MONTREAL (Dec. 10)
A week after it banned Hillel from Montreal’s Concordia University, the school’s pro-Palestinian student union has conditionally reinstated the Jewish group under threat of a lawsuit.
The Concordia Student Union had voted Dec. 2 to bar Hillel from campus because Hillel was displaying fliers for Mahal 2000, a program that allows volunteers to spend a few months in the Israeli army.
Hillel had threatened to sue in response.
After appealing unsuccessfully to university administrators to save them from their predicament, the student union’s Executive moved over the weekend to allow Hillel back on campus — provided it signed a statement pledging to adhere to the union’s policy guidelines, including not distributing literature that the union deems offensive.
Hillel officials said they had not received any document to sign, but made their own demands of the student union.
Ariela Cotler, president of Hillel Montreal, said Hillel expected the ban to be lifted in writing, and also was demanding an apology from the union.
The union did not meet a deadline of 5 p.m. Monday to meet Hillel’s demands, Cotler told JTA.
Hillel is holding an emergency meeting Tuesday tonight to decide on its next move, she said.
Meanwhile, the union is planning an emergency session Thursday of its council of representatives, the body that voted to ban Hillel from Concordia. There are rumors of a rift between council members, some of whom are displeased with the way the union conducted itself during the original vote.
That vote was held close to midnight of a hastily convened meeting, when only 9 of the 27 members of the group were present. The ban passed by a vote of 8-1.
The vote came less than two weeks after a moratorium was lifted on Mideast-related events on campus.
That moratorium was instituted in September after anti-Israel rioters forced the cancellation of a speech by Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Jewish students on campus have reported being verbally and physically intimidated, and one was beaten up a week after the abortive Netanyahu speech.
Those incidents followed pro-Palestinian rallies, when the intifada began in fall 2000, that featured placards proclaiming “Death to the Jews” and marchers chanting anti-Zionist slogans.
The union also got into hot water over its handbook for the 2001/2002 academic year, which was titled “Uprising” and featured the image of what appeared to be a Muslim woman and the word “revolution.”
The union’s shift comes after it appealed to university administrators to order the student union to rescind its own ban, allowing the union to save face.
In a statement on its Web site, the administration noted that the student union has reacted angrily in the past when it thought the administration was overstepping its boundaries.
“Therefore, it is particularly offensive to request the university overturn union council decisions on an invitation-only basis when it is to the advantage of the CSU,” the statement reads. “The CSU Executive has the authority to take the same action that they have requested of the university administration. We cannot absolve them of their responsibility and legal duty to conduct their affairs in a fair, equitable and non-partisan manner.”
The statement also says the administration feels the “sanctions against Hillel are wholly disproportionate and should be modified.”
Ralph Lee, a union vice president, said the group hadn’t met the deadline to respond to Hillel “because there is not a clear direction about how to resolve” the impasse. Asked if he would like to see the acrimony between the groups dissolved, Lee responded, “I would love it.”