Commentary | Tadamon! responds

A group voices concerns about the opt-out campaign’s unfair tactics and skewed facts

Once again, conservatives on campus are urging students to withdraw their support for progressive student groups at McGill.

The main target of this ongoing campaign is QPIRG, a student-run organization that supports various working groups that address a variety of progressive issues. These include the rights of refugees, indigenous people, migrant workers, and queer people, as well as environmental justice, gender equality, and the struggle against police brutality.

As in the past, Middle East solidarity collective Tadamon! (“solidarity” in Arabic) is one of the main groups that the conservatives focus on in their attacks on QPIRG.

The opt-out campaign’s attack on Tadamon! is rooted in the claim that we support the Lebanese resistance movement, political party and social organization Hezbollah. This is a patently false accusation designed to vilify and obscure the real work of Tadamon!.

Tadamon!’s guiding principles, posted on our website, clearly state that “we reject nationalism, its exclusions and its tendency to exploit, rather than challenge, oppressions based on class, gender, ‘race’ and ethnic or religious affiliation. We do not support any government or political party.”

Furthermore, all of Tadamon!’s actions are consistent with our collective’s vision and principles, articulated in our Basis of Unity: “We strive for a world in which every human being is free to live and flourish in dignity and justice. We oppose all systems of oppression whether based on gender, sexual orientation or class, and we reject racism in its various forms, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”

The opt-out campaigners claim that Tadamon! supports Hezbollah because, in 2006, Tadamon! began a process of critical analysis of Hezbollah’s inclusion in the Canadian government’s “List of [terrorist] Entities” with the intention of informing the public, raising critical awareness, and presenting a case for the de-listing of Hezbollah.

This campaign was based on our view that Canada’s “List of Entities” – established under the Anti-Terrorism Act and within the context of Canada’s participation in the global “war on terror” – is an instrument of governmental power that perpetuates an analysis of the Middle East that is based on stereotypes, misinformation and cultural and class bias.

Our critique of the “List of Entities” focused on three main points:

First, as an instrument of power, the “List of Entities” delegitimizes and demonizes particular political groups in the Middle East region by labeling them and their actions as “terrorist” – in isolation of context, conditions and history – while at the same time legitimizing and validating by default the actions and claims of other actors in the region.

Hezbollah plays many roles within Lebanese society, from providing services like daycare and basic infrastructure to poor families to carrying out armed resistance to Israeli imperialism in the region. It is interesting to note that while the Canadian government has listed resistance groups like Hezbollah as terrorist organizations, it has consistently defended the Israeli Defence Forces’ repeated human rights violations.
Second, the List seeks to undermine any nuanced, critically grounded, and Non-Ethnocentric understandings of events in and related to the Middle East.

Third, the List contributes to the marginalization of racialized communities through scapegoating, ‘racial’ profiling in policing and state security operations, and through institutional forms of discrimination, all of which work to maintain structural inequality both locally and internationally. We believe these are among the consequences of the List of Entities which would likely cause Canadians some concern.

Tadamon! discontinued this campaign in 2009 as part of a strategic reorientation towards sustained, active participation in the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). This campaign was launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to pressure the Israeli government to respect Palestinian human rights and international law. We continue to believe, however, that Canada’s “List of Entities” should be critiqued, questioned, and challenged.

Contrary to this spirit of open critique and debate, the destructive opt-out campaign asks students to suspend questioning, critique, and reflection on serious issues such as a government’s decision to label certain groups – and not others – as “terrorist.” This is anti-intellectual and contrary to the spirit of lively and healthy debate on which the university and education itself should be founded.

Students should not support the opt-out campaign, which attempts to elicit emotional and ill-informed responses to shallow and baseless accusations.

This type of campaign contrasts sharply with the spirit of an organization like QPIRG, which seeks to create opportunities for challenging, non-dominant, critical ideas and views to be heard, aired, and debated.

Tadamon! is a Middle East solidarity collective. More information can be found online at www.tadamon.ca.


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