Written by Atara Beck
TORONTO-OTTAWA – “We have been warning about the spill-over effect of anti-Israel hate-fests such as Israeli Apartheid Week for years,” declared Frank Dimant, CEO, B’nai Brith Canada, in reaction to the recent alleged attack against a Carleton University student with a machete in Gatineau.
Nick Bergamini, 22, vice-president of the Carleton University Students’ Association and a pro-Israel non-Jew, and his Israeli roommate Mark Klibanov claimed that after enjoying a night out on April 5 at Le Volt bar in Gatineau, they were accosted for being Zionists by a mob of about 10 men of the same age group, many of them Arabic-speaking. One of them threw a machete at Bergamini, missing his head by about a foot.
Klibanov, who was an Ottawa-based organizer of B’nai Brith’s recent Imagine With Us pro-Israel campus initiative, which was banned by York University, told the Jewish Tribune that he and Bergamini ran for their lives and neglected to take down the license plate number. Still reeling from the close call, he said he was thankful to be busy studying for exams to get his mind off the incident. Police are investigating.
“It is simply outrageous that pro-Israel students have been assaulted in our nation’s capital for nothing more than their pro-Israel views,” Dimant said. “We reiterate our call to university administrations across Canada to ban anti-Israel agitation from their campuses.”
Carleton University spokesperson Jason MacDonald said that the claim that one of the accused is a Carleton student has yet to be proven, although if true, it would be “very serious. We would be very troubled to find out they are students.” There are 25,000 people on campus as well as others with gym and other memberships, he said. “Campus safety people have volunteered their willingness to help the Gatineau police force in any way they can. Police are still investigating.
“Our campus is a safe campus,” he continued. “We have not had any cases of violence as a result of these [Arab-Israeli conflict] issues…. There has been some very heated debate, but we have not seen violence. Our campus safety people are very visible during these debates.”
University students should be given the “opportunity and platform” to debate these issues, he said, even if they “make some people uncomfortable.” Asked whether he thinks conservative Ann Coulter, who was prevented from speaking at the University of Ottawa recently, should be allowed to address students on campus, he repeated that students should be given the opportunity to listen to different perspectives as well as to voice their disagreement.
Yael Gang, a second-year journalism student at Carleton, opined that the machete incident has not made Jewish students more fearful.
“I think a lot of people were pretty shocked about it,” she said. “I don’t feel scared just because Carleton reacted well. The president offered to meet with Jewish students on campus. Chabad held a solidarity lunch on Shabbat. There has always been tension over the conflict to start with. We don’t feel 100 per cent comfortable [during anti-Israel events]. It [machete incident] happened downtown at night in a bar setting. I don’t think that would have happened on campus.”
Papineau MP Justin Trudeau, opposition critic for youth and multiculturalism, said that the attack, “with its troubling overtones of antisemitism, should serve as a reminder that we must remain ever vigilant against all forms of hatred, prejudice and intolerance.”
According to Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak, “as recent events such as Israeli Apartheid Week remind us, there is a disturbing market for antisemitic activists and their rhetoric at too many Ontario universities.” Last Updated ( Wednesday, 14 April 2010 )