The last month has been challenging for people organizing a talk by the director of The Electronic Intifada and author of “One Country” and “The Battle for Justice in Palestine,” Ali Abunimah on September 15th 2022 at Concordia University.
Earlier this summer, organizers of the event made the reservation for the lecture hall (DB Clarke theatre) where Ali was to speak. Organizers began to advertise and to mobilize for the event.
A few weeks later, they were informed that the reservation had been canceled without any further explanation. This started a frantic search for alternative venues at Concordia University. Ultimately, organizers were able to secure a student space on the 7th Floor of Concordia University.
However, the University added extreme conditions for this event to move forward, including charging the organizers for extra security guards and erecting a perimeter around the space, adding checkpoints at the entrance and separating the space with a newly erected wall to segregate attendees from the rest of the floor. The ‘security’ set up is highly familiar for those of us working against Israeli Apartheid.
A long history of apartheid support at Concordia
Restrictions and harassment against Palestinian human rights activists is nothing new on most campuses across Canada. The Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights group (SPHR) has been banned from McGill University and it is well known that Concordia University has been and continues to be at the forefront of the suppression of Palestinian human rights organizing for over 20 years. In fact, need we remind ourselves that in 2002, the university rolled out the red carpet to greet former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite calls from campus groups and citizens to arrest him and to bring him to trial for war crimes committed against the Palestinians?
Even 20 years after and in light of the recent restraint on Palestinian human rights organizing, the question we are left wondering about is: What is happening to our University, an institution of higher learning, when the voices of human rights activists are suppressed and public relations criteria become more important than the creation of a welcoming environment for all members of the community, regardless of their background? We ask this question because we fundamentally believe that universities, institutions of higher learning, which seek to truly reflect their public mission, should be at the forefront of experimenting in breaking down social constructs of racism and any other form of discrimination. Just as these doctrines have been interwoven with our habits, customs and institutions throughout history by people within them; we believe that people within these institutions have also the power to reject racist doctrines and to build new institutions that are more free and just.
As stated, racial discrimination on campus is not a novel occurrence: it is a reflection of the assumptions and standards deeply embedded in the society within which it operates.
We at Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) believe that it is important to continue to fight for the right of human rights defenders, including Palestinian human rights defenders, to be allowed to organize on university campuses across the country. We will hold the event despite the repressive measures by the university administration and we wish to take this time to thank our partners and supporters for holding their ground and ensuring that universities remain public spaces accessible to the community in which they exist. We look forward to discussing the Battle for Justice in Palestine with Ali Abunimah and attendees.
Free our campuses from Israeli Apartheid! Free Palestine!
Dean of Students
514-848-2424, ext. 3520
For more info:
B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity
Pro-Palestinian voices complain of censorship on US campuses:
Exposed: University of Toronto suppresses pro-Palestinian activism