Israel on Canadian College Campuses - An Up-hill Battle

Published: February 4th 2010

Noam Bedein

Presenting the human side of Sderot, Israel and the western Negev would seem innocuous enough, as it is the only region in the western world where rockets and missiles target a civilian population. The people of southern Israel have their own story to share.


Yet after a 10-day visit to Canadian college campuses, organized by Hillel Canada and the CIJA umbrella organization of Canadian Jewry, I discovered that even Sderot residents must fight for their legitimate right to live in the land of Israel.


The purpose of this trip was to balance the after-effects of the “Gaza narrative”, exactly one year after Israel's 21-day Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.


On Canadian college campuses, the challenge became to justify the very existence of the city of Sderot.

This was best exemplified by an article published in a Winnipeg student newspaper, penned by a Palestinian-Canadian sociology student. This student amazingly attacked the credibility of another student for sharing her experiences visiting Sderot. This student had described her shock at the ’15 second’ alarm, known as the “Color Red,” which warns Sderot residents of only a few seconds to escape to safety from the time the missile is fired from Gaza to the time it explodes in Sderot .


The Palestinian student showed little sympathy for Sderot under fire:


“Sderot is actually a settlement on the Palestinian land of Najd, an illegally occupied territory stolen from Palestinians. It is a town created on the ashes of an ethnically cleansed and defaced Palestinian village....You want to talk about ‘terror’? Najd’s Palestinian villagers were expelled on May 13th, 1948 by Israeli forces before Israel was even declared a state.”


Here is a well-educated student born in Canada, with Palestinian descent, that calls the Israeli town of Sderot an illegitimate “settlement” constructed on the ruins of an Arab village abandoned during the 1948 war. Indeed this same student makes no acknowledgement of the historical fact that between 1951 and 1953, the Jews that settled in Sderot were from among the 850,000 Jews expelled in masses from Arab countries in the Middle East.  During and after the 1948 war, 670,000 Palestinian Arab refugees were fled or forced from their homes.


Indeed, this Canadian-Palestinian college student is not the first to rationalize the thousands of aerial attacks and terrorizing of Sderot and southern Israel civilians.


“You know why Sderot is under rocket fire? Because there was an Arab village called Najd,” began a BBC reporter in an interview. I recall the reporter sitting in our Sderot Media Center office trying to find a ‘reasonable excuse’ to justify rocket fire against a civilian population.


Ironically, most Israelis/Jews do not even know that Palestinians and their leadership define Sderot as an illegal ‘settlement,’ while under international law it is undisputedly a city in the State of Israel.


Indeed, the first question I often ask student audiences during presentations is the following:


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