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.
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.
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.