Last Wednesday the conflict in the Middle East was once again the topic of discussion in room H-110. The lecture, entitled Israel/ Palestine a Human Rights Perspective brought speaker Marty Rosenbluth, an Amnesty international country specialist for Israel/Palestine to the Hall Building.
Discussions of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict have often been a source of controversy at Concordia, but this speech was presented from a different perspective.
Rather than taking a political stance on the debate, Rosenbluth examined the conflict from a human rights perspective. Unlike the more controversial lectures of Concordia’s past, the speech had a lengthy and well-rounded question-and-answer period, as well as an open attendance policy.
Rosenbluth has a substantial background in the Middle East conflict. He spent seven and a half years working for Amnesty International in the West Bank. Although his focus was on Ramallah, he traveled extensively through Israel and the occupied territories.
While living in Ramallah, from 1985 to 1992, he witnessed the first intafada and human rights abuses committed by Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Currently, Rosenbluth continues his work for Amnesty within North America, and works on the side in the form of documentaries.
Although Amnesty International is an apolitical organization, it does take stances on some political issues pertaining to the conflict. Officially, Amnesty takes no side in any armed conflict, but opposes the targeting of civilians. This brings in to question what types of military action are appropriate, and what ratio of civilian to military casualties is justifiable.
One of the issues discussed was the ‘Apartheid wall.’ Rosenbluth referred to it in a very politically correct way as a “separation- barrier- wall- fence.”
The wall is being built to separate Palestinian territories from Israel in order to inhibit the flow of people, weapons and goods between Israel and Palestine.
The wall is very controversial due to the drastic negative affects it will have on thousands of people, countered by Israel’s desire to feel secure.
Rosenbluth said “Fifteen villages with over 12,000 residents will be separated from the West Bank.” He continued by claiming Amnesty International would not oppose the wall construction if it were built on the 1967 borders.
Another political issue addressed was right of return.
According to Rosenbluth, Amnesty supports all refugees right of return whether they are Palestinian or Israeli. This is a challenging subject, due to the loose time definitions of who qualifies as a refugee.
Amnesty’s perspective on progress in the conflict was also presented. The organization calls for international human rights monitors, to be given access to all places of conflict within Israel/ Palestine.
It is hoped this would make all parties accountable for their human rights abuses, thus preventing many such abuses.
Amnesty does not want peacekeepers, because it creates a risk of other states getting entangled in the conflict.
While all of the political issues above have direct connotations for human rights, the two disciplines are not easily separated.
Following Rosenbluth’s speech, the question-and-answer period presented a wide spectrum of views on the subject, through loaded questions, interruptions, and pseudo filibusters.
Many questions did address this separation between human rights and politics when asked the difference between the human rights approach and the solidarity approach (i.e. Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, Hillel).
Rosenbluth claimed that such groups are too politicized and unwilling to condemn inhumane acts committed by the groups they are in solidarity with.
Rosenbluth was also asked about his opinion of the events of Sept. 9 last year. He stated he was not well informed on the day’s details, but that he supports free speech. Similarly, Eric Ben Artzi’s response during his speech was denial of the details of the events.
Often discussions concerning Israel and Palestine create a tense and confrontational environment, but this was not the case Wednesday night, with the exception, of a few interruptions during the question and answer period.
If you are interested in the subject, Amnesty International Concordia is screening one of Marty Rosenbluth’s documentaries on Nov. 13 for more information, you can visit www.amnestyconcordia.org.