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Distorting history

by Archives December 4, 2002

Last Tuesday afternoon, members of Hillel were found distributing flyers comparing Palestinians to members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The flyers in question carried a picture of a Klansman in full white robes. Next to him was featured a picture of a Palestinian wearing a kefiah, the traditional Palestinian scarf, over his face and the word ‘Gaza’ taped to his forehead. Above each picture were the words ‘American terror’ and ‘Palestinian terror,’ respectively. Underneath ran a large caption describing these as the ‘Face of terror’ and stating that hate is what these two people have in common.

These two people have nothing in common.

The Ku Klux Klan has come to represent the basest, most repugnant aspects of humanity, comparable perhaps only to the hatred and repression exhibited by the ruling white minority in apartheid South Africa and that the Nazis dealt out to Jews and others during Second World War.

What is incredibly disturbing is the degree to which it misrepresents the oppression and fear that the black population of North America went through at the turn of the 20th century.

The Ku Klux Klan was established with the sole purpose of undercutting the burgeoning black civil rights movement that came with emancipation. It was based upon the belief that one culture was so low as to not be considered human. With it came lynchings and segregation, cross burnings on front lawns and an ever-present threat of a return to slavery – one of the most heinous crimes against humanity ever seen.

The violence in the Middle East is deplorable, and there is not doubt that a solution must be found. But the comparison of an individual dressed in traditional garb based on centuries of history and unique culture to a member of a group specifically founded in order to promote the oppression, degradation and hate is despicable.

When reached for comment, Hillel co-President Noah Joseph said he believed the Palestinian was identified as a suicide bomber. When informed that he wasn’t, Joseph said the photo must then have been taken from a reliable source, although he could not identify where.

Even if the photo depicted a suicide bomber, there would still be no link between himself and a Klansman. Although both have committed acts of violence, the motivation between the actions is so far apart as to destroy any comparison.

All sides of this debate on campus have at one point or another claimed to adhere to the principles of freedom of harassment and open debate. At various times, this adherence has been questionable for all sides. But to blatantly disregard the rules the administration has laid down for lifting the moratorium not even 24 hours later raises serious concerns.

But that is beside the point. At no time should any group on campus cast the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as hate mongers whose founding was based solely on the repression of others. To do so is to seriously distort history and belittle the plight of others.

Joseph has refused to comment on whether or not he had seen the papers in question, but said he would not skirt the issue, saying Hillel would accept responsibility for the flyers being handed out at one of its tables.

He was ambiguous over what Hillel was doing to deal with it, though, stating only that they are looking into the matter.

The administration is seriously concerned about the posters and has been trying since last week to have a meeting to deal with it, but scheduling conflicts have so far prohibited all sides – the CSU, Hillel, SPHR and the administration – from getting together.

Hillel must remember that it is the duty of the group whose actions are being questioned to make itself available in order to put this issue to rest and ease tensions on campus.

Concordia has gone through a semester of turmoil where all students, even those not involved in the debate, have said they feel unsafe on campus. This latest action draws in a group of students who have nothing to do with the debate and should not have to see these images of hatred being distributed on campus. All too often those involved in the Israeli-Palestinian debate seem to forget that there are groups on campus other than themselves.

In his statement last Monday upon lifting the moratorium, Rector Lowy said that there would be a zero-tolerance system for actions of hatred, racism or harassment on campus. This latest action qualifies as both and must be dealt with.

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