I am a Jew. I went to go hear a man speak. For these two reasons alone I needed to be escorted out of the building by riot police. It was not because of my political views, because I am as liberal a Jew as I know regarding Israeli policy. It was not because I am a Netanyahu supporter, because I am not. It was solely because I am a Jew, and I went to hear a man speak.
I am personalizing the situation, but the same applies for 650 other Jewish students who I joined to hear former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give a lecture at Concordia University today. We arrived at the campus – the campus where myself and many others take classes and are supposedly educated – to see what Mr. Netanyahu had to say. I do not necessarily agree with his political views, but I was there to hear them nonetheless. As we gathered to sing cheers of “Am Yisrael Chai” (the nation of Israel is alive), we did not hear “the nation of Palestine is alive”, we were met instead with jeers of “down with Israel”. As we patiently waited in line to pass through metal detectors, we were intimidated with slogans and pictures of Hitler by thugs who hijacked the Hall Building and were held back by riot police. Once in the auditorium for close to two hours, we were told that Mr. Netanyahu was not going attend because of security reasons. We could not, however, leave the room because riots were going on outside; windows had been broken, and it was unsafe to leave until the glass had been cleared away and the tear-gas had dissipated. We were held hostage in our own school, in our own city, in our own country. We were captives to hate, violence and intimidation.
We were told by Rector Lowy that we had scored a victory today. We had refused to sink down to the level of savagery that the other side has imported to Canada. We had kept our dignity in the face of brutality and intimidation. I think we lost big. The Jewish student body, Concordia University, and everyone who espouses democratic values lost. We showed that violence can limit the right to free speech. Violence will be appeased; it will win. Although I commend the Montreal Police Department and the RCMP that (to my knowledge) no person was physically injured by the mob, this mob should never have been allowed to get as close as it was able to. It should never have existed in the first place. The conditions that enabled the fermentation of hatred that cumulated in the events of today are inexcusable. On a micro level, the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (I was not aware that Palestinian human rights were any different from human rights in general) should never have been given the right to set up a mock graveyard in the Library Building last year. They should not have been allowed to put up signs in the Hall Building that equated a picture of Ariel Sharon to a picture of Adolf Hitler. On a macro level, the Ahmed Ressamism that is tolerated in Montreal shows an even larger level of apathy.
This is a disgrace. Shame on the Palestinian “protestors” who are so deluded into thinking that they hold high moral ground above everyone else that they would resort to violence on their own university’s campus. Shame on the Che Guevara loving “activists” who support the Palestinian cause because they need something, anything to rebel against. Shame on Concordia University for allowing the situation to get as untenable as it is; for being bullied by these radicals for two years now, scared to really oppose them. Shame on every one of us who has thought that this is not our problem, that it will go away if we ignore it.
No more timidity. No more appeasement. I am not advocating resorting to violence. As hard as it is hard to fight irrationality with intellectualism, it must be done. But it must be done fully. Otherwise we are all deluding ourselves into thinking that today’s events were part of an isolated incident. Today’s events are just the beginning. I have decided not to keep silent about it any more; not to give in. The war against terrorism is not just aimed at those that would kill as many people as possible. It is aimed at those that would jeopardize the way of life that a democracy affords to all of its citizens. That way of life was jeopardized today, and it must be vigorously defended.
Finance student, Concordia University
5740 Eldridge Ave.