November/December 2000
An Israeli tank advances near Beit Jala

There's no academic freedom in Montreal

By Joseph Farah

(November 19) - A Jewish student group, the Hillel organization at Concordia University in Montreal, recently displayed one of my recent columns, "Myths of the Middle East," at its information table.

The reaction to the mere appearance of this column in the university setting created a shockwave not unlike the one that hit Israel the day it was reprinted in The Jerusalem Post. The publisher of the Post told me: "Your column turned this country upside down." It was the talk on every radio and television program. Hundreds of calls came into the newspaper in response. I received more than 15,000 e-mails from the tiny nation of Israel alone! While the reaction in Israel to the column was overwhelmingly positive, Hillel and the Concordia campus are still reeling from the after-effects.

A few days after the column was displayed, the Concordia University Student Union passed a resolution accusing Hillel of spreading material that was "racially, ethnically and religiously discriminating."

Following that Pyrrhic victory, the union prepared to pass a resolution calling on Israel to respect UN Resolution 242 and for Canada to cut diplomatic and economic ties with the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, I'm told by observers on the scene, no objections are raised about Arab and Moslem groups on campus continuously and systematically disseminating inflammatory information against Israel, Israelis and Jews.

"This disturbing atmosphere at Concordia is not new," one of those observers tells me. "It went on when I studied there in the early '90s. I remember attending an 'Arab Cultural Week' exposition that left me shocked with what I saw. Being a descendant of parents coming from Arab countries É I thought I would see the beautiful Arab culture on display. Perhaps I would see, I thought, belly dancers, or taste the various delectable foods of the region that I love so much, or hear the melodies of North African and Middle Eastern music that I cannot get enough of. Instead, I saw a display of anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist and anti-Israel propaganda. All the material there (mostly books and photos) contained content that was vicious and entirely distorted. There was no couscous, no humous, no felafel. There was no music from the revered Egyptian singer Um Kaltum or other well-known Arab artists. There was no display of traditional Arab dress. The only culture on display was one of hate for Israel, as if that was what Arab culture was all about."

That was A few years ago. Ruth Klein, the national director of the Institute for International Affairs of B'nai Brith of Canada, provides some insight into what the campus culture is like today.

"This move [against Hillel] is all the more ironic given the inflammatory anti-Israel propaganda that is being disseminated at Concordia and the ongoing taunting and harassment of Jewish students."

Excuse me, but I thought the university was supposed to be a place where the right to free expression in all its forms was tested.

Whatever happened to academic freedom?

Worse yet, in this case, what was condemned and stifled was an opinion piece written by an Arab-American journalist attempting to correct what I see as fundamental misunderstandings and misinformation involved in the Middle East peace process.

It was a column reprinted in newspapers and magazines all over the world, translated into a dozen languages and widely available to anyone anywhere on the Internet.

It has been debated on television and radio in the US and abroad.

It seems to me that by labeling a column written by an Arab-American "racially, ethnically and religiously discriminating" against, presumably, Arabs,the know-nothing student crusaders at Concordia have fallen into the intellectual deathtrap of political correctness.

If the facts of the Middle East cannot even be discussed rationally and intelligently on an otherwise peaceful university campus thousands of kilometers from Jerusalem, is it safe to have civil discourse on this subject anywhere?

(The writer is editor and CEO of WorldNetDaily.com, a US-based Internet news site.)

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