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Anti-Israel academics who praised Hamas received federal funding for ‘woke’ conference

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The University of Alberta faces yet another controversy after hosting academics who belittled the October 7 atrocities in Israel.

On February 9, the post-secondary institute held the “Mediations of Racial Capitalism Conference” to highlight how capitalism is rooted in settler colonialism and “anti-Blackness.”

Among the event speakers included four academics who cheered on the recent barbarism of Hamas. As recipients of federal funding, courtesy of the Canada Research Chairs (CRC), among others, appeared to blame Israel online for the slaughter of 1,200 Jews and foreign nationals last fall.

Francesca Sobande, a British digital media studies professor, retweeted an account justifying terrorism against Israel. “Any media narrative that does not acknowledge the occupation and the siege as the root cause of all of this is insidious and inaccurate,” it said.

Speaker and fellow media studies professor, Roopika Risam, condemned the narrative that Hamas attacked Israel unprovoked. “The only way I can understand how people think that Palestinian resistance is ‘unprovoked’ is that people must think settler colonialism is … an event, rather than a structure,” she said.

In addition, Diana Flores Ruíz, a cinema studies scholar at the University of Washington, shared a painting that romanticized Hamas entering Israel. It portrayed a bulldozer breaking through the border wall between the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip.

Then Kareem Estefan, the director of art history at Christ’s College in the U.K., failed to denounce the October 7 attacks as among the worst cases of anti-Semitism since the Holocaust.

“It is deeply concerning that government funds are being used to give a platform to speakers who openly support terrorist organizations and their terror attacks,” said Richard Marceau, the vice-president of external affairs and general counsel for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

“After the Laith Marouf scandal, the Government of Canada promised that funding would never again be used to platform hate and there would be increased scrutiny on funding recipients,” said Marceau. “These changes were supposed to be implemented across all federal government bodies, not only Canadian Heritage’s funding programs,” he added.

Formerly sponsored by Heritage Canada, Laith Marouf’s Community Media Advocacy Centre pocketed over $602,000 in taxpayer dues in 2021, including a $133,822 grant from to host ‘anti-racism’ workshops. Meanwhile, his funding came at the time Twitter suspended his account.

Since 2020, telecom consultant Mark Goldberg collected dozens of screenshots of Marouf’s tweets in which he disparaged the Jewish people, including one post where he threatened Goldberg with “a bullet in your head.” In other posts, he fantasized about shooting Jews, whom he described as “human feces.”

Goldberg repeatedly warned government officials of Marouf’s conduct, reported Blacklock’s Reporter, but MPs on both sides of the House failed to take action. “They did nothing to counter it,” he said.

“The Canada Research Council and all other government bodies must review their vetting process to ensure that funds are not allocated in ways that run against the government’s own anti-hate and anti-terror strategies,” Marceau told The National Post.

Heritage Canada did not cancel the Marouf contract until September 23, 2022, and have unsuccessfully recuperated the taxpayer funds.

On February 13, 2023, department executives could not explain why they failed to conduct background checks on Marouf. However, they pledged to revamp its vetting process for federal funds.

Nicole Swiatek, a communications advisor with Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) — another sponsor of the February 9 conference — did not mention their new vetting procedures circa the Marouf scandal or if amendments were needed following the Edmonton event.

“SSHRC grant and scholarship applications are submitted through eligible post-secondary institutions and awarded through a competitive process of independent merit review designed to ensure the highest standards of excellence and impartiality in the selection process,” said Swiatek.

“Neither SSHRC nor the CRC program are directly involved in the organization of events that stem from research funding, including the choice of speakers and participants. As such, we encourage you to contact the event organizers directly for more information.”

UofA spokesperson Michael Brown clarified the school did “not organize this event.” Event organizers have yet to respond to requests for comment by media or university administrators.

The post-secondary institute earlier fired a campus director after she called reports of sexual violence by Hamas on October 7 an “unverified accusation.”

Samantha Pearson, director of the U of A Sexual Assault Centre, is among the signatories to a ceasefire petition from Ontario MPP Sarah Jama that appeared to minimize those reports regarding the massacre.

University president Bill Flanagan tendered a statement that afternoon to condemn the “improper” and “unauthorized” use of the centre’s name to endorse the open letter. “Effective immediately, the director of the centre is no longer employed by the university,” he said.



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