills and experience of Jews and pro-Israel activists. If Jewish students can simply outsource their public advocacy to some … Jewish lawyer or some campus security cop, what are those Jewish students going to know how to do when they graduate to a world where there isn't a nanny state bylaw that like?"
“We shouldn't be training young Jews to whine and complain and sue and censor. We should be training them to fight back in the court of public opinion."
"It goes without saying that I disagree with this poster, and that I too find it ugly and offensive. But for Jews to be the censors, especially on a university campus, is a betrayal of our Jewish values. More to the point, it's a losing political strategy, especially in the age of the Internet. I'm not sure why B'nai Brith is so eager to play the role of Goliath against leftist Davids, but that's what they're doing here.’’
[Note: The Review made some inquiries as to whether this poster appeared on other campuses in Canada. We were not able to find another campus where it appeared (aside from the University of Winnipeg). It may be however, that it appeared elsewhere but we simply have not been successful in tracking it down. If a reader knows if it appeared elsewhere please contact us at
[email protected]]

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.