“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital:” four words spoken by Donald Trump that created controversy on a global scale, without sparing the Dawson community.
U.S. President Donald Trump declared on December 6th, 2017 that, “it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” Vice President Mike Pence later announced that the American Embassy will be moved there “by the end of 2019.”
Palestinians and other Arab nations responded to Trump’s statements by declaring “three days of rage” in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. It resulted in rocket fire, rock-throwing, and the burning of U.S. flags.
“[E]verything that Trump says is meant to get people’s attention,” said Dawson’s Muslim Student Association President Lina Benredouane. “Jerusalem was taken by Israel a long time ago, so I don’t see why people are offended now.”
“[Trump’s] just such an idiot,” said Sonia Zylberberg, Introduction to Religion Studies teacher. “He’s just so irresponsible, he’s like a buffoon. It’s a stupid thing to be [deciding who Jerusalem belongs to].”
“I know that this is a big controversy in the Jewish community […] I would study it more if there is no danger; if no one gets killed or hurt.”
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all consider Jerusalem to be a holy city. It is home to five sacred sites in between them. The Temple Mount (Judaism), the al-Aqsa Mosque (Islam), the Western Wall (Judaism), the Dome of the Rock (Islam), and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Christianity).
“Jewish people think that Israel [and therefore Jerusalem] belongs to Jews. Being Jewish isn’t about Israel,” explained Zylberberg. “I am not a Zionist; I am not in agreement with the official Jewish community – if there is one. The focus of the Montreal-Jewish community should be Montreal, not Israel.”
Palestinians are clashing with Israelis about this decision because they want Jerusalem to be their future state’s capital. If Trump decides to go ahead with his decision of making it Israel’s capital, this hope will be spoiled.
“For Orthodox Jews, we wait for God to give Jerusalem to us,” explained the anonymous Jewish student. “People who study the Talmud know that creating an army to take over Jerusalem is against Orthodox law. I’m against violence in general; killing [Palestinians and Israelis] over this is simply not worth it.”
Israeli officials praised Trump’s announcement, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “an important step towards peace.”
Law, Society and Justice graduate Sid Djahlat disagreed. “This is a provocative move that doesn’t align with peace processes; it aligns with the alt-right movement rather than the Jewish rights movement. It is meant to provoke outrage in the Middle East.”
“If everybody could just sit down to [, talk about Jerusalem’s status,] and try to find peace, maybe they would find peace,” added Zylberberg. “We can’t say that it belongs to one country and [make] the others get out.”
Demonstrators gathered on December 8th, 2017 outside the U.S. Consulate General Montreal to protest Trump’s declaration.
Posters made by Djahlat to inform Dawson students about these protests were torn down before the Director of Student Services Raymond Boucher ordered for them to be removed because of the slogan “Hands Off Jerusalem”.
“[Djahlat] only wanted to invite people to participate to the rally; it’s a mobilization technique,” explained Benredouane.
“If there is a controversial poster put on Dawson’s bulletin boards, it won’t go well,” said Co-ordinator of Student Services and Athletics Daniel Boyer. “We’re not promoting [political parties].”
Boucher declared that “vandalism is a bit of a strong term” to describe what happened to the posters. “Only a couple of posters were taken down, not all of them. It’s not like students were scribbling down on them,” he said.
Djahlat mentioned in his Open Letter to the Director General – which is based on the posters situation from his perspective – that there was no investigation about who vandalized the posters.
Boyer and Boucher both argued that the two students who were seen vandalizing the posters were dealt with and given a verbal warning. “Students are not permitted to take the posters down off the bulletin boards,” Boyer added.
These posters were approved by the DSU and CLL before being posted, which lead to confusion.
“A new employee in the CLL simply put a stamp [showing that he approved the posters] because he saw the DSU stamp and [his superior] wasn’t there,” Boyer explained. “[Boucher] then told him that these posters shouldn’t have been approved.”
Boucher added that, although the DSU logo was imprinted on the posters, the DSU didn’t actually approve them. “It was a mistake,” he said.
But where can students read about the rules and regulations concerning posters in Dawson?
“If there’s such a thing as a rule for posters, it’s not made available for students,” declared Djahlat.
It is impossible to ignore the tensions that Jerusalem’s status sparked between those who are pro-Palestine and those who are pro-Israel. Only time can tell if there exists a way to resolve this conflict while pleasing all parties.