Volume 96, Issue 65
Friday, January 24, 2003

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Concordia pot stirs

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

The endless saga of controversy and tension surrounding Middle East issues continued at Concordia University this week.

A member of the campus group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights suggested that the violent protests that took place during a visit by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last September would be repeated, if the Jewish group Hillel were to invite Israeli cabinet minister Natan Sharansky to speak.

But SPHR secretary general Nour Eltibi said the group does not know what it would do yet.

"We hope that the speaker does not come. Someone responsible for [illegal] settlements is obviously not welcome at our university," she said.

"[A riot] is always a possibility when you invite war criminals," Eltibi added.

Hillel co-president Noah Sarna said Sharansky is not just an Israeli, but also a former Soviet dissident, adding the Israeli politician is not a hardline right-winger.

Sarna said he could not comment on exactly what Hillel's response would be to a protest, if they invited Sharansky. "If a bully says that if you walk down the hall he'll beat you up, will you stop going to school?"

Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota said the university could not comment on the threat of a protest, because there has not yet been a move to invite Sharansky. The university's decision to allow a speaker is made on a case-by-case basis, he explained.

Yves Engler, Concordia Students' Union VP-communications, said the CSU sent a document to the administration outlining how a potential visit by Sharansky should be handled.

"[Netanyahu] was essentially a political rally," he said, adding, if Sharansky does appear, the event should follow the procedures for an academic lecture and include a debate or question period.

Engler said he felt the SPHR could be more effective with a non-violent protest and that a repeat of the Sept. 9 2002 riot was a bad idea.

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