Last Friday, the university administration once again reinforced their stance on the moratorium on issues related to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The administration should not have sought an injunction to prevent two members of parliament and an activist from speaking about the conflict on campus.
Arguing in front of a judge that the discussion by Svend Robinson, Libby Davies and Judy Rebick would incite violence while discussing the Middle East on campus; Concordia lawyer Christine Baudouin convinced the judge to grant Concordia the injunction. This act has served to once again expose the hypocrisy of the administration. In the past, the administration has said that they strongly believe in freedom of speech, and Rector Frederick Lowy has said himself that former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had the right to speak on campus. If he truly believes this, then he should invite Netanyahu back to Concordia and invite back Robinson, Davies and Rebick. Pursuing the injunction proves that the administration is against the principle of freedom of speech.
The main argument of Concordia’s legal counsel was that trouble would erupt, but this did not happen when the event took place outside. Indeed, with the event taking place outside there was probably more people in attendance than there would have been had it took place in H-937. Despite the fact that there were about 250 people at one point, there was not one iota of violence, just a bunch of students and people from the street listening to the MPs and cheering every now and then. What is so threatening about this situation?
Also, the moratorium goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that states that freedom of speech is a fundamental right. Canada has been known to be a place where this right is respected and immigrants come to here to exercise this freedom. The administration is trampling on the rights of its students by upholding the moratorium.
Moreover, for the planned speech by Netanyahu, the administration was warned that activists would try to block him and attempt a citizen’s arrest. This is clearly a situation where violence could be expected. (Knowing this the administration should have taken even more measures on top of their beefed up measures to prevent the violence). There was no such known threat with the planned visit of Robinson, Davies and Rebick. Besides, neither of the three are controversial speakers. Inviting Yasser Arafat would be controversial.
Hillel held a rally earlier in the day – which was peaceful – protesting the CSU’s hypocrisy of inviting pro-Palestinian speakers, when they protested the presence of Netanyahu. The CSU should have also invited pro-Israeli speakers and this way both Hillel and SPHR could break the moratorium together and prove that there can be peaceful debate on campus. It would take an enormous effort for both parties to co-ordinate something, but it is not out of reach.
The administration is not learning from its lessons. By imposing a moratorium that is only subject to review in mid-December, the administration is helping to contribute to an even more hostile situation on campus. Students need a forum to debate their views, considering that Concordia has many students on both sides of the conflict, some of which have witnessed it first hand. The events on Friday placed Concordia in the national headlines, once again. Not lifting the moratorium could lead to even more negative news, as more student action against the moratorium will probably take place. Concordia University has a responsibility to lift the moratorium, as this is setting a dangerous precedent that free speech is something that can be stifled.