March 24, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 91  

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Stop protests and listen

Last week at York University, the Jewish group Hillel held a vigil for vicitims of terror after being told they could not be in a building where classes were taking place.

Members of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Right proceeded to then set up a dramatization of an Israeli checkpoint in this building. Hillel members then began protesting this protest. As a result, York administration has launched an investigation into the series of events.

Pending the results of the investigation, York administration has indefinitely suspended the activities of these Middle Eastern student groups. The actions at York contain many of the same problems Concordia University faced less than a year ago.

On an ideological ground, the importance of free speech and freedom of expression, the right to protest and the freedom of religion and religious beliefs can never be undermined. Though the administration’s actions violate these principles, it becomes difficult to dispute York’s initiative to clamp down on violent action. In this context, there’s little else that can be done.

These student groups present themselves with the goal to educate outsiders about the situation in the Middle East, albeit from their particular perspectives. It quickly becomes clear in the midst of violence and intolerant action that ‘education’ gets pushed to the wayside.

Rather than educating others about their cause, it seems Hillel and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights are simply deadlocked in a never-ending shouting match. Neither group has any tolerance for the other’s views and the groups constantly attempt to one-up the other.

Instead of engaging in activities that are clearly intended to incite reaction and anger from the opposite sides, these groups should espouse a more tolerant viewpoint. Their violent and disrespectful activities do not encourage outsiders to become aware of their respective positions. Instead, it pushes people towards exasperation, frustration and an overall desire to have nothing to do with the situation.

Protesting protests is not proactive — it further distances and alienates people from the viewpoints at hand. Though it may sound cliched, these groups just simply need to get along. University is one of the few safe havens for free thought and speech, making actions such as these incredibly dangerous and counterproductive.

Western often prides itself on having these same groups managing to get along without violence, however, incidents on our campus this year point to how quickly things can slide down that already slippery slope. If these groups want to be understood, they should not shout — they should take a step back and present ideas without it being necessary to try to discredit those of others.



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