HRC / AVI Campus Media Fellow Published In The National Post: At Concordia, I Watched As Administrators Sat Back And Allowed Hate To Fester

On June 11, 2024, one of our Campus Media Fellows, Ora Bar, was published in The National Post, about her experience as a student at Concordia University. She witnessed first-hand how anti-Jewish ideology was normalized by weak university leaders, inept professors, and biased student media.

This normalization of anti-Jewish rhetoric must stop. It’s high time we demand more from our institutions and leaders to safeguard the values that define us as a society, before the very fabric of our country is irreversibly damaged.

At Concordia, I Watched As Administrators Sat Back And Allowed Hate To Fester

By: Ora Bar

It’s clear why Canada’s streets are plagued by discord and hostility. For over 20 years, students at Concordia University have been groomed to become amplifiers of hate and division — on campus and in the streets.

As a Jewish-Israeli student, I personally saw how anti-Jewish ideology is normalized and nurtured by weak or absent university leaders, inept professors and biased student media. I witnessed the events that led to the celebrations of the October 7 massacre.

In the spring of 2022, I sat in class and watched as my film studies professor romanticized and supported terrorism against Israelis. As a child, I spent multiple nights hiding in a bomb shelter to protect myself from rocket fire.

I also experienced the constant fear of the second intefadeh (2000-2005), which saw everyday life being disrupted by random stabbings, car-rammings and suicide bombings conducted by Palestinian terrorists. Despite this trauma, I never wished the innocent on the “other side” any suffering. Yet, my university professor was explaining to an auditorium of students that Israelis “deserve” everything they get because they are “colonizers.”

There is archeological proof of 3,000 years of continuous Jewish presence in the land now called Israel — ancient Jewish stones that my own Jewish hands have touched. Undeniably, I cannot be a colonizer in Israel, the land Jews originate from.

But my professor, a supposed academic and educator, used her podium to try to erase and rewrite history to validate her malice towards Jews. She claimed that our history dates back only 100 years, which would validate her colonialism accusation. When I challenged this false and abhorrent claim, she responded with a smirk and said, “Ora, you, in particular, should look up the word mythology.”

This professor knew she was not conducting herself with integrity, as she stated, “I do not care if I get fired for this.” And she was clearly not concerned about being fired when she gave me a final grade of zero, making me pay for standing up to her disinformation and denial of Jewish history and experience. I had to fight this injustice.

Her deliberate discrimination and refusal to acknowledge Jewish history underlie all her work. She also has a history of propagating anti-Israel, anti-Jewish rhetoric in her work outside the university. This includes books, articles and her contribution to an online propaganda journal promoting the intefadeh.

After being denied tenure at an American university, she found Concordia to be a safe haven. My university employed her for multiple years, allowing her to spread her ideology instead of teaching.

Last fall, before October 7, I attempted to address my concerns with another antisemitic professor through a moderated conversation. However, Concordia’s office of rights and responsibilities preferred I act alone, citing concerns about causing the professor stress, as she was new.

The choices made by university administrators cast doubt on their commitment to Concordia’s stated mission and values. Their actions, or lack thereof, desecrate the university’s professed commitment to “well-being through harmony” on a “healthy, safe and sustainable campus.”

Before being discriminated against by my professors, I initiated a series of meetings in which I tried to collaborate with Concordia in the implementation of proactive measures against anti-Jewish hate. Yet when I was being targeted, my numerous email exchanges, calls and meetings with Concordia administrators made clear that they valued the comfort of the perpetrators over accountability and upholding the institution’s stated values.

Concordia’s inability, or unwillingness, to address hate has been proven countless times. This pattern of neglect was further exemplified by the incident that took place on Nov. 8, 2023, when Jewish students peacefully honouring the hostages being held in Gaza were surrounded and assaulted by a mob.

I was among the couple dozen Jewish students who took part in the table organized by Hillel Concordia and the StartUp Nation, Concordia’s Jewish and Israeli campus clubs, respectively. An anti-Israel campus group had setup a table nearby, despite ours having been booked and publicized well in advance of theirs.

The Concordia Student Union, which is responsible for these arrangements, claimed it did not know the two were being setup at the same time. This negligence, or intentional incitement to violence, resulted in a hostile environment.

Initially, some students engaged in constructive dialogue with us. However, when an individual began leading genocidal chants and tried to steal our Israeli flag, the atmosphere turned hostile. I held a sign reading, “We cry for Palestinian babies too, why can’t you cry for ours?” In response, I faced mockery and personal threats from him and his supporters.

Their noise and violence revealed that they were not calling for peace, but for my erasure. My simple presence, as a proud Israeli Jew, was their provocation. When I questioned a university administrator who was present at the scene about what was being done in response, he merely said they were “there for everyone.” That meant being there for no one.

He just stood there and watched the events unfold into chaos, while police had to be called to put a stop to the harassment. The mob’s immoral reaction to our hostages installation and refusal to engage with dignity was a clear attempt to invalidate our collective grief.

Later, an influential Instagram page with close to 80,000 followers justified the attacks on the Jewish and Israeli groups, claiming we “provoked” them by “mocking people in Gaza with empty plates.” In reality, our Shabbat table was part of a global initiative to call for the release of our family members who were stolen from their homes on October 7.

Engaging in dialogue with us as fellow humans would have clarified this supposed misunderstanding. Instead, they created a malicious narrative. Some of my classmates “liked” the social media post yet refused to speak with me.

The day’s message was clear to all: university leaders will say they care, but will remain passive or fold to the bullies’ demands. Unsurprisingly, even the student newspaper participated in reinforcing this moral confusion. Everyone knows that Jewish students will not turn to destroying school property or harassment, so they take the easy route and allow the hate to continue unchecked.

Canadians, soothed into a false sense of security by their geographic location and swayed by lofty words from their leaders, neglect the vigilance required to maintain a free and humane society. Being an Israeli student at Concordia showed me how foreign extremism is being allowed to repaint and reshape our societal norms.

I witnessed firsthand how my lived experience was used as an academic exercise and exploited as a platform for disinformation and incitement of violence. Maybe my expectations for critical thinking and compassion were too high. But the culture of hate and intolerance I discovered is perpetuated by the university’s failure to address these alarming issues. Our leaders’ approach over the last decades paved the way for today’s hostile landscape.

It’s evident why Canada’s streets are marred by division and animosity. Rather than building bridges and encouraging compassionate dialogue, we inadvertently empowered the destructive perpetrators by prioritizing their comfort over justice and accountability. It’s high time we demand more from our institutions and leaders to safeguard the values that define us as a society, before the very fabric of our country is irreversibly damaged.

National Post

Ora Bar is a recent graduate of Concordia University and a Campus Media Fellow with HonestReporting Canada & Allied Voices for Israel.


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