Citizen Action Monitor

Montreal Gazette spins BDS event at Concordia University as hate campaign against Jewish students

Biased reporting also ignored efforts of Israeli-Canadian donor to Concordia “to erase Palestinians from historical memory”.

No 1548 Posted by fw, December 21, 2015

Yves Engler

Yves Engler

“At the end of November, the student group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights organized BDS Week. Without citing a single incident of actual racism, the Gazette painted a picture of the discussion series as hateful. Reporter Karen Seidman simply quoted an individual decrying ‘a hostile environment on campus’ and another who denounced ‘speakers slandering Israeli tactics and spewing hate.’…. And while portraying a rather modest week of solidarity events as hateful, the reporter also ignores how a well-funded Concordia institute has engaged in an effort to erase Palestinians from historical memory. In 2011, multibillionaire David Azrieli gave Concordia $5 million to set up the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies.”Yves Engler, The Electronic Intifada

Back in March 2014 I published a series of posts in response to stories in the Windsor Star about efforts to pressure the University of Windsor to “obliterate” a student-led BDS referendum. (To access these posts, click on this link: https://citizenactionmonitor.wordpress.com/?s=Windsor+University+BDS )

And now we have Yves Engler’s piece about the Montreal Gazette publishing strikingly similar biased reports characterizing a BDS event at Concordia as a hate campaign directed at Jewish students. (Source: BDS event raises tensions on Concordia campus by Karen Seidman, November 30, 2015).

Is it more than mere coincidence that both the Windsor Star and the Montreal Gazette are owned by the Postmedia Network, reputedly pro-Israeli, pro-Israel-friendly Harper Government?

Below is a repost of Engler’s piece, featuring added subheadings. Alternatively, read Yves’ original report by clicking on the following linked title.

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Big lies about boycotting Israel in Canada by Yves Engler, The Electronic Intifada, December 18, 2015

Montreal Gazette spins Concordia University Palestinian BDS story as hate campaign against Jewish students

The big lie is a propaganda technique generally employed when telling the truth would be unfavorable to your side. It goes like this: never admit doing any wrong and instead always insist on a story that portrays your side as the good guys. What really happened is irrelevant. The key is repetition. Do it often enough and loudly enough until most people believe you.

While the big lie is most often associated with authoritarian governments, its use is actually quite widespread. For example, the Montreal Gazette recently published a front page article claiming Jewish students at Concordia University were “feeling like the target of a hate campaign.” The reason cited, as far as this writer can tell, was simply that many students were standing in solidarity with Palestinians.

Gazette painted Concordia’s BDS Week as a “hateful” discussion series, creating a “hostile environment”

At the end of November, the student group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights organized BDS Week. Without citing a single incident of actual racism, the Gazette painted a picture of the discussion series as hateful. Reporter Karen Seidman simply quoted an individual decrying “a hostile environment on campus” and another who denounced “speakers slandering Israeli tactics and spewing hate.”

Gazette reporter also labeled a BDS referendum held last year as “contentious” and poorly attended

In her article, Seidman also labeled a referendum held last year in which undergraduates voted to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel as “contentious” and downplayed its significance by saying only “a tiny fraction” of the overall student body participated.

So why is this a big lie?

Biased report portrayed Israeli side as “victim of hate” with no supporting evidence

First, the side favored is portrayed as a victim of “hate” with no evidence presented except criticism of the Israeli state causing hurt feelings.

No effort was made by the Gazette to present Palestinian sympathizers in a positive light

Second, and most important, the article blissfully ignores any historical background that would present Palestinian sympathizers in a positive light or even provide context for what they are doing. It abjectly fails to even get any comment from any supporter of BDS. The reporter writes that she tried and failed to get a comment from the organizers, but it should surely not be beyond a reporter’s ability to get an alternative pro-BDS voice.

Zionist donor

Report also ignored efforts by Israeli-Canadian donor to Concordia “to erase Palestinians from historical memory”

And while portraying a rather modest week of solidarity events as hateful, the reporter also ignores how a well-funded Concordia institute has engaged in an effort to erase Palestinians from historical memory.

In 2011, multibillionaire David Azrieli gave Concordia $5 million to set up the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies.

The institute established the first minor degree program in Israel studies at a Canadian university.

This wasn’t a disinterested, apolitical donation. Azrieli, an Israeli-Canadian real estate magnate who died last year, was a staunch defender of Israel. He did not hide his affiliation, happily asserting that “I am a Zionist and I love the country.”

During the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine, he was an officer [“officer” link removed] in a largely Anglo-Saxon brigade of the Haganah, a Zionist military force. Led by Major Ben Dunkelman, a Canadian veteran of the Second World War, the Seventh Brigade played a leading role in the infamous Operation Hiram.

Dozens of villages in the north of Palestine were depopulated and destroyed during that offensive.

The operation, initiated in October 1948, included several massacres of Palestinian villagers.

As many as 94 Palestinians were killed in the village of Saliha alone. A Jewish National Fund official, Yosef Nahmani, noted in his diary that between 50 and 60 peasants in Safsaf were killed and buried in a pit after the village’s inhabitants “had raised a white flag.”

In his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe notes that few brigade names appear in the oral testimonies that have been gathered about the Nakba: “However, Brigade Seven is mentioned again and again, together with such adjectives as ‘terrorists’ and ‘barbarous.’”

Confiscation of history

Since opening at Concordia, the Azrieli Institute has proven a potent advocate for Israel on campus.

In June, the institute hosted the Association for Israel Studies’ annual conference.

After attending the conference, the right-wing Israeli academic Gerald Steinberg described Azrieli’s $5 million donation as part of a “counterattack” against pro-Palestinian activism at Concordia.

The institute is largely designed to erase Palestinians from their historical connection to their homeland. Its website fails to even mention the word Palestine.

Gazette rewrites Israel-Palestine history – Israeli perpetrators of Palestinian oppression become the victims of persecution

In a December 2014 letter to the Montreal Gazette, Nakina Stratos noted: “Browsing through the website of the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies, I was not able to find the words ‘Palestine’ or ‘Palestinian people.’ How can an institute that teaches about the history of Israel not mention Palestine on its website? This, to me, intersects with the far-right Israeli narrative, which is a total confiscation of Palestinian history, and an attempt to erase the concept of Palestine from the dictionary of the Middle East.”

But rather than investigate how Palestinian students feel about a richly endowed university institute that erases their existence, the Gazette’s education reporter chose to focus on assertions of persecution by those who would do the erasing.

The perpetrators of oppression and their supporters instead become victims. Those who stand up for the oppressed are portrayed as bullies.

That is the big lie at work.

Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and the newly released Canada In Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation. His website is yvesengler.com.

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