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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.

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War is not a soccer game

When it comes to war, we should not be divided.

Almost two weeks ago, I woke up to my phone flooded with news, messages and post notifications about the Israeli airstrike in Palestine. Later, pro-Palestine marches were held in downtown Montreal. On the other side, Israel’s supporters also organized a rally in front of the Israeli Consulate in Westmount. Both groups want to end the war. Both are against killing innocent souls. 

Before expressing my own view on the Israel-Hamas war, let me tell you my own war story. In the summer of 2006, I went to Lebanon for vacation. Two weeks in, Israel started throwing bombs on South Lebanon, which was where I was staying at the time. My mom received phone calls from several family members urging her to find shelter because a war was about to begin. 

We quickly packed up and went to my aunt’s house. That night was the beginning of a living hell. All we would hear was a helicopter, followed by a loud explosion. Both felt like thunder and an earthquake at the same time. Every second felt like playing Russian roulette. Is our building next? Am I next? Will my family and I be alive tomorrow? 

Our nights were dark. A light turned on at night would signify the presence of civilians in that building. I remember being afraid of lighting a candle to find my way to the bathroom.

We spent the rest of the war at my grandparent’s house on the sixth floor. I clearly remember how I would see the bomb dropping and a building collapsing before my eyes. My heart used to beat so fast that I felt it was physically going to burst out of my chest. No one and nothing can erase those memories that I will always fall short of describing.

During the period when I used to live in Lebanon, I learned to think of Israelis as our enemies. I also learned to look down on people with different religious beliefs and sexual orientations. As I grew up and eventually moved to Canada, I un-learned everything that I know now is wrong. I started loving people for who they are, regardless of our differences. The world is already full of hatred, so why can’t we be the ones spreading love and acceptance?

For this war, I will not support one country over the other. What I choose to support is ending violence against the unarmed population. I believe innocent souls do not deserve to be taken because of a war between governments. It is crucial to remember that they are all humans in the end and it is our responsibility to show each other solidarity. To me, anything that does not support peacemaking for both countries is simply unethical.

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Open letter to my Jewish community

In the midst of the Israel-Hamas war*, it is more important than ever to educate ourselves on the full scope of the conflict* and perspectives beyond our own.

This is a difficult letter to write. Not only is the subject matter so complex, but the delicacy it takes to address an entire group of individuals—especially a group that I belong to—is immense. My intention is not to instigate, rather to share my thoughts and remark on what I’ve noticed in the wake of recent events. 

Following the break-out of war in Israel, people have taken adamant and fervent stances. I have seen many members of my Jewish community sharing Zionist views—that is to say, standing firmly with Israel and advocating for the nation’s protection at all costs. In the process, this rhetoric fails to acknowledge Palestinian experiences and the full scope of the war. Though distress at the Hamas killings is more than understandable, failing to acknowledge the immense Palestinian death toll and the inhumane conditions for civilians in Gaza is not. As Jewish people, and within the context of our complex relationship with Israel, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on the issue from an unbiased perspective. We cannot use our own suffering to justify violence. 

Education on the issue is an ongoing process that takes on many forms, but it includes doing research into the harsh realities of the war and the history of the ongoing conflict, seeking out and listening to Palestinian voices, and having difficult conversations about Israel and what it means to be Jewish, especially in this moment. 

I understand that the Jewish relationship can vary widely. Some Jews may have been raised to believe that God gave Israel to the Jewish people and may now exist in a Zionist echo chamber. On the other end of the spectrum, many Jews are adamantly anti-Zionist yet may know Zionist community members or have Israeli relatives. I believe you can acknowledge these nuances while also condemning a corrupt government and the actions it has taken.

That being said, I also understand the frustration of constantly being conflated with Israel and being held accountable for the actions of the Israeli government. Though anti-Zionism does not equal antisemitism and one can absolutely criticize Israel without being antisemitic, these views are often used to justify antisemitism. This is in large part to blame for the dramatic rise in antisemitic hate crimes throughout North America, which is dismaying and frightening to see. Yet again, we must not use these examples of violence to diminish Palestinian experiences. There has been a serious increase in anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim hate crimes as well, which is not to compare experiences or play games of “who has it worse,” but rather to point out a universal lack of humanity in regards to this issue. Suffering is not mutually exclusive—as Jews, we absolutely can (and should) mourn our own losses while also acknowledging the experiences of other groups and condemning all violence toward them. 

Though I am specifically addressing my own Jewish community in this letter, its basic concept extends universally. Everyone is raised with a distinct set of values, which become more complicated once religion and culture are involved. However, we do not exist in a vacuum with our own people, and our perspective on the world often fails to reflect that. To stand obstinately with one’s values despite evidence from the opposition is not admirable, it is only damaging. How can humans progress if we don’t educate ourselves and make an active effort toward evolving? Every case of positive progress—civil rights, LGBTQIA2S+ rights, women’s rights—is only hindered by people who refuse to reevaluate the ideas they so firmly believe in. 

We cannot choose what set of beliefs we are born into, and we cannot control the information we are raised with. What we can control is the information we seek out, and what we choose to do about it.

__

*Edit, March 31 2024: I would like to make a long overdue correction to the language I used in this letter at the time of publication. It is abundantly clear that this is not a war, but rather a genocide of the Palestinian people. It is not an ongoing conflict, but rather an ongoing occupation. As such, much of the wording used here is inadequate for communicating the true devastation of Israeli occupation and the impacts of Zionism. As the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza continues to rise, there is less and less place for “nuance” in these discussions.

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    Thousands come together in support of Palestine in Downtown Montreal

    Downtown Montreal was flooded with supporters for Palestinian liberation.

    As war rages on between Israel and Hamas, demonstrators in Montreal banded together to show support for Palestine.

    This war has prompted pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Montreal and across the world. On Oct. 13, protesters gathered in downtown Montreal to show their support for Palestinians. 

    “We all know of Israel’s occupation,” said Emna Maaref, a woman of Tunisian origin who was attending the protest. “It is only normal that the people of Palestine would want to be freed.”

    The war started on the morning of Oct. 7 when Hamas launched an offensive against Israel. The day after, Israel officially declared war against Hamas. Since then, there have been approximately 3,500 casualties and 12,500 wounded on the Palestinian side. Around a million Palestinians have also been displaced because of the conflict. While Israel had 1,400 casualties and 120,000 people displaced.

    The demonstration drew people from many backgrounds, not just middle eastern people.

    “I have full solidarity with Palestine,” said Richard Davis. “Canada should stop aiding Israel with imperialism.” Davis was among the many who decided to go out and voice his support for the liberation of Palestine.

    Many protesters refused or hesitated to speak to the media at Friday’s demonstration. Many even hid their faces to protect themselves from the media.

    “It’s not a new conflict,” said a woman of middle eastern descent who wished to remain anonymous. “For us, it’s not a political issue, it is more of a compassion thing. We are proud that Palestinians are doing something to liberate themselves.”

    She argued that no country has ever won their independence peacefully. “I grew up with Palestine being everywhere in my life, love for Palestine, my father talking about Palestine. Palestine is etched to our hearts.”

    “Hearing about Palestine throughout my life made me want to participate,”said Yasmine Rahmani, who was one of the participants in the demonstration, said that the reason she decided to attend was to make a difference beyond the bounds of social media. 

    She criticized Canada for not doing enough to help Palestine, but also thought that maybe it is for the best to not get involved. “Western countries should not include themselves within this conflict, since it is their fault anyway that this conflict even exists.” 

    The demonstration went on peacefully, as its chants filled the streets of downtown Montreal. Protesters united their voices and sang: “Justin Trudeau you will see, Palestine will soon be free!”

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    World in Brief: political turmoil in the Middle East, deadly wildfires

    Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US-led drone strike near Baghdad’s airport last Friday, reported the New York Times. Since Soleimani’s death, the Iranian government announced its intentions of ending all commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal, raising fear all over the world and the new #WW3 storming Twitter. Escalations also reached Iraq, with the government calling for the expulsion of all foreign troops amid Soleimani’s death. There are currently about 5,000 US troops on Iraqi soil. While seen as a hero by many in Iran, Soleimani was listed as a terrorist by the US. In a statement, the Pentagon accused Soleimani of planning terrorist attacks on the US and approving an attack on the US embassy in Baghdad last week.

    Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to Israel as a nuclear power in a slip of the tongue during a weekly cabinet meeting about a subsea pipeline deal with Greece and Cyprus. Netanyahu said “the significance of this project is that we are turning Israel into a nuclear power,” he then paused, acknowledged his mistake with a shy smile before correcting his statement to “energy power,” reported Reuters. Israel has been long-denying the possession of a nuclear arsenal.

    Ongoing wildfires ravage Australia despite large efforts to tame the blaze. Since September, five million hectares of land have been destroyed killing 23 as of Jan. 4, reported Global News. Efforts from Australian forces and other countries like Canada have been fighting the flames. The causes of the fires are still unclear, but officials are pointing fingers to the extreme temperature, drought, and human activity. A 19-year-old was arrested on suspicion of arson. The individual was charged with seven counts of setting fire.

     

    Graphic by @sundaeghost

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    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

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    World in Brief

    The Amazon forest has been burning for the past four weeks at an alarming speed. In July only, areas of the forest were being cleared at a rate of five football fields a minute according to The Guardian. While there is only a portion of the forest on fire, experts estimate that 2019 might be the most destructive year for the Amazon in 10 years.

    Tension rises as two drones crashed in Beirut’s southern suburb on Sunday, according to Reuters. While Israel has not claimed responsibility for the drone strikes, Lebanese president Michel Aoun claims the attack as “a declaration of war.” The Hezbollah also warned Israeli soldiers at the border to await a response.

    President Donald Trump proposed nuking hurricanes before they made landfall in an attempt to neutralize the storms. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggest the results would be “devastating,” according to the BBC. “Radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas,” said the NOAA. Trump denied making this proposition in a Tweet.

    Chemists will be gathering in San Diego this week to present latest research on chocolate and cannabis. According to new research, chocolate’s properties can throw off potency tests, leading to inaccurate labeling in states where marijuana is legal, according to the Associated Press. Chocolate edibles may contain a way bigger dose of THC than their label, sometimes sending consumers into unexpected trips.

     

    Graphic by @sundaeghost

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    Understanding the historical background of Israel

    Two professors discuss their new book Politics in Israel: Governing a Complex Society

    Speakers Harold Waller and Brent Sasley discussed the historical and sociological developments in Israel in a lecture last week. The major ideas presented during the event came from their book, Politics in Israel: Governing a Complex Society, which was released on Feb. 3.

    Professors Harold Waller (left) and Brent Sasley (right). Photo by Alex Hutchins.

    Waller, a political science professor at McGill University, said he had the idea to write the book in his early years of teaching in the political science department. Waller said the books he used to teach with were focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel-Palestinian issues, but lacked context of zionism. Zionism is a national revival movement which focuses on the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel (area).

    “I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the books that I had used,” said Waller. “They didn’t have all of the material that needed to be in a book like this, and they had excess material that detracted from the main points of my teaching.”

    Waller contacted Sasley, an associate professor at University of Texas at Arlington, since they both taught similar classes and both wanted to address issues surrounding zionism. This encouraged them to write their own book, said Waller.

    “What we really are trying to achieve is to enable readers to comprehend Israel on its own, and not simply as a major actor in the conflict of the Middle East,” Waller said.

    He also debunked some common myths about Israel during his talk. Waller said many of his former students often categorized Israel as a state about the Jewish religion, when in fact “Israel forces a Jewish state, but it is not a state about the Jewish religion—[it’s about] Jewish peoplehood.”

    Sasley said Israel has never been a liberal democracy the way Canada is. “That liberal democracy never really took place in Israel—it’s still heavily collectivist,” Sasley said.

    Sasley emphasized that, in English-speaking countries, an important problem Israeli students face is trying to explain what it means to be Jewish and democratic at the same time. “Most students grew up in a democracy where you give your loyalty to a set of institutions, ideas and to a sense of citizenship,” he said. Sasley said their book elaborates on the difference between the religious meaning and ethno-meaning of what it means to be Jewish.

    Both Sasley and Waller hope their book will be useful for courses taught outside of North America, in order to provide a different perspective on the politics in Israel. “I believe that any person who wants to be well-informed should understand how the politics operate and how decisions are made in the Israeli government,” Waller said.

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    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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    Continuing defiance behind the bars

    The history and current state of non-violent Palestinian prison resistance

    Decades of politics have hinged on what transpires in the open spaces of Holy Land and over the lines drawn by the Israel-Palestine conflict. But how have Palestinians responded once removed from the outside and taken into the Israeli prison system?

    Last week’s talk, “Prisoner’s Dilemma: Prison-based resistance and the diffusion of activism in Palestine,” sought to answer that question. Given by visiting McGill faculty member Dr. Julie Norman, who specializes in Palestinian civil resistance, the talk drew on her work with prisoners, former heads of Israeli intelligence and security services, and NGOs to shed light on decades of Palestinian prisoner experiences covering, broadly, the events since the Israeli territorial gains of the 1967 Six-Day War until today.

    This was a time where, to cope with rising Palestinian resistance, thousands were incarcerated by Israel: some as prisoners, others under the label of ‘administrative detention’ or as ‘security prisoners’ who could be held for up to six months without trial or reason, and whose stay could be indefinitely extended. They were held in conditions Dr. Norman describes as terrible: poor nutrition and sanitation, little access to family, without basics such as writing implements and paper. Some were forced to refer to their jailers as ‘masters.’

    Though many Palestinians were imprisoned for violent acts, many more were taken in a bid to ‘confine and diffuse’ the Palestinian drive for independence. Dr. Norman maintains the highpoint of such mobilization came in the ‘70s and ‘80s, mostly because of the unique confluence of social and political events occurring at the time. Ideologies were profuse, ranging across the spectrum, but particularly influential were the socialists and communist with their ideas of communal effort. As the prison system inflated and expanded, Palestinians learned how adapt.

    Dr. Norman portrays this organization as happening on all levels in a ‘counter-order’ meant to destabilize the prison system. To deal with collaborators—or ‘birds,’ as they were called—on which every prison system depends on, prisoner groups banded together and maintained silence save for a single spokesperson who interacted with the wardens and acted as liaison. Smuggled radios were brought in and listened to by a select number who transmitted the day’s political news by way of messages secreted in tiny capsules and passed on in palms, mouths, and elsewhere; books were copied, sometimes spliced with other texts to make them harder to decode; group discussions on history, politics, and society were organized; and all throughout, the exterior supported them by political pressure in the form of vigils and marches. Hunger strikes, sometimes carried out by thousands, made force-feeding impossible and gave the prisoners leverage to improve their conditions.

    As one interviewee told her, “Everything you find in prison has a story of resistance behind it. For example, the blankets: In Ramallah we had three blankets, though in the beginning we had one, and somebody suffered and resisted to increase the number of blankets. Later in 1991 in Hebron prison, we had six blankets, so through our demands we were able to increase the number over time. Everything you find in prison—the blankets, the cups, the pens, the paper, the books, the food—everything has a story of struggle behind it.” And everything was designed to “disrupt prison order and make it unmanageable.”

    With the signing of the Oslo accords in the ‘90s, prison resistance shifted. As the political situation rapidly changed, the make-up and tactics of prisoners likewise shifted. Political fragmentation amongst Palestinians bred cynicism and disillusionment, and the rise of Islamic jihad organizations undid much of the message of nonviolence. The Israelis changed too: frequent transfers, pre-emptive crackdowns, and the increasing use of solitary confinement have chipped away communal action and turned it into individual resistance, even as actual prison conditions have drastically improved.

    Yet as Dr. Norman makes clear the method of the fight may have changed, but the nature of the struggle continues.

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    Threats can’t silence Israel-Canada talk

    Marc Garneau Israel-Canada talk will be rescheduled

    On Jan. 12, Member of Parliament for the Liberal Party Marc Garneau was scheduled to speak to university students on the subject of Canada-Israel relations. The event was to be presented as a co-sponsorship by both the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR). The morning of the event, CIJR received a call from the Montreal Police saying that there was a threat of violent protest from a demonstration estimated to comprise of at least 60 individuals.

    These threats were very real and can be corroborated by several officers. It was indeed a cause for concern, considering that the police saw the need to call CIJR in the first place. The National Chairman of CIJR, Jack Kincler, therefore decided to postpone the event due to concerns over whether the building could be secured as well as to ensure the safety of attendees.

    This comes at a very dangerous and sensitive time. The right to freedom of speech as well as religion recently came under attack with the horrific massacres that took place in France earlier this month. Twelve people were murdered in an attack against the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Known for its strongly secularist, anti-religious and left-wing views, the paper was targeted for its satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. A French police officer was killed shortly afterwards. Two days later, another gunman entered a kosher food supermarket in east Paris and murdered four Jewish hostages.

    Because of Quebec’s close cultural and national relationship with France, these attacks have resonated strongly with us. This is especially true with regard to the Jewish community, since so many have family and friends in France. This event was meant to be an opportunity to present a forum for Marc Garneau, a respected and accomplished Member of Parliament, to present his views concerning Canada-Israel relations and interact with students. It would not have been postponed had there not been a real concern over the safety of attendees. The fact that university students could be in danger for simply attending an event and meeting with their representative of government is an egregious violation of their civil liberties.

    On Jan. 20, a similar situation arose at the University of York. Luke Akehurst, a Labour Party activist, was scheduled to speak about the Israel-Palestine conflict. That lecture was cancelled, due to fears of security risks. This only serves to highlight the seriousness of the situation we face and how even the mere mention of subjects pertaining to the State of Israel are under attack on campuses by those who oppose its existence. Proper security precautions must be made in order to ensure the right of free assembly for all people, especially in the wake of these massacres.

    “We will not be intimidated. [The supressing of] freedom of speech must be opposed on and off campus,” says Director of CIJR, Dr. Frederick Krantz. It must be stressed that this event has not and will not be cancelled. To do so would be to give in to the whims of weak-minded fundamentalists, whose sense of self can be easily compromised by different opinions and something as trivial as cartoons. To value freedom in the form of expression and religion and not surrender to terror is the best way to send out a clear message that such thuggish tactics are not acceptable in civilized discourse.

    As of now, another venue is in the process of being finalized and MP Marc Garneau has announced a willingness to reschedule. The event has been rescheduled to take place next month, at a location where the security of all participants can be ensured. One thing is certain: while this turn of events has been unfortunate and threats of violence should not be considered legitimate forms of expression, this is anything but a victory for bullies who seek to silence discussion on Israel.

    Bradley Martin is a Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) Fellow and student at Concordia University.

     

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    Protest threats nix Israel-Canada event

    Chance of violence forces police to cancel Canada-Israel relations talk

    An event scheduled for Jan. 12 with MP Marc Garneau, was postponed indefinitely because the Montreal Police allegedly alerted organizers that they were anticipating violent protests in response to the talk.

    The talk, organized by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA) and the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR), was supposed to look at Canada-Israel relations.

    Garneau is the MP for Westmount—Ville-Marie and was one of the first Canadian to go to outer space back in October 1984. He was appointed as the executive vice-president of the Canadian Space Agency in 2001, and became the president in November of the same year.

    Bradley Martin, CAMERA Fellow and Representative for Montreal and a student at Concordia, wrote on the event’s Facebook page at around noon on Jan. 12 announcing the talk had been cancelled because the Montreal Police had notified them of a violent protest was set to take place because of this event. At around 7 p.m., Martin posted to clarify what had happened, writing the following: “This morning, the Montreal Police informed CIJR that their cyber division detected a planned protest of the event. This protest was estimated to consist of about sixty demonstrators and considered to be hostile and violent. Under the circumstances, it was determined that the venue could not be secured properly and the safety of attendants would be at risk. It was therefore decided that the event would not take place as planned and be postponed indefinitely.”

    In the post, Martin spoke for both organizations and said that they were very unhappy with the situation. “We are very disappointed and outraged about the fact that our rights, and the rights of an elected Member of Parliament, to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly have been compromised,” Martin wrote. “Threats of violence and intimidation tactics are not acceptable behaviors and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. We live in a beautiful country, where the freedom of speech and assembly are foundational to our way of life.”

    The decision to postpone said event was made by the CIJR’s National Chairman

    Jack Kinsler. He felt the they had no choice but to cancel the event because the call from the police happened so soon before the talk was set to happen, and because they hadn’t organized the event themselves. The CIJR had allowed CAMERA to use one of their spaces to host the talk, located at 1396 rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, Suite 218.

    Kinsler told The Concordian that he was very unhappy with the situation, especially after this week’s attack on Charlie Hebdo staff this week in France.

    “[The threat of a violent protest] shouldn’t have happened in the first place. MP Marc Garneau should have been able to come and speak to people in a civilized manner without threats … as soon as one side intimidates the other something is wrong there, there’s a malice, there’s a problem,” Kinsler said.

    The Montreal Police were contacted and said that they were not the ones who contacted the event organizers, although both CAMERA and the CIJR confirmed that they had been contacted by them. According to CIJR, the information concerning the protest came from the police’s information department.

    Israel on Campus: Concordia has posted on their page that they are unhappy with the situation. They wrote the following in a Facebook post: “It is extremely disheartening and upsetting that members of our own national government are not given the chance to share their ideas freely for fear of violent consequences. Israel on Campus believes in free speech and the right for a free flow of ideas. We will not be silenced and we will continue to fight for Israel on our campus and in our country.”

    The event has been postponed indefinitely.

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