Concordia Link Gives Fawning Coverage to Anti-Israel Student’s Opposition To Canadian University President’s Trip To Israel

February 23, 2023

On September 9, 2002, former (and future) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Concordia University in Montreal to present a lecture for Hillel, a Jewish student organization. A large group of anti-Israel student activists violently rioted, smashing windows and throwing metal barricades.

The riots, which made international news, were a black mark on Concordia University’s reputation, and following the violence, the university instituted a number of policies in an attempt to lower the temperature on campus.

More than 20 years later, new voices of intolerance have arisen at Concordia University, not only refusing to accept Israel’s right to exist, but demanding that the university indulge the anti-Israel fantasies of some students.

In a 2,000+ word, front-page article pushed on February 21 in The Link, a student newspaper at Concordia University entitled: “Allied in Apartheid: Palestinian Students Denounce Concordia President’s Trip to Israel,” authors Maria Cholakova and Zachary Fortier interviewed a number of students who took issue with a visit by a number of university presidents, including Graham Carr, Concordia University’s President, to Israel during the summer of 2022.

Cholakova and Fortier quoted Solidary for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), an anti-Israel student group at Concordia University, who condemned Carr’s visit to Israel and his meetings with the head of Bar-Ilan University, writing that they “condemn our president’s visit to occupied Palestine and the resulting deal between Concordia University and this Zionist institution [Bar-Ilan] as this action directly violates Concordia’s alleged commitment to decolonization.”

The authors subsequently interviewed a number of other students who echoed these views, including one who said “I don’t think there’s anything academic about the apartheid, colonization and years of mass expulsion, of terror or killings.”

While it has become popular in some circles to label Israel as a “colonizer” and “apartheid” state, these allegations are without merit or basis in facts.

Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People, where the Jews have lived for three millennia, and where ancient Jewish sites abound. To callously write off this ancient Jewish history is little more than an attempt to re-write history to achieve political ends.

Not only is Israel not a colonizer, it is the epitome of anti-colonization: an ancient, indigenous people taking control of their land.

But for the activists opposing the visit of Concordia University’s President to Israel – who were given a long and uncritical platform in The Link to parrot their disinformation – such facts are evidently unwelcome, and as such, Israel must be boycotted by university leaders.

Dyala Hamzah, Associate Professor of modern Arab history at the University of Montreal, justified her opposition to Carr’s visit by stating that “Israeli universities are unfortunately not beacons of emancipatory knowledge or bastions of critical resistance to injustice; they are part and parcel of the apparatus of oppression stifling Palestinians.”

Such views are not only untruthful – alleging an “apparatus of oppression stifling Palestinians” – but more importantly, represents a view hostile to open-mindedness and academic dialogue.

The anti-Israel BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) movement seeks to delegitimize Israel’s entire existence, including academic partnerships. Aside from being based on deliberate falsehoods, BDS serves to harm Israel, is regarded as antisemitic in nature and it does not benefit the Palestinians.

Rather, the only major casualty of anti-Israel boycotts are the perpetrators of such actions, who deny themselves the benefits that partnering with Israel provides, including engaging with a rapidly-growing economy, and a hub of hi-tech and innovation.

Clearly, Concordia University understands that boycotting Israel, as some voices demand, would be fruitless and ultimately self-defeating, as do the leaders of a number of other Canadian institutions, including McGill University, Western University, the University of Waterloo, and others, whose leaders participated in the 2022 visit to Israel.

While anti-Israel voices exist outside the mainstream, there is no clear rationale for why The Link gave these voices such a prominent voice to air their grievances. There is no evidence that those opposed to the visit to Israel outnumber their peers; after all, BDS referendums on Canadian campuses are increasingly failing in recent years.

This is not the first time The Link has given a platform to fringe anti-Israel voices and provided them with an uncritical platform to air their dirty laundry. During the summer of 2022, the newspaper published an article covering a tiny protest of “just over a dozen people” protesting in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

In April, 2022, author Zachary Fortier penned an article in The Link which made the outlandish claim that Palestinian rioters on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount had merely acted in self-defence when they stockpiled stones, which they subsequently used to attack Israelis.

Twenty years after a vile anti-Israel riot at Concordia University, there are voices who apparently wish to see a return to knee-jerk, anti-Israel rejectionism. While they are entitled to their views, however backward, it is unclear why The Link decided that a small group of antagonists deserve such a fawning platform with which to spread their disinformation.

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