middle east, what else?

I didn’t move 4,773 kilometers away from my friends and
family to learn specifically about Palestine or Israel. And
if i had, i would be disappointed at what i found at
Concordia University. Because in the time i’ve been here
what i have seen is not the elucidating of the history and
politics of the middle east -let alone any rational
discussion of conflict resolution- but instead i have seen
two groups, Hillel and SPHR, commandeering the
students attention, the students space on campus, and
the international media focus. Concordia is synonymous
with “politics” and “activism,” which are good predicates
for any learning institution, but these characteristics are
not at all how i had imagined. The kind of politics i
envisioned concern universal human rights, and
transcending differences, not exaggerating and thus
perpetuating them. The kind of activism i envisioned was
not about endless discussions on whether this
word/action is really anti-Semitic or this word/action
anti-Arab, but about unifying, mobilizing, and
consolidating energy and talent to stand up for human
beings every where in the world who are suffering.

While i realize the importance of discussing racist
discourse on campus, the conversation i had today with a
member of hillel typifies my opinion of the futility of such
debates and present campus politics. The gentleman
announced to me that he was going to have the Maoist
International Movement’s (MIM) official newsletter banned
from campus, because while he supported freedom of
speech, he considered the use of a symbol within the
text, anti-Semitic. The author spelt Israel replacing the s
with a dollar sign. In the same issue Canada was spelt
with a k and the US was spelt with the dollar sign as
well. Presumably these are meant to be political
statements of one kind or another on the part of the
authors and the publication. I argued to this person, that
that’s what it’s become all about – connotative meaning.
There are two points to be made here: One, we ALL have
our own interpretations of symbols and language and we
should be left to intelligently discern them within the
context they are presented to us in, and two, is this really
how we should go about resolving conflict in the middle
east or anywhere for that matter? -by arguing endlessly
over misnomers?

I heard one SPHR supporter tell a crowd that we
shouldn’t be ashamed to be called “gaza U,” but that we
should be proud. Proud of what? I’m neither ashamed
nor proud, just tired of the rhetoric. I’d like to be proud
that Concordia is notorious for fighting for human rights
instead of just fighting.


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