A pro-Israel rally entered the lobby of the Hall Building last Friday only two hours before two Canadian MPs and a well-known Canadian activist were to speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East.
Over 50 individuals, several carrying Israeli flags, expressed their anger that the CSU would invite three pro-Palestinian speakers to the school in order to break the ban on the open discussion of Middle East politics on campus.
According to Noah Joseph, co-president of Hillel, the rally was to bring attention to the hypocrisy of the CSU, which he says played an integral role in the protest that stopped former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking at Concordia on Sept. 9 and was now calling for freedom of speech.
The CSU has consistently denied they had anything to do with the organizing of the protest, saying only that they support freedom of speech.
Tensions arose between individuals when one student began filming a heated altercation between an older man and a Palestinian student. A shouting match ensued between SPHR member and outspoken student activist Samer Elatrash and Rabbi Poupko, who had been in the company of Concordia Rector Frederick Lowy on Sept. 9.
“What we have here is an inversion of ethics,” said Poupko afterwards. “If any group should be denied freedom of speech, not that any group should, but if any group should be denied, it should be them [the CSU].”
Many of the students milling around feared another outbreak of violence like that of Sept. 9, where two windows were broken and individuals intending to see Netanyahu speak were assaulted. Some were kicked, spat on, and at least one Jewish student reported having his kippah torn from his head.
Pro-Palestinian activists said the threat of violence was negligible, though, and felt that the demonstrators were being hypocritical in their denunciation of the free speech of Canadian MPs, but at the same time upholding the rights of a former foreign leader.
“The judge had no evidence [that the event] would incite violence,” said SPHR member Laith Marouf. “We will not be shut up.”
Hillel members said they never intended to block Robinson, Davies or Rebick from actually speaking.
Tensions began to cool considerably as it became known the university had obtained a court injunction to keep the three from speaking inside, with the crowd nearly completely disappearing by 1p.m., an hour before the talk was scheduled to begin.