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Letter to the editor

by (letters to the editor) March 13, 2012
Letter to the editor

RE: ‘Bombs, bulldozers and olive trees,’ volume 29, issue 22

While for the author, “it’s clear just how much reason those living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have for violence against Israel,” a different lesson can be derived from the review of the movies Budrus and Tears of Gaza. This is that the practice of applying moral equivalence to the causes of suffering while at the same time refusing to extend the lens beyond the Palestinian narrative, only serves to inflame passions against Israel and serve a political agenda rather than clarify underlying causes.

For while Tears of Gaza highlights the trauma of Palestinian children’s experiences during the Gaza War which lasted a mere three weeks, Israeli men, women and children, particularly from the town of Sderot, have suffered from post-traumatic stress due to incessant rocket attacks from Gaza for the last six years, with no end in sight. In 2011 alone, more than 680 rockets and mortar rounds were fired at civilian targets in Israel, including a kindergarten.

Nor does Tears of Gaza condemn the Hamas practice of using its own citizens as human shields, hiding combatants within its civilian population, launching rockets from the roofs of schools and hospitals or intentionally targeting civilian Israeli men, women and children, all war crimes. While the film Budrus decries the destruction of 50 trees due to the security barrier, the film does not condemn the deaths of 1,200 Israelis who lost their lives due to Palestinian terrorists, more than 90 per cent of whom crossed over from the West Bank. The construction of the security fence reduced these deaths by more than 90 per cent.

The claim of “reciprocal vengeance” is a convenient way to keep the spotlight on Israel while taking the focus away from Hamas’ own war crimes. Those coming away from these movies believing that violence to Israel’s citizens is understandable choose to be swayed by sensationalism over reason. Where moral equivalence is employed in this way, there is often a political, rather than humanitarian, agenda.  And not saying so is dishonest.

Michelle Whiteman
Quebec regional director
HonestReporting Canada

There is violence against strikers, too

Since the beginning of strike activities last week, a lot has been said about strikers needing to respect the rights of their fellow students. Obviously this is a valid and important point. A strike is a forceful action, and one that many students aren’t used to seeing or dealing with. When I was growing up, my mom was a teacher, so I spent my formative years on picket lines and supporting teachers’ unions, but I understand that most students at Concordia may not have that kind of background or understanding of working-class movements and history. It’s important for strikers to recognize this and react accordingly to the concerns of non-striking students and professors. However, it is deeply troubling to me that in numerous statements released by administrators, professors and students opposed to the strike, there has been not a word about preventing violence against striking students. I can personally attest that not a day has gone by when, as a student actively involved in the strike, I have not experienced some form of harassment, intimidation and assault from non-striking students. This comes in the form of non-strikers shoving strikers around on their way into classes, threatening strikers with assault, following us down the street to yell at us when we’re not even demonstrating, etc. After all, strikers have passed mandates precluding us from violent actions against our fellow students; non-strikers have not recently voted in favour of any such mandates. For those of us familiar with public discourse around gendered and racialized violence, it seems disturbingly clear that there is an attempt going on to frame strikers at Concordia as being inherently violent, aggressive and acceptable targets for violence, while simultaneously framing non-strikers as passive, innocent victims. This framing echoes racist, sexist and classist constructions around the issues of violence and abuse in general, and can only contribute to a deeply unsafe environment for all students. If we are going to ensure the safety of all students during this time of intense action and rising tension among the Concordia community, it is important to challenge this kind of hypocrisy and make room for strikers to talk about our experiences with violence at the hands of anti-strikers. The fact that administration, non-striking students, etc. seem to be consistently denying that such violence is even a possibility is deeply disturbing.

Laura Robbins
Fine Arts and women’s studies undergraduate student

RE: ‘Vote, you’ll be glad you did,’ volume 29, issue 23

Voting, a simple concept in theory, but in practice, not so simple. During Wednesday’s general assembly, it is safe to say that students’ democratic right to vote was heavily impeded. Yes, we as students were given this right, but voting access was highly limited due to scheduling and logistical inefficiencies. The CSU, whose mission is to represent all Concordia students, failed in its duty to properly give each and every one of us a voice. This begs the question: Did this botched voting process work in the favour of our pro-strike student union? Holding a general assembly at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, a time when classes are scheduled and some students are not on campus, limits the representativeness of the vote’s result. Moreover, the lack of proper planning resulted in a voting process that spanned a few hours, thus further hindering the accessibility of the vote. A decision to go on strike is not a trivial issue. It is one that will affect more than 30,000 Concordia students and potentially have serious academic repercussions. A more elaborate polling process, conducted over several days and set up all over campus would have enabled more student voices to be heard. The latter would also have rendered the vote’s result more legitimate in the eyes of the government, all the while painting a more representative picture of where Concordia University truly lies on this issue. Ultimately, Concordia students will voice their true opinion when they choose whether or not to attend class in the coming weeks. And we are not all that convinced that the actual outcome will be representative of the vote…

Jordan Bélanger and Cynthia Perna
John Molson School of Business students

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