Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"He speaks the truth"

For the part in the video where Clive Seligman called on the audience on Monday at York University to do something about Hamas and read from Article 7 of the Hamas Charter (and was booed and called a racist), go to 02:15:30 here.

You can't hear the audience clearly but many were loud and rude; you can see and hear the moderator's response to the audience.

You can't boycott an institution

After the answer period, there was a back-and-forth exchange between the panelists.

Here is something that Clive Seligman said:

“I have no problem with you taking a stand or anyone voluntarily deciding not to deal with Israelis or Israeli institutions or even Jews if they don’t want to. But you’re not taking a stand only for yourself. If your university is successful in imposing a boycott, you’re forcing even those colleagues of yours who disagree with you to take the same stand as you and that’s what I find objectionable. When you talk about a boycott, you’re not talking about a voluntary boycott, you’re banding together to some way use the policies of the university to impose behaviour on academic matters on every single member of the university, students as well as professors.

"And you have, I think, twice made some argument that there’s a difference between boycotting institutions and boycotting individuals.

“You can’t boycott an institution. Individuals work in the institutions. When you prevent a research collaboration, you are preventing a collaboration among individuals in the country that’s doing the boycotting and in the country that’s the victim of the boycott.

“You cannot get out of essentially the moral irresponsibility of saying, ‘There are exceptional times that I alone define and if I am successful in getting my whole university to do this, even those who disagree with me must yield to my definition of exceptional times…’”

Demonizing One Country

During the answer period, Howard Adelman started off by saying that this experience was painful for him.

This is part of what he said:

“The issue of what Israel is and does should be a separate debate and this debate should have been about academic institutions and positive and negative things about doing… but it becomes a debate of, as the first speaker – rather the questioner [my note: Ted Belman of Israpundit] – said, about demonizing one country and it becomes a separate debate and puts the people on the other side in impossible positions because it’s two different debates.”

Video here.

Video of Monday's "debate" at York University

Thank you to Clive Seligman for sending me the link to videotape of the "debate" on academic boycotts held on Monday at York University.

Wake Up

The only thing worse than listening to a truckload of anti-Israel propaganda is listening to it twice and that's what I'm doing. I'm taking a break but first I want to share with you this powerful statement by Clive Seligman which was cut short by shouts and arguments from audience members.

At Monday's so-called debate on academic boycotts held at York University, during the question period, audience members asked their questions one after the other; when they were done, each member of the panel was given time to respond.

Clive Seligman was first to respond. This part of his response was at the end of his allotted time.

“People have a right to opinion. The whole point of academic freedom is to prevent individual professors from being intimidated. The kinds of people that Professor Sears talks about, and some people in the audience talk about, who are, ‘Oh my God, how can you talk about Israel. Every time we talk about Israel, the whole wrath of the world descends on us.’

“Give me a break! You haven’t stopped talking about anti-Zionism. It is in the papers every single day. Half of all motions at the United Nations Council on Human Rights are about Israel. Wake up and talk about what’s happening today in the world, what’s happening in Pakistan in the Swat Valley today as we speak, what’s happening in Darfur, what’s happening in Sri Lanka. Israel is not the only country in the world and I have nothing but pity for people who think that Israel is by far the only country worthy of attention and the only country that…”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I guess that makes me a racist

Some friends and I went to York University yesterday afternoon to attend what was billed as a "debate on the academic boycott of Israel".

It was part of the York Centre for International and Security Studies (YCISS) series on "Academic Boycotts and Contemporary Conflicts".

The YCISS website stated:

"Boycotts raise fundamental issues for universities and other academic institutions: how do boycotts affect a university's commitment to free speech and inquiry? To what degree should public universities be considered as state institutions, and are they appropriate targets for boycotts which oppose state policy? Are boycotts a sustainable and peaceful way for intellectuals to intervene in conflicts or are they counter-productive?

"Following recent seminars on the boycott theme by Omar Barghouti and Edward Beck, YCISS again invites the community to come together for a respectful yet rigorous debate about the questions that the boycott issue raises for Canadian universities."

The panel featured five people: the moderator (Clem Marshall), two people who were supposed to advocate for academic boycotts and two who advocated against academic boycotts.

The pro-boycott speakers were Dr. Abigail Bakan (I was told she also goes by the name Abbie Baka) and Dr. Alan Sears.

The anti-boycott speakers were Dr. Clive Seligman and Dr. Howard Adelman.

The auditorium, appropriately called "Moot Court", was not filled to capacity. Someone guessed that 200 people were there; as during the lectures at "Israel Apartheid Week" (IAW) most of the older people in attendance were identified as university professors. I recognized a few faces from IAW as well as from the failed Israeli wine boycott.

During the question period, one woman complained that she had been invited to be a panelist but then had been prevented from participating because of her involvement with some group whose name I didn't write down. I am certain that I recognized her face and voice from the January 3rd anti-Israel rally held in downtown Toronto: I believe that hers was the shrill voice over the megaphone. I'm pretty sure her voice can be heard on video from other anti-Israel rallies as well.

Before the event started, I asked a young woman if videotaping was permitted. She said no. She said that guests were worried their words would be taken out of context and partial statements put online, so they had arranged to have an official videotape taken which would be put onto their website. However, during the event, I could not see a video camera anywhere. Did that girl lie straight to my face? Time will tell. I will have to keep an eye on their website for the official video.

During the "debate", Abigail Bakan and Alan Sears devoted most of their time to demonizing Israel and promoting the Palestinian cause. They talked of "ending the occupation", the "apartheid wall" and the "right of return" of every "Palestinian" on the planet. Mr. Sears referred to 1948 and called it the Nakba.

They didn't spend much time debating the issue of boycotts; instead, they threw out as much anti-Israel propaganda as their time would allow, using emotionally loaded terms and incorrect statistics, and depicted Israel as the big bully and Palestinians as its downtrodden victims.

They pushed the old line that universities are bastions of white, male hegemony where non-white issues are never raised and non-white voices are never heard.

Yeah, right. That's why the audience in the auditorium was stacked with brown-skinned Muslims. That's why, while walking on the grounds of York University and inside Osgoode Hall, there were almost no white students in sight. That's why York University keeps holding events that promote the Palestinian cause. That's why a Jewish student was threatened with decapitation at York during IAW. That's why a group of Jewish students at York was hounded by a mob of fellow students and forced to hide in an office and phone the police and that's why the university later charged both groups of students with wrongdoing.

Ms. Bakan and Mr. Sears complained that students and professors who want to research and support the Palestinian cause are mistreated and feel threatened. Pro-Palestinian audience members complained of intimidation.

However, the evidence disproves their claims of victimhood. I believe they are promoting the image of themselves as victims for various self-serving reasons, one of which is to foster a sense of group solidarity and a feeling of "us against them".

Clive Seligman and Howard Adelman attempted, in their allotted time, to present the issues surrounding academic boycotts and the reasons why they are never a good idea.

Mr. Seligman expressed concern that a boycott by York would force all of its academics to comply with one particular political view whether they agree with it or not.

He also said that academic boycotts violate Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (see below) and that boycotts promote the use of force instead of reason and may lead to intolerance and violence.

Mr. Adelman said that boycotts politicize universities. "You put a political police thought force in charge of what universities do."

During the two separate question periods, people lined up to ask their questions, one after the other. Most of the questions were not questions about the pros and cons of academic boycotts but were, instead, long diatribes against Israel.

After everyone at the microphones had asked their questions or stated their political manifestos, the panelists were given time to answer the questions. This format gave the panelists the opportunity to ignore any questions they didn't want to answer (Abigail Bakan and Alan Sears, I'm looking at you).

One of the people who asked a question is a man who appears in my video of the failed boycott of Israeli wine. He is the man on the NION side who was identified by someone else as being an "Arab". He asked for a comparison between Iran and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Israel.

I believe it was Mr. Adelman who Mr. Seligman said in response that Iran is 100 times worse than Israel. At this, many audience members booed and jeered. One young man behind me said loudly, "What a racist."

During a response period, Mr. Seligman said that, if the people in the audience cared so much about Palestinians, why, "in the name of God or Allah" (he was interrupted here by loud boos and calls of "racist" until the moderator intervened to soothe hurt feelings), they didn't do something about Hamas.

In closing, Mr. Seligman read aloud from Article 7 of the Hamas charter (see below). He was interrupted twice by shouts and jeers from the audience. Many people yelled "racist". The moderator intervened both times, expressing respect for their feelings and talking about the pain he has experienced during his anti-racism work (implying, to my mind, that Mr. Seligman was a racist).

When Mr. Seligman finished speaking, one of my friends stood up, clapped and said, "He speaks the truth". Some audience members responded by yelling "racist" at my friend.

As one of the panelists said at the end, this wasn't a debate, it was merely an opportunity for some people to get together and bash Israel.

If yesterday's audience and the farce disguised as a debate present a true reflection of the state of Canadian universities, then we are all in big trouble.

In the same way the pro-Palestinian /anti-Israel / anti-America / anti-capitalist groups have broadened the word "apartheid" to mean any political or legal system they don't like, they have also broadened the word "racist" to mean anyone with whom they disagree.

  • Anyone who asks why pro-Palestinians don't also focus their attention on Hamas is a racist.
  • Anyone who asks why anti-Israel groups don't also focus their attention on Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan or Darfur is a racist.
  • Anyone who says that Iran and its president are worse than Israel is a racist.
  • Anyone who reads aloud from the Hamas charter is a racist.
I guess that makes me a racist.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Section 2: Fundamental Freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

a) freedom of conscience and religion;

b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

d) freedom of association.

Hamas Charter: Article 7 (in part):

"The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,' except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews."

Update: It was Clive Seligman, not Howard Adelman, who said that Iran was 100 times worse than Israel. Thank you to Mr. Seligman for the correction.

Update #2: Welcome, Israpundit and Facebook readers! I'd love to know where this is posted on Facebook, if anyone would care to share.