The Jewish tribune, Canada's largest-circulation Jewish newspaper, makes no bones about its support for the Israeli government. Indeed, it's the official organ of B'nai Brith Canada, an organization whose politics in recent years have taken a decidedly hard turn to the right. The paper's recent coverage of the ongoing conflict between Jewish and Arab students on the York University campus, however, was too much even for York's Jewish Student Federation (JSF) to stomach.
At issue was a cartoon that ran in the paper's March 13 edition for which the Tribune was later forced to publish an apology.
It depicts a crowd of blackened, savage-looking figures, some naked and others clothed only in Arab-style scarves, attacking a young woman wearing star of David earrings. One of the figures wields a club.
The cartoon was meant as a shot at Arab students at York, some of whom blocked roads to the campus during an anti-war protest March 5.
It appeared under the signature of the Tribune's regular cartoonist, Oleg.
The Tribune's editor, Carla Lancit, declined to comment. The Tribune's publisher, Frank Dimant, declined to forward a request from NOW to speak to Oleg, who it turns out formerly worked for media baron Conrad Black's far right Jerusalem Post.
Dimant seems more eager to downplay the entire incident as a misunderstanding -- despite the Tribune's apology this week.
"Some people misunderstood, and we didn't want anybody to be hurt," says Dimant, who's also executive vice-president of B'nai Brith Canada.
Dimant says the paper received a lot of letters of complaint, but declined to say from which individuals or organizations, if any.
The apology published by the Tribune says, "The cartoon was not intended to characterize any particular group, but was attempting to depict an intimidating environment that day on campus, as reported to the Jewish Tribune.
"Nor was there any intention to imply that physical violence took place that day at the entrance to the campus."
The apology goes on to say that "the Jewish Tribune appreciates that York University is currently working diligently to maintain a positive environment for all students."
It isn't the first time the Tribune's campus coverage has been attacked as over the top, if not irresponsible.
Recently, York's director of communications was forced to pen a letter to the publication chastising it for erroneously reporting in an article related to the cartoon that Arab students were involved in a violent set-to on campus.
The cartoon controversy further impedes Jewish and Arab students' ongoing efforts to bury the hatchet.
"Personally, I think it's a disgusting cartoon," says Jewish Students Federation spokesperson Seth Winberg. "A cartoon like that really doesn't help alleviate tension on campus."
Groups representing Arab and Jewish students ran a joint statement in a student newspaper urging calm.