HRC / AVI Campus Media Fellow Published In The Times Of Israel: A Reflection As A Canadian Jewish Student

July 10, 2024

On July 9, HRC/AVI Campus Media Fellow Ronit Kogan, was published in The Times of Israel, about how Canadian universities provide students with a distinctive perspective for delving into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other matters of social justice.

As a student, dialogue, listening to diverse perspectives, and the need for empathy in activism are critical for positive and effective change.


A Reflection As A Canadian Jewish Student

By: Ronit Kogan

As a Canadian student deeply engaged with my Jewish heritage, I stand at a unique crossroads of identity, politics, and activism. This intersectionality has been both a challenge and a catalyst for growth, especially against the backdrop of the global conversation on Palestinian rights. A poignant example of youth-led advocacy in this arena was an event hosted by the Masjid Ahlillbait Mosque in Montreal, aiming to bolster Palestinian youth activism. The event encouraged young people to engage in various forms of advocacy, such as organizing peaceful protests, participating in educational seminars, and using social media to raise awareness. By doing so, it sought to connect their efforts with the larger conflict, highlighting the importance of amplifying Palestinian voices and addressing human rights issues. This gathering underscored the critical role young people play in societal change, emphasizing the power of leveraging Western institutional platforms for advocacy.

Participating in this broader discourse as a Jewish Canadian student means navigating a labyrinth of complex, often painful historical contexts and contemporary issues. For example, at the event in Montreal, there were discussions that explicitly labeled Israel as a colonial state. This characterization is deeply contentious and can be polarizing, especially considering its intersection with my identity and historical sensitivities. Personally, grappling with whether to agree or disagree with this characterization is part of the challenge. The event emphasized the intersectional struggle against imperialism and settler-colonialism, urging a coalition of activists from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds to unite against these injustices. This message resonates deeply with me, offering a blueprint for engaging in meaningful activism that doesn’t just address symptoms but confronts the roots of oppression.

Canadian universities, including my own, are vibrant microcosms of society at large, where the world’s complexity is both studied and mirrored in student activism. These institutions offer a unique vantage point to engage with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other social justice issues, demanding a nuanced, informed approach. This environment also brings attention to domestic challenges, such as encampments and homelessness, which intersect with broader global and local justice concerns. As a student, I’ve learned the importance of dialogue, of listening to diverse perspectives, and the need for empathy in activism. This educational journey is not confined to academic learning but extends to the development of a personal and collective conscience.

The event’s focus on using Western platforms for advocacy highlights the broader context of Canadian student activism. On campuses across the country, students are increasingly recognizing their power to advocate for change, both locally and globally. This activism is diverse and multifaceted, reflecting the varied student body involved in these efforts. It includes educational seminars that inform, peaceful protests that inspire, and interfaith dialogues that build connections.

But does this activism actually lead to change? While many efforts are constructive, there are concerns about extreme activism and the spread of misinformation. These can undermine the credibility of movements and potentially do more harm than good. It’s essential to balance passionate advocacy with factual accuracy to ensure the message and impact are both positive and effective.

For me, this journey has also been about reconciling my Jewish identity with my commitment to justice for all peoples, including Palestinians. It involves grappling with difficult realities, such as acknowledging the historical displacement of Palestinians and the ongoing challenges they face. It means challenging preconceived notions within my community and beyond, and actively seeking out diverse perspectives to broaden my understanding. Engaging in continuous learning has been crucial, whether through studying history, engaging in dialogue with Palestinians and other stakeholders, or participating in advocacy efforts that promote human dignity and rights for all. This path of solidarity is guided by principles that prioritize justice and empathy, aiming to contribute positively to resolving conflicts and promoting peace.

Moreover, the activism highlighted at the Montreal event, and mirrored in student movements across Canada, underscores the power of youth in challenging the status quo. Young people, with their energy, idealism, and increasing rejection of traditional narratives of power and oppression, are at the forefront of pushing for a more equitable and just world.

This activism is not without its challenges. Engaging in discourse around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially within the context of Canadian multiculturalism, requires a careful balance. It demands a commitment to understanding, respect for diverse narratives, and a dedication to fostering dialogue over division. Universities serve as pivotal arenas for this engagement, offering a space for critical inquiry, debate, and the formation of community-based solutions.

In conclusion, my experience as a Canadian student and a member of the Jewish community has been indelibly shaped by the intersections of identity, activism, and the quest for social justice. The event in Montreal, with its focus on Palestinian youth activism, serves as a powerful reminder of the critical role of education, dialogue, and solidarity in navigating these complex landscapes. It highlights the need for an intersectional approach to activism that acknowledges our shared humanity and the interconnectedness of our struggles. As we move forward, let us carry the lessons learned from these experiences into our collective efforts for a more just and equitable world.

Ronit Kogan is a student at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto and a campus media fellow with HonestReporting Canada and Allied Voices for Israel.

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