Concordia cancels student event involving IDF reserve soldiers

Following backlash, Startup Nation was asked to cancel speaker series

Photo Alice Martin

On Feb. 26, Israeli student group Startup Nation announced an event set to occur on March 4, hosting three Israel Defense Forces reserve soldiers on campus.

The event would have seen guest speakers talk about the “fight against the delegitimization of Israel” and “the national journey towards peace and stability since Oct. 7” per the organization’s Instagram post. 

In a video circulating online, one of the three speakers, Aby Volcovich, stated that Palestinian children are terrorists. 

On Feb. 29, Palestinian students and allies actively spoke out against the event, asking the university administration for its cancellation. 

Students organized mass email outlines for Concordians to send to the administration, highlighting that the guests are members of the Israeli military, which has been accused of committing war crimes and of massacring 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza.

The Link contacted Concordia’s spokesperson regarding the allowance of foreign soldiers on Concorda’s campus. She confirmed the cancellation of the event, stating it was removed, “following an assessment.”

On March 1, Startup Nation announced the cancellation of the event and accused Concordia of “absolute discrimination” against Israeli students. The post further states: “Why when Israelis are supposed to come on campus and to speak about peace and stability, they are not welcome?” 

On the same day, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights Concordia (SPHRConU) also released a statement on their Instagram, thanking students for supporting Palestinians and advocating for their safety on campus. SPHRConU also called out Concordia’s administration for their connections to Israeli institutions and demanded the university divest and sanction Israel. 

The university also cancelled a pro-Palestinian event set to take place on Feb. 10.

On Feb. 29, Concordia’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) made a statement explaining the cancellation of their event with speaker Sami Hamdi. According to the MSA, the speaker and event outline was sent to the university administration for preliminary research into Hamdi. On Jan. 17, the MSA sent the event details to Concordia, and on Jan. 24, a room in the Henry F. Hall building was approved. 

On Feb. 8, two days before the event, the MSA stated that Dean of Students Andrew Woodall “was urgently contacting members of the MSA team to speak about the event.” On Feb. 10, the MSA received an email from campus security explaining that the room booking was cancelled. 

The MSA said it was not given a clear explanation for the cancellation. 

According to Concordia’s spokesperson, “The MSA’s room booking was also cancelled earlier this month following an assessment and the MSA was in fact in touch with the university administration,” she said. She continued by saying that, based on the university’s policies and the assessment of the speaker, the university concluded that the event would “create a climate of intimidation which we will not allow.”

According to MSA’s statement, on Feb.9, the organization was made aware of Hamdi’s controversial comments, and contacted the Concordia Student Union (CSU), CSU Advocacy Centre and the administration, to de-escalate the situation and ensure the safety of all students on campus.