Home News Israel Apartheid Week event interrupted

Israel Apartheid Week event interrupted

by Aysha White March 11, 2017
Israel Apartheid Week event interrupted

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) hosted a discussion on Palestine’s colonization

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), a Concordia student group that aims to raise awareness about human right abuses towards Palestinians, hosted a panel discussion on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine on Thursday night in Concordia’s Hall building.

The event was part of the Israel Apartheid Week 2017, a week aimed at creating international awareness of the settler-colonial relationship between Israel and Palestine, and the Palestinian apartheid. SPHR advocates for an end to Palestine’s colonization and aims to promote awareness of Palestinian culture and identity.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Nahla Abdo, a professor in the department of sociology at Carleton University in Ottawa, was the first speaker. The other two panelists were Nuha Dwaikat Shaer, a PhD candidate at McGill’s School of Social Work, and Rula Abisaab, a professor of Islamic history at McGill University.

Approximately one minute into Abdo’s presentation, two young men entered the auditorium wearing Israeli flags tied around their shoulders like capes. Both men, followed by a man filming them, walked up to the table where the panelists were seated and began to chant, “I’m Israel, I’m Israel, we are here to stay,” adding, “there is no Palestine, there was never any Palestine.”

Abisaab attempted to read the poem “With Green We Wrapped Him” by Palestinian poet Izzidin al-Manasrah over their chants. “We wrapped him in a shroud of green, white and black. A red triangle on rectangular flag,” she recited.

However, this did not deter the protesters, and the other two panelists and some audience members became involved in a verbal confrontation with them. At one point, several audience members chanted “shame shame shame” at them.

Both men repeated, “there’s no Palestine,” to the crowd.

CSU internal affairs coordinator and former SPHR president Ramia Yahia, who had been at the event moments before, said he heard yelling coming from the auditorium. Yahia said he suspected someone was attempting to disrupt the lecture.

Yahia, accompanied by CSU external affairs and mobilization coordinator Aloyse Muller, entered the room, and asked the men to stop.

Yahia said security arrived about five minutes after both executives intervened, and the men stopped yelling. Yahia said both men who were chanting wore badges from the Israeli army on their bag and t-shirts with the Israeli defence emblem on it.

When the two security guards arrived, they escorted the protesters off to the side. A group of people and a handful of CSU members followed them. The group talked for a few minutes, then the protesters were escorted outside by the security guards.

Howie Silbiger, identified as the man who was filming both men at the time, said he was there on behalf of Montreal Jewish News to cover the event. Silbiger said he was not affiliated with the protesters. “I was informed that the event was going to happen,” said Silbiger.

Silbiger, a Concordia Student, said he was followed to class by security and two members of SPHR who were recording, when security asked Silbiger to provide identification.

Security informed Silbiger a complaint was being filed against him did not state why, Silbiger said. “Our job is to cover news when it happens,” said Silbiger. He said he believes he was racially profiled by Concordia security. “I did nothing to disrupt or disturb the event, stood quietly in the back of the room and cooperated fully with security,” said Silbiger.

“There is an ongoing investigation,” said Yahia, concerning the men who disrupted the panel.

After the protesters left, Abdo resumed the presentation of her theory on the settler-colonial relationship between Israel and Palestine. “In the simplest way, I define racism as the relations between the superior and what they turned into inferior,” she said.

Abdo discussed the historical events that shaped the Middle East, such as the 1916 Sykes Picot Agreement, the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1948 Indigenous Genocide that led to the creation of Israel.

Shaer presented the subject of her doctoral thesis, which focused on the ethnic cleansing and quiet resistance of Palestinians in Area C—a section of the Gaza Strip. Area C is a highly-contested piece of land that both the Israelis and Palestinians claim ownership of.

There are over 180 Palestinian communities in Area C that want to stay, despite the Israeli government bulldozing their homes and denying their building permit applications, Shaer said.

According to Shaer, the Israeli court has yet to approve a single Palestinian building permit application in Area C. “Palestinians are quietly resisting occupation,” she said.

This resistance includes living in caves, makeshift shelters, sheds and tents, building structures on Saturdays (the Jewish day of rest) and purposely building incomplete structures since complete ones are more likely to be bulldozed, Shaer explained.

Abisaab read a selection of poems and parts of short stories by Palestinian authors.

She finished by reciting the same poem she had recited at the start of the discussion.

The Concordian reached out to Israel on Campus: Concordia, to which they provided their official statement about what happened. “Israel on Campus condemns this action done by non-Concordia students which decided to interrupt this event. IOC stands for freedom of expression and the right for everyone to express what they think and feel.”

Israel On Campus is a group geared to educate others on Israel’s commitment to democracy in the Middle East and its humanitarian efforts, history, culture and environmental initiatives

The Concordian reached out to the university for comment, however, we did not receive a response before publication time.

With files from Savanna Craig

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