Letter: to my fellow Gabriolans

Tuesday, February 7 2017

To my fellow Gabriolans:

My name is James Mitchell, owner/operator of the Island School of Building Arts here on Gabriola for over the past 20 years. Our students are multinational and multiracial and our school has had, and continues to have, an open–door policy. That being said, of late I (ISBA) have been labeled anti-semetic. I assure you that I am not anti-semetic but rather guilty of a misunderstanding. Let me explain. 

This perfect storm began two weeks ago, a student queried if ISBA supported UN Resolution 2334 Dec. 23/16 against Israeli housing on Palestinian land (he knew from our website that I have taught a number of Israeli and Jewish students). I said that I morally supported the UN. He said I was contravening this International law and supporting those illegal housing initiatives by accepting Israeli students. Since Canada is a member of the UN I believed we were bound to this resolution. I was wrong. My misunderstanding resulted in suspending an application from Israel last week. A callous, ill-thought decision made as a knee-jerk reaction, not anti-semetism. A complaint was lodged… the media sensationalized, words added, threats, name-calling, hate mail, fit to hang after two days judgement. 

I’ve made my apologies and I may not be the sharpest nail in the pouch, but I’m no racist. In 1977, I traveled to Auschwitz as a gesture of compassion and respect and to gain an understanding of the horror of the holocaust. I wanted to feel the cruel why of it all. I have empathy with the Jewish and the Palestinian desire to be free and have a home. 

A quote from one of ISBA Jewish students: “This was such a positive learning experience for me, everybody was friendly – thank you for making me feel comfortable”, Nachman, USA/Israel, Fall 2015. We also enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal together: Christian, Jew and Muslim, and Pat cooked kosher. Check out the video link on the front page of our website (posted last year), and on the signature of every email we send: Pavel, Israel, ISBA student and friend. 

I sincerely apologize to my fellow Gabriolans for any embarrassment or impact this has caused.

~ James Mitchell, ISBA