PAJU condems Concordia University’s complicity in the Israeli war against the Palestinians
PAJU would like to express our solidarity to the Palestinian students and their supporters at Concordia University that were subjected for years to an aggressive, violent pro-Israel lobby at the hands of the Concordia administration.
Concordia University’s discriminatory racist past is not hidden nor is it forgotten. From the Black and Caribbean students’ uprising in 1969 to the Palestinian student uprising in 2003, the Concordia administration has always managed to be on the side of the oppressors and racists.
Concordia President Graham Carr’s recent statements expressing his unwavering support for Israel and its genocidal acts against Palestinians is in itself violent, and it shows the university’s complete disregard and utter contempt for Palestinian students.
Concordia University over the years took drastic and authoritarian measures to silence Palestinian voices through intricate systems denying students and the community at large from speaking about the apartheid and genocidal Israeli regime. Concordia denied space and reservations for numerous lectures and events from being held in the University.
As PAJU, we want to remind President Carr that 22 years ago Concordia rolled out the red carpet to Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak at the Hall building even though at that time he was already accused by many human rights organizations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is the same Prime Minister that is now waging a genocidal war of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. There are numerous reports from the United Nations and international bodies that are pointing to war crimes being committed against the Palestinian people.
In 2002, Netanyahu was scheduled to speak at Concordia. But students, professors and community members organized a protest to block him from stepping foot in the university and issued a citizen’s arrest warrant against Bibi for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The choice of Concordia as the venue for Netanyahu’s only campus speech was no accident. A university with a large working class and immigrant student body—including 5,000 students of Arab descent—Concordia has emerged as something of a center of student activism and dissent.
Within this context, the invitation to Netanyahu was a blatant provocation—an attempt to bolster the Zionist cause on campus, by staging a pro-Israel political rally. The Zionist’s political objectives are underlined by the fact that they insisted the only suitable venue for Netanyahu’s speech was the most important campus building, brushing off university suggestions of alternate sites.
In the aftermath of the September 9, 2002 clash, the administration moved to further stifle political dissent—and all in the name of defending free speech. Within hours of Netanyahu’s speech being cancelled, former University Chancellor Frederick Lowy declared a moratorium on campus events related to the Middle East and cancelled a planned appearance by Norman Finkelstein, an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation. Despite protests by student representatives, the university Senate voted to ban all public activity relating to the Middle East for the remainder of the semester and to bar student organizations from using the mezzanine in the building for displays and promotional tables. Of course, the students didn’t take it and organized rallys, conferences, tabling, sit ins, walk outs and more in response to the university respression. The university did back down on the moratorium, however, it continued to pursue agreements in the background with Israël.
Concordia University is not a neutral bystander in the genocide against Palestinians
Concordia’s connection to the Israeli Occupation forces is no secret. In 2001 Concordia established close ties with Technion Aerospace Institute, an engineering/science university that is heavily involved in arms research and technology. Technion is a key agent in Israel’s military-industrial complex. Through cooperative research programs with Israeli weapons corporations such as Elbit and Rafael, and programs with the Israeli military, Technion participates in the creation and development of technology funded by arms profiteers and the Israeli military. The arms technology/research that is developed at Technion has been used by the Israeli state and military in a variety of guises.
Technion joined Elbit in creating a technology initiative at the University’s faculty of engineering. At the same time, Elbit (with direct and indirect help from Technion) has become one of the two main providers for Israel’s apartheid wall. Further, in collaboration with Rafael- one of Israel’s largest weapons manufacturers- students and faculty at Technion have researched and developed amongst other projects, the ‘Ramtech’ rockets and more recently, different unnamed aircrafts to be used in Israel’s ongoing occupation. Rafael is also responsible for developing certain technologies used by Merkava-4 tanks used in oppression of Palestinians.
The links between Technion and weapons manufacturer Rafael are so strong, that since 2001, the company has had a three-year ‘in-house’ MBA program at the University tailored specifically for its managers.
Beyond supporting and normalizing the arms research and technology that is produced at Technion, and used in the occupation of the Palestinian territories, Concordia institutional links with this University signal a complicity in the genocide of Palestinian and the continued operation they are subjected to.
Students have the right to be angry, upset and express their trauma
So far more than 11000 Palestinians have died in Israel’s war on Gaza with almost half of them being children. When Zionist groups come on campus promoting more killing of innocent civilians and when the university administration allows this hate speech to go unabated, it is no wonder that emotions flare up. Condemning or criminalizing students whose families have been directly affected by the mass killing of Benjamin Netanyahu’s regime of terror can not be the responsible way forward for a university administration.
We believe instead that it is high time for President Carr to call for an investigation into Concordia’s connections and support of the Israeli Genocidal regime and take all means to cut ties with the war machine that is Israel.
We call on Concordia to take this moment to reassess its position and show respect and empathy to the Palestinian people, acknowledge and apologize for the wrong it has committed in the past so that the healing can start.