OTTAWA — The Ottawa police hate crimes unit is investigating after anti-Semitic graffiti was found in a campus washroom at Carleton University.
The university’s campus safety department called police early last month after the graffiti was discovered. Three messages — “Kill a Jew slow + painfully,” “Nuke Israel” and “White Power” — and a swastika were inscribed in orange marker in a men’s bathroom stall in the Residence Commons building.
University officials treated the vandalism as a hate crime and turned the matter over to Ottawa police.
Police have no suspects in the incident and says this type of crime is difficult to solve unless there is a witness.
Surveillance cameras aren’t allowed in public washrooms because of privacy restrictions, so that could explain why a lot of hate-related graffiti is committed in washrooms, Det. John Byers says.
The graffiti was discovered during this year’s instalment of Israeli Apartheid Week, but Byers noted the use of “White Power” suggested to him the perpetrators’ view could fall into the realm of neo-Nazi rather than those typically associated with the pro-Palestinian movement.
He added that calls of this nature weren’t uncommon at university campuses.
“Within the university realm, you’re starting to see more and more controversy concerning different political, religious or racial affiliations,” he said.
The police investigation comes on the heels of another controversial incident.
On Monday, two Carleton students lodged a complaint with Gatineau police after they said they escaped an attack outside a Gatineau bar.
The pair — including a well-known student supporter of Israel and an Israeli engineering student — alleged a group of 10 men yelled at them in English and Arabic that they were Zionists and later chased them. The Carleton students claimed they recognized some of the men. Police have made no arrests.
Last year, the university’s equity services office banned a poster for Israeli Apartheid Week because university officials felt it could incite infringements of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The poster showed an Israeli gunship firing a rocket at a Palestinian child in Gaza. That move prompted 70 current and former Carleton faculty members to write a letter to the director of the equity office to express “alarm and great concern” over the decision.
Michael Dorland, a professor in Carleton’s communications department and research fellow at the Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies, said he hadn’t noticed an increase in tensions at Carleton and dismissed suggestions the campus was polarized between Jewish and Arab students.
“If that’s the case, it’s rather sad,” he said. “The situation in the Middle East is complicated enough without it being reproduced on a smaller and sillier level by students on campuses.”
Nahla Abdo, a member of the group Faculty for Palestine — which is concerned about justice and human rights for Palestinians and is supportive of the student group that organizes Israeli Apartheid Week, said the debate on Carleton’s campus was healthy. “There is nothing wrong with heated debate,” she said.
Carleton’s administration refused to comment specifically on the issue. While some issues evoke strong opinions, the university says its role is to provide a forum for those debates and discussions to take place.
“It is our job to make sure that those debates and discussions can still happen, while not crossing the line and undermining the safety of our community,” university spokesman Jason McDonald said in a written statement.