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Ontario Science Center Head Resigns over Compliance with Arab Boycott

November 19, 1990
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The director general of the Ontario Science Center has resigned following disclosure that a $1 million contract he signed with the government of Oman called for the boycott of Israeli goods and services.

The official, Mark Abbott, became the focus of protests in the Jewish community and the provincial government for violating Ontario’s Discriminatory Business Practices Act, which forbids discrimination in the business community.

George Cohon, chairman of the board of trustees of the Science Center, a government corporation, announced at a news conference here on Friday that Abbott had “agreed in principle” to step down.

Abbott was expected to submit a formal letter of resignation Monday.

The contract signed last May called for the Science Center to design and install science exhibits for a children’s museum in Oman, a Persian Gulf sultanate. The exhibit reportedly opened last Thursday.

Part of the agreement signed by Abbott stipulated that none of the equipment used in the exhibit could be “manufactured in Israel or purchased from an Israeli company or body.”

It also stated that nothing could be purchased from any company on the Oman government’s boycott list.

Those clauses were inserted into the contract under the heading “Israel Boycott Section,” so their intent was clear from the outset, Jewish groups here charged.


Ontario’s recently elected premier, Bob Rae, said he was “profoundly disturbed” by the original contract and was “not entirely happy” with an amended version.

He was referring to an amendment made after a government lawyer advised the Science Center that compliance with the boycott violated Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

The contract was altered to state that all materials provided would be North American and that all shipments would be through North American and/or European airports.

“This amended agreement is certainly no better, and it may be worse, than the original,” said Howard English of B’nai Brith Canada.

“It seems to be a sophisticated cover-up with the same intent and effect,” he said.

According to David Satok of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Oman boycott also excludes Canadian businesses.

“The list keeps changing. But it certainly means boycotting Canadians. You could be boycotting Air Canada or Canadian shipping lines if they stopped in Israel,” Satok said.

Cohon said he found out about the contract two months after it was signed. He said three Israeli toys were in fact in the finished exhibit.

But he said he was told the “Made in Israel” mark had been scraped off, an action he called “insidious.”

According to Jennifer Fleming, marketing director, the Science Center was to have earned a $400,000 profit for setting up the exhibit.

(JTA correspondent Ben Kayfetz contributed to this report.)

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