Briefs News

Violent protests erupt in Concordia’s Hall Building

Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protests broke out, requiring police intervention.

At around 12 p.m. on Wednesday, pro-Palestine and pro-Israel gatherings were held in the Hall building. The Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) were holding a keffiyeh sale to raise money for the humanitarian crisis in Palestine Jewish students from Hillel and Start-up Nation arrived soon after to their Shabbat dinner event “to honor and bring awareness to over 240 innocent civilians help captive by Hamas in Gaza.”

Both groups were unaware that they would simultaneously be tabling at the exact same time, as they planned their respective events. For context, SPHR had announced the keffiyeh sale on their Instagram account on Nov. 5. According to an Instagram post by Concordia’s Israeli club, the StartUp Nation, the table for the vigil for Israelis kidnapped by Hamas was booked on Nov. 3. The gatherings at Hall Building soon escalated into protests as members that were not a part of the Concordia community arrived on scene to support their respective groups.

Campus security took action and created a barrier between the two groups, only for about 20 SPVM officers to arrive and diffuse the situation. 

One witness, a Concordia student who wished to remain anonymous, said they saw the police officers create a barrier behind a pro-Israeli activist after they saw this person hit a pro-Palestinian activist with a sign.

The same witness also added that “when the police arrived on scene, they were pretty violent with the pro-Palestinian activists, one officer shoved many protestors and brandished a baton.”

“In my view,” the witness said, “the protest centred on calls for ceasefire and an end to apartheid—there was a statement from an [palestinian] organizer that denounced antisemitism and stated that the fight is with the state of Israel and not Jews.” 

Protesters were seen ripping flags, and throwing water bottles and punches. Two pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested and several other protesters from both sides were injured.

“I’d like it to be known that the protest was not one of hatred towards Jews, but a denouncement of the crimes of the Israeli state,” the witness said about the pro-Palestinian protest. “I believe that is an incredibly important distinction to make.”

Following the events, SPHR released a statement yesterday morning saying “they would like to remind everyone that we, the students, will NOT allow this to deter us from our continued advocacy for the freedom of the Palestinian people.” 

More to come on this developing story.


Is Democracy Obsolete?

The Democracy Index Study 2016 stated that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. And yet, as Rosa Drucker, a member of American Jewish group IfNotNow, mentioned during a press conference, Palestinians are denied proper medical care, education, economic opportunity, and freedom of movement.

There’s another name for this selective democracy; it’s called systemic discrimination. That is what resulted in Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib being banned from entering Israel on a diplomatic visit.

“What we saw this week demonstrates Israel’s desperation to hide the realities of the occupation from us,” said Drucker. I mention this because it’s important to note that Anti-Semitism – despite the right’s incessant attempt to convince itsel – is not the same as being against the inhumanity shown by Israel to Palestine.

“I’ve never seen anyone who has gone and seen for themselves, and not be transformed by that experience,” said journalist Peter Beinart in an interview on CNN. Beinart also preaches at his synagogue and is a highly devoted Jew who has been to Israel, and seen Palestine.

Omar and Tlaib’s visit was organised by the Palestinian group called Miftah, whose leader is Hanan Ashrawi, a politician who once delegated Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. According to Ruth Margalit in The New Yorker, Miftah has previously shown disdain towards Israel. It’s understandable why the government felt uneasy about the visit.

Margalit also stated that Israel passed a law in 2017 that allows the government to refuse admittance to people who support the boycotting of the state. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, told The New Yorker it was a moral stance, and the government had no choice but to ban the congresswomen. However, opposing leaders in the state pointed out that the interior minister has the right to make exceptions.

“A democratic country can’t deny entry to elected officials of a friendly democracy,” said Tamar Zandberg, of the leftist Meretz Party, in a statement.

The point that should be stressed here is that the law has rarely, if ever, been used against Americans. It shows that the Israeli state doesn’t really see the American in Omar and Tlaib. Sound familiar? American Palestinians, such as Tlaib’s family, have been put through agonising treatment with several check-points which other Americans don’t undergo. Tlaib recalled in her speech at the press conference, the humiliation her parents went through when she was younger. Treating someone differently because of their ethnicity, despite equal citizenship and rights, is racist.

Even though the visit was organised by Miftah, Omar and Tlaib were supposed to meet with Aida Touma-Sliman, a representative of the Joint List, a political alliance between the main Arab-dominated Parties in Israel— Balad, Hadash, Ta’al, and United Arab List. The Joint List does not support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (B.D.S) movement.

The trip was titled “Delegation to Palestine,” and it was a call to the state for transparency on their treatment of Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu stated there would be no meeting with members of the Israeli Parliament as a reason for his decision on the ban. In that case, shouldn’t all democratic visits who have previously only met with one side also be forced to meet with both? Or is this just another attempt at having control over what is seen and what isn’t?

Margalit wrote in her article in The New Yorker about meeting with Touma-Sliman; she was supposed to “draw parallels between the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and its own Arab citizens and President Trump’s treatment of immigrants.”

This visit would have shone the light on infringements of international human rights. Those raging about ICE and the situation in the U.S. should be aware of the similarities in Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

When Israel gave Tlaib permission to enter the state under humanitarian pretences, she refused because of all the restrictions— restrictions that involved going against her moral beliefs. Unable to see her grandmother, unable to see Palestine, unable to expose atrocities; that’s the agenda.

Some challenged Tlaib’s genuine regret in not being able to see her grandmother, stating that had she really wanted to see her, she would’ve abided by the restrictions set by the Israeli government. Tlaib’s response was simple. A Tweet. A quote from Desmond Tutu:
“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” Israel doesn’t even have appetizers for Palestinians, and that is no mere opinion.

There is a reason all these opposing voices are dubbed terrorists or anti-semitic without a second thought. History is written by the victors, and, so far, those who haven’t seen believe self-proclaimed heroes. This is a worldwide story, where discrimination, racism, and political gain are the major themes — the only difference is that some characters look like you, while others look like me.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


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

Exit mobile version