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The Blatant Israeli-Palestinian Bias at Dawson College

Aya Hafeda

News Editor

From the age of 6 years old, children in Quebec are required to attend school until they reach the age of 16. As one grows, we feel that most of our years were spent under educational institutions’ roofs.

Children tend to look up to their teachers because the utmost goal in going to school approximately 30 hours a week is to pass your classes and progress in an academic journey. Although the student is the one who has to work to get a passing grade, it is through the teacher that one passes a class. Students must be dutiful to their teacher’s assignments and abide by class rules. When children continuously toe the line to an adult at such a young age, that adult eventually tends to become a figure of authority for them.

Educators have a powerful influence on students because they are educated and knowledgeable figures that students are familiar with and look up to. They transmit their knowledge down to a younger generation, and, in return, the latter learns to respect them. Because of their authority, teachers in Canada are not encouraged to share their political views with their students. Upon starting a new school year, teachers in Quebec are required to sign a year-long contract. In these contracts, teachers sign off to remain objective in class and keep their personal views to themselves.

This is supposedly respected here at Dawson College. However, many students, including myself, find that there is a biased atmosphere regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Joseph Rosen is an ethics teacher here at Dawson College who grew up in Vancouver in a Zionist-Jewish home. He eventually got his Ph.D. in Social and Political Thought at York University, Toronto. He has obtained many expertises, including one in both Israel and Palestine. Rosen stated that, upon moving to Toronto, he had been exposed to the other side’s story and perspectives. He believes that once you meet new people, “their world becomes part of your world.”

According to Rosen’s experience growing up here, “If you’re growing up in Canada, in most places, in most streamed society, most people will be exposed more often to the Jewish and Israel side of the story and your average person will have been less exposed to the Palestinian side of it because of the demographic and who lives here.” However, when asked about it now, Rosen believes the situation is no longer the same: “Now that’s obviously changed in the last 30 years, it’s not the same. But certainly, growing up here, I think that the Israeli story would be a lot more mainstreamed and more people would be familiar with that and less people would be familiar with the Palestinian story”.

The changes, according to Rosen, have only recently begun to be observed. As we discussed, the idea that there is now a new wave of Palestine advocacy in Gen Z was explored. When asked about the daunting situations some students face when they feel as though the school is biased, he proceeded to encourage these students to “find a collective, it’s a lot easier to do things as a collective […] and it's important to find other people who share your world view and perspective.”

The older generation, which is the one that is currently teaching and maintaining the order at Dawson, are the ones who grew up more exposed to the Israeli story. Our generation differs from the elder; due to our early introduction to social media, there is a facility in communicating with each other online. In today’s social media apps, in order for one to engage with other individuals, they no longer need to have any sort of relationship to interact with each other. This illimitation allows people from all across the globe to partake in conversations. The predominantly corporate and governmental news outlets, as well as the demographic situation in Canada, are therefore no longer the only sources of news our generation has to get a wind of the numerous human rights violations occurring in the apartheid territories of Palestine and Israel. This has led the deteriorating situation of the Palestinians to come into vogue with our particular generation.

Here at Dawson College, an organization has been created in advocacy with Palestine called Al Raya Dawson. According to one member, the goal of this organization is to “teach and build solidarity with Palestinians on campus […] about what’s happening and why it's important to have Palestinian clubs on campus.” Al Raya Dawson representatives believe that students nowadays are so constantly surrounded by anti-Palestinian views and ideologies that they fail to even perceive or acknowledge them.

Organizers of the group state that a crusade denouncing the transgression of Palestinian civilians’ unalienable rights is not new but has existed before, and the lack of volunteering led to its cease of activity. When attempting to revive it, members were astonished to find that they no longer had the right to keep the original name because it included the name ‘Palestine.’ They have therefore settled on Al Raya, meaning the flying banner. Members claim that the cause was originally supposed to be open to the students since October of last semester, but the Dawson team in charge of approving the union kept postponing and pushing back the necessary meetings required to open an organization on campus. This neglect resulted in the organization being officialized only a month ago.

One representative feels that there is a lack of liberty to express their pro-Palestinian views here at Dawson College: “It is extremely limited we do not have the same right to express our opinion, because I feel like the minute we do, they’re going to come to talk to us […] the fact that our name and our presence is already a threat to them is unbelievable”.

Members furthermore recognize the difficulty a lot of people experience when it comes to differentiating Zionism and Anti-Semitism. When asked about their approach, they stated that once they are more settled, they plan on hosting a workshop event to help students comprehend the differences between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism.

Zionism can additionally be confused with the religion of Judaism since it is the largest religion practised in Israel. This misconception, when taken into the hands of passionate and influenced groups of people of our generation - who furthermore lack understanding of the cause - can eventually harm Jewish students at Dawson. The ongoing crisis between the disputed lands is intensified by the fact that there is a clear disproportion of power between the two countries. This factor leads the one in power to repeatedly commit human rights violations despite having been denounced by the United Nations on several occasions. These violations are a sensitive topic that many students hold dear. This sympathy can, however, be discriminatory towards some of Dawson’s Jewish students and cause them to feel unsafe on campus.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms covers the idea that students are entitled to express their harmless opinions. When approaching a situation where your atmosphere at school is biased, it can seem daunting to speak out. Nevertheless, there are other places within campus you can go to and Dawson institution members you can reach out to. Advocacy is crucial at this time, and I hearten students to espouse their empathy for those who are less advantaged.


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