Volume 96, Issue 12
Wednesday September 18, 2002

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Violence negates views

The right to protest is a cornerstone of any democracy. However, sometimes voicing an opinion through protest can cross the line of rationality.

On Sept. 9, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to speak at Concordia University in Montreal, but instead, encountered violent protest.

Members and supporters of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, a Concordia student group, stormed the building where Netanyahu was to deliver his speech, breaking windows and disturbing those who had gathered to listen to the former Israeli head of state. The university and Montreal police could not ensure Netanyahu's safety and his appearance was cancelled.

In the past, tension has been thick at Concordia between the Palestinian group and Hillel, the Jewish student organization which brought Netanyahu to Montreal. The Concordia student hand book distributed during the 2001/02 academic year (their "Westernizer," if you will) contained material encouraging students to take up arms and identifiably backed the Palestinian cause.

The pitfalls of something like this are clearly evident. A student political organization should never alienate or applaud any group – it should always remain neutral.

One thing remains certain. Protesters of any cause must learn to equate violent protest with a loss of legitimacy.

There are those who will argue that only violent protest will grab the attention of the media. While it may be true that violence often equates to headlines, the media attention given to such a demonstration will invariably be presented negatively.

On our campus, the Jewish Students' Union and the Muslim Students' Association co-exist without the degree of strain that has been seen at Concordia. There have been protests at Western and there will continue to be protests at Western, but none in recent years have come even remotely close to the mayhem demonstrated in Montreal.

It is very important not to lump all protests and protesters together. Protests of the peaceful nature are a necessity in our society because they provide a forum for all groups to present their views on contentious issue.

Western's MSA has stated that if Netanyahu were to speak at Western, there would be peaceful protest and no attempt to prevent the former Israeli prime minister from speaking.

We should applaud and appreciate the relatively peaceful nature of our campus. Protest is about raising awareness, which should be the ultimate objective of any group that truly believes in their own cause.




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