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
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
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