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Canada: censoring pro-Palestine voices triggers backlash at university

November 20, 2023 at 3:31 pm

People take part in a pro-Palestine demonstration in Ottawa, Canada on October 15, 2023 [Kadri Mohamed – Anadolu Agency]

The University of Ottawa is under fire for suspending a medical student over pro-Palestine social media posts. A petition signed by nearly 50,000 people has accused the faculty of misusing its authority, and intimidating residents and students through censorship. The signatories have urged people to call on the university to investigate associate professor of family medicine Dr Yoni Freedhoff.

A resident physician in his 4th year of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Dr Yipeng Ge, is said to have been suspended after Freedhoff, who appears to be an ardent support of Israel according to his profile on X, accused Ge of anti-Semitism. In a blog, Freedhoff targeted Ge for his pro-Palestinian social media posts. He also called out Ge on X, claiming that he was spreading anti-Semitism. Ge was suspended shortly after the publication of Freedhoff’s blog.

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A petition demanding Ge’s reinstatement has been signed by 48,365 people. The petition expresses solidarity with Ge and calls on the university to reverse his suspension and apologise for failing to follow due process. It demands a thorough investigation into the decision to suspend Ge and condemns the rise in anti-Palestinian discrimination and censorship at the university, arguing that the suspension violates university policies on free expression, student rights and occupational health and safety.

Ge should have the chance to challenge the suspension with impartial oversight, insist the signatories, who call on the university to protect him from harassment by a faculty member, Freedhoff, that puts him at physical and reputational risk without repercussions. Furthermore, it criticises the university administration for failing to provide a safe learning environment and enable Palestinian advocacy on campus through actions like Ge’s suspension.

This suspension is another example of the growing crackdown on pro-Palestine voices on campuses and social media platforms. Pro-Israel groups have doubled their efforts to silence criticism of the apartheid state. Members of the Palestine Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London were suspended by the university last month, following a solidarity rally for Gaza. Moreover, a chilling threat to student free speech has emerged across US campuses. Rights groups have warned that pro-Israel donors are seeking to crush pro-Palestine activism through intimidation and threats.

A glimpse into the scale of Israel’s crackdown on social media users was given earlier this year with the revelation that the occupation state is one of the world’s leading countries in demanding the removal of videos from social media giant TikTok. Last week, the site came under pressure from pro-Israel celebrities and “Jewish influencers” to crack down on pro-Palestine voices and content, according to a shocking new report by the New York Times.

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