March 31, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 95  

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Mid East speaker talks bridge-building, peace

By Megan O’Toole
Gazette Staff

The atmosphere heated up during Clement Leibovitz’s presentation at Western on Monday evening.

The author of The Chamberlain-Hitler Deal and In Our Time was invited by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights to speak at the Social Science Centre.

According to Leibovitz, “building bridges” was the key purpose of the talk.

“It’s very common to demonize people who we consider the enemy,” Leibovitz said. “If we want to build a bridge [between Palestinians and Israelis], we must believe in decency. Both sides must believe in the potential for decency of each other, or there will be no bridge.”

Leibovitz said the Zionist establishment is at the root of the problems in the Middle East, and suggested that since Palestinians and Israelis share common goals they should form an alliance.

“It is possible to have an alliance; to make progress in the brotherhood between two people,” Leibovitz said. “[An alliance] is needed to topple the Zionist expansionist establishment.

“Suicide bombers are people,” he said. “They would have been dedicated members of Palestinian society if it had been free, and had there been no occupation.”

During the question and answer period, a student asked how Leibovitz intended to build a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians when he was unable to condemn suicide bombers.

Leibovitz emphasized that he forcefully condemns the bombings, but said he felt sympathy for the perpetrators, whom he referred to as “innocent victims” of circumstance.

The room had to be called to order by an SPHR executive as emotions ran high and a number of people began shouting.

“I felt the title and purpose of the lecture was to open up the dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian people, but when reasonable concerns and questions were raised, the atmosphere was not receptive,” said first-year administrative and commercial studies student Noah Farber.

First-year ACS student Maha Abdawi-Moussa said Leibovitz did a good job of balancing the two sides of the debate, adding some audience members were too quick to react to his statements.



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