July 19th, 2024

Program offering ‘revolutionary education’ begins at McGill pro-Palestine encampment

By Maura Forrest, The Canadian Press on June 17, 2024.

Supporters stand in front of the pro-Palestinian protest encampment on McGill University campus, in Montreal, Monday, June 17, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL – Pro-Palestinian activists who have been encamped at McGill University since April were set to launch what they were calling their own summer school Monday afternoon, despite controversy over photos of armed fighters used to promote the program.

The encampment’s youth summer program promises “revolutionary lessons” and political discussions over the next four weeks, including a series of lectures on Palestinian history, the resistance movement and the role of the media since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

But on Friday, federal and provincial politicians called for the encampment to be dismantled after posters for the summer program were published online featuring photos of Palestinian resistance fighters wearing kaffiyehs and holding rifles. The photos date from around 1970, and the militants appear to be reading copies of Chairman Mao Zedong’s “The Little Red Book.”

“Enough is enough, this is hate speech and incitement to hate, pure and simple!” federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller posted on X. “De-escalation at McGill has clearly failed. This needs to end!”

Quebec Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry said the poster was tantamount to “provocation, explicit incitement to violence, even indoctrination.”

Insp. David Shane of the Montreal police told reporters Monday that the poster “is a cause of concern because it features image of an assault rifle … We are investigating the matter and have been in contact with the RCMP.”

Organizers of the program, which will also include Arabic language classes and cultural crafts, defended the poster and said interest in the teachings has been high.

“We’re defying the norms of normal academia. We want to teach things that aren’t normally taught,” Zaina Karim, a spokesperson for the encampment on McGill’s downtown campus, said in an interview Monday. “The overarching goal is to educate.”

Karim called the summer school a form of “revolutionary education.” She said speakers will include Palestinian intellectuals and some professors from McGill and Concordia universities.

In a statement Friday, McGill president Deep Saini said that in response to the poster for the youth program, the university would increase security near the encampment. “This is extremely alarming,” he said. “It has attracted international media attention, and many in our community have understandably reached out to express grave concerns – concerns that I share.”

But Karim said the group has no regrets about its choice of photo. “It’s a historical image showing a colonized people reading about another colonized people,” she said. “It’s a symbolism between education and struggle.”

As of Monday morning, online registration for the summer program had closed. Karim said 50 to 80 people have signed up for the first week of lectures, which will take place every afternoon at 4 p.m. She said organizers were surprised by the number of registrants, and may open up more spots in the weeks to come.

Most of the attendees will be students, Karim said. “[They] were really interested in the idea of being able to come here and get educated on Palestine.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2024.

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