Many media outlets, when covering the tensions and flare-ups at Concordia, have tried to construct timelines. Most of them get it wrong, or at least omit many crucial points. Certainly it’s hard to be comprehensive, but here’s a partial look back at some of the key events of the past five years or so:
- April 1, 1999: The Rob Green executive is first elected to CSU office, ushering in an era of far-left dominance of the Concordia Student Union. His slate was re-elected one year later. A member of this executive, Sheryll Navidad, would eventually defraud $196,000 from the Union… something which the executive hushed up until a week after the CSU won provincial accreditation by a student referendum, ensuring that the University would have limited or no say on the Union’s actions.
- September 2000: The “Al-Aqsa Intifida” begins in Israel, setting off a wave of escalating violence. At Concordia, pro-Palestinian groups step up their tabling, exhibit, and promotion efforts.
- November 27, 2000: The CSU, upon request by SPHR, holds a general assembly to vote on whether to pressure the Canadian government to cut off ties with Israel for (in their view) not respecting UN Resolution 242. Though the assembly was boycotted by Hillel and failed to achieve quota, the CSU nonetheless decided to add this as a referendum question on the next CSU election ballot.
- December 18, 2000: The CSU condemns Hillel after SPHR complains about material that Hillel was distributing.
- March 2001: The leftist slate ACCESS is elected to the CSU to succeed the Rob Green executive. The referendum against Israel passes with 54% of the vote.
- August 20, 2001: Two leftist CSU executive members, Tom Keefer and Laith Marouf, are expelled and banned from campus for spraying anti-Israel graffiti on campus and threatening a security guard. The ban is reversed eight months later, after Keefer and Marouf complained of being denied due process.
- September 2001: The CSU publishes its student agenda, entitled “Uprising” which, among other things, calls for “intifada, anarchy, and revolution” and contains numerous articles containing antisemitism, incitement to theft and flag-burning, and violence. Released just after the 9/11 attacks, the handbook comes under fire from a large number of people.
- September 2001: Angry students begin circulating a petition to recall the CSU executive and force new elections. The petition eventually amasses over 3000 signatures – more than the number of people who voted in the election in the first place.
- October 15, 2001: Faced with the inevitable fact of the recall petition being submitted, Sabrina Stea resigns as CSU president, blaming the administration and forcing new elections.
- October 31, 2001: The CSU considers suing B’nai Brith for what it perceived as “racist” remarks made against the CSU. The CSU hurries to launch the lawsuit before it is forced out of office, but it never proceeds very far.
- November 29, 2001: The moderate Representative Union slate wins the by-elections with a record turnout, despite initial disqualification for fraud allegations that were never proven. The results of the election are, however, contested, and eventually annulled by the CSU judicial board. An interim CSU led by Leftist perennial Patrice Blais is appointed, leading to widespread disgust by the student body who had hoped, briefly, that their votes might make a difference.
- March 20-21, 2002: SPHR sets up their “Concordia Under Occupation” exhibit, setting up phony “checkpoints” at student entrances and harassing students for ID, then transforming the mezz into a mock graveyard with a sign saying “made in Israel”. The exhibit was received with widespread disgust.
- March 29, 2002: The widespread disgust from the November by-election leads to voter apathy. CanDo wins the CSU elections, under the leadership of Sabine Freisinger, ushering in a fifth straight year of leftist control of the Union, and a perceived mandate to “shake things up”.
- April 2, 2002: Hillel holds a peaceful sit-in, with singing and instruments, to protest SPHR’s virulent attacks on pro-Israel sentiment on campus.
- September 9, 2002: A mob of angry rioters, backed by the CSU and SPHR, violently shuts down Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking in the Hall Building auditorium. Many rioters are arrested and 11 are charged. The police have to use tear gas to disperse the crowd. The Concordia administration – in a move that implies that Hillel shares the blame for the riot – calls a “cooling-off period” issues a “moratorium” on all events or speeches having to do with Israel or the Palestinians. It also issues a temporary ban on student tabling of any kind.
- December 2, 2002: The CSU shuts down Concordia Hillel on the grounds that it was actively recruiting for a foreign military by distributing pamphlets about how people can volunteer for an IDF program. This gets widespread international coverage and criticism. The CSU later agrees to reinstate Hillel only if it signs a “pledge”. On principle, Hillel refuses to succumb to blackmail.
- December 5, 2002: Hillel holds a massive Chanukah rally to protest the unfair treatment by the CSU.
- December 21, 2002: Hillel files a lawsuit against the CSU, asking for unconditional reinstatement and an unfreezing of funds. The lawsuit is eventually suspended on the grounds that it is an internal matter, showing a lack of understanding of Concordia’s discrimination on the part of the justice system.
- March 12, 2003: CSU pro-Palestinian “activist” Laith Marouf draws a swastika on an Israeli flag in an art exhibit. He was acquitted of harassment charges.
- March 28, 2003: “Evolution, not Revolution” wins by a landslide in the CSU election, representing the first time that a moderate slate successfully ousted a far-left slate in five years (not counting the annulled 2001 by-elections).
- May 9, 2003: Global TV airs its documentary on the events of September 9th, entitled “Confrontation at Concordia”. The documentary comes under fire for being too “pro-Israel” in its bias.
- October 22, 2003: SPHR brings Eric Ben-Artzi, an Israeli “refusenik” and a nephew of Benjamin Netanyahu, to campus to speak. He is billed as a courageous dissenter. This is just one of a series of lectures that SPHR is allowed to hold, without any riots, protests, or violence.
- December 10, 2003: CSU council votes to ban Operation SICK, an international group opposed to children being used in warfare, from seeking club status at Concordia, on the grounds that it was loosely tied to Israeli Hasbara. An SPHR member called the group a “whitey-whitey group telling visible minority groups how to deal with their children.”
- March 26, 2004: “New Evolution” wins the CSU election, ushering in a second straight year of moderate CSU leadership.
- October 4, 2004: The university administration denies Hillel’s request to bring Ehud Barak to speak. Hillel plans a protest.
It’s impossible to list all the relevant events, but the above is a summary. The point is, the situation at Concordia is not just a series of isolated events. It is a pattern extending back a number of years.
And this latest flare-up proves that, while things have cooled down in the last year or two, they haven’t been resolved. When Jewish and pro-Israel students have their freedom of speech denied merely because people are afraid of things getting ugly, that’s not resolution, that’s avoidance.