An anti-Israel professor teaches at McGill - opinion

Professor Rula Jurdi Abisaab of McGill University in Montreal worked with Samah Idriss, the late Lebanese writer and anti-Zionist activist.

 A ‘FREE PALESTINE’ mural on Pine Avenue West (Avenue des Pins) in Montreal, where the writer walks to class at McGill University each morning.  (photo credit: JONAH FRIED)
A ‘FREE PALESTINE’ mural on Pine Avenue West (Avenue des Pins) in Montreal, where the writer walks to class at McGill University each morning.
(photo credit: JONAH FRIED)

Most historians of the Arab-Israeli conflict agree that Palestinian terrorism undermined the peace process. Israel tried in 1993, 2000 and 2008, but extremists rejected negotiations with Israel as apostasy.

Samah Idriss, the late Lebanese writer and anti-Zionist activist, was one such extremist. He founded the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon to intimidate anyone who disagreed with him.

Professor Rula Jurdi Abisaab of McGill University in Montreal worked with Idriss, who died in November 2021. She praised him at a February 6 Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement (Masar Badil) conference Remembering Idriss.

According to Abisaab, Idriss should be honored for “fighting against institutionalized Zionism” and “attacking peace discourse with Israel [sic].” Idriss also praised Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions on Israel (BDS), although he felt armed struggle was better for building an audience to complement and support a future revolution.

Abisaab also glorified Idriss’s campaign to erase Zionist sympathizers in Lebanese education, politics, sports and science. She called it a fight against “universalized western notions of freedom” – such as, perhaps, the idea that one should not be harassed for supporting peace with Israel.

The arts building of McGill University in Montreal, Québec. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)The arts building of McGill University in Montreal, Québec. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The organizer of the conference, Badil – a radical Marxist youth anti-Israel group – goes even further on its website. It excoriates the Palestinian Authority for negotiating with the Zionist entity, abjuring the Oslo and Camp David peace accords as “null and void… illegitimate.” Badil also demands that Israel free Palestinian terrorists.

When I tried to inform The McGill Daily that a McGill Professor appears to support terrorism, their editors wrote me that, “the Daily maintains an explicitly pro-Palestine stance” and as such, could not “publish work that includes the characterization of some forms of Palestinian resistance as terrorism or extremism.”

The February event’s moderator, Charlotte Kates, and her husband, Khaled Barakat, are core members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a US, Canada, and European Union-designated terror group. Kates has also argued against terrorist designations for groups like Hamas, which regularly targets Israeli civilians and promotes genocide against all Jews.

It was irresponsible for Abisaab to appear with Kates and Badil activists. Nevertheless, McGill’s academic freedom policies will protect her unless she directly incites violence.

The conference’s other speaker, San Francisco State University (SFSU) Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, has encouraged discrimination and aggression against Jews and Israelis. She is a founding member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACB), part of the antisemitic BDS campaign.

Professor Adbulhadi has tried to tie SFSU to Hamas-dominated universities. In 2014, the AMCHA Initiative (an American campus group and an anti-Semitism watchdog group that combats BDS activities on campuses) accused her of using public university funds to finance a solidarity trip to Israel, where SFSU students were invited to meet with Leila Khaled and other members of US-designated terror groups.

Make no mistake: Khaled remains an active member of the PFLP. She was involved in the hijacking of TWA Flight 840 in 1969 and El Al Flight 219 in 1970. She has also claimed that the 2000-2005 Second Intifada – a terror campaign that killed as many as 1038 Israelis, including 887 Israeli civilians, was “not violent enough.”

But, Professor Abisaab does not have to go as far as Abulhadi’s terrorist-sponsoring resistance studies to provoke violence. Idriss’s specter will be satisfied as long as the McGill lecturer indoctrinates students into supporting BDS and revolution in Israel. For Abisaab, peace is the enemy, not the goal, in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hundreds of thousands may continue to die, but that is a small price to pay for preventing normalization with Israel.

The writer is an honors history student at McGill University and a 2021-2022 fellow for the Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA).