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Advertisement I saw for U of W Nov 24 Event

Screenshot of Fadi Ennab's twitter account

The 'Palestine and Genocide' Teach in and Roundtable by U of W Profs- Was the Academic Freedom and Dignity of Those Who Disagreed Violated?

by Rhonda Spivak, B.A., L.L.B, Dec 2, 2023


I take what happened at the "Palestine and Genocide: Reflections on Imperialism, Settler Colonialism, and Decolonization" Teach In and Roundtable on Nov 24, 2023 very seriously.  

The advertisement of the event I saw referred to it as being put on by the Faculty of Arts, University of Wpg.  I understood from the plain meaning of the words that this was a U of W event. On Nov 17, the U of W President and Vice Chancellor Todd Mondor and Dr. Pavlina Radia, Provost and Vice President, Academic issued a statement about this event which can be read in full at

That statement said there is "an obligation on faculty to ensure that their conduct accords with University policy and other lawful limits on free expression" and "all academic events in any way associated with the University of Winnipeg are required to align with these principles."

If further said, "In an increasingly polarized world, universities have a responsibility to be places where debate on difficult issues can be conducted…. It is our duty to ensure that all perspectives, so long as they are lawful and inclusive, can be heard, and that those who disagree can safely engage in respectful debate [emphasis added].

"This is an important time for all members of our University community to foster ethical, respectful engagement that aligns with our values based in diversity and inclusion, human rights, and respectful workplace and learning environments [emphasis added] . ..We must ensure that every member of our community is treated with empathy and respect.


I want to look at the way two questions were answered by Dr. Kerry Sinanon, who is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at U of W who moderated the event and answered questions people posted in the chat.  

Question:In discussing traumatic experience, don't you think it is relevant and critical to mention the terror and trauma brought onto innocent civilians on 10/7 by Hamas. How does perpetrating more trauma and terror in the region help the Palestinian movement or put end to the 'Zionist Project'. If anything, wouldn't this further divide the region and take us further away from a viable end to this

Dr. Kerry Sinanan: Questions that seek to align the speakers with Hamas are racist and will not be entertained. Thank you.[emphasis added].

I ask the President of U of W Todd Mondor, what kind of answer is that? The person who asked a legitimate question was entitled to an answer about Hamas's role in this current war. Instead, were they not in fact dismissed, shut down, demeaned  and belittled by being told in essence that their question was racist ? Is this not a violation of U of W's policy on academic freedom, in that the academic freedom of the person asking the question was violated?

Question: "What role does hamas play in the occupation and in the sufferage of the palestinian people, if any? As well, I heard that Hamas fired rockets at Israel 15 minutes after the temporary ceasefire began today. Is this true? If so, how should Israel react to protect civilians, regardless of their geographic location?"

Dr. Kerry Sinanan answeredNone of our panelists has knowledge of Hamas operations. We are scholars and academics.

I ask the U of W President Mondor, what kind of answer is that? There was no answer to the question of what role does Hamas play in the suffering of the Palestinian  people. And, by the way, if Dr. Sinanan has no knowledge of Hamas operations, how does she have knowledge of Israeli operations? If she can't say anything about Hamas's role in the conflict, how can she say anything about Israel's role in the conflict. Rather than enabling  the Jewish student to engage in respectful debate, was the student not shut down ?


Also President  Mondor, have you asked the organizers why they spliced out one speaker from the event, a Palestinian woman  named  Sarah, who said on Oct 7  she felt a sense of shock, "but also because of my Muslim faith, a huge sense of relief because I know that Palestinians will resist..." ? [emphasis added]. Sarah went on to say "The resistance is justified." Could it be she was spliced out because her views align with those of Hamas?  [Sarah spoke after Dr. Alyson Brickey, Assistant Professor in the Department of English but she is not on the you tube released]

Now let me tell readers what else I heard at  Teach-In and Roundtable.

I did not hear one panelist who said that he or she recognized Israel's right to exist as a state in the region. Palestinian academic Ghada Sasa said her grandfather was from Ramle and that her family has the right to return to Ramle (which is near Lod, where Ben-Gurion Airport is). She said a two state scenario was gone “a long time ago,” and in any event "My home is not part of the West Bank or Gaza" as her grandfather came from Ramle. She advocated for a “one state solution,” whereby Israel is destroyed as a state in the region.  Sarah, the Palestinian woman  said that "most Palestinians" want the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, the lifting of the siege on Gaza, and  "the end of the occupation in its entirety" and that "these three things cannot be met under a Zionist  project." 


I did not hear one panelist condemn or make any negative remarks about Hamas's actions on Oct 7, or indicate it was recognized as a terror group by the Canada and many others in the Western world. Nor did any panelist say that Israeli hostages taken by Hamas ought to be freed.


There were panelists who referred to Israel as an apartheid state.


I did not hear any panelist say that there has been a continuous presence of Jews in the land of Israel for 3000 years such that they are indigenous to the land of Israel. Academics referred to Israel as a colonialist and imperialist state, such that Zionists were not indigenous to the land of Israel.  


There was no panelist who said that Israel was NOT committing genocide against Palestinians


I did not hear one speaker who advocated for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 


I did not hear any speaker cast any responsibility for the current conflict on the failure of Palestinian leadership.


I did not hear any reference to the 1947 UN partition plan calling  for a Jewish and Arab state, which was accepted by Israel but rejected by the Mufti of Jerusalem and surrounding  Arab states who attacked the nascent State of Israel). There was  scant mention of the 1993 Oslo Accords, nor was there any mention of peace plans put forth by Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, which would have seen the creation of a Palestinian state.


At no time did I hear any of the panelists disagree with each other in any major way or on any major point, such that it is easy to conclude that all the perspectives presented were "anti-Zionist" and "anti-Israel."


Near the end of the Teach-In, Dr. Kerry Sinanon, said "we've seen some comments in the question and answer that these are not multiple perspectives." She said "I want to say very clearly that this is a very racist perspective."(emphasis added). She said this was an "inclusive" teach in with the participation of people from "different backgrounds, ethnicities, countries and academic disciplines." The comments of those who disagreed were not read out.


I ask the U of W President Mondor whether those who disagreed with the portrait of Israel as a colonialist/imperialist/apartheid/genocide committing State were treated with respect and could "safely engage in respectful debate," as per your Nov 17 statement?


Calling those who disagree with you as coming from "a very racist perspective" is, insulting, demeaning, disrespectful and a form of bullying, is it not?


Has the U of W considered whether the Human Rights Code applies in this situation? As a matter of principle is the U of W committed to ensuring in practice that the guarantees of non-discrimination and non-harassment in the Human Rights Code are applied in practice with equal vigour to protect Jewish students and those who support the right of Israel to exist?


Will the U of W put on an officially sponsored forum with at least equal publicity to provide those with different views to respond?


BUT there is more. There were Jewish attendees of the event who believe in Israel's right to exist who were removed from the event after asking questions which indicated they had differing views than those being presented by the panelists.


Will you President Mondor be investigating whether there were Jewish attendees of the event who believe in Israel's right to exist, who were kicked out of the event, after asking questions, and if so, how many Jews were kicked out? Did they receive messages saying "You were removed from this webinar by the host and cannot rejoin?"


I have also spoken to a Jewish person who tried to register part way into the program, but was disallowed. Why was this?


Will the U of W be producing for the public a complete list of all the questions in the chat and the way they were answered by Dr. Sinanon ? Were there any questions deleted from the chat?


Will there be any consequences for the violation of the academic freedom of Jewish students and/or community members who tried to engage in respectful debate on the issues, or does academic freedom just apply to some, and not others? 


By the way, President Mondor, given there was controversy about this event prior to its taking place, what steps were taken to ensure that the discussion at the Teach in and Roundtable would live up to your Nov 17 statement ? 


What corrective measures will be taken to ensure that this happens never again?


On the subject of genocide, Ghada Sasa, who spoke at the roundtable part of the program said that  Zionist voices could not be speakers at this event as  "Zionist voices they are supporting the genocidal project." [meaning Israel]. In other words, if you support Zionism, which to me means you believe in Israel’s right to exist as a state in the region, you are by this twisted logic a supporter of genocide. 


I, for one, certainly do not agree with every Israeli government policy, or every statement made by every Israeli politician, but since I firmly believe in Israel’s right to exist, and I believe in Israel’s right to self defense after Oct 7, I automatically become a supporter of genocide using Sasa’s twisted logic. And since most Jews are Zionists, we therefore according to this twisted logic become supporters of genocide, and it’s easy to see how we become the objects of hatred. It’s no wonder Jew hatred is increasing in Winnipeg, even though Jews in Winnipeg  do not control Israeli policy in any way. President Mondor have you so far effectively tolerated a climate of antisemitism by allowing the program to proceed in the fashion it did ? 


Finally on twitter, on Oct 21, Emily Leedham posted footage of Winnipeg’s “ All Out for Palestine rally”, with a large Palestinian flag. Fadi Ennab, a Palestinian academic, who participated in the Roundtable  November 24th zoom event, tweeted, ‘I hope the ripples of that flag echos to bring down every Zionist infrastructure from Winnipeg to Palestine. Free Free Palestine! Thank you @Emily_Leedham_ for capturing the heart of the movement!”


I ask President Mondor, what did Ennab mean by referring to bringing “down every Zionist infrastructure” in Winnipeg? Is he talking about bringing down the Asper Campus, where an Israeli flag flies?


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.