Paul Bronfman, a Canadian film industry bigwig and nephew of late World Jewish Congress leader (and corporate bigwig) Edgar Bronfman, recently made headlines by throwing a temper-tantrum about a mural at York University in Toronto.
The mural at the York University Student Centre, by artist Ahmad Al Abid, shows a Palestinian, stone cupped behind his back, watching an Israeli bulldozer raze olive trees. If it befuddles you why something so innocuous could cause such consternation, then you are not alone.
Israel undeniably razes olive trees. It often uses bulldozers to enforce a brutal military occupation. It evinces no respect for Palestine’s natural environment. And stones have long been Palestinian symbols of defiance and resistance.
It’s clear that the imagery of defiance and resistance inspires Bronfman’s histrionics – and his decision to withdraw his donations to the university.
To apologists for Israeli settler colonialism, there’s nothing innocuous about the Palestinian will to survive ethnic cleansing.
Thus far, York University administrators have held firm, though their nervousness is apparent.
It is unclear how they will ultimately respond, but, given the long history of administrative capitulation to Zionist blackmail, it wouldn’t be wise to expect anything forceful.
This, however, is how they should respond:
Dear Mr. Bronfman:
We received your letter pledging to withdraw funds and assistance to our university if we don’t remove a mural you find unpleasant. We don’t appreciate being bullied and threatened. Nevertheless, as you have taken the time to express your thoughts, we feel it is only fair to provide a response.
Before we go any further: as to the matter of the mural that has so enraged you, it is a nonstarter. The painting will remain where it hangs. There is nothing remotely offensive, racist, or infuriating about it. If the mere existence of Palestinians is too difficult for you to handle, we humbly suggest deep introspection about the causes of your anxiety. It would certainly be more efficient than punishing over 12 million people who refuse to be silent.
That you appoint yourself a spokesperson for all Jews by proclaiming their universal offense is a severe disservice to the Jewish students and faculty on York’s campus who support global human rights, not to mention the worldwide Jewish community whose opinions are far too diverse to be understood, much less represented, by one person (especially a person who aggressively supports colonization).
Succumbing to your demand would demean our community and devalue the tenets of higher education. Our university doesn’t exist to cosset the violent imperatives of impertinent elites born into wealth. We aren’t willing to put your ethnocratic fetish above the well-being of our student body.
You should be deeply ashamed to hinder opportunities for all students at York University because you can’t abide criticism of Israel. Then again, collective punishment is a hallmark of the state you so adore. As usual, when a member of the ruling class intimidates public institutions, it is the least powerful who suffer the most.
We believe that in the final balance the withdrawal of your support will benefit students. What would they really learn about the production of art from somebody so keen on censorship? Propaganda may be lucrative, but it doesn’t create imaginative producers or smart consumers. Only a crude ideologue, for example, could fail to see the beauty in a simple depiction of tenacity and resilience.
You call the mural “pure hate.” No. Pure hate doesn’t in any way resemble a painting representing the survival and defiance of the Palestinian people.
Pure hate is the ethnic cleaning of over 500 villages, the use of chemical weapons on defenseless civilians, the separation of humans into distinct legal categories based on their religion, the wholesale slaughter of children, the firebombing of entire families, the denial of human rights to an occupied population, the theft of natural resources, the introduction of aggressive settlers into conquered territory, the training of trigger-happy US police forces, the defense of tyrants and dictators, the extermination of Indigenes in Central America, the best-buddy relationship with apartheid South Africa, the separation of farmers from their ancestral lands, the refusal to allow refugees to return home, the brutalization of African migrants and refugees, the incitement to genocide by legislators, the election of homicidal politicians, the unwillingness to view Palestinians as worthy of a fundamental desire to illustrate their humanity through the creative and cathartic power of self-expression.
And, lest we forget, pure hate includes the bulldozing of olive trees, the primary symbol of the region’s sustenance and history.
So, please, pull your support until such time that it becomes something other than a toxic influence on a space devoted to debate and learning. Based on our interactions with you, we suspect that your hysteria will increase in direct proportion to the reduction of your authority.
Palestine will one day be free. We recommend developing your emotional maturity so that you might cope more productively when that glorious moment arrives.