Suspension of nursing student Arij Al Khafagi

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On Monday, Nov. 21, 2023, Arij Al Khafagi, a fourth-year nursing student at the University of Manitoba was suspended due to social media posts she made expressing opposition to Israel’s violence against the Palestinians in Gaza. In addition to her suspension, Al Khafagi received a five-year reprimand on her academic transcript, despite being an exemplary student, and president of the Nursing Students’ Association.

The social media posts made by Al Khafagi included praising Jewish opposition to Israel’s war on Gaza and an image of a political cartoon comparing an Israeli soldier to a Nazi soldier.[1]  While these posts were made on Al Khafagi’s personal Instagram account, anonymous complaints were made to the University of Manitoba that labelled Al Khafagi’s posts antisemitic and discriminatory towards Jewish students.

Why is this incident considered Anti-Palestinian Racism (APR)?

The suspension of Al Khafagi for expressing her personal views in opposition to Israeli violence violates her right to “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression,” as stated in Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Her social media posts do not incite violence or hate against any individual based on their religion, ethnicity or race but reflect her political opposition to Israeli government actions and practices: views she is entitled to express freely.

In their report on Anti-Palestinian Racism[2], the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA) states that the attempt to defame Palestinians or their allies as being inherently antisemitic is a form of APR. Choosing to interpret Al Khafagi’s criticism of Israel for the killing of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza as inherently antisemitic is extremely cynical and racist.  Supporters of Israel use the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism and its examples to suggest that criticism of Israel is antisemitic.[3]  However, the IHRA definition is criticized by many, for precisely this reason, as it conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism.  Therefore, Al Khafagi’s suspension and subsequent academic reprimand by the University of Manitoba are textbook examples of APR. By labelling Al Khafagi’s criticism of the Israeli government or military as “antisemitic,” her legitimate political concerns are discredited and her support for Palestinian life is vilified. More importantly, Al Khafagi’s suspension reflects the exclusion and marginalization that Palestinians and their allies often face when publicly criticizing the Israeli government and military.

Additional Background to the Incident

In November 2023, two Conservative MLAs, Richard Perchotte and Obby Khan wrote a letter to the Minister of Advanced Education and Training Renée Cable appealing on behalf of Al Khafagi. They demanded that Al Khafagi be able to continue her studies despite her investigation and that her suspension “sends an unacceptable message to academically penalise a student for expressing herself.”[4]

An email campaign was launched by Canadians for Justice and Peace (CJPME) soon after Al Khafagi’s suspension. The campaign was very successful, garnering over 12,000 responses. CJPME claimed that the University of Manitoba “caved to vague criticism that Al Khafagi’s posts opposing Israeli violence were antisemitic” and called for Al Khafagi to be 1) reinstated into her Nursing program immediately, 2) to receive an apology from the University of Manitoba School of Nursing and 3) to have her academic record cleared.

Al Khafagi also received support from the student community[5] and professors at the University of Manitoba, among who spoke at her hearing, and called for the importance of academic freedom [6] and challenged the claim that the social media posts she made were antisemitic or discriminatory towards Jews because of their religion or ethnicity.


On January 29, 2024, Al Khafagi’s suspension was overturned, she was reinstated into her Nursing program, and her academic reprimand was removed. Upon announcing her victory for being reinstated, Al Khafagi wrote, “My hope is that the University of Manitoba can be a hub of open dialogue and communication, a place where concerns and opinions are openly expressed, and an institution where students are not censored!”[7] Al Khafagi is actively working against Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism on campus.

Last Updated



[1] Baader, Ben, “Words from Arij Al Khafagi’s appeal hearing,” Feb. 6, 2024, The Manitoban, accessed Mar. 11, 2024 at

[2] “Anti-Palestinian Racism: Naming, Framing and Manifestations,” April 25, 2022, Arab Canadian Lawyers Association, accessed Mar. 11, 2024 at

[3] Al Jazeera, “Rights groups urge UN not to adopt IHRA anti-Semitism definition,” Apr. 4, 2023, Al Jazeera News, accessed Mar. 12, 2024, at

[4] Dzsurdzsa, Cosmin, “Manitoba PC MLAs urge gov to intervene for nursing student suspended over anti-Israel activity, Nov. 29, 2023, True North, accessed Mar. 12, 2024 at

[5] Thau-Eleff, Daniel, “Re: Re: U of M Prof’s concerns regarding nursing student suspension,” Jan. 9, 2024, The Manitoban, accessed Mar. 11, 2024 at

[6] Baader, Ben, “Words from Arij Al Khafagi’s appeal hearing,” Feb. 6, 2024, The Manitoban, accessed Mar. 11, 2024 at

[7] Al Khafagi, Arij. [@arij_alkhafagi]. (2024, January 29). Its official, I won my case alhamdulillah and I’ve been reinstated [Photograph]. Instagram.

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