Arts Arts and Culture Community

Bar Milton-Parc hosts their second film screening in solidarity with Gaza

Less than a day following Cinéma du Parc’s abrupt cancellation of their film screening event, BMP presented five films by Palestinian women to a full house.

This fall, Bar Milton-Parc (BMP) Co-op has hosted two Palestinian film screening fundraisers for Gaza. Most recently, on Nov. 7, they collaborated with Another Gaze Journal and Another Screen to present a selection of experimental films directed by Palestinian women. The proceeds were divided between Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and local organizational efforts, including mutual aid for a Palestinian refugee living in Montréal who is in need of stable housing. The space was filled with supportive attendees—the venue notably ran out of chairs. 

This event was less than 24 hours after Cinéma du Parc’s abrupt and controversial cancellation of their participation in Regards Palestiniens and Hors Champ’s Gaza solidarity fundraiser screening series, From the River to the Sea, which was scheduled to take place on Nov. 6. According to a joint statement from ten cultural organizations in Montréal, the decision was made to cancel the event due to “security concerns” and the “political nature of the screening.” 

The joint statement explains: “We learned from our own research that these issues were the result of a petition claiming to represent the Montréal and Canada Jewish Community, falsely accusing the title of the screening series of being antisemitic. We see this deliberate conflation between anti-Zionism and antisemitism everywhere in Canada and in the West in general, and we’re unfazed by it. These false accusations are launched at Palestinian Solidarity events regardless of the content of the event, with the objective of suppressing any expression of solidarity with Palestine.” Read the full joint statement here

On Nov. 14, Cinéma du Parc issued a statement on their instagram story, stating that “the meaning of the slogan used for the title of the event, From the River to the Sea, varies amongst communities, bringing a sense of insecurity for some, while being a call for liberation to others.” The statement continued; “We were worried for the security of the participants, our clients, and our employees. We would like to apologize for cancelling the event without conferring with the organizers, and for the lack of communication with our public once our decision was made.” 

From the River to the Sea fundraiser screenings have continued to be held at other venues. The next few will be held at Cinéma Public on Nov. 28, 29,  30, and Dec. 3.

BMP’s screening event began with Layaly Badr’s 1985 animation The Road to Palestine, which centres the experience of a young girl whose father is killed in an air raid. This heart-wrenching short film imagines a free Palestine through the hopeful eyes of a child living in a refugee camp. This was followed by Larissa Sansour and Søren Lind’s eerie science fiction film In the Future, They Ate from the Finest Porcelain (2015), which speaks to the role of archeology in the construction of national identity.

After a brief intermission, BMP screened Your Father Was Born 100 Years Old, and So Was the Nakba (2018), directed by Razan AlSalah of Concordia University’s communication studies department. This liminal film captures the invisible protagonist’s meanderings through the city of Haifa via Google Street View. Her disembodied voice cries out for a loved one who may have been inside one of the buildings shown in the street view—buildings that no longer exist.

Basma Alsharif’s artful and layered 2009 film We Began by Measuring Distance and Larissa Sansour’s surreal Nation Estate (2013) drew the evening to a close. 

The popularity of the event makes it likely that more screenings will be held in the near future. Learn about these films and more by Palestinian women at Another Screen’s website here. Stay tuned for more of Bar Milton-Parc Co-op’s programming on their instagram.

Briefs News

Concordia students walk out in support of Palestinians

Last week, Concordia students left class for a sit-in to denounce the war in Gaza.

Around 500 students gathered in Concordia’s Hall building last week for a walk-out in support of Palestinians in Gaza and around the world. Similar actions were held at McGill University, Dawson College, UQAM and Université de Montréal. 

The event was organized by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), a Montreal-based group advocating for the liberation of Palestine. 

According to Noor, a representative of SPHR who did not disclose their last name for security reasons, the action had two goals: promoting “BDS,” which stands for “boycott, divestment, and sanction,” and condemning the normalisation of violence against Palestinians. 

Noor explained that SPHR is asking Concordia to stop investing in initiatives that support Israel.

“I think that we need to put our money where our mouth is, and the students are all speaking and they’re all saying that we stand for human rights,” Noor said. “And in this context, human rights are on the side of the Palestinians.”

Noor was happy with the number of people who showed up to the event and said that SPHR received supportive messages online from students who wanted to come but couldn’t make it.

“I am beyond hopeful for the future of our cause. Today was so inspiring,” Noor said. “Not only did we put this together in less than a week, but we did it in peak midterm season. The turnout was by far beyond anything that we could have expected.” 

They were glad that Concordia students were ready to show support for the Palestinian community. “We’ve got to keep building this community, not only in order to spread awareness and fight for our cause, but also to strengthen ourselves,” Noor said, “because as a Palestinian, the diaspora existing and taking care of ourselves is an act of resistance in and of itself.” 

Photos by Kaitlynn Rodney / The Concordian
Concert Reviews Music

Gaza Mon Amour: A night of music, poetry, art and solidarity at La Sala Rossa 

Montreal benefit concert and silent auction raises over $12,000 for Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund.

On Oct. 23, a benefit concert and silent auction for Gaza was held at La Sala Rossa. Montrealers gathered to raise money for the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). 

The benefit featured music, art, poetry, passion and grief. Poet Ehab Lotayef delivered a speech and recited poetry in Arabic and English. “Our wounds, our demolished homes, / our violated skies, our teary eyes […] / protect us from your false promises / your empty words / and your Peace initiatives,” he recited, unrushed and with poignancy. Tamara Filyavich of Independent Jewish Voices also delivered a speech.

The first performance of the evening, by Hip-Hop artist Blxck Cxsper, was vivid and hard-hitting yet easy to dance to. “Nobody will be free until we’re all free,” they said. “Don’t turn off the news please, don’t try to ignore what’s going on.”

Ons Ammouchi and Josh Greenberg opened their set with a moment of silence, setting the stage for a poignant performance. The audience remained hushed, transfixed by Ammouchi’s soulful voice and the gentle strum of Greenberg’s oud.

Montreal DJ 1-Speed Bike―also the drummer for Montreal-based Godspeed You! Black Emperor―created a distinct, mesmeric musical ambiance between sets and speeches. Also performing were Yoo Doo Right, Durex, pOKmon and Yenne Velt.

The silent auction featured items and services from dozens of Montreal artists, artisans, designers, music venues and other organizations. Left Wing Books had a stand representing a range of anti-racist, feminist and left-wing literature, with 20 percent of book sales designated to PCRF. 

A donation of $20 per person was suggested. The show sold out at 300 people, with an additional 100 donations made after. A total of $12,000 was raised, not including donations made directly to PCRF at the door.


Pregnant Concordia student, Bissan Eid, prevented from leaving Gaza

Bissan’s father joined a Concordia professor and CSU official to discuss her circumstances and next steps

Concordia University held a press conference to discuss the circumstances and future of Bissan Eid, a pregnant Concordia student who has been stuck in Gaza for four months awaiting Israeli permission to leave, on Thursday, April 13.

The press conference, which was moderated by journalist Stefan Christoff, featured speakers Rami Yahia, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) internal affairs coordinator, Norma Rantisi, a professor in Concordia’s geography department and Hadi Eid, Bissan’s father. The three speakers made statements regarding Bissan’s circumstances, and laid out their plan of action.

According to Hadi, his 24-year-old daughter went to Gaza, where she was born, in June 2016 to visit family and get married. Under Israeli law, all citizens must obtain an exit permit from the Israeli government in order to leave, regardless of citizenship. Hadi said his daughter, who has been a Canadian citizen since 2005, first applied for the permit four months ago, but has yet to be approved. He claimed she has not been informed as to why she is being denied the permit.

Bissan is working towards her master’s degree in civil engineering, and is currently eight months pregnant. Hadi said Bissan wants to return to Canada before her due date in May, both to ensure she is surrounded by her loved ones and that she has the best possible medical care.

However, since she is in her third trimester, there is a high probability airlines will not allow her to fly for health reasons. Yet, Hadi said, if Bissan is given an exit permit, she will at least be able to give birth in Jordan, where he claims the medical care is better than in Gaza.

“Doctors have said that it is a difficult pregnancy,” Eid said. “If airlines deny her, that’s one thing … but we would prefer for her be in Canada to give birth.”

Efforts to bring Bissan home include a petition calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene in the situation, and a social media campaign using the hashtag #BringBissanHome intended to raise public awareness about Bissan’s situation and put pressure on the Canadian government to act.

The CSU has posted on their website a list of ways Concordia students can help support Bissan. The list includes a link to the petition to be sent to Justin Trudeau, a letter template students can use to mail to their provincial and federal MPs, and Concordia President Alan Shepard’s contact information which can be used to implore him to play an active role in calling for the government to help Bissan. The CSU has also asked students to share Bissan’s story on social media to increase awareness and support.


Finkelstein speaks out for Egypt and Gaza

The media and America blamed for a lack of transparency and democracy

Controversial scholar Norman Finkelstein spoke as part of the Human Rights Conference at Concordia University on Wed. Nov. 5 concerning the human rights crisis in Egypt and Gaza and the link between both countries.

The talk, entitled Egypt and Gaza Intertwined: Human Rights Conference, was based around three main topics: understanding what Finkelstein calls the Gaza massacre of 2014; media misinformation and Israel’s ability to take advantage of it; and the role of the United Nations (U.N.) and primarily the United States with regard to both Gaza and Egypt. The event was sponsored by the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy, the Egyptian Canadian Home Organization, and the Concordia Egyptian Student Association (CESA).

Photo by Keith Race.

Finkelstein, a political activist who has done extensive research on both conflicts, has seen his fair share of criticism over his opinion on what he sees as flagrant human rights abuses in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  That night, he focused most of his speech on creating a timeline of the major events that took place during Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli name for this summer’s seven-week assault on Gaza, which was spurred on by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas operatives.

“[The event] was not unlike the previous massacres, though on, clearly, a larger scale,” explained Finkelstein on the thousands of overwhelmingly civilian casualties in Gaza, which he said the European Union and United States turned a blind eye on. “Surprisingly, the United States and the European Union did not break off relations with the new [Israeli] government, but basically took an approach of ‘let’s just see what’s going to happen’,” Finkelstein said.

While the world sat by their T.V.s, computers and/or smartphones, there was little to no reference to the conflict as a major issue. According to Finkelstein, Hamas were not behaving like terrorists, a necessary premise for Israel, whose actions would otherwise be considered war crimes, as stated explicitly by Amnesty International.

Finkelstein argued that one of the main reasons Israel was able to continue attacks in Gaza for nearly two months was because of the media. He cited the fluidity and ever-changing focus of the news as something that allowed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to continue the “massacre” relatively unnoticed. His two primary examples of this shift were the bizarre and tragic Malaysian airplane crash over Ukraine and the first ISIS beheading of an American.

The other side of the media coin was the lack of research of Israel’s claim of terror rockets sent by Hamas. Finkelstein called this claim a piece of “science fiction,” explaining that it is highly implausible that 4,000 rockets would kill a mere seven civilians and cause only $15 million in property damage. He also denied Israel’s claim that its Iron Dome (a system that Israel claims intercepts and destroys short-range rockets) saved countless lives.

The latter half of the conference focused on the U.N. and U.S.A.’s role in both Egypt and Gaza. With regard to Gaza, Finkelstein condemned UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for his laissez-faire attitude toward Israel. Particularly, Finkelstein said Ban Ki-Moon only released a statement calling the Israel-Gaza conflict a “moral outrage and criminal act” after Israel attacked a seventh UN shelter. “Ban Ki-Moon, [the] comatose puppet of the United States, wasn’t doing anything,” Finkelstein said. It was the later that day that President Obama spoke out. Having Ban Ki-Moon speak out was very embarrassing for Obama, he added.

Finkelstein argued that the events that took place in Egypt, the overthrowing and jailing of the elected president in the name of democracy by the United States, were and continue to be unfounded. Finkelstein refused to call the current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a president.

It took about 40 minutes, but Finkelstein managed to find the place to compare the two situations, making the title of the conference relevant. Finkelstein argued that the common denominator between the atrocities in both Gaza and Egypt is America. The U.S.A. is a country in which the last two presidents have defended and illegally armed those who were vested interests to them, according to Finkelstein. “Egypt is not on a democratic transition, Israel is on a dictatorial transition,” he explained. This is because the United States have allowed it to be so by expressing how both Israel and President Sisi have the right to defend themselves, despite the lack of evidence that they are being attacked.

“Israel has the right to defend itself, Sisi has the right to defend himself, the only ones who don’t have the right to defend themselves are the people living under brutal and illegal siege,” said Finkelstein. “And the people of Egypt who are now living under a brutal dictatorship, they don’t have the right to defend themselves. Only important people have the right to defend themselves and the rest of us just have to live with it.”

Editorial: Sometimes, picking a side can make things worse

Why the CSU shouldn’t have taken a stance on actions taken in Gaza

In today’s world, everyone has an opinion on social issues, whether they’re taking place here in the city or halfway around the world.

For the past few years, not many issues have garnered as much attention, and debate, as the Gaza conflict. Although Canada is not geographically close to Gaza, cultural ties have made the issue relevant for many Montrealers. In a school as culturally diverse as Concordia, with large quantities of both Jewish and Muslim students, it is understandable that students would simply agree to disagree on the subject.

And yet, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) which represents Concordia’s 46,000 students, and the school’s many cultural groups and clubs, has voted on whether or not they agree with the acts taken up by Israel towards Palestine.

At a CSU special council meeting which took place on July 23, the CSU agreed that they were, “against the disproportionate use of force, the use of chemical weapons, the illegal settlements in Palestine and the blockade on Gaza all caused by the state of Israel.”

Based on the wording used by the CSU,  they probably did not mean to come out as sounding pro-Palestine. They simply stated that they disagreed with many of the things the state of Israel was doing. Still, their motion will inevitably cause members of the student body they represent to be alienated.

This is an opinion that many Concordia students, and many organizations, may not share.

There is therefore a definite discrepancy between what the CSU has stated, and what many students may believe. This should not be the case

We understand that, by taking this stance, the CSU had good intentions. Of course, peace should always be endorsed. But this is not the same. It would be unethical for the CSU to openly endorse a political party, so what makes this any different?

Many may be offended, and, at the end of the day, what will have been accomplished? The CSU cannot possibly have an effect on an issue of this importance. The CSU should consider spending their time in council discussing matters directly pertaining to Concordia students, like their many ongoing projects.

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