Students react to universities’ stance on the Israel-Hamas war

Celina Shamon / Sports Editor
Students at the PPC’s first event, Panel for Palestine

After over 100 days of relentless carpet bombing and violent ground invasions throughout all of Gaza and the West Bank, institutions, national governments and communities around the world are now beginning to challenge Israel’s assault on Palestinian civilians.  But many post-secondary students across Ontario do not feel that same sense of momentum within their respective institutions. 

Wilfrid Laurier University released a statement on Oct. 9 condemning the attack on Israel, stating that “Wilfrid Laurier University condemns the terrorist attack on Israel and is deeply concerned with the escalation of violence in the region. We stand against violence, particularly acts of terrorism targeting civilians.” 

Palestinian-Canadian students Omar Yousef and Yousef Abdo feel that the Laurier administration should provide the same support for their Palestinian student body as they would for any other student group.  

“I feel like Laurier is not doing enough for their Palestinian students at all, and all they are giving us is a very politically correct response,” said fourth-year biology student Yousef Abdo, who is the social media manager for Laurier’s Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) and co-founder of Laurier’s Palestinian Culture Club (PCC). 

Abdo and fourth-year computer science student Omar Yousef, who is MESA’s VP of finances, co-founded the new club in hopes of “raising awareness for our people and the atrocities they’re facing right now that seem to go unaddressed,” said Yousef.  

When asked if any Laurier professors, academic advisors, teaching assistants or mental health counsellors at Laurier have personally reached out to check-in on their Palestinian student body, Yousef and Adbo said that no one has. 

For the last four months, MESA and the PCC at Laurier have hosted multiple fundraisers and events centred around fundraising for civilians in Gaza and creating safe spaces for Palestinian students and their allies.  

“[I] thought that if we made our presence known on campus, there would be some type of interaction between us and the administration at Laurier but there’s been nothing so far,” said Abdo. 

Despite their successful launch of Laurier’s PCC, Yousef and Abdo said that the Laurier administration have not reached out to the PCC and expressed any type of sympathy or support despite the escalation of targeted violence against Palestinian civilians.  

“I feel like the administration at Laurier has taken a neutral stance on this topic, and they have not offered any academic or mental health accommodations to their Palestinian students who continue to be directly affected by this situation for months now,” said Abdo.  

The university released a second statement on Oct. 14 on the “Safety and well-being of the Laurier community.” 

“All they had to speak on was the Hamas violence against Israel, but my people have been under consistent attack for 75 years and they never mentioned Israel’s terrorism against us,” said Yousef.  

The choice of words used to express and describe the genocide Palestinians are facing in Gaza is especially important, said Abdo.  

“The language used by a lot of these universities has been very demeaning against Palestinians,” he said. “They have not taken the Palestinian perspective during this time under enough consideration, nor have they taken our emotions into account.”  

This seems to be a consistent feeling across Ontario universities and colleges.  

The Ontario College of Art and Design, like Laurier, released a statement on Oct. 10 stating that “OCAD University condemns the recent horrific attacks against the civilian population in Israel.”  

“OCAD’s statements have been emphasizing that they condemn Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians but have refused to even mention the 27,000 Palestinian civilians murdered by Israel,” said recent OCAD graduate Sara M.  

Sara is a Palestinian international student from Amman, Jordan, who studied graphic design at OCAD and graduated in 2022.  

In early November, Sara met with OCAD administration to discuss their recent statements and ongoing involvement in a student-exchange program with Bezalel University in occupied Palestinian territory, Jerusalem. 

“I tried to make it a point of education rather than an attack on the university itself because I felt that they were making it a conflict of religion which it is not, and that narrative can be very dangerous to both Muslim and Jewish students on their campus,” she said.  

The meeting lasted an hour long, and Sara and her peers were told that administration would follow up and execute their discussion. Sara never received a follow up email and was given no response when she reached out after the meeting.  

Students, protestors, scholars and allies in support of an unoccupied Palestine are constantly being criminalized, penalized and censored across Ontario, due to their support for a ceasefire in Gaza.  

On Oct. 13, York University put out a statement saying that they will deregister three student union associations if they did not recant their statements expressing support for Palestinian civilians against the Israeli regime.  

“Don’t shut us down, and don’t ignore our voices because we will not stop … be a beacon of hope and offer support to Palestinian students,” said Sara. “It’s a university’s responsibility to ensure all their students are cared for and safe.” 

Back at Laurier, Palestinian-Canadian students and their allies are calling for the university to simply treat their Palestinian student groups with the same respect and recognition that is offered to their peers.  

“I urge the administration at Laurier University to research the 75-year long history of violence that Palestinians have been subjected to in order to properly understand us, and to support and acknowledge Palestinian students as much as any other student body,” said Abdo. 

Celina Shamon / Sports Editor
Students wearing keffiyehs at the PPC panel event

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